Agri Business

Maharashtra govt wants CBI to probe illegal genes in Bt cotton

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 02, 2017

The real picture: The CBI will need the help of agriculture scientists to establish the facts

Herbicide-tolerant Illegal genes found in the Bt cotton seeds of five companies

Taking serious note of the illegal or unapproved genes found in Bt cotton seeds, the Maharashtra government has asked the Centre for a CBI investigation into five seed companies. An FIR has already been filed against the seed companies by the Nagpur police.

Bijay Kumar, Agriculture Secretary of Maharashtra, told BusinessLine that after the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) sent its report, the Home Department of the State was informed about the illegal genes. The Home Department will take up the matter with the CBI. Packets with tainted seeds are being investigated, he said.

Pesticide poisoning

Since the matter is under investigation, the seed companies have not been named. The office of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in a series of tweets, said that after the tragic incident of pesticide poisoning in Yavatmal district, a study was done by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and a report submitted to the State government.

As mentioned in this report, herbicide-tolerant genes were found in the branded Bt cotton seeds of five companies, which is violation of the Environment Protection Act 1986.

An FIR has been registered against the five companies at Nagpur.

Though it also found that such type of seeds are being produced in other States too, considering the seriousness of the matter, the Maharashtra Government has sent a request to the Centre for a CBI inquiry, the Chief Minister’s office said in the tweets.

Gross violation

In the past few years, there have been reports about illegal genes being inserted in Bt cotton seeds. However, this could not be independently verified. The situation took a turn in October after more than 20 cotton-growing farmers died in Yavatmal district after spraying pesticides. There were reports of massive pest attacks on the cotton crop. Insertion of foreign genes, without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, is a violation of the Environment Protection Act.

C D Mayee, a veteran agriculture scientist, who is President of the Board of Directors of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre, told BusinessLine that herbicide-tolerant genes being found in cotton seeds is a very complicated matter.

First, it needs to be found whether the farmers in Yavatmal were really using Bt seeds. The insertion of herbicide-tolerant genes in the Bt cotton seeds itself is a very hard science; therefore, the CBI will need the help of agriculture scientists to establish the facts, he said.

Mayee added that there are no correct estimates of the area sown by the farmers. However, market estimates suggest that 30-35 lakh packets with the illegal genes have been sold in the country. This practice could have been happening for three-four years.

Published on November 02, 2017
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