Maharashtra sets up SIT to probe illegal production of BT cotton seeds

Feb 08, 2018, 19:00 IST | PTI

The Maharashtra government has set up a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the illegal production and sale of BT cotton seeds, which contain unapproved genes, in the state

Representational Pic
Representational Pic

The Maharashtra government has set up a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the illegal production and sale of BT cotton seeds, which contain unapproved genes, in the state. State intelligence commissioner Sanjay Barve will head the SIT, while Amravati divisional agriculture joint director Subhash Nagare will assist him, a Government Resolution (GR) issued yesterday said.

Both of them can appoint more members in the SIT as per requirement, it said. "The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of the Union government has so far not given permission for the production of BT cotton seeds with herbicide tolerant transgenic gene," the GR said. On November 17, 2017, the state government had written a letter to the Centre seeking a CBI probe into the issue. The state had then said that the production of BT cotton seeds with unapproved genes is taking place in several states.

"The Centre, on October 13 last year, had set up a Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee headed by Dr K Veluthambi and the inspection is going on," the GR said. Transgenic herbicide/glyphosate tolerant trait genes are used by several BT cotton seed production companies, hence an SIT is being formed to probe into this matter, it added. "The SIT is expected to probe the involvement of seed producing companies having original seeds of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt Ltd, Monsanto Holdings Pvt Ltd and Monsanto India Ltd having seeds with 'herbicide tolerant transgenic gene'.

"The other seed companies, their role in production and distribution of seeds with unapproved genes will also be probed by the SIT," the GR said. The three companies make technology transfer to the seed production companies, who in turn produce the BT seeds, package and distribute them across the country, a senior state agriculture officer said. The GR also mentioned that Mahyco-Monsanto was carrying out some field trials in Maharashtra under the observations of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee and Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur between 2008 and 2010. But, the same company had withdrawn its proposal to carry out commercial production of the seeds at the end of its trials.

"Despite that, several companies were found producing BT cotton seeds with these unapproved genes, which is a violation of Environment Protection Act, 1986," the GR said. The state government had lodged a police complaint on October 25 and 26 last year at Savner in Narkhed tehsil of Nagpur district over these violations, the GR said.

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