Monsanto tussles with govt

Monsanto tussles with govt
Ninety nine per cent of cotton cultivation in India uses seeds based on US agro-giant Monsanto’s BT cotton technology almost 15 years after commercial cultivation of the genetically modified cotton crops was allowed in India.

Out of 1,128 BT cotton hybrids approved by the regulatory agency, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, as many as 986 hybrids are based on the Monsanto technology, illustrating the domination enjoyed by the US firm. The company is now locked in a tussle with the NDA government on fixing the seed price of Bollgard-II GM cotton seeds that offers better protection against bollworm.

Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) is the only player in the two-gene BT cotton technology whereas Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur and a handful of private companies offered the single-gene BT cotton technology in the last decade.

But CICR withdrew its BT technology from the market following a scientific fraud and three other companies — JK Agri Genetics, Nath Seeds and Metahelix Life Sciences — entered into sub-licensing agreements with MMBL, allowing Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary to continue their dominance in the market.

Several farmer outfits claimed the company arbitrarily increased seed prices, thanks to market domination. Even with Bollgard-I (carrying a single gene), it jacked up the seed price, which was trimmed later due to government and legal interventions.

A similar trend is being followed with Bollgard-II (carrying two genes), which is being licensed to 49 Indian companies. There is still no public sector BT cotton seeds.

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