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20 June: decision to cultivate GM mustard deferred
The Economic Times reported that Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants had sought permission from the biotech regulator GEAC for release of its transgenic mustard variety into the environment. In an earlier meeting in February, GEAC had asked the institution to submit more details to it about the field trial. Today the decision was deferred and its risk assessment group was asked to look into the deficiencies pointed out by a sub-committee and then notify the applicant to make a fresh dossier and submit its report within 60 days. It will then be put in public domain for further consultation.
27 June: According to the figures compiled by Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research(CICR), published in the Times of India, 72,280 hectares of indigenous varieties of cotton are being grown this season in northern states, against about 3,000 hectares last year.
There has been a major dip in the demand for genetically modified Bt cotton seeds this kharif season and there has been a sharp increase in use of local varieties of cotton seeds instead of Bt in the northern states. The area seems to have gone up but the supply of indigenous seeds did not keep pace, sources said. A similar trend was expected in other cotton growing areas of the country too. The overall area under cotton is expected to go down this year.
Sources in this sector attributed a number of reasons for lower Bt cotton demand. Last year, there were heavy losses in north due to a white fly attack. Though makers of Bt cotton do not claim protection against white fly bug, local seeds are known to have resistance against this pest, sources said. Bt cotton has resistance against bollworm pest, considered a major risk. Last year pink bollworm infestation was reported in Bt seeds too. This reduced the farmers’ confidence, sources said. Poor yields and rates to cotton had made farmers turn to other crops like pulses, maize and soyabean, said a source in a seed manufacturing company in the state.
27th June: Punjab Update reports that the cotton growing area in Punjab and Haryana has declined 27% to 7.56 lakh hectares in the 2016-17 crop year as farmers shifted to other crops after incurring huge losses due to whitefly pest attack last year.
These two states had planted cotton in 10.3 lakh hectares in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) but a senior Agriculture Ministry official said that farmers were scared to grow cotton, fearing futher whitefly pest attacks that had massively damaged the crop in these two states last year. Though these states had advised cotton growers to complete the sowing operation timely before May 15 to avoid any whitefly infestation again, farmers did not opt for cotton, despite high prices in the market at present. Instead, they have shifted to pulses, paddy and other crops in these states, the official added.
The country’s total area sown to cotton remained lower by 45% at 19.07 lakh hectares so far in 2016-17 compared with 34.87 lakh hectares in the year-earlier period.