By admin       2017-10-27

The Maharashtra government has asked the Centre to denotify the Bt cotton seed strain Bollgard II (BG II) as the genetically-modified seed has lost its resistance to pink ballworm, the main pest that affects cotton plants, reported Times of India. The Union agriculture ministry had invited state officials for a consultation on this issue on Wednesday. Farmers are also seen to be unaware of consequences of spraying insecticides on Bt cotton seeds. The state has earlier raised concerns about Bt cotton seeds as several farmers died due to the increased pesticides spraying following a major infestation of the pink bollworm. In July, the state had earlier written to the Centre asking for help regarding the vulnerable condition of Bt cotton. "We have written to the Centre to denotify BG II from the Bt cotton category due to loss of its efficacy against the pink bollworm," said state agriculture secretary Bijay Kumar. Around 96 percent of cotton farmers in Maharashtra use Bollgard-II seeds, a Bt cotton variant introduced in 2010. Since it is losing its resistance against pink ballroom, the farmers have complained to state's agriculture ministry regarding the crop failure for the second year. A large amount of cotton production was destroyed in Jalna last year, where farmers had asked the state government to compensate them for losses. To avoid similar losses this year, the state has suggested the Centre to downgraded the seed to a hybrid, which will lead to a drop in its price. "If BG II is denotified, it may result in a reduction in price from the present around Rs 800 a packet to Rs 400 a packet. Farmers can use the money saved in meeting the additional cost of plant protection," said Kumar. Maharashtra is one of the leading cotton producers in the country, where a majority of farmers use Bt cotton seed because of its resistance to pesticides. However, a report by Central Institute of Cotton Research had confirmed last year that the seed was susceptible to the pink bollworm. "Farmers opt for BG II seed thinking crops will be protected from pink bollworm, but they need to be aware this is no longer the case," said agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar. However, a spokesperson of Monsanto (India), the company which develops BG II technology seeds, claimed that "incidents of pink bollworm infestation have been reported in limited pockets of the state." The Bt cotton seeds, which are marketed in India through the joint venture firm Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India, are costlier than the traditional varieties. Thus, the decline in their resistance towards pests has increased the farmers' cost of production, which has pushed the government to take the move of denotifying these seeds, a move not welcomed by Monsanto. "The recommendation to denotify transgenic seeds and treat them as conventional seeds seems incredulous and may be in violation of applicable laws including the Environment Protection Act 1986," Monsanto spokesperson told the paper. Stating that the seeds have resistance towards pest as promised earlier, the spokesperson said that resistance management in pests was a joint responsibility. And it included the efforts of all the stakeholders such as farmers, seed companies, technology providers, trade, end-user industry, regulatory bodies, state agricultural universities and government departments.

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