Herbicide-tolerant seeds do not have govt approval yet
Even as sales of herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton seeds are being reported from across the country, the Andhra Pradesh government has served show-cause notices on Nuziveedu Seeds Limited and Kaveri Seeds for reported use of the illegal gene in some of their seed samples. The State’s Additional Director of Agriculture (Seeds) has asked the two companies to explain why, having violated regulatory protocols, the government should not cancel their licence to sell the seeds.
The report cited investigations by a taskforce, which was set up to look into alleged violations in a few villages in Guntur and Kurnool districts in October 2017. Along with Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, AP has widespread plantations of HT cotton, which is the third-generation cotton seed technology developed by Monsanto. In fact, a third of the 45 lakh acres of cotton area in Telangana is under illegal HT seeds cultivation.
The Roundup Ready Flex contains a third gene (CP4-EPSPS) that imparts herbicide tolerance to the plant. When herbicide is sprayed on the crop, it kills the worms, while the plant, protected by the gene, can withstand the chemical. “It doesn’t have the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) permission for commercial release of the technology and is hence illegal and unapproved,” the notice observed.
NSL contended that the government’s charge was baseless and “bad in law”. “The samples mentioned in the notice are neither collected from our company premises, offices or fields nor [were they obtained] from our distributors or dealers,” a company executive said. Mayhco Monsanto Biotech Limited said it would cooperate with the investigation. “We had brought the issue of such illegal proliferation to the notice of regulators in 2008. These seeds are being sold without regulatory approval and leave farmers vulnerable to exploitation,” an MMBL spokesperson said.