Agri-biotechnology Agriculture Policy Bt cotton

Monsanto’s India CEO Makes Veiled Threat; Asks Govt to Desist from Cutting Trait Fees

The agriculture ministry’s unhelpful attitude riles Monsanto’s India region CEO. It seems to suggest that companies are better of lobbying the government than focusing on agricultural research and development.

Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (MMBL) has sent a message to the government that it will not be keen on bringing patented seed technologies to India, if the government does not allow it to profit from them. In a veiled threat, MMBL’s India CEO, Shilpa Divekar Nirula, said the company ‘would have no choice but to re-evaluate every aspect of our position in India.’ She was reacting to unverified news that the Bt cottonseed price control committee of the agriculture ministry has recommended a 70 percent reduction in trait or technology fees payable to it. MMBL is an equal joint venture between Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) and an American multinational.

A report in Mint newspaper said the committee at its meeting on 27 January had advised Rs 49 as the trait fees for a pack of 450 grams of MMBL’s proprietary Bollgard II cottonseed. This is a sharp cut from Rs 163 which MMBL now charges. Curiously, the nine member committee does not have a representative of MMBL through it is has more than 90 percent of the market for Bollgard II seeds, which have two insect resistant genes.

‘It is difficult for MMB to justify bringing new technologies into India in an environment where such arbitrary and innovation stifling government interventions make it impossible to recoup research and development investments focused on delivering extensive farmer benefits and where the sanctity of contracts is absent,’ Nirula said in a press statement.

MMBL says some seed companies owe it Rs 450 cr in trait fees which they have collected from farmers. Among them is the largest Bt cottonseed seller, Nuziveedu Seeds and its two sister companies, whose licenses MMBL has cancelled for defaulting on payments. The founder of Nuziveedu Seeds is the president of the National Seeds Association of India (NSAI), which has a representative on the price control committee. MMBL says trait fees are regulated by private agreements.

MMBL has moved the Delhi High Court against the price control order issued last December. The agriculture ministry has also made a reference to the Competition Commission against MMBL,which has ordered an investigation into its trading practices. NSAI is also a party to that dispute. That has resulted in a split in the organisation.

The Economic Survey tabled in parliament on 26 February says the government must encourage research in ‘more-from-less’ technologies like genetically-modified seeds. It wants the government to increase the allocation for public sector agricultural research but also finds two-thirds of scientists on government pay not sweating enough. Their output has been found to be ‘low to very low,’ it says. If the government is not seen as respecting intellectual property rights, it might discourage the private sector from taking risks.

Leave a Comment

Hit Counter provided by technology news
Web Design MymensinghPremium WordPress ThemesWeb Development

I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?