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Organic cotton farmers left in the lurch

R. Krishna Kumar

There is a shortage of non-Bt seeds, and traditional seeds are contaminated


Tests on cotton seeds available in the market show that they are contaminated

Agriculture officials confirm the near absence

of traditional variety of cotton seeds


— file photo

Organic cotton is in high demand in the textile industry across the world, and India is among the leading producers of organic cotton.

MYSORE: Karnataka may soon fall off the organic cotton map owing to shortage of non-Bt cotton seeds and contamination of traditional seeds.

As a result, a major organic cotton belt such as H.D. Kote in Mysore district may very well be transformed into a Bt cotton area much to the chagrin of organic farmers, who are peeved over the non-availability of DCH-32, Varalakshmi , MCU, Surabhi and Jaidhar brands of non-Bt seeds.

The other places in the State where cultivation of organic cotton was taking root was Raichur, Nanjangud, Haveri and Hubli. However, now farmers may be forced to shift to Bt cotton.

This is ironic as Karnataka was the first State in the country to have an organic farming policy in place. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has also laid thrust on promoting organic agriculture.

Vivek Cariappa, member of the State High Power Committee on Organic Farming, told The Hindu that the Government's advocacy of organic farming on the one hand and promoting genetically modified crops on an experimental basis on the other was a contradiction. It could wreak devastation on the organic movement in the State and affect even the traditional form of agriculture.

Organic cotton is in high demand in the textile industry across the world, and India is among the leading producers of organic cotton. Mr. Cariappa said 51 per cent of the world's organic cotton is produced in India and Karnataka was in the forefront of promoting organic cotton which fetched a higher profit. “Organic cotton fetched a higher premium than Bt cotton in the market and farmers earned Rs. 900 more per quintal,” according to Mr. Cariappa.

The non-availability of conventional seeds is also due to the contamination of the parent line with the genetically modified variety because of cross-pollination, which is difficult to check or monitor.

The H.D. Kote-based Savayava Krishikara Sangha sent cotton seeds available in the market for testing and the results confirmed that the seeds were contaminated.

Officials in the Department of Agriculture confirmed the near absence of the traditional variety of cotton seeds in the market. They said that they had discussed the issue with National Seeds Corporation Ltd., which can grow the traditional variety of cotton seeds if the farmers gave the indent, but the process would take at least two years.

Mr. Cariappa said no farmer in the State could afford to wait for two years and hence organic cotton growers would be forced to shift to Bt seeds.

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