Agri Business

HTBT cotton seeds sale: Agencies investigate role of a global investment company and international seed companies

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on January 06, 2020

On Sunday, Shetkari Sanghatana distributed the second generation HTBT cotton seeds in Yavatmal district

The Central and State intelligence agencies are investigating the role of a global investment company and some international seed companies in supporting farmers' organisation Shetkari Sanghatana (SS) for distribution of illegally procured Herbicide Tolerant BT (HTBT) cotton seeds.

Illegal planting of HTBT seeds is an offence under the Environment Protection Act and Seeds Act. In the last cotton season, about 15 per cent of the total cropped area in the country was under HTBT.  

The SS has been spearheading a movement for the faster approval of HTBT cotton seeds. In May 2019, the union broken the law and freely distributed the illegal seeds, so that the farm expenditure gets reduced. On Sunday, the union broke the law again by freely distributing the second generation cotton seeds in the cotton-growing Yavatmal district, which is notorious for cotton farmer suicides.  

A senior intelligence official told BusinessLine that a global investment company, which has investments in seeds and agro-chemicals companies, is looking for a better return on its investment, and therefore it has chosen to support the farmers' organisation, which is hell bent on breaking the law. 

The investment company is allegedly putting pressure on the Modi government to ensure that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which functions under the Union Ministry of Environment, fast tracks the clearance of HTBT seeds, so that the seeds could be legally harvested and sold in the country, the official said.

The intelligence agency fears that if the clearances are held up, then the global investment company could put pressure on FIIs to stop their investments in the Indian market, and divert it to other markets. It could have a further negative impact on the Indian economy.

India is one of the largest cotton markets in the world and the sale of cotton seeds is a money-spinner in the country.

Defending the decision to use HTBT seeds, Ajit Narde, Chief of Shetkari Sanghatana’s Technology Cell, told BusinessLine that when businesses use software and hardware developed global tech giants for enhancing their revenues, they are not accused of being an agent of the tech giants. "Why can’t the same logic be applied to farmers who also want to the best technology for increasing their profits? Since 1997, the use of genetically modified technology has been used for cotton seeds, but no major environmental changes or health impact have been observed,” he said.

Published on January 06, 2020

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