PUNE: Even as the country debates the use of genetic modification technology, some cotton farmers in Maharashtra have decided to defy government directives against the use of illegally propagated herbicide-resistant cotton varieties and other GM crops like brinjal and mustard. They have called their protest an ‘Agitation for Freedom to use Technology’.
India has not allowed cultivation of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) BT cotton variety, which helps farmers save the cost on employing manual labour for removing weeds. HTBT cotton plant is resistant to herbicide sprays, which then kill only the weeds.
The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur had confirmed presence of HT cotton seeds in Maharashtra in the previous year, following which the state government had raided the godowns of a prominent seed companyNSE 1.80 % and registered a police complaint.
To prevent the use of HT varieties in the 2018 kharif season, the agriculture department of Maharashtra has appealed to farmers to stay away from these seeds.
However, Shetkari Sangathana, a Maharashtrabased farmers’ organisation, recently organised aTechnology Freedom Conference at Akola in Marathwada where it passed a resolution to support farmers who decide to plant the illegal HT varieties of BT cotton. Ajit Narade, a leader of the Shetkari Sangathana, said, “Despite its trials being over, the government has not given permission for use of HT cotton seeds. The rapid spread of these seeds without any promotion shows that farmers are desperate to use this technology. That is why we have decided to support farmers who want to cultivate HT seeds. We will soon be setting up teams to give protection to farmers.” However, the agriculture department has cautioned farmers against using HT seeds as it is against the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.