Indian farmers are planting unapproved, genetically modified cotton seeds created by the agrochemical giant Monsanto, violating environmental laws and risking arrest, according to Reuters. Indian state officials are attempting to crack down on use of the seeds, forming inspection teams and seizing 12 million rupees-worth ($178,000) of the herbicide-tolerant seeds in recent months, enough to cultivate 25,000 acres.
Cotton is the only genetically modified crop approved in India. The country — the world’s top producer and second-larger exporter of cotton — permitted a GM seed in 2002, and an upgraded variety in 2006. In 2016, however, Monsanto withdrew an application for approval of its most recent variety, Roundup Ready Flex (RRF), over a royalty dispute with the Indian government.
Yet despite its unapproved status, the latest Monsanto GM seeds have been found in farms in key agricultural states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat in western India and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the south. As Indian authorities have ramped up efforts to curb the sale of such seeds, farmers have simultaneously built networks to distribute them without getting caught, M.S. Gholap, director of Maharashtra’s agriculture department said. The growers also have the support of India’s powerful farmers’ unions.
“I will only use these seeds or nothing at all,” Rambhau Shinde, a farmer who has been cultivating cotton for nearly four decades in Maharashtra, told Reuters.