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The Southern India Mills’ Association

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DBT panel seeks destruction of HT cotton seed

Illegal variety of seeds pose threat to crop biodiversity and is also a health hazard
The Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) constituted by the Department of Biotechnology to investigate the cultivation of unapproved hybrid cotton variety with herbicide-tolerant trait has decided to recommend its eradication, considering its adverse impact on crop biodiversity in the long run.
After collecting samples of the illegal variety of cotton seed, the committee has concluded that it is prevalent in all cotton-growing States in the country and the only viable solution is identifying and destroying the seed at producer, processor, seller and cultivator level, where it is found through field inspection. The high-level meeting was held at New Delhi on Thursday.
The high-level committee is headed by K. Veluthambi and comprises about a dozen officials from Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Authority (TSSOCA).
Official sources stated that directions are expected to be issued to States over the next few days. The committee was understood to have expressed its serious concern not only over the threat to biodiversity of cotton and other crops due to proliferation of the herbicide-tolerant gene due to pollination, but also over the emergence of super weeds with excessive use of glyphosate.
Along with raids on seed producers, dealers and retailers to find the illegal cotton seed, Telangana Government has already issued guidelines against the use of glyphosate, a systemic herbicide and crop desiccant – a hygroscopic substance used as a drying agent used to kill weeds, especially annual broad-leaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops.
Asked about the likely impact of HT cotton on biodiversity in the country, Director of TSSOCA K. Keshavulu explained that “herbicide-resistant gene could spread through pollen into the biodiversity system, leading to transformation of weeds into super weeds on a large-scale”. It would not only threaten the growth and yields of all crops in future but would also increase cultivation costs besides causing health hazards to human being and animals.
Officials of the Agriculture Department stated that the task force teams comprising police and agriculture officers had so far seized over 10 tonnes of spurious cotton seed that also includes HT cotton seed during the raids on seed dealers.