Agri Business

Farmers allege rampant plantation of HT cotton in Telangana

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 15, 2020 Published on July 15, 2020

Telangana Govt denies charges; says large-scale raids were conducted

Under the new regulated cropping system, farmers in Telangana have grown cotton on 60 lakh acres, setting a new record.

Timely rains and sumptuous water resources accrued due to the new irrigation projects put the cotton farmers in an advantageous situation.

But the farmers’ union leaders are worried that nearly a tenth of the cotton crop is covered by HT (herbicide tolerant) cotton, which doesn’t have any legal sanction. It is being grown on about 5-6 lakh acres in the State, with the farmers getting access to the seed from across the State borders.

Asked whether reports of the rampant plantation of HT cotton is true, S Malla Reddy, Vice-President of All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), said illegal HT cottonseeds continue to sneak into the State, putting the interests of farmers in danger.

Govt reaction

The State government, however, dismissed the allegations, saying there is no such enumeration of the extent of HT cotton cultivation in the State. “It is a wild imagination. No such statistics are available with anyone. We have conducted widespread raids and booked cases against those selling the HT cottonseeds,” said B Janardhan Reddy, Commissioner of Agriculture (Telangana).

“We have conducted raids on peddlers of spurious seeds, which include HT cottonseeds, filed cases and arrested over 100 people so far. We take stringent action on the offenders,” he said.

A third-generation genetically engineered product, herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton gives the plant the ability to withstand herbicide sprays as the latter kills the weed around. The technology, however, has not been received the go-ahead by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

“The government vigilance teams have raided the illegal stocks and seized over 30,000 kg of seeds. This, however, is very small considering the acreage under HT cotton. Cases have been booked but on mild grounds,” he said.

While the government is tight-lipped about the incidents, the seed industry admits to the fact that unscrupulous elements continue to smuggle the seed from the neighbouring States.

Requesting anonymity, a top executive of the chemical pesticides industry, too, admits to the sowing of HT cotton in large tracts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In the absence of relevant permissions, the research into the third generation Bt product has come to a halt in the country.

With pink bollworm developing resistance to Bollgard-II, farmers don’t have a viable option in cotton and have begun to bet on the HT cotton, resulting in the massive smuggling of seeds.

“Margins are very heavy in HT cottonseed sales as they don’t need to pay any royalty on technology or any other overheads,” the pesticide industry executive said.

 

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Published on July 15, 2020
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