YAVATMAL: "Just look down, the grass is all gone but the crop stands. This is BG-III," says a farmer at Rampur village in Ghatanji taluka of Yavatmal. The field is parched with barely a few blades of grass but the crop is still green with plenty of cotton bolls.
BG-III or Chor Bt, as it is called, is the herbicide resistant (HT) Round-Up Ready (RR) variety of the genetically modified (GM) cotton seed.It does not have government sanction for cultivation but is fast becoming the mainstay of cotton-growers in Vidarbha.
It is resistant to glyphosate used in herbicides. So, even if doses of herbicides are sprayed, the cotton plant is safe and the weeds are cleared without engaging labour.In the approved varieties, the herbicide can kill the crop.
The RR variety was developed by US giant Monsanto which already sells Bt cotton.It is available only through illegal channels, hence the name Chor Bt. During TOI's visit to fields, it was found that Chor Bt is an open secret in Vidarbha's cotton belt. "It is sourced from Gujarat as well as Telangana," say locals.
Chor Bt is sold for Rs1,1001,500 a packet as against Rs800 for BG II, the approved variety of GM cotton seeds made by Monsanto. "It's costlier than BG-II, the legal variety, yet it makes sense to buy this as one saves a lot on deweeding wages," said a farmer in Rampur. The crop was seen in villages like Karegaon and Runjha. "As much as 90% crop is Chor Bt here," the farmers said.