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Illegal GM cotton takes root in Maharashtra, minister sounds alarm

State agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkarhas called for a ban on the sale of unapproved genetically modified (GM) cotton seedswith herbicide-tolerant traits. There is growing evidence of the use of such seeds in the state even though the technology is yet to be approved in the country. Currently, only GM cotton seeds with resistance to the American and pink bollworm are approved by the Centre.
A team from the Centre’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is expected in the city in November to take stock of the issue.
Tests by the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CIRC) showed that herbicide-tolerant GM cotton seeds termed BG 3 are sold and cultivated in the state, said Fundkar. “These seeds are being illegally sold by several companies using different brand names,” said the minister. He called for a meeting of the state’s biotechnology coordination committee chaired by the chief secretary to enforce a ban on such seed sales.
The BG 3 seeds are sold in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and some other states too, said Fundkar. The government also held a meeting with seed companies to know how the herbicide-tolerant BG 3 had reached the market. “Seed companies performing trials on this technology are supposed to take adequate care that the seeds do not leak out from the research farm,” said state agriculture secretary Bijay Kumar.
In February, the CIRC tested nine seed samples, and six tested positive for herbicide-tolerant traits. “The GEAC had been apprised of the results,” said CIRC acting director V N Waghmare.
State government officials said they needed details on the evidence and the tests to take punitive action but were still awaiting these. “Once we receive details we will be able to lodge cases under the Seed Act 2004 for the sale and distribution of unauthorized seeds,” said Kumar.

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