SJM wants an end to royalty payments to Monsanto

Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has urged the Agriculture Ministry to remove the royalty or trait value attached to Bollgard II (BG-II)cotton seed. The specific Bt cotton technology introduced by Mahycho Monsanto Biotech Limited (MMBL), and sublicensed to Indian cotton seed manufacturers, was allegedly ineffective in arresting crop losses to the farmers in Maharashtra during the previous crop seasons, it said.

In a letter to Shobhana Kumar Pattanaik, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, SJM said that the official committee that is collecting inputs for fixing the trait value and the MSP of Bt cotton seeds for 2018-19 should remove the trait value for BG-II this year and reduce the MSP of Bt cotton seeds to the farmers. The government had fixed Rs 49 as trait value for a 450-gm packet in 2016 and 2017.

Pointing out that the total amount collected by MMBL since the introduction of its BT cotton trait in India in 2002 was Rs 8,000 crore, SJM wanted the government to pressurise the trait developers - Monsanto and their group Companies - to compensate for the farmers' losses.

"Despite the Bt trait failing and leading to severe losses to the farmers more particularly in Maharashtra, the Controller (government) did not direct the trait developer MMBL who collected about Rs 500 Crores in 2016-17 and 2017-18 from the farmers to pay any compensation to farmers who are in distress", Ashwani Mahajan, National Co Convenor, SJM states. "The directions from Ministry of Agriculture would have accelerated actions from Maharashtra to give some relief to farmers who suffered due to heavy infestation of Pink Bollworm (PBW)", he adds.

Mahajan also questioned Monsanto's claim of 'the magic increase in cotton productivity due to adoption of Bt trait' and said that 'the increase in cotton productivity was more due to 30% area increase in the same period and due to hard work of farmers'.

"Fixing of trait value of Rs. 49/- for a failed BG 2 trait while the earlier BG-I trait value with similar efficacy remains "zero" reflects utter negligence on the part of the concerned officials", Mahajan says.

According to him, the low price of BG-1 seed, the cost of production of which cannot be lower than that of BG-II seeds, is encouraging the monopoly of MMBL in the cotton seed business. "Nobody would produce BG-I seeds and incur loss. All seed companies are only producing BG 2 seeds. Due to this the farmers are suffering as BG-I seeds are not available in the market and they are compelled to buy only BG-II seeds thereby paying Rs 49 extra on every pack and thereby benefitting MMBL", Mahajan says.

SJM called for same seed value for both BG-I and BG-II seeds based on the rational cost computation and wanted the ministry to "examine the facts carefully and take correct decision in the interest of the farmers and the Nation".