A laboratory report had confirmed that farmers in Maharashtra’s Akola district had sown the seeds as a mark of protest in June.
The government on Friday informed Parliament that “no instances of illegal cultivation of genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton have come to notice.” “As per state government of Maharashtra, no instances of illegal cultivation of GM cotton (HT) have come to notice. However some cases of sale of illegal Bt cotton seeds (HT-Bt) have been reported in the districts of Nagpur, Chandrapur, Parbhani, Nandurbar, Yavatmal, Bhandara and Gadchiroli of Maharashtra during this season. These seeds have been seized by state authorities,” union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said in Rajya Sabha.
A laboratory report had confirmed that farmers in Maharashtra’s Akola district had sown the seeds as a mark of protest in June. Nearly 20-25 lakh hectare was expected to come under HT Bt variety of cotton this kharif, industry sources had said last month.
Referring to media report on ‘Shetkari Sangatana’ advocating free access to the latest technology in farming, including Genetically Modified (GM) seeds in the country, he said “the government is committed to spread awareness regarding use of approved technology of seeds only.”
The minister also said the government through its outreach programme has been highlighting to the farmers about the consequences of cultivating HT-Bt cotton that has not been approved by the regulatory authority and is discouraging farmers to adopt these seeds. It is also demonstrating the cultivation of Bt cotton varieties and also non-Bt varieties to reduce production costs and improve profit.
In another reply, Tomar denied Bt-cotton has failed to provide livelihood security to farmers saying “there is no such evidence to support this statement.” As the government is yet to approve HT-Bt cotton, its cultivation has been going on in past two seasons in mainly in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Government data show that 15% of the crop in the last season was HT Bt variety. Around 40 lakh hectare in Maharashtra comes under cotton cultivation and the percentage is likely to go up to 15-20%, according to Anil Ghanwat, national president, Shetkari Sanghatana.
Industry sources had earlier said that more than 15-20 lakh packets (450 gm each) of HT Bt cotton seeds are reported to have found their way into Maharashtra after the farmers decided to openly defy restriction and sow the crop. Around 40-45 lakh packets of HT Bt cotton seeds are reported to be in circulation across the country this season, industry sources said.
Akola’s district collector Jitendra Paphalkar earlier this month had said that the laboratory report is positive and the police have been informed. An FIR has already been filed, he had said. However, Maharashtra agriculture minister Anil Bonde had given an assurance to farmers that no arrests would be made and no action would be taken. Bonde had said that an open house session would be convened to discuss this issue.