Cotton Fields

The Karnataka government has banned the sale of Mahyco's Bt and hybrid seeds in the state, following reports of their failure.

1. Karnataka bans Mahyco's cotton seeds

2. Bt cotton a dud, Mahyco faces ban

1. Karnataka bans Mahyco's cotton seeds

Move follows crop failure in 7 districts that caused huge losses to cotton growers

Business Standard (India), March 28, 2014

The Karnataka government has banned the sale of Mahyco's BT and hybrid seeds in the state, following reports of their failure.

According to a release here today, crops in seven districts had failed causing huge losses to cotton growers. Following this, affected farmers, who had sown Mahyco's seeds, complained to the Department of Agriculture and a survey established that crops had failed owing to the substandard quality of seeds of the Maharashtra-based seed company.

Following this, the department has issued a notification banning the sale of Mahyco BT and hybrid seeds with immediate affect in the state. The joint director of agriculture in Mysore has instructed the distributors and sellers not to market the company's seeds. Legal action will be taken if anyone is found selling them, he warned, advising farmers not to use Mahyco's BT seeds.

The company had reportedly made available its BT seeds to farmers last year. Farmers had cultivated the commercial crop during the Kharif season on about 510,000 acres. However, it failed to yield the expected yield wherever the company's BT seeds had been sown.

A leading commercial crop of Karnataka, cotton is generally grown in rain-dependent areas of the state. Growers had cultivated the crop using Mahyco's MRC-7351 and Nikkiplus BT seeds and saplings on 139 hectares and 12,000 hectares, respectively. However, they did not give the expected yield, resulting in a huge losses to those who had cultivated the commercial crop, over which they mainly depend, it is reported.

Cotton growers in Haveri, Belgaum, Davanagere, Chitradurga, Dharwad, Bellary, and Gadag districts had taken to cultivation using Mahyco's BT seeds and saplings. It may be recalled that when Chief Minister Siddaramaiah visited the "Krishi Mela" organised by the University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharwad, the affected farmers held a dharna demanding action against the company.

Following this, a committee of agricultural experts headed by the Deputy Commissioner wasformed by the Agriculture Department to submit a report after examining the complaints of farmers. On the basis of its report, the government has taken action now against the company.

About 54,150 cultivators of 1,900 villages in the seven districts had cultivated hybrid cotton on 58,195 hectares and nearly 50 per cent of the crop failed, it is said.

During its survey, the team of agricultural scientists found variation in the variety of saplings supplied by the company. The leaves were found affected in Navalgund taluk of Dharwad district and in Mulugunda village of Savadatti taluk of Gadag district, seeds and saplings of other companies had given good yield, it is reported.


2. Bt cotton a dud, Mahyco faces ban

By Chetan R

Bangalore Mirror Bureau, Mar 22, 2014

* After Rs 230 crore crop loss, [Karnataka] government set to stop company from participating in any process involving supply of Bt seeds

The fight against bio-piracy has received its biggest boost yet. Already facing the heat of a criminal case filed by the Environment Support Group (ESG) against its genetically-modified Bt brinjal, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) will face similar stringent legal action by the state government against its Bt cotton.

Apart from pursuing legal action, the state government has also decided to indefinitely ban and blacklist Mahyco — which collaborates with Monsanto, the US-based agricultural biotechnology corporation, to market Bt technology in the country — "from participating in any form in any agricultural process involving supply of Bt seeds in the state". The ban will remain in place "until further orders". An order to this effect will be released soon.

The ban comes in the wake of massive losses of Bt cotton crops in seven districts in the state, including Haveri, Belgaum, Chitradurga, Davangere and Dharwad. The seeds for the crops were supplied by Mahyco. Field level assessments conducted by teams comprising government officials, Mahyco staff and agricultural scientists revealed that the loss extended to about 54,000 hectares — Rs 230 crore.

"Usually private companies offer compensation and the government lets them off the hook, but the state government has decided to act tough on Mahyco," a source told Bangalore Mirror. "Farmers have suffered massive losses as the crops have failed despite the company making tall advertisements about the superiority of its genetically-modified seeds."

Sources say Mahyco had claimed that Bt cotton crops would be pest resistant. "But this has been proved wrong," the source said. "Not only were the crops attacked by pests, but in most areas the plants failed to produce cotton bolls. This had led to an uproar in the farming community. Farmers wanted the company to be blacklisted."

The Bt cotton seeds are now being tested through the grow-out test method to study genetic standards of the genetically modified seeds, the source revealed. Based on the results, legal action will be initiated against the company. As a precursor to tough action, the government has spurned the company's offer of a compensation package of Rs 10 crore and has decided to suitably compensate farmers through the state exchequer.

"Accepting their (Mahyco's) compensation proposal would have tied the state government hands," the source said. "The government has decided to compensate farmers for the loss they have incurred and will pay Rs 6,000 per hectare. This will mean a burden of Rs 35 crore on the state."

When contacted, Subodh Yadav, state agriculture commissioner and the officer who pursued the issue on behalf of the state government, said, "We are taking tough action against on the company. This will set a precedent for other such occurrences."

BM had sought a reaction from Mahyco and in an email statement a company spokesperson said they could not comment since they are yet to receive "any communication from the government on the ban".

The statement went on to say, "With the unusual rain and weather conditions this past season, the cotton crop has been affected by a Midge fly and mired bug. We have been working with the government to address this problem, educate the farmers about the new threats to crops in central Karnataka and measures to control it." The company also refuted suggestions that cotton yield in 2013-14 had fallen. "Cotton arrival in four affected districts has substantially increased by around 55 per cent compared to the previous year up to Feb 2014."