Hours before agriculture minister Radha Mohan announced the withdrawal of compulsory licensing of insecticidal Bt cottonseed technology and other genetically-modified traits that might be approved for crops in future, Syngenta’s COO Davor Pisk said in New Delhi that the rules would make the Indian market unattractive for it.
In a carefully crafted statement the Swiss seeds and crop protection company said: ‘We don’t have any commercial GM products in India today. But I think these new rules would require us to rethink the level of resources and priority we put in the Indian market for biotech crops as compared to the other markets. This is because we have a limited amount of R&D investment to allocate in our business and we want to make sure that we are able to commercialize products with appropriate freedom, to position it for the greatest benefit of our customers, but also in a way that rewards us for the risk that we take when we spend hundreds of millions of dollars for developing these GM technologies.
Not to be seen as antagonizing a government that is very sensitive to criticism, the statement added: ‘However, let me be very precise here, my comment is about commercializing GM technologies and whether that would make sense for Syngenta in the future here in the Indian market. I don’t want to suggest in any way that Syngenta wouldn’t be committed to developing the other technologies that we have, like conventional and hybrids seeds and a broad crop protection chemical base as well.’
On the Budget promise to double farmers’ income by 2022, Pisk said: ‘The government ambition to double farm income is laudable. There is plenty of opportunity for the government to achieve its objective, but this is going to be very challenging because are many difficulties facing Indian agriculture. Farmers need better quality infrastructure, reliable irrigation, knowledge, access to different technologies…as well as access to markets for selling their produce. There are many challenges that Indian agriculture faces, but of course therein lies the opportunity because if we can overcome some of those challenges then it will be possible to see a much more vibrant and productive agriculture sector than we see today. When we look at the level of yield in India as compared to other countries, we see there is a lot of scope for improvement and that is something the government is right to focus on. Good infrastructure, crop insurance, better seeds, access to info and data about farming enabled through digital and e-platforms will be necessary. And not just the government but even we are fully committed to help farmers meet the target of doubling their income.’
(Top photo of Davor Pisk courtesy of Syngenta)