KILLING FIELDS

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY -

at bay, farm­ers fell into the trap of us­ing stronger pes­ti­cides. “Faulty seeds have led to more spray­ing, it has been es­tab­lished be­yond doubts now,” said an­other of­fi­cial.

“The cost of pes­ti­cide spray­ing on BT cot­ton crops has in­creased con­sid­er­ably. We want the com­pa­nies to pay for the cost. Our case will be fur­ther strength­ened by the Ya­vat­mal in­ci­dent,” said an of­fi­cial.

Bt cot­ton (Bol­lard-II) is meant to be re­sis­tant to pink boll­worm, a small gray moth with fringed wings, which is the most dam­ag­ing of all pests for cot­ton. The fe­male lays eggs in the cot­ton bolls and the lar­vae emerge to de­stroy en­tire fields by chew­ing through the cot­ton lint to feed on the seeds. Of­fi­cials said this year, the in­fes­ta­tion started from July-Au­gust; usu­ally they ap­pear at the fag end of the crop cy­cle in Oc­to­ber.

The cost of pes­ti­cides, nearly 40-45% of the pro­duc­tion cost, is pro­jected to be re­duced by the use of BT seeds. So, a 425gm packet of BGII BT cot­ton seed costs be­tween Rs 925 to Rs 1,050, nearly three times the cost of a reg­u­lar seed packet. At least three pack­ets are re­quired for one acre of land.

Ac­cord­ing to norms, the com­pen­sa­tion amount is re­stricted to re­cov­er­ing the cost of seeds and pro­duc­tion losses from the com­pa­nies. The state gov­ern­ment will in­clude the cost of spray­ing as a part of the com­pen­sa­tion from this year. Un­der sec­tion 28 of the in­sec­ti­cides Act, the gov­ern­ment holds the right to change the norms for com­pen­sa­tion in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. “We will in­voke this sec­tion,” said the of­fi­cial.

The gov­ern­ment will start in­spec­tion of the af­fected ar­eas from next week. “The panch­nama re­port (on the dam­age) will be made in the pres­ence of the seed com- pa­nies’ of­fi­cials so that they can­not con­test them at the time of giv­ing com­pen­sa­tion,” said the of­fi­cial.

The pink boll­worm at­tack has been re­ported in nearly 571 vil­lages in the cot­ton belt. The state gov­ern­ment has writ­ten to the Cen­tre about the fail­ing re­sis­tance of the BT BG-II seeds to pink boll­worm, and is still await­ing a de­ci­sion. “The af­fected area is more than 1.44 lakh hectares and most of these vil­lages are in Vi­darbha and Marath­wada, the cot­ton-pro­duc­ing ar­eas in the state,” said the of­fi­cial.

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