The state government’s agricultural department has withdrawn the licence of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB), a major seed player, after receiving complaints from farmers over supply of substandard bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton seeds.
This is the first Bt cotton seed firm to be banned by the state.
The decision was made after it was found that the seeds had resulted in a stagnant yield and led to new pest and disease attacks, said officials.
“This is just the beginning of the quality check we are doing on Bt cotton suppliers. Many others have been given notices for supplying inferior quality seeds and taking both the farmers and state government for granted,” said agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil on Thursday.
A Maharashtra-based partner of the US multinational seed giant Monsanto, Mahyco will no longer be allowed to supply and distribute cotton seeds in Maharashtra. About 1.5 crore packets of Bt cotton seeds costing over Rs1,000 crore are used by farmers in 27 cotton growing regions of Maharashtra, of which 10 lakh packets of BG-1 and BG-2 variety of seeds, about 5%, were provided by Mahyco.
There are 35 other licensed firms in the state dealing with Bt cotton seeds and are being monitored.
The state has set up rules that have made it mandatory for firms to follow certain seed standards and improvise them to suit drought-prone cotton growing areas such as Vidarbha.
The ban came into force on Wednesday following an official communication made by the director of inputs & quality control (DIQC).
Mahyco had been given a notice by the DIQC about a year ago. Agriculture universities had been asked to assess the BG-1 and BG-2 seeds for resistance capabilities against certain worms and pests, but the results were negative.
“Apart from seed companies which have failed us, the research in universities have also not given us a clear mandate on the genesis of these seed varieties. We have asked universities to help us compile the achievements and drawbacks of Bt cotton and also chalk out a plan, or if alternatives can be worked out,” said Vikhe Patil.