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Post at: Aug 16 2021

Sale of Illegal HTBt Cotton Seeds Doubles

Recent Context

  • On June 18, 2021, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) urged the centre to take action against a sudden surge in illegal cultivation of herbicide tolerant (HT) Bt cotton in the country this year (2021).
  • Seed manufacturers claiming that the sale of illegal seed packets has more than doubled from 30 lakh in the year 2020 to 75 lakh in this year (2021).

What is HTBT cotton?

  • Herbicide – tolerant Bt (HTBt) cotton is a genetically modified crop of genes.
  • Herbicide is like a poison which is used to destroy unwanted vegetation.
  • The technique in the HTBt cotton makes the crop resistant to herbicide following modification in genes of the seeds.
  • Bt cotton is the only transgenic crop the has been approved by the centre for commercial cultivation in India.

The Benefits of Bt Cotton

What is the concern?

  • Farmers are at risk with such illegal cotton seed sale as there is no accountability of the quality of seed.
  • The government also loses revenue in terms of tax collection.
  • It will also pose a serious threat to the environment.
  • The illegal seeds are sold using the brand name of prominent companies.
  • Industry is loosing legitimate seed sale.
  • The illegal seed sale will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market.     

Earlier Steps taken by Government

  • In 2017, the Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) was set up under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) by the Prime Minister’s office.
  • The committee had confirmed that HTBt cotton is illegally grown across the state.
  • FISEC power also found that 15% prevalence of unapproved HTBt Cotton was in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat.

Way Forward

  • The centre has made a policy to ban this variant, but state governments must take action.
  • States should have to take punitive action against the culprits.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out by independent environmentalists, as farmers do not and cannot assess the long term impact of GM crops on ecology and health.

About-Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • It functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC).
  • It is responsible for the appraisal of activities involving large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
  • The committee is also responsible for the appraisal of proposals relating to the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.

@  Yogesh Pratap Singh

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