The Maharashtra government seems to have stepped up its vigil against co-marketing of Bt cotton seeds. This kharif season, the state government has granted sale licences for 370 varieties of Bt cotton from 42 seed companies. Farmers have been urged to purchase seeds from these companies, top officials of the state agriculture department said.
This is a fallout of the action taken by the government against co-marketing of brands for Bt cotton seed companies. The brand marketing licences of as many as 74 companies have been scrapped, officials said. The action follows the state’s decision against co-marketing of brands for Bt cotton seed companies. Selling Bt seeds that are produced in other states under different brand names is termed as co-marketing.
A couple of months ago, Maharashtra had made it mandatory for Bt cotton seed companies in the state to submit seed samples, which they wished to sell in the market, to government-approved laboratories for getting them tested in order to obtain sale licenses.
MS Gholap,director of agriculture, inspection and quality control (I&QC) said that seed companies were required to get the DNA and DUS tests done and submit the acknowledgement from the laboratories to the agriculture department for obtaining licences. The step was taken to prevent the sale of illegal varieties in the market, industry observers said.
Gholap pointed out that there are three agriculture universities in the state that conducts such tests in addition to the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune. DUS testing is a way of determining whether a newly bred variety differs from existing varieties within the same species (the distinctness part), whether the characteristics used to establish distinctness are expressed uniformly (the uniformity part) and that these characteristics do not change over subsequent generations (the stability part). DNA markers are used for assessing the genetic purity. There are over 150 companies in the market, which include around 65 seed companies. Usually seed companies enter into distribution arrangement with companies to widen their market reach.
Nationally, annual seed market for the legally approved varieties is estimated at around 4.5-4.8 crore packets (of 450 gram each) and the area under the fibre crop is around 120 lakh hectares. Maharashtra is targeting 40 lakh hectares for cotton sowing this season and normally some 1,6 crore packets of seeds are required for a season, Gholap said. A major portion of the crop is in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh pockets of the state.
The government had earlier asked the companies to amend their licenses issued for co-marketing as per the permissions granted by the Genetic Engineering