1.Seeds of discontent
2.Vidharbha package a lollipop
EXCERPTS: In the three years for which it had received provisional permission, MMB cotton was found to fail in almost all the states where it was cultivated, its performance being particularly disastrous in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. (item 1)
The crisis in cotton farming was due to the Bt cottonseed supplied by Monsanto. They cost more and promised more but often the yield was lower, especially on the land that did not have assured irrigation. (item 2)
1.Seeds of discontent
Times of India, July 5 2006
Four years after the commercial release of Bt cotton in India and several reports of its failure, some action has finally been taken against producers of Bt cotton, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India Ltd (MMB).
On a charge filed by the Andhra Pradesh government, MMB has been indicted by the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) for charging exorbitant rates for its Bt cotton varieties through exercise of monopoly power.
The AP government issued an order to the company to reduce the price of its Bt cotton from Rs 1,800 to Rs 750 for a 450 gm pack of seed, making it comparable to prices charged by Monsanto in other countries where it has licensed its proprietary Bt gene.
MMB appealed to the Supreme Court to stay the decision of the AP government, which the apex court has not done. MMB has filed an appeal and the case will continue.
MMB's Bt cotton was approved for the planting season in 2002 amidst objections by civil society groups that the base variety used by it would not generate good performance.
In the three years for which it had received provisional permission, MMB cotton was found to fail in almost all the states where it was cultivated, its performance being particularly disastrous in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Farmers suffered huge losses. The extreme indebtedness of poor farmers was exacerbated by the exorbitantly priced MMB Bt cotton.
AP's agriculture minister conceded that Bt cotton had failed the farmers. As against the Rs 300-400 per 450 gm bag charged for superior local cotton hybrids, MMB priced its Bt cotton at Rs 1,650 per bag, which they later raised to Rs 1,800 per bag.
Of the Rs 1,650, Rs 1,250 went to Monsanto as licence fee for use of the Bt technology. Perhaps the licence fee was increased when the price was hiked to Rs 1,800.
This is the highest licence fee charged by Monsanto anywhere in the world. They charge about one-tenth this rate in China and Brazil.
MMB also produces its Bt cotton in India as a hybrid, not as a true breeding variety. This consolidates their monopoly. Farmers cannot save seed from hybrids and must buy fresh seed every season. In the case of true varieties, they can save seed from their harvest and plant the next crop.
Besides, the Bt cotton strategy for pest control works better in a variety which contains two Bt genes, than a hybrid which contains only one Bt gene, and is therefore only half as effective as the true variety.
MMB has not paid any compensation and the Union agriculture minis-try or Genetic Engineering Approval Committee have not taken any action against them. The AP government claimed compensation from MMB for losses suffered by farmers, which was rejected by the company.
The AP government then banned the sale of MMB Bt cotton in the state and asked MMB to reduce the exorbitant licence fee. When Mahyco-Monsanto refused to do this, the AP government and two farmer organisations moved MRTPC.
The MRTPC upheld the state govern-ment's complaint. In an interim ruling the MRTPC directed Monsanto to reduce its technology fee in India to the rate it charges in China.
Mahyco-Monsanto has challenged the locus standi of the MRTPC, saying that it can only deal in trade in goods and that it has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on intellectual property rights (IPR) issues, in the present case, the cost of proprietary Bt technology.
By introducing IPRs into trade via the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the WTO, the WTO has, in fact, made IPRs tradable goods, so Mahyco-Monsanto's position is untenable.
The Supreme Court will be able to see that the Mahyco-Monsanto case is baseless. A correct decision invoking the law, specially the public interest components of it, will hopefully set down the conditions for technology transfer in India, and eliminate possibilities of monopoly power and marginalisation of farmers.
The writer is convenor, Gene Campaign.
2.Vidharbha package a lollipop: BJP
The Hindu, July 5 2006
"It does not address core issues leading to suicides by cotton farmers"
Government had reduced duties on imported cotton, making it cheaper
Increase in indebtedness of farmers, often leading to suicides
NEW DELHI: The special package announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for farmers has failed to address the core issues that have a direct bearing on suicides by cotton farmers of Vidharbha, the Bharatiya Janata Party said on Tuesday.
"What he offered was a lollipop. He did not touch the basic issues that have led to increasing number of farmers taking their lives. The basic issue is lack of remunerative prices for cotton," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
He said the Government had reduced duties on imported cotton, making it cheaper. This contributed to depressed domestic prices.
The imported cotton was also cheaper because high subsidies had been given to farmers in the developed countries.
The Congress had promised that cotton would be bought from farmers at Rs. 2700 a quintal but that scheme had ended. Now, the Government was making purchases at Rs. 1700. This price was not enough to cover the costs. This had increased the indebtedness of farmers, often leading to suicides, he said.
On July 12, the party's central office-bearers would meet to chalk out plans for the next phase of agitation on high prices of essential commodities. It was ironical that while farmers were not getting adequate price for their produce, the consumer had to pay more.
Total waiver needed
Mr. Javadekar said while the Prime Minister had announced waiver of interest on loans taken by farmers and rescheduling of loans, the grim situation demanded total waiver so that the affected farmers could begin afresh.
The crisis in cotton farming was due to the Bt cottonseed supplied by Monsanto. They cost more and promised more but often the yield was lower, especially on the land that did not have assured irrigation.
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