The farmers’ body Shetkari Sanghatana has warned that any effort by the State government to destroy herbicide-tolerant Bt (HTBT) cotton crop will be strongly resisted.

There were reports that the State and Centre might initiate action as laboratory tests have confirmed that farmers in Akola district had sowed the banned HTBT cotton. About 25 per cent of the cotton fields in the State have reportedly been put under HTBT cultivation this season.

Compensation demanded

“We will strongly resist any move to destroy HTBT crop. If the government wants to destroy the crop, it should pay compensation to farmers,” Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat told BusinessLine .

Farmers under the banner of Shetkari Sanghatana in Maharashtra have launched a ‘civil disobedience’ movement by sowing genetically modified HTBT cotton to protest the Centre’s ban on GM crops.

“The drive to sow HTBT cotton will continue. As of now, about 25 per cent of cotton fields in the State are under HTBT. We are going to put up signboards in the fields that have HTBT cotton. Farmers will not allow the State machinery to destroy the crop. Our lives are dependent on cultivation and if the State wants to destroy the crop, it should provide compensation,” said Ghanwat.

He insisted that farmers would not resort to violence or provide the State machinery an ‘opportunity to crush’ the movement.

Centre’s directive

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has issued advisories to States, including Maharashtra, to take appropriate action to curb and control the spread of Bt Brinjal and HTBT cotton . State governments have issued directives to all district administrations to take necessary legal steps to curb the production and selling of illegal GM crops, the Lok Sabha was informed recently.

The Centre has admitted that ‘a few incidences of suspected open cultivation’ of Bt brinjal and HTBT cotton were reported in Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Interestingly, even as the Centre has asked the State to take action against farmers who have sown HTBT, the State government is wary of the move. Even as the State Agriculture Department is likely to take action, Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Anil Bonde recently indicated that farmers would not be punished for sowing HTBT cotton.

Official sources said the BJP-led government in Maharashtra would not take any drastic step against farmers ahead of the State Assembly elections scheduled in the next few months. Meanwhile, the Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) has estimated the cotton production in Maharashtra in the current season at 77 lakh bales.