By admin       2017-10-23

Oct 23, 2017 - MUMBAI: Prodded into action after reports on the widespread cultivation of unapproved genetically modified cotton seeds with herbicide tolerant (HT) traits, the Centre's Review Committee for Genetic Modification has called a meeting with the cotton-growing states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana on October 25. In September, South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC) had reported that the illegal HT hybrid market had swelled to Rs 472 crore in the kharif season with around 35 lakh HT hybrid seeds sold and cultivation spread over 8.5 lakh hectares. The illegal HT seed sales had been on for several years, with 8 lakh sold in 2015-16, SABC said. Trials for the HT cotton seed were being conducted by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India, but the seed has not yet been approved by the Centre's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). Currently, only genetically modified cotton seeds with resistance to American and pink bollworm are cleared for use in India. "This year, the cultivation of HT hybrids under different brands shot up, so we brought it to the government's notice...The seed needs to be properly tested and legally released," said C D Mayee, president of the SABC board. Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India has not yet reverted to questions on this issue by TOI. In February, the Central Institute for Cotton Research had found that six of the nine samples cotton seed samples tested positive for HT cotton traits. After reports on SABC's findings, the PMO sought comments from GEAC. The body, in turn, asked the state governments what action has been taken. The Maharashtra government is said to have pointed out that under the Seed Act 2004, it can take action only on matters relating to seeds already approved or notified by Centre. "The state can decide on the action only after directions from GEAC and Review Committee for Genetic Manipulation, and on receiving CICR reports," said state agriculture secretary Bijay Kumar. CICR has not yet shared its test results showing the presence of illegal HT seeds with the state government, sources said. Meanwhile, the state government has called for a ban on HT cotton and held a meeting with seed firms.

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