58 quintal seized HT cotton seeds to be burned

By Times Of India on 22 May 2018 | read
NAGPUR: Six months after the state’s agriculture department seized a huge quantity of illegal herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton seeds in raids on godowns in Buldhana and Jalna, orders have been issued to destroy the stock. The seeds belong to Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), which has owned up responsibility as well.

As much as 58 quintal of seeds, which are enough to grow cotton on nearly 11,600 acres of irrigated farmland, will be burned. The raids were conducted in December 2017. Majority of stock was seized from Buldhana, where arrangements have been made to burn it under supervision of the district administration on May 23.

HT seeds are a genetically modified variety, produced using technology developed by US biotech giant Monsanto. The seeds are tolerant to glyphosate, a chemical used to kill weed growing in the fields. If a HT seed is sowed, the plant remains unharmed even as glyphosate-based herbicide destroys the weeds around it. Trials were initiated to get approval for the commercial use of these seeds, but the application was withdrawn in 2016. However, the seeds continue to be available in the grey market, and are in high demand as it saves on the labour cost incurred for physically removing the weeds.

“After the seizure, Mahyco claimed ownership, though claiming the seeds were not meant for commercial sale, but were kept for trial purpose. Since there was no clarity after the trials were stopped, the seeds were kept in the godown,” said a source in the state’s agriculture department.

The raids were conducted by the agriculture department under the Maharashtra Seeds Act. Mahyco moved Nagpur high court against the state government move, saying that Seeds Act does not apply in this case. The company’s contention was that any action can be taken only as per the country’s environmental laws. This is because approval for genetically modified seeds are granted by the environment ministry, said a source.

The action under the Seeds Act was set aside by the court, after which the state approached central ministry of environment, seeking further directions. Last week, directions were issued to destroy the seeds, and the district collectors were informed about it.

A senior official in charge of the job at Buldhana district collectorate said they have plans to destroy the stock on May 23.