NAGPUR: A proposal has been sent by the district office of the agriculture department in Yavatmal to the state director of quality control to ban the use of glyphosate — a herbicide commonly used by cotton growers here. US biotech giant Monsanto is one of the major producers of glyphosate-based herbicides.
Herbicides have gained popularity in the cotton growing areas of Vidarbha over the years. The chemical does away with the need of physically removing weeds on the field, leading to a major saving on labour cost. However, acceptance of herbicides by farmers has also led to a massive use of herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton. This is an unauthorized variety of the genetically modified cotton.
The HT seeds are smuggled into Maharashtra from Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The sale of the chemical has already been stopped during the kharif season in Andhra Pradesh.
The letter written by the Yavatmal agriculture officer says the label on the product’s container reads that it is recommended for use only on tea plantations and barren land. “Since there are no tea plantations in Yavatmal district, there is no need to allow the use of glyphosate,” he writes.
The district agriculture office has also raised a concern that since its sale has been banned in Andhra Pradesh, glyphosate may come to Yavatmal through bordering districts of Telangana.
“The proposal may have to be sent to the ministry of agriculture,” said a source. “It may not be easy for the state to ban glyphosate as a central approval may be needed even though a herbicide is covered under the central insecticide board (CIB).”
Glyphosate is being indirectly blamed for the pesticide inhalation deaths of last year. Its availability has increased the use of illegal HT cotton seeds which are expected to be susceptible to pests like bollworm. It is alleged by experts that a major bollworm attack led to a higher use of pesticides last year when 63 persons died due to accidental inhalation.
The state government has also formed a special investigation team (SIT) to probe into smuggling of HT seeds in Maharashtra. A request has been sent to the CBI for conducting an inter-state investigation.
Lately, the agriculture department has issued directions to field offices to track the origin of illegal HT seeds from farmers who have purchased it. However, sources say it may be difficult to track it down from local farmers even though it is an open secret and HT seeds are easily available through the local farm input traders.