The July 7 draft notification by the Union Ministry of Agriculture to banthe use of Glyphosate, has caused concern in the agriculture, plantation and agriculture fraternity. They are questioning the logic behind the move as the well-known weed killer has been in use for many decades.

Veteran agriculture scientist and President of South Asia Biotechnology Centre, CD Mayee, told BusinessLine that the ministry seems to be triggered by illegal plantation of HTBT Cotton in Maharashtra. Since the illegal planting of HTBT Cotton cannot be controlled by the government, therefore, they thought of banning Glyphosate, which is an effective chemical for the control of weeds in cotton fields planted with HTBT seeds. But it must also be remembered that cotton farmers who plant legitimate BT cotton seeds also use Glyphosate in their fields by creating a temporary hood or a canopy on cotton plants and then spray the chemical, he said.

‘A very serious problem’

Mayee pointed out that weeds are a very serious problem in cotton fields and as farmers also face a major problem of getting labour for manual removal of the weeds,they have no other option but to use Glyphosate, which is the cheapest and probably the best herbicide available in the market. Since farmers are using Glyphosate for a very long time, any ban would deprive them of a cheap agrochemical.

Related Stories
Restriction on use of glyphosate aimed to curb growing HTBT cotton cultivation, says farmers’ body

Mayee added that the farming community in the country has faced one pest attack after another in the last one year. Desert Locusts and Fall armyworms have wreaked havoc this year, but the Centre has also recently brought a daft notification banning 27 agrochemicals, some of which are very effective against these new pests.

Farmersbelieve that these restrictions will significantly increase their burden of manually removing the weeds. They are already under distress due to multiple reasons, including the pandemic-related lockdown.

Removing weeds manually

Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkari Sanghatana, said that manually removing weeds is extremely labour intensive and back-breaking and, therefore, adds significantly to the costs of farming. Herbicides such as Glyphosate have helped farmers reduce the cost of weeding very significantly. In the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, the heartland of cotton farming, farmers typically save ₹5000 to ₹10,000 per acre just on the labour cost on account of weeding by using Glyphosate.

Maharashtra-based Shetkari Sanghatana is a large and militant framer’s union. It wants GM seeds and technology to be openly available, for which it has broken the law by asking its members to plant illegally acquired HTBT cotton seeds.

A tea estate owner based out of Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, told BusinessLine that Glyphosate is used on all kinds of weeds in a tea garden and even used for the pre-emptive killing of weeds.