G. Prabhakaran

Study being conducted

500 acres in Attappady under bt.cotton cultivation

Seeds bought from private firms in Tamil Nadu

PALAKKAD: The Agriculture Department is conducting an on-the-spot study of the problems caused by the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) bt.cotton in the Attappady hills in the district.

Deputy Director of Agriculture C. Jose Varghese told The Hindu here on Friday that the agriculture officers at the Agali, Pudur and Sholayur Krishi Bhavans of Attappady had been directed to submit reports on the cultivation of bt. cotton and the loss suffered by farmers.

He said the farmers procured the seeds and pesticide from private companies and sold the product to them in a buy-back arrangement. As bt.cotton cultivation was not banned in Kerala, the Department could not stop farmers from cultivating it.

However, the Agriculture Department was not promoting it or giving any kind of assistance.

Mr. Varghese said the Agriculture Department was not aware of the use of bt.cotton seeds in the traditional cotton cultivating areas, as farmers had not approached the Krishi Bhavans for assistance.

The Department only promoted the cultivation of food crops and horticulture, he said.

He said the Department had sought a detailed report from its officials stationed in the Attappady region. Attappady was a traditional cotton cultivating area.

Meanwhile, reports from Attappady said nearly 500 acres had been brought under bt.cotton cultivation in the Pudur, Dottagatty, Kolapadika, Manchakandi, Paloor, Velampadika, Nellipathy, Kadampara, Chavadiyoor, Narasimukku, Kalmakkiyoor, Thekkemakkiyoor and Kottathara tribal hamlets. The cultivating area extended from half-an-acre to six acres.

Sources said representatives of the seed company visited the hamlets and encouraged farmers to take up cultivation of bt.cotton, saying it would give them high yields and was a pest-resistant crop. The farmers were told that they could earn huge profits due to the buy-back arrangement with the company.

Though the farmers got a good yield in the first crop, with production rising to 8 quintals an acre, it fell drastically to 3.5 to 7 quintals in the second crop. The price has also fallen this time.

Balasubramanian, a farmer of Thavalam, said he had been cultivating bt.cotton for the last two years. The yield was seven quintals from one acre. He earned profit by selling it at Rs.3,200 a quintal. But this season, he cultivated two acres and got only seven quintals.

He suffered loss of Rs.7,500 this time. Mr. Balasubramanian said the bt.cotton seed was bought from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu from a multinational private seed manufacturing company.