By admin       2017-10-30

For the first time since the pesticide deaths issue came to fore, the agriculture department in Nagpur district has filed three first information reports (FIR) — one each with Saoner, Parseoni and Narkhed police stations — against unknown persons for the alleged illegal sale of seeds of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) cotton to farmers. Earlier, there have been nine FIRs filed in Yavatmal but all have been against 'krishi kendras' (shops selling farm inputs) for selling pesticides with banned chemicals. HT cotton (Roundup Ready Flex) contains the genes for Bollgard I (BG-I), BG-II and the CP4-EPSPS gene (the herbicide tolerant gene) and does not have the centre's clearance to be used commercially. The FIR also says that it needs to be investigated if the HT seeds were leaked from the trial fields of Mahyco-Monsanto-Biotech (MMB), deliberately or by illegal acquiring by farmers. The HT seed was the sole property of MMB. Six brands of hybrid seeds — Jadu, ATM and Arjun in Parseoni taluka, two Balbhadra samples from Saoner taluka and Krishna Gold from Narkhed taluka — were sold by unknown persons here to farmers, says the FIR. The FIR has been based on the Environment Protection Act (EPA), the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) and the Seeds Act. The sections under which action can be taken against the accused include Maharashtra Cotton Seeds rules 2009 (12-G), section 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the EPA 1037 (E, 5 December 1989) Act. Rural SP Shailesh Balkawade told TOI that Abhay Saoji, the technical officer quality control at the Nagpur joint director of agriculture's office, has filed the FIRs. He said that the police will now investigate into the issue and try to identify the middlemen who were involved in reaching these seeds to the farmers. Balkawade also said that the police will investigate whether the seeds went to farmers through the 'krishi kendras' or the middlemen of the companies making the six brands. "We will try to complete our investigations by next weekend," he said. The FIR also mentions that one Amol Pusadkar had collected the seeds of these six brands from the three talukas and given it for testing to the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR). The institute had submitted its report in February and found six samples of the nine collected positive for the HT gene. As reported earlier by TOI there has been illegal sale of the HT cotton across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka for the past many years. The MMB had itself written to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee in 2008 about the illegal cultivation of the BT hybrid. At the time of filing this report, MMB officials could not be reached for their comments on the FIR. But, the company has always maintained that it stood to gain nothing by leaking the seeds and always denied its involvement in the illegal sale and cultivation of the hybrid.

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