"Stink" in India as Monsanto's CEO meets PM and president (18/1/2006)

Don't be fooled by the nonsense at the end of this article where it says:

"The Andhra government... banned the hybrids after a few failed to perform in the first year..."

3 Monsanto Bt varieties were banned in Andhra Pradesh last year by India's regulator - the GEAC. One of the Bt varieties was banned by the GEAC across the whole of southern India. Clearly this wasn't because of the failure of a "few" plants in one year! The numerous and detailed reports this year of farmer suicides and crop failures attributable to Bt cotton show that the problem continues.

So when India's PM and President meet Monsanto's Hugh Grant next week, they ought to confront him not only about the poor performance of his company's products and Monsanto's failure to compensate farmers, but also about Monsanto's aggressive and deceptive marketing of Bt cotton seeds; the inflated price of those seeds; Monsanto-Mahyco's failure to follow biosafety measures for GM crop trials; and the company's inadequate payment to the farmers producing Bt cotton seeds - something that's been shown to fuel child labour.

Will India's pro-GM Prime Minister have the courage to mention a single one of these scandals as he gets schmoozed by Monsanto's CEO? Don't hold your breath.

Bt cotton pricing pits Andhra against Monsanto
The Indian Express, January 18 2006

NEW DELHI, JANUARY 17: When Monsanto CEO and President Hugh Grant meets the President and the Prime Minister next week, high on his agenda would be the stink raised by the Andhra Pradesh government on the pricing of Bollgard cotton seeds for the Indian market.

Last week, the Andhra government filed a case against the seed multinational for "overcharging royalty" which is causing Indian farmers to pay more for Bt cotton seeds. The case has been filed against Monsanto under the MRTP Act for charging abnormally high trait value (royalty).

"Monsanto is charging Rs 1,250 for 450 grams of seed in the name of trait value. We have information that they are charging only Rs 108 in the US for the same 450 gm of seeds..." Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Minister Raghuveera Reddy said.

The government is putting together a team of lawyers to argue the case. "Informally, the Central government has let me know that they are happy with the step that we have taken. We cannot be mute spectators to this exploitation of farmers," Reddy said.

Monsanto's Bollgard technology has been licensed to 21 Indian cotton seed companies which have incorporated the trait into their best hybrid seeds. Today, 20 Bollgard hybrids are being grown on 3.1 million acres across nine cotton growing states.

The Andhra government says the Indian seed companies do not get more than Rs 400 per packet from the sale. The farmer pays Rs 1,800 per packet, three times more than the normal hybrid. The difference goes to Monsanto.

"It is very unfortunate. We tried our best to correct the practice through a series of meetings with Monsanto. But in comparison to last years’s rate of Rs 1,700... the company raised it to Rs 1,850," Reddy said.

As price regulation does not come under the central or state government, the action has been initiated under the MRTP act.

Monsanto has refused to comment on the royalty figure but said its pricing philosophy is based on "sharing the value that products and technology deliver to farmers".

The Andhra government has been very active on the issue. It banned the hybrids after a few failed to perform in the first year but is now one of the largest producers of Bt cotton.


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