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The Southern India Mills’ Association

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Bollworm, Bt3: Telangana farmers want Monsanto compensate their losses

With Bollgard-II technology failing to control pink bollworms and illegal Bt3 technology seeds flooding the market, farmers in Telangana have demanded State and Central governments to ensure payment of compensation for crop losses they suffered this kharif. The Telangana Rythu Sangham has asked the governments to take action against Monsanto holding it responsible for the spread of the third generation Bt cotton technology seeds in the State, and make the company pay compensation to them. (Farmers in the State have been referring to Roundup Ready Flex or RRF herbicide-tolerant cotton technology by Monsanto as BG-III.)
“Seeds with third generation Bt technology are marketed in the State. This technology has no clearance from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),” the association’s President P Janga Reddy and Secretary T Sagar have said.
Monsanto India, however, denied any role in spreading the technology here. It blamed “illegal sellers of these unapproved technologies” for this. “It is a matter of grave concern that some seed companies, while suppressing their real intent of profiteering, are attempting to illegally incorporate unauthorised and unapproved herbicide tolerant technologies into their seeds,” a Monsanto India spokesperson told BusinessLine. Asked for response on the demands made by the farmers’ organisation, the spokesperson said that the firm did not stand to gain anything from the sale of illegal seeds. “We have learnt about illegal RRF herbicide tolerant cotton being planted by farmers in key cotton growing States across India,” the spokesperson said. “Even while the necessary applications seeking permissions for environmental release of Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) herbicide-tolerant cotton were being reviewed by the GEAC, this request was withdrawn in May 2016 due to the prevailing uncertainty in the operating environment,” the Monsanto India official said.
Pink bollworms, which cause devastating impact on farmers’ incomes, have developed resistance to Monsanto’s second generation Bt cotton technology (BG-II). The incident was so virulent this year that the Agriculture Department of Telangana had issued an advisory to farmers to remove the plants immediately (without waiting for the third or fourth picks) so that the fields would be free of the worms for next kharif.