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`Standoff on Bt cotton pricing may hit seed cos'

G. Gurumurthy

Fixation of trait value by Monsanto kicked up the row

What has complicated issues in India is that the country has different agro-climatic zones and diverse growing conditions including the soil nature.

Attur , (Tamilnadu) July 10

The current stand-off between Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd, the Andhra Pradesh Government and the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) over the pricing of Bt cotton, if allowed to continue, may hit the domestic seed companies' bottomline and pose problems for seed producers as regards meeting production schedule.

All seed companies having Bt technology are for Bt cotton seed production in right earnest, but they are as much confused now by the litigation as to how to plan for production for the current season, including the volume that could be finally produced, according to Mr M. Ramasami, President of the All-India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA).

He added that the current tussle over the Bt cotton pricing will prove a dampener for seed companies, as many seed producers and domestic farm scientists have lined up plans to extend the transgenic technology to cover such growth traits that will support drought tolerance or offset saline afflictions of crop varieties. "A lot of technical issues are involved and more resources have been put into use by seed companies engaged in producing Bt cotton. They are all worried because of the current strife," Mr Ramasami told Business Line on the sidelines of a farmers' awareness campaign on the Bt technology. The campaign was launched by the AICBA in association with Rasi Seeds, an Attur-based seed company owned by Mr Ramasami.

He added that the current development could cause a slowdown in the pace of investments in R&D. As for the pricing of Bt cottonseeds, he said that the references of comparison of the trait rate charged by Monsanto in China and in India might not augur well in the current context. (The issue that kicked up the row was the fixation of trait value for India in terms of 450-gm package basis unlike in China, where it is on a per acre basis.)

In China, only the variety cotton is cultivated across and not the hybrids, as is done in India.

The per acre seed application in China would be of the order of 6-8 kg. The trait rate fixed by Monsanto for many countries is on 450-gm package basis.

What has complicated issues in India is that the country has different agro-climatic zones and diverse growing conditions including the soil nature and hence, there cannot be a single cotton strain that can meet all these requirements.

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