HYDERABAD: Barely a few months after the Andhra Pradesh government cancelled licenses of some seed companies for their role in distribution of unapproved herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton seeds, the Telangana government has intensified vigilance against such companies and usage of seeds by farmers.
After paddy, considering that cotton is the second biggest crop in Telangana which grown in 48 lakh acres, senior officials are taking no chances and have already held meetings with representatives of 200 seed distribution firms. To check if they are HT cotton seed, Some 80 samples were collected from agriculture fields for laboratory tests. To the shock of officials, results have shown that farmers were using HT seed on a large scale.
HT cotton seed has not been approved by the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), which is the deciding authority at the Centre. Despite the technology not getting GEAC’s approval and restrictions on use of glyphosate, a herbicide which is applied to the leaves of plants to kill broadleaf plants and grass, many farmers continue to get HT seeds from various sources, it is said.
Principal secretary (agriculture) C Parthasaradhi said they would intensify efforts to rein in firms resorting to sale of illegal or duplicate seeds. He told, “It’s a laborious process to take action against any seed company. However, we are training our staff to undertake more field visits and check illegal seed.” The agriculture department on Tuesday held a workshop for seed task force committees in this regard.
Senior officials aver that farmers prefer the HT seeds as they believe it brings down cultivation costs. When glyphosate is sprayed on the crop and sown with HT cotton seed, it kills the weed and allows the cotton plant to grow.
Seed cos deny any wrongdoing The fact that glyphosate is used in large quantities and its sales have gone up proves the worst fears of officials. Though glyphosate is not banned, officials are clamping down on its usage. After officials tightened the entry of HT seeds from Maharashtra and Gujarat, firms are finding alternative routes.
A senior official said, “These seeds are brought from neighboring states from common Mahbubnagar district.” Meanwhile, the seed companies have denied any wrongdoing and said cross-pollination can give false impression on the seeds distributed by them and seeds used by the farmers.