By admin       2018-08-23

Nagpur: The state government’s drive against illegal herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton seeds has led to the seizure of some stock belonging to Ankur Seeds Private Limited which is a leading company from the city. It is into production of cotton seeds and has a major market share in the business. The action was taken around a month ago in Buldhana and the case is now being heard in the court. However, what has left activists and experts in the field complaining is the stand taken by Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in this matter. The CICR first submitted a report which mentioned that the seeds seized were indeed of HT variety. However, soon, it submitted a negative report. The institute is a premier research agency of the Centre and comes under the aegis of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR). It also has the status of a referral lab. This means the report submitted by the agency can be taken as a conclusive evidence. CICR director Vijay Waghamre told TOI that re-tests of samples is a routine practice. “This happens only if part of the sample tests positive for a specific trait. In any given sample at least 50% of the seeds should test positive for the HT trait or else another round is taken up. The re-test is done to get a final assessment ruling out any grey area in such cases,” he said. Waghmare added that CICR is never told about the source of seeds. “We are not aware of the name of the company. To maintain secrecy, the state government only sends coded samples,” he said. Ankur Seeds management has refrained to comment on the issue. A senior official in the state’s agriculture department admitted that two tests were done in Ankur’s case. In the first, 30% of the seeds were found to be HT positive and none in the second tests. The officer, who requested anonymity, said the matter continues to be under investigation. The question activists are asking is that if the second test had to be done as a matter of routine why was the first report submitted to the agriculture department at all. “In case of doubt, only the final findings after the second round of testing should have been submitted,” they say. The theory was also endorsed by a senior scientist who too requested anonymity. On this, Waghmare said that at times the state government is in a hurry to know the result. “So the first findings are submitted and the second round of test is subsequently taken up,” he said. Activists say that the double tests only raises doubts. Dr Sharad Pawar, a former scientist engaged in the nuclear agriculture and biotech division of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), said there is little chance of the results changing during the second test. “Once the promoter and the gene is identified, the trait has to be there. There is no question of the element disappearing in subsequent samples,” said Pawar. Kishore Tiwari, the chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM) which is a state government task force, too has questioned the stance by CICR. “The agency seems to be working under tremendous political pressure. The development also highlights the likelihood of the illegal seeds being available in Maharasthra itself. Earlier it was believed that the seeds were being smuggled from Gujarat and Telangana.

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