Central has Calls Meet on Illegal HT Cotton Seeds

Mumbai: The Centre's Review Committee for Genetic Modification has called a meeting with four states on October 25, the prodded into action after reports on the widespread cultivation of unapproved genetically modified cotton seeds with herbicide tolerant (HT) traits.

Officials said that, "the cotton growing states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana have been called for the meeting."

The illegal HT hybrid market had swelled to Rs472 crore in the kharif season with around 35 lakh HT hybrid seeds sold and cultivation spread over 8.5 lakh hectares, reported by the agricultural science think-tank South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC) in September. SABC said that, the illegal HT seed sales had been on for several years, with 8 lakh sold in 2015-16.

In February, the Central Institute for Cotton Research had found that 6 of the 9 samples cotton seed samples it tested were positive for HT cotton traits. Currently genetically modified cotton seeds with resistance to the American and pink bollworm are cleared for use in India.

The PMO sought comments from the GEAC, after reports on the SABC's findings, officials said. The body in turn asked state governments what action they have taken since seeds is a state subject.

The Maharashtra government responded with a letter on October 18, pointing out that under the Seed Act 2004, it can take action only on matters relating to seeds which have already been approved or notified by the Centre.

State agriculture secretary Bijay Kumar said, "On seeds which do not have statutory approval, the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate change, the GEAC and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research needs to act." He also pointed out that the CICR had not yet shared the results of its laboratory tests showing the presence of illegal HT seeds with the state government.

The state government has called for a ban on HT cotton and held a meeting with seed companies. It has sought answers on how this unapproved seed was sold and cultivated. Kumar also said, "seed companies need to follow protocols to ensure that the GM seeds undergoing trial do not leave the research farm."

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

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