The government of Maharashtra has decided to take action against co-marketing of Bt seeds and pesticides. In the wake of the pesticide-related deaths of farm workers in Vidarbha, the state government has decided not to give licenses to Bt seeds and pesticides which are produced in other states and sold in Maharashtra under different brand names, a term called co-marketing. State agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar said that this practice makes it difficult to take legal action against such companies. What is happening is one company is selling the same variety under different brand names which is like duping farmers, he pointed out, adding that atleast a 100 such companies were operational in the state. It is only the original brand of the variant of Bt seeds and pesticides that shall be given the license, he told FE.The state has given permission to 111 companies to produce Bt cotton seeds.
It has also decided to blacklist Bt seeds and pesticides, whose samples have been tested and found to be unapproved. The decisions were taken at an agriculture department meeting. The government has also decided to conduct quality control checks on the seeds and pesticides at the state level instead of the district level.The state had given new licenses to 967 pesticides in 2017. In 2015-16, the number was 3,568 and in 2014-15 it was 4,089, officials said. This year, the state has so far tested 4,631 pesticide samples from Thane, Nasik, Pune, Aurangabad, Latur, Amravati and Nagpur.
Of these, 64 were found to be unapproved, officials said. Meanwhile, the government has stepped up seizures of ‘unauthorised pesticides’ after chemical poisoning killed at least 30 farmers in three months, revealed the minister. The state is investigating the deaths of the cotton farmers and labourers as a dry spell led to an outbreak of crop-eating bollworm pests which thrive in such weather. “We have set up a committee to investigate the deaths caused by poisoning,” Fundkar said, adding that the government is also seizing stocks of unauthorised pesticides.
The use of spurious pesticides, made secretly and sometimes given names that resemble the originals, has been rising in India. Counterfeits account for up to 30% of the more than $4 billion annual pesticide market, a government-endorsed study showed. Fundkar said it was also possible some farmers and workers were not following prescribed methods while spraying pesticides, which led them to inhale or ingest fatal quantities.Pesticide use has risen as genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds, approved in early 2000s, have started to lose efficacy, farmers and government officials say.