The unbridled promotion of genetically modified (GM) cotton in the State, including Mysore district, has left organic farmers peeved due to the absence of an institutional mechanism to supply non-Bt cotton seeds in the market.
The cotton seed scarcity that plagued the district and other parts of the State in May mainly pertained to Bt cotton seeds which is used by over 90 per cent of growers in H.D. Kote and other cotton-growing areas of the district.
According to statistics available with the Department of Agriculture here, nearly 40,000 hectares of land was brought under cotton cultivation in 2010. The area is expected to increase to 54,000 hectares this year.
Of the 40,000 hectares under cotton cultivation in the district, the area under organic cotton is around 4,000 hectares. But in the absence of non-Bt cotton seeds, farmers using eco-friendly and organic methods may be forced to switch to chemical farming.
Vivek Cariappa, organic farmer from H.D. Kote, told The Hindu that a large number of farmers shifted from cereals and pulses to cotton, anticipating a good price. As a result, the area under maize, ragi and banana declined. He said that the Government was catering to their requirements by ensuring supply of Bt cotton seeds.
“However, there are scores of farmers who have rejected Bt technology, shifted focus from conventional chemical-intensive practices and are practitioners of organic farming. These farmers have been left to fend for themselves,” Mr. Cariappa said.
He pointed out that though the State’s policy was to promote organic farming, it was encouraging Bt technology.
Mr. Cariappa and other organic farmers expressed the view that the germplasm of the non-Bt variety of seeds had been contaminated and that the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, was the only place in the country where the germplasm of the non-Bt variety of cotton was not contaminated.
Hence, Mr. Cariappa suggested that the State Government be pro-active in funding the UAS to produce non-Bt varieties of cotton seeds. He said that even indigenous cotton varieties such as Jayadhar cotton, which was cultivated extensively in Hubli and Gadag, were not available and it was imperative for the State to intervene and ensure that the germplasm of these indigenous varieties were produced, preserved and made available to farmers.
The Organic Farmers’ Association of H.D. Kote pointed out that each packet of Bt cotton seeds contained a small pouch of non-Bt cotton seeds because it was mandatory for farmers to plant them in the periphery of their fields to prevent contamination of transgenic plants with non-transgenic plants through pollination.
However, Mr. Cariappa said there was no independent laboratory or agency to certify that these pouches indeed contained non-Bt cotton seeds.
The onus was on the Government to establish or appoint an agency to check the seeds and ensure that non-Bt cotton seeds were supplied to farmers.
There is no institutional mechanism to supply non-Bt cotton seeds in the market
‘Farmers using organic methods may be forced to switch to chemical farming’