With the expert panel on the unapproved herbicide-tolerant cotton seed, popularly known as BG-III or HT cotton, finding that about 15% of cotton cultivated in Telangana was that of the illegal variety, the State government has decided to fight the menace from the production level itself as an effective way to weed it out from circulation.
In spite of special squads that include the police conducting raids on seed dealers, retailers and companies before the commencement of Kharif season, the illegal variety of cotton seed is feared to have made its way into cultivation again this year in sizeable quantity. Imposing restrictions on the sale of glyphosate, a herbicide used along with HT cotton, too has little effect since they have been announced only on July 10, by which sowing of the crop was completed in over 12.12 lakh hectares.
Task cut out
“The viable option left now is to check further spread of the damage caused by unapproved cotton variety on the crop biodiversity and also its impact on human health following the use of glyphosate”, a senior government official involved in planning measures against HT cotton seed stated. A sense of fear needs to be created particularly on seed producers as taking action on unregistered and fictitious companies which are indulging in the trade is a lengthy process by tracking and tracing the suppliers of foundation seed, the official explained.
After confirmation of the presence of unapproved herbicide tolerant cotton seed in Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and others by testing the samples collected, the Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC), constituted by Department of Biotechnology, has recommended its eradication beginning with destroying the seed seized with the suspected HT traits.
Although the Ministry of Agriculture has issued directions to book the offences related to herbicide tolerant cotton variety under Seeds Act 1966, Seed Rule 1968, Seeds (Control) Order 1983 vis-a-vis the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and Environmental Protection Rules 1989, the provisions could be invoked only after finding that the seed collected/seized has the HT traits, the official explained.
101 cases booked
When contacted, Principal Secretary (Agriculture) C. Parthasarathi told The Hindu that special squads have conducted about 2,700 raids on seed dealers, retailers and companies this year and registered 101 cases under Section 420 of the IPC and also arrested 141 persons. About 14 tonnes of spurious seed with suspect HT traits has been seized during the raids, he explained adding that cases were also being booked against recommended sale of glyphosate.