Bt seeds have left farmers without option: State agri min

By Times Of India on 23 Apr 2018 | read
Nagpur: The genetically modified Bt cotton seed, introduced in 2002, has wiped out alternatives from the market, said state’s agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar. The seed has been developed by US biotech giant Monsanto.
“Bt seed was dubbed to increase cotton output, but the fact that it also increases cost of production was ignored. Today, farmers have no alternative to the cost-intensive Bt cotton seeds,” said Phundkar.

The minister was addressing a meet to discuss methods to prevent another attack of pink bollworm on the cotton crop in the coming season. The Bt seeds are supposed to be genetically engineered to be resistant to the bollworm pest. However, last year a massive attack damaged even the Bt cotton crop in Maharashtra.

The meeting was also attended by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh apart from other stakeholders like farmers and industry representatives.

Phundkar said after introduction of Bt cotton, the seeds developed by the state’s agriculture university were hardly seen in the market.

“Even as the state government is planning to promote indigenous seeds, it may not be able to help much during the crop season of 2018. Only 1 lakh odd seed bags of non-Bt seeds may be available for 2018. However, in 2019 we are aiming at 50 lakh bags,” said the minister,.

On the other hand, the seed companies appear to be bullish on demand for Bt seeds for the coming season. According to estimates made on basis of licences granted by the agriculture department, 1.75 crore bags of Bt seeds may be pumped in the market by seed makers. This is 10 lakh bags more than the supply available in the state last year.

So far, licences for supply equal to 1.25 crore bags have been granted, with that of another 50 crore in the process, said a source in agriculture department.

Farm activists Vijay Jawandhia stressed that apart from agriculture practices financial support is needed for the cotton growers. In lines of Telangana government even Maharashtra can grant a direct benefit of Rs4,000 per hectare to the cotton growers, he said.