Despite much hue and cry about Bt seeds failing against pink bollworm, companies making the genetically modified variety seem to be bullish about the next crop season. The companies are expected to pump in as many as 1.75 crore bags of seeds in the market in Maharashtra. This is over 10 lakh bags more than the quantity that was available last season, said sources. The numbers are estimated on the basis of licences granted by the agriculture department to seed makers for the next Kharif season starting from June. So far, licences for production to the tune of 1.25 crore bags have been granted and applications for another 50 lakh odd are under process, said a source handling the matter. Finally, 1.75 crore bags of Bt cotton seeds may be available in the market this season. Last year, there were 1.62 crore seed bags, and the final consumption was around 1.50 crore, leaving a surplus, said the source.
This year, the area under cotton is expected to come down, which means there will be enough supply of Bt cotton seeds. The Bt seeds are supposed to be resistant against bollworm, a major pest which attacks cotton crop. However, last year, massive infestation of pink bollworm left the crop depleted. Since there is no alternative to Bt seeds at present, the department will have to rely on best practices to avoid another attack. Similar practices were adopted in Gujarat too, said the source.
The government has announced a relief package, which includes penalty imposed on seed companies. More than 10 lakh complaints against the seed makers will be heard by the department on the basis of which compensation will be awarded to the farmers. The process is already delayed due to the high numbers. The first round of hearings are finally expected to begin in May. Given the number of complaints the administration is considering clubbing the cases. All the complaints filed against a given seed company in a district may be taken as one. In the normal course, complaints are taken up on individual basis, the source said. This year, the agriculture department has imposed curbs on co-marketing of Bt seeds. Co-marketing is like a sub-letting arrangement. Companies having an approval to make Bt seeds also lend the parent gene to other companies, which market the seeds under their own brand name.
The state government’s view is that co-marketing had only led to dilution of quality causing the pink bollworm attack. From this year onwards, seed companies will not be able to lend the parent gene to entities without an approval to grow Bt seeds from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). Even if they lend, the companies will have to sell the gene under the original brand name, said a source.
Source : timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Published on: May 9, 2018