Agri Business

HTBT cotton widely cultivated despite ban, finds Central team

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on June 12, 2019 Published on June 12, 2019

Acreage spans 15% in Maharashtra, Gujarat, AP and Telangana

Farmers in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra cultivate unapproved herbicide-tolerant Bt (HTBT) cotton, a Central panel has found.

The Ministry of Agriculture had informed the Lok Sabha in February that the Department of Biotechnology had constituted a Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee to investigate the production of Bt cotton seeds with unapproved genes. The committee found unapproved cotton was grown, on an average, on 15 per cent of the cotton-cultivable area in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana, and 5 per cent in Punjab during the 2017-18 season.

All major cotton growing States have been directed to take stringent measures — such as filing of FIRs, seizure of stocks and issuance of show-cause notices — to curb the spread of HTBT cotton, the Ministry stated.

Easy to procure

However, leaders of farmers’ body Shetkari Sanghatana said HTBT seeds are easily available and the government might as well lift the ban on it.

“The seed mafia will dominate the market if the government fails to lift the ban. Farmers are anyway using HTBT. With our movement against the ban on GM crops, more and more farmers will come forward and use it. We want to sow HTBT cotton openly,” said Anil Ghanwat, President of the Shetkari Sanghatana, which on Monday led a protest by farmers who sowed HTBT cotton seeds in Maharashtra’s Akoli Jahagir village.

Asked from where farmers procured the ‘banned’ seeds, Ghanwat said they were easily available in the market. Akola District Collector Jitendra Papalkar has asked the district administration to crack down on the sale of the seeds.

The Bt advantage

Meanwhile, according to government data, in the current Kharif season (2018-19), around 88.27 per cent of the 122.38 lakh ha cotton area is under Bt cotton. Over the past 16 years, the Bt cotton technology has retained its ability to control all bollworm diseases except pink bollworm.

Published on June 12, 2019
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