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Monsanto urged to compensate farmers by a seed-body group


BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Monsanto urged to compensate farmers by a seed-body group

The bitter war within the Indian seeds sector seems to have escalated further, with a section of the National Seed Association of India (NSAI), led by its executive director Kalyan B Goswami, urging Mahyco Monsanto Biotech to pay compensation to farmers who suffered losses due to pest, pink bollworm, that developed resistance to the company's much-touted Bt cotton (genetically modified variety of cotton) this year.

The second-generation Bt cotton, Bollgard II, introduced by Monsanto in 2006, is supposed to be resistant to pink bollworm.

The pest attack has been reported in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

In a separate statement to the Union joint secretary of seeds, another group of NSAI said that claims made by the association of supporting the cotton-seed-price-control order of 2015 - wherein the sale price of Bt cotton is regulated by the Centre - did not represent the views of a large majority of seed companies and also some members like Monsanto, Du Pont, and Pioneer.

Meanwhile, some reports said that Indian seed research bodies had started introducing Bt genes in domestic varieties arguing that Monsanto's patent had expired.

Meanwhile, in the letter to MMBL, National Seed Association of India (NSAI) said some seed companies have started receiving notices from the state regulators for payment of compensation to affected farmers.

"As Pink Bollworm attack is due to technology failure, industry wants Monsanto to compensate the farmers for any production damage," NSAI Executive Director Kalyani B Goswami told PTI.

To this, a MMBL company spokesperson said, "We have received some communication from NSAI on February 22, 2016 and are in the process of examining the same. We continue to remain in constant touch with each of our sub-licensees and address any queries that they raise from time to time."

Stating the final report of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) is awaited, the company said,

"This (Pink Bollworm) has been proliferated by improper insect resistance management practices, absence of refuge planting and spread of illegal seeds in some districts of Gujarat." While Pink Bollworm shows resistance, the technology continues to provide effective control of American Bollworm and Spotted Bollworm, it said.

Under the prevailing environmental conditions, the ability of the plants to express the trait and the trait quality standards of the seeds supplied also need to be assessed to arrive at the correct solutions for addressing the issue, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) said.

Meanwhile, the Union Agriculture Ministry is working with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as well as with seed industry to find a solution to the problem.

Sometime back, the Competition watchdog CCI has also ordered detailed investigation against MMBL for alleged monopoly in the business of Bt cotton in India.

Cotton production is estimated to decline 30.69 million bales of 170 kg each in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June), as against 34.80 million bales in previous year.

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First Published: Wed, February 24 2016. 00:23 IST