The US Ambassador to India, David Mulford, has written to the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat in India to convey the concersn of the "biotechnology industry" about illegal Bt cotton seeds. He's threatened to reduce foreign investment in the state if the CM does not act.
EXCERPT: Former state finance minister Sanat Mehta says the letter is intended to protect the interests of US-based biotechnology major Monsanto. Mehta questioned the ambassador's intrusion in a matter which he said is solely domestic.
Mulford sends a letter bomb to Modi
DNA India, April 06, 2006
VADODARA: A letter from US ambassador David Mulford has upset Gujarat's enterprising farmers.
Mulford's letter to Gujarat CM Narendra Modi asks the latter to curb the illegal trade of Bt cotton seeds and warns that failure to do so will "dampen the transfer of technologies and investments from abroad, including from the United States".
Mulford alleges that the illegal trade in Bt Cotton seeds outweighs the legal trade. He blames the state for this situation. "Such a significant illegal trade casts doubt on the regulatory and monitoring mechanism." He made the objective of the letter clear saying the situation puts "the law abiding companies at a disadvantage."
This has not gone down well with the farmer leaders. They have raised strong objections to the tone and the style, which they believe violates established diplomatic practices.
Interestingly, the letter, written on December 9, 2005, two months prior to Bush's visit, began by congratulating Modi for initiatives taken in adopting cutting-edge technology in the state. But later, the note states that, "the biotechnology industry, both Indian and international, is greatly perturbed to see the rapid spread of trade in illegal Bt Cotton seeds."
Former state finance minister Sanat Mehta says the letter is intended to protect the interests of US-based biotechnology major Monsanto. Mehta questioned the ambassador's intrusion in a matter which he said is solely domestic.
It's a known fact that local varieties of the Bt cotton seeds have become widely popular and are used far more than the MNC-marketed varieties.
These seeds have many advantages over the imported varieties. They provide nearly double the quantity for half the production cost and being sturdier, they give better and higher yield.
Many farmers in the state who were initially using Monsanto-Mahyco Bt cotton seeds slowly started moving to other local modified varieties, which now enjoy bigger market than the original variety.
The state government however, maintains that the letter was written to laud its efforts. "The US ambassador had written a letter on December 22, 2005 congratulating the CM on the progress made in the application of cutting-edge technology in the agricultural sector. He has also raised some concerns about the improper and illegal use of Bt cotton seeds in India. The letter has been acknowledged and further processing is being done in consultation with the Government of India," Gujarat chief secretary Sudhir Mankad said.
However, the Chief Ministers office appeared quite nonchalant about the affair. Principal Secretary to CM, Hasmukh Adhia, said, "I don't exactly remember the content of the letter and even if it were received by the CMO, it must have been forwarded to the department concerned."
When contacted for a reaction, an official at the US embassy said, "The ambassador writes to many people in India. The embassy does not comment on his communications."
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