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Farmer unions demand action against illegal HT cotton in AP

Major farm unions in Andhra Pradesh demanded stern action against the companies involved in spread of illegal Herbicide-Tolerant Genetically Modified cotton seeds. “Tolerant cotton has not received any regulatory clearance in India, and there is much evidence about the potential adverse health and environmental impacts from such HT crops. In October 2017, the AP government constituted a committee to inquire into illegalities and risks of clandestine GM seed sales and cultivation and to make contravenors of EPA 1986 liable under the Act,” said A.P. Rythu Sangham leader Peddi Reddy. News reports indicated that many seed production plots have been found to be growing illegal HT cotton, based on the quick testing that the AP government officials did for initial confirmation. It is clear that the illegal seed supply network was at work, to prepare seed for the next season sales (kharif 2018).
It is also reported now that there have been raids on some seed processing units in Kurnool from where hundreds of tonnes of illegal HT seed has been seized. We demand that prosecution has to be initiated immediately against all the ginning factories, seed processing units and seed companies involved in this racket,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. The statement was jointly issued by AP Rythu Sangham leader Peddi Reddy, former agriculture minister and leader of Rythanga Rakshana Vedika Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao, Rythu Swarajya Vedika representative Vissa Kirankumar and AP Rythu Sangham secretary Prasad. “What is apparent is that organised seed industry, especially the big companies, are definitely involved in such spread of illegal, hazardous seed for it to have expanded to such vast areas, and this is ultimately going to lead farmers into a debt-suicide trap. Since the seed supply to many states is going from AP, strict action should be taken immediately,” said Peddi Reddy.
“It is estimated that the illegal HT cotton market last year was worth Rs 472 crores, with a whopping 35 lakh seed packets sold in south and central India mainly. It is a mystery as to why the AP government is not taking deterrent action against people responsible for the spread of illegal Herbicide Tolerant cotton in the state.
These HT crops lead to widespread use of cancer-causing herbicides such as Glyphosate, and development of resistant weeds in a few years. This illegal GM cotton is clearly anti-thetical to the state government’s avowed policy of promoting natural farming, so the GM seeds should be fully weeded out,” said Vissa Kirankumar of Rythu Swarajya Vedika. Former agriculture minister Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao said the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee had also recommended that HT crops should not be allowed in India. The Central government, under EPA 1986, has notifications issued in 2006 that empower state level seed inspectors to enter any place to determine whether the law is being complied with, and to seize materials if necessary to prevent or mitigate environmental pollution. Action can also be taken under the Seed Control Order (1983) and Seed Act (1966). In addition, the state government should also bring in a new Seed Act to protect the interests of the farmers in the future.” “Cotton farmers suffered big losses due to the pink bollworm this year, and the spread of illegal seed without permission also contributed towards this. When farmers face problems, who can they or the governments hold liable in these illegal seed supply chains?” said Prasad of AP Rythu Sangham.