The Director of Agriculture (Inspection & Quality Control), Maharashtra, Commissionerate of Agriculture, has served orders to 17 seed companies in Maharashtra, suspending the non-BT cotton hybrids from their seed licences for 2017-18 season. The action was taken by the Director of Agriculture on the basis of state laboratory reports. Confirming the development, Vijaykumar Babasaheb Ingale, Director of Agriculture said the suspension applies to the particular variety of cotton hybrids and these varieties cannot be sold by the companies during the coming season. These non-Bt cotton hybrids, meant for refugia, have been suspended from the license by the Director of Agriculture on the grounds that certain samples of refugia seeds of the said non-Bt cotton hybrids, drawn in May-July 2016 have recorded allegedly certain percentage of Bt positive.
According to senior officials of the National Seeds Association of India ( NSAI), the action has come at a time when the seed industry is geared up and ready with packed BT hybrid cotton seeds to release to the market in Maharashtra for the 2017-18 season. As all seed companies packed Bt cotton seeds in refugia in a Pack ( PIP )system they can’t even change the packing now, Kalyani Goswami, executive director, NSAI said in a representation submitted to the Secretary (Agriculture), Maharashtra.
According to the Association, the seed industry is highly disturbed with the arbitrary policy and action of the Department of Agriculture in Maharashtra, which is disturbing to the seed business that lasts just 40-45 days. The action initiated by the Director of Agriculture after 8 months of delay just at the beginning of the Kharif 2017 sales season disrupts the seed supplies in the whole country. As such, due to the nexpected enthusiasm of the farmers to grow cotton, there is likely to be shortage of top brands of cotton in India, Goswami said.
The Association has sought the intervention of agriculture secretary in the matter and request him to advise the Director of Agriculture, Pune to revoke the suspension of non-Bt cotton seeds immediately, so that smooth supply of Bt hybrid cotton seeds is not disturbed. According to Goswami, the seed companies have immediately submitted their replies to the show cause notices, received by them in 2016, contesting the Government Seed Testing Laboratory report and requesting the authorities to send the referee sample to the Referral Laboratory.
The concerned authorities, having been silent for the past 9 months and ignoring the request of the concerned seed companies for sending the referee sample to the referral laboratory, have now suddenly suspended the non-Bt cotton hybrid (used as refugia) from the license, when the Bt and non-Bt hybrid cotton seeds have been processed, tested, packed and kept ready for dispatch to the market, merely on the basis of a report of a laboratory, contrary to the provisions of section 16 (2) of the Seeds Act, 1966,” Goswami pointed out in the letter.