June 18, 2013 4:38:07 am
The Uttar Pradesh government has sought permission from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to start trial and commercial production of genetically modified Bt cotton,a decade after its introduction in India.
The agriculture department sent a letter seeking clearance to the GEAC in May. Officials claimed that all the ground work is complete and the approval,which is just a formality,is expected soon.
We have sent the letter to the GEAC. The approval is awaited. We are,however,prepared to start cultivation of genetically modified Bt cotton, said C P Srivastava,Joint Director,agriculture department.
In the letter,the agriculture department has sought permission for starting trial of Bt cotton in state-owned farms under agriculture universities. Once the trial is successful,we will start commercial production, Srivastava said. The state has also sought guidance on the varieties of genetically modified cotton which can be adopted for the state.
Agra,Aligarh and Mathura are major centres of cotton cultivation in UP. Indigenous cotton is cultivated across 15,000 hectares in these districts. The agriculture department is motivating farmers in these regions to start Bt cotton cultivation. Devmitra Singh,director of the department,had conducted a seminar on this in Agra last Thursday. Agriculture officials claimed indigenous cotton seeds have a drawback as they are easily infected with insects,resulting in poor yield. Genetically modified Bt cotton has eliminated this problem.
Already some farmers in these regions are cultivating Bt cotton,but unofficially. They get seeds from Rajasthan and Haryana,where it is allowed. We are now officially preparing for Bt cotton cultivation, Srivastava said.
Bt cotton seeds are sold illegally in UP at higher rate. The seeds come in packets of 450 grams. Three such packets are required to cultivate one acre. One packet of Bt cotton-I variety costs Rs 750-825 while Bt cotton-II costs between Rs 925-Rs 1,050. Due to restrictions,they are sold at Rs 1,700-2,500 per packet.
Agriculture officials said the decision to allow cultivation of Bt cotton had been pending for quite some time. Due to controversies regarding environmental issues,the decision was kept on hold by successive state governments.
The idea was revived after the SP government took charge in 2012. It is 10 years since Bt cotton was introduced in India. Now 90 per cent of the cotton cultivated in India is Bt cotton, said Agriculture Minister Raja Anand Singh.
He said further delay would harm the prospects of the states farmers. When the trial is over and Bt cotton is commercially cultivated,why should our farmers suffer? They should also get the chance to cultivate it, he said.
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