By admin       2018-05-28

There are roughly two camps at work here. One says that market forces should prevail and that if the farmers want to use these seeds, there is no reason why the government should block the free play of market forces. This argument is a throwback to the introduction of Bt cotton in Gujarat prior to its official introduction. However, the trouble with this view is that there is acute apprehension over the quality of seeds doing the rounds, as a result of which the farmers may suffer at the hands of fly-by-night operators. “There have been reports of extensive booking for illegal HT cottonseeds. Since BG-II technology is outdated, the farmers are left with no option but to plant such illegal seeds,” says Kishore Tiwari, farm-activist turned Chairman of the Maharashtra government’s special task force on the agrarian crisis. “This problem has also risen due to policy paralysis and no substitute to BT cottonseeds. Due to widespread use of BT cottonseeds, the indigenous cottonseeds are not available in the market. Neither the State nor the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the agriculture universities are serious about supplying the indigenous seed varieties to farmers. As a result, they are forced to buy illegal BT cottonseed, which has no quality assurance. Last year, illegal seeds were extensively planted and this year also the same could happen,” cautions Tiwari. Farmers’ group Shetkari Sanghatana (Sharad Joshi faction) has been batting for the approval of the HT cottonseed technology. Its leader Raghunath Patil says his organisation has always stood for liberalisation of technology and trade for the farmers. “The BT technology in India is limited to BG and BG-2, while in other countries it has reached to BG-7. Such technologies are useful for farmers, as they help in enhancing the productivity of their farms. But on the other hand, those who are advocating the use of Swadeshi (indigenous) seeds don’t realise that the use of such seeds leads to lower cotton production,” says Patil. Further, Patil points out that today farmers are forced to buy and plant HT cottonseed in a clandestine manner because of the restrictions imposed on these high productivity seeds. Former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was at the epicentre of the GMO debate, observes, “India must not be blindly permissive like the US or blindly in favour of prohibition like Europe but intelligently precautionary in its approach to GM.” On the regulatory impasse, he says: “ I don't understand why a biotech regulator has not been put in place when a Bill for it had been finalised in 2011 itself.” KR Kranthi, head of technical information at International Cotton Advisory Committee, says HT cotton is not suited for the Indian farming system dominated by small landholders. It would reduce employment in the farm sector. Besides, there is a risk of the weedicide sprayed drifting to the neighbouring land holdings and affecting the crops, he adds. Anti-GM activists claim that the issue of HT cotton was raised with the GEAC way back in 2008-09. “However, lack of stringent action by both the Centre and States has led to the current situation, putting not only the farmers at risk but also raising the spectre of ecological and health hazards,” says Kavitha Kuruganthi of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.

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