Mumbai: Three months after 18 farmers died of pesticide poisoning in Yavatmal district, the Maharashtra government has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe if the five private firms, mentioned in the FIR, illegally sold Bt Cotton seeds with a mix of herbicide-tolerant transgenic gene.
The team will also investigate the role of Mahyco Monsanto Bio Tech (India) Limited, in unauthorised production, stocking, and sale of herbicide-tolerant transgenic Bt Cotton seeds. The report will be submitted in a month.
According to the FIR and forensic findings into the deaths, the BG-3 seeds sold to the farmers were herbicide tolerant, and the cotton plants remained unaffected even when they sprayed herbicide to remove the weeds.
A visiting team of Central government officials from the field inspection and scientific evolution committee recommend the State to set up an SIT.
Officials said the SIT will comprise Sanjay Barve, commissioner, Intelligence Department, and Subhash Nagre, joint director (Agriculture). “It will conduct a probe into the role of the seed companies, especially Mahyco Monsanto Bio Tech,” said additional chief secretary (Agriculture), Bijay Kumar.
The SIT could recommend action, ask for documents, and register an offence. “It has come to our notice that many seed companies produced BG-3 seeds with transgenic Glyphosate tolerant trait and sold them in the market. Five companies have been found guilty as per the report of the Central Institute of Cotton Research. It is a clear case of violations since permission of the genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) was not taken,” said Mr. Kumar, citing the FIR filed in October, last year.
The Opposition, meanwhile, demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Maharashtra approved the sale of Bt Cotton seeds in 2002 with BG-1 having Cry1Ac gene. In 2006, the BG-2 sale was allowed with the approval of the GEAC. The BG-3 didn’t have the approval of the GEAC.