Surge in illegal HtBt cotton: FSII & NSAI call upon govt to act fast

In the wake of sudden surge in cultivation of  illegal HTBT Cotton this year, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has sought immediate action from the union government

New Delhi: Highlighting the sudden surge in cultivation of  illegal HTBT Cotton this year, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has said that it poses a serious threat to the environment, farmers, legitimate seed companies and government revenue.
Dr M Ramasami, Chairman, Rasi Seeds and Chairman, FSII said, “The area under cultivation of illegal  HT cotton has been increasing over the years. However, this year there is a big jump  in such illegal cultivation especially in the major cotton states  from estimated 35 lakh packets last year to about 70 lakh packets this year. The packs show the presence of many technologies which could pose a very serious situation in the field. If it is not controlled immediately by the governments, it will spell disaster for the industry and farmers.”
During 2017, it was highlighted in Lok Sabha that farmers were cultivating unapproved herbicide tolerance (HT) transgenic cotton hybrids illegally in many states. Thereafter, the Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) was set up under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) by the Prime Minister Office and this committee confirmed that HT genetically modified cotton is illegally grown across the country. The FISEC panel, after testing several thousand samples, concluded that about 15 percent prevalence of unapproved HT cotton are  in major states such as  Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat.
Mr Prabhakar Rao, President, NSAI said, “It will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market in India. To make matters worse, the illegal seeds are sold using the brand name of prominent companies. With this, farmers are at risk with such illegal cotton seed sale as there is no accountability of the quality of seed. It pollutes the environment, the industry is losing legitimate seed sale and the government also loses revenue in terms of tax collection. Regulators are only limiting their checking to licensed dealers and seed companies while this illegal activity of HT seed sales is carried mostly by unorganized and fly by night operators. Focus must be shifted to catching them and taking exemplary and strong punitive action.”
The spread of illegal seeds can also contaminate legitimate seed production thereby putting seed production farmers to heavy losses. Looking at the seriousness of the situation, FSII and NSAI have written to the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India and GEAC to provide suitable instruction to the authorities for taking necessary action to stop the spread of such illegal activities and take immediate strict action against the offenders.