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Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton

Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton

Why in news?

  • The illegal cultivation of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) Bt cotton has seen a huge jump as the sale of illegal seed packets has more than doubled from 30 lakh in 2020 to 75 lakh in 2021.

What is HTBt Cotton? 

  • This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
  • Bt cotton is the only transgenic crop that has been approved by the Centre for commercial cultivation in India.
  • Farmers claim that the HtBt variety can withstand the spray of glyphosate, a herbicide that is used to remove weeds, and thus it substantially saves them de-weeding costs.
  • Fears include glyphosate having a carcinogenic effect, as well as the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance to nearby plants through pollination, creating a variety of superweeds.

HT Bt Cotton in India

  • In the absence of government approval, production of HT Bt seed is illegal, but farmers say it’s available in those states where its being grown defying the laws.
  • A section of farmers have started sowing its seeds particularly in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for the past few years.
  • A government panel had found that the HT Bt Cotton was grown in 15 per cent of the areas in these states during 2017-18 while this percentage was 5 per cent for Punjab.
  • According to supporters of HT Bt Cotton, its preferred to reduce the cost of labour as de-weeding is an extremely labour intensive activity involving 40 per cent of the total cost for growing cotton.                              Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton

Legal Provisions

  • Legally, sale, storage, transportation and usage of unapproved GM seeds is a punishable offence under the Rules of Environmental Protection Act 1989.
  • Also, sale of unapproved seeds can attract action under the Seed Act of 1966 and the Cotton Act of 1957.
  • The Environmental Protection Act provides for a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for violation of its provisions, and cases can be filed under the other two Acts.
  • Farmers who assembled in Akola alleged that the HtBt variety is being surreptitiously used by farmers across the country, smuggled from abroad.

Need for Using HTBt Cotton

  • Support of Scientists: Scientists are also in favour of this crop, and even the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it does not cause cancer. But the government has still withheld approval for HTBt.                                Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton
  • Saves Cost: There is a shortage of the labour needed to do at least two rounds of weeding for Bt cotton. With HTBt, simply one round of glyphosate spraying is needed with no weeding. It saves Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 8,000 per acre for farmers.                    Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton

Issues Emanating from Illegal Sale of HTBt Cotton

  • As it is not approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), illegal sale takes place in Indian markets.
  • Farmers are at risk with such illegal cotton seed sale as there is no accountability of the quality of seed, it pollutes the environment, the industry is losing legitimate seed sale and the government also loses revenue in terms of tax collection.                      Herbicide Tolerant Bt (HTBt) Cotton
  • It will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market in India.

 

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Mussoorie Times

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