Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court for quashing of the price control order on Bt cottonseeds which the agriculture ministry notified on 7 December. The matter was mentioned on 22 December and the next hearing will be towards the end of January.
Meanwhile, Indian Express’ Rural Affairs Editor Harish Damodaran says 2015 will be remembered as a year when agriculture returned to the pre-1992 control raj days. He cites as examples the price control order on Bt cottonseed, the minimum export price of $700 on onions (raised from $425 a tonne in August) and stock holding limits on pulses imposed this year as examples of this mentality. (The MEP on onions was reduced to $400 earlier this month and was abolished on 23 December in view of declining domestic prices. Editor).
Damodaran finds little reason for the government to intervene in Bt cottonseed prices:
- Unlike anti-cancer drugs patented by multinationals there is little evidence of abuse of monopoly power, exorbitant pricing or deliberate restriction of supply.
- There are 49 licensees of Bollgard II technology for which Monsanto was given a patent in India in February 2008.
- At Rs 1,600 an acre (1.7 packets of 450 grams priced at Rs 930 a packet), Bt cottonseed accounts for just eight percent of the cost of cultivating cotton (Rs 22,000 an acre). Fertiliser, insecticides against sucking pests, and wages for picking and weeding cost more.
- From Rs 1,600 a packet of 450 grams, the retail price of Bt cottonseed has fallen to Rs 930 over the past thirteen years on account of price controls imposed by state governments. Mahyco-Monsato has slashed its trait or technology fee from Rs 726.50 a packet to Rs 174.90.
- The sale of Bt cottonseed has increased from 1.05 lakh packets in 2002 to more than 500 lakh packets in 2014. Area under Bt cotton has increased from 72,000 acres to 280 lakh acres during this period. (Total cotton acreage is 310 lakh. Of this area under Bollgard II cottonseed alone is 270 lakh acres).
- The price control order is far reaching as the government has assumed the power to prescribe ‘guidelines and format for all GM technology licensing agreements,’ which Damodaran says, should be ‘ordinarily governed by private contracts.’
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(YOUR SEED, OUR PRICES: In top photo Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh receives dividend cheque from National Seed Corporation on 5 November, 2015 in his office. Photo: Press Information Bureau).