Maharashtra bans Mahyco from selling Bt cotton seeds

In a big blow to the controversial genetically modified crop market, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday banned Mahyco, key distributor of the Bt cotton seeds in the country, from carrying out any trade activity in the state and filed a caveat before the Bombay and Auranagabad high courts in this regard.

The order issued by Director of Inputs and Quality Control (DIQC) Sudam Adsule, the licensing authority in the state, said: “Under the provisions of the Maharashtra Cotton Act, 2009, Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company), a joint venture of Monsanto Biotech, is forbidden to carry out its trading activities here. Any violation would attract strict criminal action.”

The action comes days after state Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil admitted in the Assembly that many farmers have complained against the substandard quality of the cotton seeds.

The minister’s statement was shocking since farmers had to take loans to purchase the seeds as the cost is very high. The DIQC said that Mahyco, partially owned by Monsanto Biotech, was indulging in unfair trade practices, including supplying of sub-standard quality seeds to cotton farmers and creating artificial shortage of seeds to encourage black-marketing.

Talking to Deccan Herald over phone from Pune, state agricultural commissioner Umakant Dangat said the order will stop the sale of 12 varieties of BT cotton seeds, which Mahyco used to distribute in the state.

When asked about Mahyco’s key partner Monsanto Biotech, which produces various GM seeds, the agricultural commissioner emphasised, “The order is for Mahyco and we have nothing to do with whatever tie-up it has with Monsanto. Moreover, we have filed caveat on grounds that we had given ample opportunities to the company to refute charges of unfair trade practices levelled against it. It is only when they failed to come up with a plausible explanation that we took action.”

Step welcomed

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) leader Kishore Tiwari from Nagpur, while welcoming the decision, told Deccan Herald over phone: “Let’s realise one thing very clearly....BT cotton seeds have played a key role in turning the white gold belt of Vidarbha into a killing field. There are still 28 companies sub-listed by Monsanto. They should also be banned.”

He said that studies have shown that traditional Indian cotton seeds are not only superior in quality but also cheaper in price. He said genetically modified seeds have been “creating a highly-toxic zone for every living organism.”

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