The central government has issued a draft notification that, if implemented, is expected to bring down the use of glyphosate-based herbicides, hampering the markets of multinational biotech giants. The chemical also supports the use of genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton seeds which have not been approved in the country yet.
The draft order — ‘Restriction on use of glyphosate order October 2020’ — says no person shall be allowed to use the chemical except through pest control operators (PCOs). The decision has been taken after considering the report of the Kerala government, says the draft.
Stakeholders and the industry have been asked to submit their objections or inputs to the draft order in 30 days.
The move has evoked sharp reactions from industries. It is being alleged that the sudden move is aimed at helping certain domestic companies that make a substitute product of glyphosate, like glufosinate.
Glyphosate has been in midst of controversies for the last three to four years. A section of experts has raised concerns claiming that it can be carcinogenic. In the US, courts have granted compensation to litigants claiming that the use of glyphosate had caused them cancer.
There have been reports of large-scale smuggling of HT seeds in Maharashtra which, in turn, increase the use of glyphosate. Glyphosate was developed by erstwhile Monsanto, now taken over by Bayer.
The draft order says all manufacturers will have to return their certificate of registration for glyphosate and its derivatives to incorporate warning ‘The formulation is allowed to be used only through pest control operators (PCOs)’. The certificates have to be returned in three months and action can be taken if not done so.
Like other states, in Maharashtra also glyphosate is allowed to be used only according to the label claims. This means in non-cropped land or areas like tea gardens. However, given the spread of HT cotton seeds through the grey market, it is an open secret that glyphosate-based herbicides are easily available for other usage. The HT cotton seeds are tolerant of glyphosate-based pesticides.
Farm organizations like Shetkari Sanghatana have been strongly lobbying for the approval of HT seeds.
In a note shared on behalf of the president of the Agro-Chem Federation of India (AFCI) NK Aggarwal, the decision will adversely affect the farm output as it will drastically reduce the use of glyphosate-based herbicides. The industry is concerned that it may lead to food security issues.
Kalyan Goswami, director of AFCI, said, “The government should keep a 90-day window to accept suggestions. It is indeed disheartening that the draft order does not give any scientific explanation on the move.”
A note shared by the Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) says the government should rather focus on curbing the black market for HT cotton seeds instead of a direct ban on glyphosate itself. The move may hit the already distressed farmers of the country. Over 90 Indian companies are engaged in the manufacturing of glyphosate.
(With inputs from timesofindia)