Even as the government and farmers have locked horns over new farm laws, the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has demanded action against the illegal Genetically Modified (GM) seed business and its promoters. Seed industry players have objected to Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat’s inclusion in the Supreme Court (SC) committee on farm laws saying the Sanghatana has openly supported illegal GM seed business.

“For the last few years, Anil Ghanwat (Shetkari Sanghatana) has defied environmental and seed laws by openly appealing to farmers to use illegal GM seeds in the market. This has dented the cotton seed business by 10-15 per cent incurring an annual loss of between ₹200-400 crore. The government must immediately step in and take stringent action against those using illegal GM seeds and also against those who are promoting it,” Indra Shekhar Singh, Director-Policy and Outreach, NSAI, told BusinessLine.

Also read: Nod for trials of Bt Brinjal varieties revives GMO concerns

Recently, the SC had appointed a panel to discuss the three farm reform laws with the protesting farmers. Ghanwat is one of the members in the panel.

For the last few years Shetkari Sanghatana, led by Ghanwat, has been demanding permission to cultivate GM crop. In 2019, the Sanghatana launched a ‘civil disobedience’ movement by sowing GM HTBT cotton to protest against the Centre’s ban. Since then, many Maharashtra farmers have been openly defying a ban on GM crops, daring the government to take action.

According to farmers, along with HT cotton and Bt brinjal, HT soya seeds are available in the black market. Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in India, and therefore, cultivation of other unapproved GM crops is banned.

Also read: ‘No-GM’ certificate mandatory for imported food crops from January

Anil Ghanwat has made it clear that the Shetkari Sanghatana’s stands are not new and the organisation has been making these demands for the last 40 years. He had earlier told BusinessLine that GM crop should be allowed in India to stop farmers from using spurious GM seeds and incurring losses as a result of that. Ghanwat had also told BusinessLine that he will keep aside his personal opinions while working as the SC panel member.