Thursday, June 25, 2015

NEWS : Illegal Bt cotton seeds seized from stores

,TNN | Jun 24, 2015, 03.28 AM IST

NAGPUR: Even as Monsanto awaits approval for its two new varieties of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds, illegal versions have already flooded the market.

Each pack of approximately 500 grams is being sold at a price ranging from 900 to 1000. The approved Bt seeds, on the other hand, are available for 830 to 730. The state government has cut the rates by Rs100 this season to ease burden on farmers.

Last week, the state agriculture department seized seven bags of illegal seeds from a Krishi Seva Kendra (licensed farm input shop) in Bela tehsil. Similar action was taken in Mouda after that. These seeds have been illegally available in the market since last three years, said sources. An official in agriculture department said the first seizure was made in Wardha last year.

The seeds are being sold as Bollgard III or Bollgard II RRF. Monsansto has got approval for only Bollgard I and Bollgard II versions. The other two are in different stages of getting permissions.

Market sources say the supply is coming from Gujarat, where some companies are illegally cultivating the GM seeds. In majority of cases, it is the BollgardII RRF seed, which promises to provide resistance to cotton plants against weed killing chemicals.

Marketing efforts by Gujarat companies have intensified this year, said Vijay Jawandhia, a Shetkari Sanghatana veteran. Clearing weeds is a major cost, and high wages of labourers have prompted farmers to use more weedicides.

Agriculture department is unure if the seeds are actually genetically modified or simply fake. Samples were sent for testing to city-based Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), which however did not oblige. The agency said it was not authorized to conduct the tests, said a department official.

However, earlier independent tests have shown that these are hybrid varieties of the genetically modified BGII RRF plants sourced from the US.

"The seeds are nicknamed as Chor (fake) BT by farmers and are sold in plain packets without any guarantee. The results have been mixed though," said Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS).

In reply to TOI's email, a spokesperson of Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (MMB) said the company was not aware about any seizure of Bollgard III Bt cotton seeds in Nagpur. The company has been conducting extensive awareness campaigns against harmful effects of illegal seeds.

The spokesperson later said over the phone that Bollgard II RRF developed by Monsanto is in various stages of trials in the country. The company has got nod to conduct trials of Bollgard III from the genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) under ministry of environment and forest (MoEF). They need permissions from state governments before further trials.

Agriculture department sources say their job is limited to seizure. Local police, which have registered offences, should investigate and track the companies, they said.


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