|Batting for Monsanto (8/6/2006)|
1.Batting for Monsanto
1.Batting for Monsanto
The price of Monsanto's expensive Bt cotton seeds being cut by certain Indian states, led by Andhra Pradesh, should be a cause for rejoicing amongst those who genuinely think Bt cotton a boon to poor farmers, even though the price cut is considered bad news by Monsanto.
But, in fact, this article which tries out a whole series of often farfetched arguments for not welcoming the price cut, topped yesterday's AgBioView bulletin from CS Prakash's AgBioWorld (Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org: June 7, 2006).
Why its author, P Chengal Reddy, might be more concerned with Monsanto's profitability than that of poor farmers is not hard to understand. He has long had a close association with Monsanto and he once proposed that his 'farmers association' became the operational arm in Andhra Pradesh of The Indian Crop Protection Association (ICPA). The ICPA represents the leading agrochemical companies in India.
If Reddy seems keen to front for big corporations, CS Prakash fulfils a similar role in terms of Internet PR. Research by GM Watch previously exposed how AgBioWorld's listserv included prominently placed dirty tricks attacks on Monsanto's critics We also showed how the attacks came directly from Monsanto's PR people. We similarly exposed how AgBioWorld's archive was running off the server of the company's Internet PR firm Bivings, and how the AgBioWorld website bore tell-tale fingerprints of Bivings' design team.
Funnily enough, Chengal Reddy's farmers' association used to have links on its website not only to Monsanto and a number of other biotech corporations, but still more tellingly to Bivings, under its previous corporate incarnation - Bivings Woodell Inc. Exactly why a website supposedly representing farmers in Andhra Pradesh would need a link to a Washington DC PR firm for big corporates was not explained. The page also had a link to 'Tuskege University' (sic) where CS Prakash and his AgBioWorld campaign are based.
Reddy's lack of sympathy with poor farmers is as understandable as his support for Monsanto. Although Reddy sometimes presents himself as 'a farmer', he has never actually farmed in his life. But his family have long been a prominent rightwing political force in Andhra Pradesh - his father having coined the saying, 'There is only one thing Dalits [untouchable caste members] are good for, and that's being kicked'.
And when it comes to Bt cotton, the poor farmers of Andhra Pradesh have certainly taken a kicking.
2.Farmers yet to reap benefits
The order of the Andhra Pradesh government invoking ESMA and fixing the Bt cotton seed price at Rs 750 will have wide reverberations. Transgenic has been a contentious issue not only in India but all over the world for the past decade. There were doubts about the suitability of this frontier technology to Indian conditions, environment, its viability, yields, quality, etc. However, Bt cotton, introduced by Mahyco-Monsanto in 2001-02, has caught the imagination of farmers and by 2006, over 13 million hectare will be cultivated by about 10 million farmers across 10 states in India.
However, the overall benefits of transgenics are yet to reach the Indian farmers. China, which started transgenic research in 1986 along with India has permitted six crops, i.e. cotton, maize, rice, sweet potato, soybean and tomato as against cotton by India. Globally, the area under 18 biotech crops is about 400 million hectares planted by close to 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries, out of which 7.7 million are poor subsistence farmers.
In fact, biotech crops have many advantages as they give high yields, develop pest resistance, herbicide resistance, environmental stress resistance, add vitamins and act as vaccines. Indian cannot achieve second Green Revolution without biotechnology.
There are 60 Bt cotton high breeds marketed by 15 companies licensed by Monsanto. In addition, JK Seeds with Indian Gene and Nath Seeds with Chinese Gene are marketing their products in India. Will their prices also be controlled by government? What about controlling price of papaya seed costing at Rs 1,50,000 per kg, capsicum seed at Rs 60,000 per kg, chillies Rs 32,000 per kg, maize Rs.1,000 per acre?
With the government fixing Bt cotton seed price, farmers will demand price control on other hybrid seeds, pesticides, tractors as well as agriculture implements. Farmers will also demand subsidy on Bt cotton seed. Will government be able to oblige them?
Will the seed dealers sell the Bt cotton seed as fixed by government without company permission? With advancing Monsoon season, cotton seeds are to be made available to farmers immediately. Any delay in seeds supply will have serious repercussion on production of cotton.
The argument that royalty paid to Monsanto in China is less compared to India does not sound logical. If Indian Courts uphold this decision, basing on the same logic, what will happen if Indian farmers file cases against the government demanding the same subsidy as paid to American and European farmers? Will this court pass favourable orders and will government be able to implement such orders?
The further action of the Andhra Pradesh government will be closely observe