Illegal sale of “HT Bt cotton” seeds doubles in a year

What is the News?

The illegal cultivation of (Herbicide Tolerant) HT Bt cotton has seen a significant increase in recent years. Similarly, the sale of HT Bt Cotton seeds has more than doubled from 30 lakh in 2020 to 75 lakh in 2021.

  • Due to this, the seed industries have asked the Ministry of Agriculture to stop such illegal sale of (Herbicide Tolerant) HT Bt Cotton as it may have severe environmental and economic consequences.
About Bt Cotton:
  • Bt cotton is the only transgenic crop that has been approved by the Government of India for commercial cultivation.
  • Bt cotton has been genetically modified to produce an insecticide to combat the cotton bollworm, a common pest.
How is Bt Cotton produced?
  • Bt cotton was created by genetically altering the cotton genome to express a microbial protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • In short, the transgene inserted into the plant’s genome produces toxin crystals that the plant would not normally produce which, when ingested by a certain population of organisms, dissolves the gut lining leading to the organism’s death.
About HT Bt Cotton Variant:
  • This is another variant of Bt cotton. This variant adds another layer of modification, making the plant resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. However, this variant has not been approved by regulators.

Concerns regarding illegal cultivation of HT Bt Cotton: There have been various concerns raised against the illegal cultivation of Herbicide Tolerant Bt Cotton. These concerns include:

  • Firstly, the HT Bt cotton variant has serious environmental and economic consequences. This is because there are fears that glyphosate has a carcinogenic effect. Further, the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance is creating a variety of superweeds.
  • Secondly, the illegal sale will eliminate small cotton seed companies and also threaten the entire legal cotton seed market in India.
  • Thirdly, there is no accountability of the quality of cottonseed as it is being sold illegally.
  • Lastly, the industry is losing legitimate seed sales and the government is also losing revenue in terms of tax collection.
Government of India’s Response on illegal cultivation of HT Bt Cotton:
  • According to a report by the Department of Biotechnology, around 15% of the cotton area was sown with unapproved HTBt cotton. Especially in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat.
  • However, the Government of India has said that it has made the policy to ban this variant. But it is the State governments to enforce the ban and take action.

Source: The Hindu

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