Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Monsanto "withdraws" new GM cotton seed in protest, as Govt of India asks MNC to share technology with local cos

By Our Representative
Top US multinational corporation (MNC) Monsanto has withdrawn a new GM cotton seed it was planning to introduce in India. Pointing out that the MNC was doing it in protest, Mayank Bhardwaj of Reuters news agency says, the MNC has “withdrawn” its application seeking approval for its next generation of genetically modified cotton seeds in India.
Considering it as “a major escalation in a long-running dispute between New Delhi and the world's biggest seed maker”, Reuters says, “A letter sent by Monsanto's local partner in India, the conglomerate's biggest market outside the Americas, strongly objects to a government proposal that would force Monsanto to share its technology with local seed companies.”
“The company is at loggerheads with India over how much it can charge for its genetically modified cotton seeds, costing it tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue every year”, the report says, adding, “The unprecedented decision to pull the application, which has not previously been reported, could set back Monsanto's efforts to introduce its new seed, called Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex technology, for years and lead to further losses.”
Reuters believes, “It will also ratchet up pressure on the Indian government, as it undermines Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to make the country look more attractive to foreign investors. It could also hurt Indian cotton farmers. The new seed variety helps fight against weeds, which sap the cotton crop of vital nutrients and depress yields.”
Giving details, the report says, “In a letter, dated July 5, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co Ltd (Mahyco), Monsanto's technology partner in India, singled out a government proposal, mooted in May, that would require Monsanto to share its proprietary technology.”
Quoting the letter in its possession, the report says, Mahyco is "alarmed” by the government's requirement, adding, the government's view raises “serious concerns about the protection of intellectual property rights."
Pointing out that India first allowed GM cotton cultivation in 2002 by “approving Monsanto's single gene Bollgard I technology”, the report says, “New Delhi approved the double gene Bollgard II in 2006, helping transform India into the world's top producer and second-largest exporter of the fibre as output jumped fourfold.”
However, the news agency says, Bollgard II, introduced in 2006, slowly became vulnerable to bollworms, and, as any technology, had a limited shelf life.” This led to Monsanto to come up with Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex, which it said was a technological breakthrough pushing up crop yields at a time when farmers said the existing variety was “losing its effectiveness.”
“Still, more than 41 million GM cotton seed packets were sold last year, earning royalties of 6.5 billion Indian rupees ($97 million) for Monsanto”, the report says, adding, Mahyco applied to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for approval of the new GM seed some time in 2007, and the application was “in the final stages of a tedious and time-consuming process, which included years of field trials.”
“In its letter to the GEAC, Mahyco said it would seek to revive the application for Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex 'at a suitable time',” the report says, adding, yet the government insisted that “there were no guarantees it would be allowed to do so.”

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