About 50 per cent of the total cotton cultivated in Maharashtra this Kharif is likely to be herbicide-tolerant Bt (HTBt) cotton as estimated 5-7 lakh cotton farmers in the State might prefer the banned HTBt seeds over other varieties available in the market.

Cotton is cultivated in 29 per cent of the total land under Kharif cultivation in Maharashtra of which the HTBt variety covers 25-35 per cent of the area. Last kharif, cotton was planted on 42.86 lakh hectares in Maharashtra of which about 11-13 lakh hectares was estimated to be under HTBt. This year, about 50 per cent of the total cotton cultivation will be under HTBt as ample amount of seeds are available in the market, said Shetkari Sanghatana (SS) President Anil Ghanwat.

“HTBt cotton cultivation is going on in the State for the last ten years. We have not found any negative impact of the variety on humans and animals. It is high time the Centre legalised HTBt seeds. The seed industry should push for legalisation of HTBt seeds instead of demanding actions against those selling and using this variety,” said Ghanwat.

Industry’s concerns

In a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) stated that its member companies account for around 60 per cent of the market share and contribute nearly 70 per cent of research and development-based expenses of the seed industry. “We have raised this issue with the ministry before as well. However, this year there is a big increase in such illegal cultivation especially in Maharashtra from 30 lakh packets last year to about 75 lakh packets this year. It will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market in Maharashtra. To make matters worse, the illegal seeds are sold using the brand name of prominent companies,” said Shivendra Bajaj, FSII Executive Director, in a letter.

“It seems that the major production of this cotton seed is in Gujarat and transported to Maharashtra. Werequest you to provide suitable instruction to the authorities for taking necessary action to put a stop to such illegal activities and take strict action against the offenders” FSII demanded in the letter.

According to reports, the State Agriculture Department has recently seized HTBt seeds worth ₹2.5 crore from Nagpur and Amravati regions.