The Maharashtra government will register criminal cases against companies selling illegal seeds and also take stringent action against agriculture department officials for not taking action against such companies, said State Agriculture Minister Dada Bhuse, while speaking in the State Assembly on Tuesday.
The Assembly discussed the proliferation of illegal seed markets in the State and elected members alleged that crop production was on the decline and farmers were suffering.
The announcement comes on the heels of Maharashtra farmers, under the aegis of Shetkari Sanghatana, launching a drive on February 17 to cultivate Bt brinjal from Ahmednagar district despite the genetically modified variety not being approved for commercial cultivation.
Bhuse said that the agriculture department had recently found that a company brought 7.5 tonnes of seeds in the market without a licence from the government. The company was also selling illegal pesticides. Elected members, across party lines, said that some of the agriculture department officials were hand in glove with companies producing illegal seeds and the government must take immediate action.
Bhuse said the government will immediately ban companies selling illegal seeds, file criminal cases, and suspend officials involved in the racket. He informed that in recent times the government had suspended the selling license of 620 shops and cancelled 136 licences.
Illegal seeds market
State Congress President and MLA, Nana Patole, alleged that the State had many companies which were selling illegal seeds. He said even if the government cancelled licences of these companies, it should make sure that these companies did not re-start operations using other names.
BJP leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the Marathwada region and farmers were suffering heavily because of the unproductive, illegal seeds.
MLAs said farmers had to bear the cost of seeds and suffer losses as the government has no policy to help farmers duped by seed companies.
The Centre has also asked State governments to crack down on sales of illegal seeds, mainly genetically modified Bt brinjal and herbicide tolerant Bt (HTBt) cotton
So far, the Union government has approved only the cultivation of non-food crop — cotton — among GM varieties. Since 2006, no new variety, including cotton, has been approved by GEAC, the nodal agency to clear GM crops in the country. The introduction of new GM crops also suffered a setback when the Supreme Court announced a 10-year moratorium on the cultivation of such varieties in 2009.
Though the moratorium ended in 2019, no application has been filed for testing any new GM variety. Besides Bt brinjal, farmers have also been cultivating herbicide tolerant Bt cotton and a new GM variety cotton dubbed as 4G.
However, no action has been taken against either those who produce the seeds or those who sell them or farmers who cultivate them.