Dharwad (Karnataka), June 27 (IANS) Leading agricultural research institutions Monday warned that extensive use of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds was destroying farming bio-diversity and jeopardising the livelihood of over four million cotton growers in India.
‘Indian farmers grow 90 percent of hirsutum (species of cotton), of which 90 percent is GM cotton. Desi cotton will only survive if yields and fibre quality will improve and the maturity period reduced,’ said a joint statement by Karnataka’s University of Agricultural Science, Dharwad, company bioRe India Ltd. and Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland.
The statement cautioned farmers and other stake-holders that the supply shortage in organic cotton seeds will even effect the global organic cotton market, as India was the world’s largest producer of organic cotton.
‘The global market for organic cotton is threatened by erosion of conventional varieties by GM cotton,’ the statement said, adding that the voracious use of GM seeds amplified the risk of physical and genetic contamination of organic cotton with GM cotton.
The institutions also urged the government to implement policy changes in the sector to promote organic cotton seeds.
‘The provision for the safeguard of organic farmer from contamination of GM crop has to be included in the seed act,’ said the statement, suggesting that a board for organic cotton with financial and implementation powers be formed.