BT 3 cotton seeds banned by govt, so farmers now buying them online

Bt cotton
Despite a ban on the genetically modified Bollgard 3 cotton seed, farmers are buying it from online portals. The suppliers are said to be companies based in Gujarat, according to a ToI report.

Bollgard 3 (BT3) has been developed by Monsanto and is so designed that it can 'kill Helicoverpa spp. larvae'. It is being sold on online portal IndiaMart.

Why farmers are buying Bollgard III illegally

The technology currently licensed out by Monsanto is known as Bollgard II. The company received a patent in 2009 in India for Bollgard II's ability to modify cotton seeds to include a microbe called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which fortifies cotton plants against bollworms. 

After hitting a record high in 2014, cotton yields and output in India have declined due to a pest attack and two straight droughts. Farming experts say that yields from the current strain of Monsanto's modified cotton seed (Bollgard II) have hit a plateau as the seeds lose effectiveness against crop-eating bollworms. To maintain its position as the world's top cotton producer, say the experts, India needs to introduce Monsanto's next-generation Bollgard III. India's agriculture minister and the RSS say they prefer a homegrown alternative to Monsanto's seed technology.

'Prescription' herbicide sold online too

A herbicide called Glyphosphate that can be sold only on prescription of agricultural officers is being sold online too.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, said in 2015 that glyphosate probably could cause cancer in humans.

However, another WHO report published in 2016 concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

The ToI report quotes experts as saying that several studies have found traces of Glyphosate in food samples of roadside foodstalls. The herbicide is said to spread to fields nearby and also contaminate cottonseed oil which eateries use in preparing their foodstuff. 

Glyphosate kills farmers?

Farmers adopted glyphosate quickly after Monsanto introduced glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready crops, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops.

Over 300 lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto in San Francisco. Farmers allege that the seed giant's popular weed killer, Roundup, gave them cancer. 

However, a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims that "among the 54,000 farmers studied, glyphosate did not appear to create an increased risk of almost any cancer"

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel