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BT Cotton Seeds Affecting Farmers in Yavatmal, Maharashtra

Due to the spurious quality of BT cotton seeds, farmers in the Yavatmal district are facing serious yield loss.

This year Mithun Jawade, from Kalgaon village, Yavatmal, bought BT cotton seeds from the government-licensed seed distributors, after a few months he found to his horror, that due to bad quality of seeds, and the presence of large numbers of pests destroyed his entire field. 

As of 2017, India had the world’s fifth-largest cultivated area under the GM crops and the entire crop area has been under one crop, i.e. cotton. Yavatmal has been growing cotton for over 100 years, and hence the city is also known as the ‘White Gold city’. BT Cotton was introduced in 2002, India’s first transgenic crop. Farmers all over the district adopted BT cotton for profit. This adoption of BT cotton in India increased the production of cotton to 34.89 million bales in 2017-18 from 8.62 million bales in 2002-03. In 2017, the sudden increase in pests, mainly the pink bollworm, prompted intensive chemical spraying which resulted in 22 deaths in Yavatmal district and over 60 overall in the state. 

“I took a loan to buy seeds, and I was not able to get that return also”, said Mithun Jawade. He called laborers to pluck cotton, at Rs.15 per kg, but nobody turned up. “And this problem of pests is not only in my field, or in my village, but all over in Yavatmal district”, added Mithun, as he opened the cotton balls, infected with pests. 

Mithun made sure that he buys all the seeds from the government store seed dealers to curb pests in fields, yet the seeds he yielded accompanied excessive pests. The alarming mayhem of pests like the pink bollworm has made the conditions of farmers worse across Yavatmal. Even when the farmers are advised to buy seeds from the government outlet, there is a covert supply of bad quality and unapproved seeds from the seed manufacturing company. This year, in Yavatmal district, 4.5 lakh hectares of cotton have been planted, and the State government officials were worried that about 20 percent of it is herbicide-tolerant BT (HTBT) and other unapproved cotton varieties. Sometimes cotton seeds are found in the market with labels and approvals, which portrays a dismal state of regulation in India around BT cotton seeds. 

“Government should ban the companies which make poor quality seeds and should start supplying good quality seeds”, said Mithun

Support the farmers of Yavatmal, by sharing the issue with, Department of Agriculture, Co-operation and Farmers Welfare, Maharastra, at +91-7232245338, and urge them to take action.

Video by Community Correspondent Kalpana Jawade

Article by Grace Jollifffe, a Member of VV Editorial Team.

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