Notice to two firms for selling illegal GM cotton seeds

By: | Published: February 13, 2018 3:05 AM

The Andhra Pradesh government has issued show-cause notices to two major seed companies — Kaveri Seeds and Nuziveedu Seeds — for illegally selling herbicide tolerant cotton seeds to farmers in Kurnool and Guntur districts.

GM cotton seeds, cotton, cotton seed, agriculture sector, economyA two member expert panel had visited cotton fields in Guntur and Kurnool districts in October last year.

The Andhra Pradesh government has issued show-cause notices to two major seed companies — Kaveri Seeds and Nuziveedu Seeds — for illegally selling herbicide tolerant cotton seeds to farmers in Kurnool and Guntur districts.

In an order issued by the additional director of agriculture (seeds), government of Andhra Pradesh on January 29, both the seed companies were asked to reply within five days to the findings of an expert panel report which held them guilty of selling herbicide tolerant cotton seeds, not approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

M Prabhakar Rao, chairman of Nuziveedu group confirmed receiving the notice from the AP government, but denied the allegation. He said the notices were wrongly issued to his company and he has already responded to the government. There is no proof that the crop, as found by the fact finding team, belongs to Nuziveedu Seeds, he said.

The issue of release of herbicide tolerant genetically modified cotton seeds, without mandatory approval from GEAC, for cultivation among farmers was first reported last year, following which both Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh governments had probed the matter.

As per the show-cause notice, a copy of which is available with Financial Express, “HT cotton (Roundup Ready Flex) contains the genes for Bollgard I (BG I), BG II and the CP4-EPSPS gene (the herbicide tolerant gene) and does not have the Centre’s clearance to be used commercially. Hence the samples which are found HT positive for CP4-EPSPS gene is illegal and unapproved.”

A two member expert panel had visited cotton fields in Guntur and Kurnool districts in October last year and took sample of the crops from the farmers. After the samples were tested positive, taking the feedback from the farmers from where they purchased the seeds from, the state government concluded that the HT crop was grown from Raja variety of Nuziveedu seeds and ATM hybrid, Kaveri 401 and Kaveri 141 of Kaveri Seeds.

The National Seed Association (NSAI), headed by Rao, released a statement saying its “members are not at all involved in Bt HT production or business.” Kalyan Goswami, director general of NSAI, said: “Few unorganised people are doing it with the backing from the HT Bt seed technology supplier who got permission for trial. The Department of Biotechnology has not yet able to provide protocol for Bt sample collection and testing, as a result we are seeing gross error in test outcome. Secondly, cross contamination cannot also be ruled out.”

Last year, when the report of HT cotton came out, it was estimated by the industry that farmers had planted about 35 lakh packets of the GM seeds. The government allows only those GM cotton that contain ‘cry1Ac’ and ‘cry2Ab’ genes, isolated from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and coding for proteins toxic to bollworm insect pests.

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