Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unapproved Bt cotton seeds sold in Vidarbha-DNA



In cahoots
Activist Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti alleged, “Such illegal sale cannot happen without officials and the company being in cahoots.”
He hoped PM Manmohan Singh, who the organisation has petitioned to, intervenes “to stop this technology before it claims more lives.

DNA / Yogesh Pawar / Wednesday, May 22, 2013 8:30 IST
The illegal sale of the latest variant of genetically modified cotton seeds across Vidarbha before an expert committee’s approval has caused alarm among farmers in the region and anti-GM activists across India.
Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB) India’s Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex (BGII RRF) hasn’t got the approval of the Union ministry of environment and forests’ Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). “GEAC has not given its nod to BGII RRF.
Selling or using it even when trials go on is wholly illegal,” said panel chairperson Dr BS Parsheera.
He admitted that the GEAC was seized of the situation and in touch with cotton-growing states where the illegal sale was taking place.
Many experts have already expressed fears of how BGII RRF use can damage fertility of soil in the long run. RRF kills weeds in cotton fields. When herbicide is sprayed, only weed is killed, while cotton plants live on as technology gives them strength to withstand the herbicide.
While considering MMB India’s plea for permission to conduct the crucial Biosafety Research Level (BRL-I) trials on RRF hybrids in 2011, the GEAC had asked data during pre- and post-spray of Roundup herbicide. The panel objected to use of non-Bt RRF in refuge area.
When contacted, Subbarao Appemane of the cotton division at Mahyco washed his hands off the matter. “The technology is Monsanto’s. They should comment, not us.”
State agricultural minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil reiterated his stand, saying, “Bt cotton had brought no benefits to farmers but sent seed companies laughing to the bank”. The minister had said this while addressing a workshop of agriculture officers of Nagpur and Amravati division on April 29 too.
“Bt cotton seeds checked bollworm attacks but that did not really help farmers as they have to use costlier chemicals for protection from other pests,” he told dna.
Spokesperson for the Monsanto wing of MMB India, Christopher Samuel said, “BGII RRF in-the-seed cotton technologies could offer farmers choice of dual benefits of superior insect protection from bollworms and spodoptera caterpillar, as well as convenience, flexibility and effective weed management through herbicide tolerance, enabling farmers to optimise cotton yields.”
He insisted regulatory research field trials in India under diverse agro-climatic conditions had been completed. “We are in the process of seeking regulatory approval,” he said. “The company is aware of the illegal sale of what is being called BGII RRF but we have learnt that this is not the variant we are seeking approval for.”
Most agro-experts agree that the illegal seeds came from the US. “The seeds are already in use there. Major seed developers have the wherewithal to develop the seed variety once the gene is with them,” said a senior technocrat from the state agriculture department.

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