Hybrid seed companies body National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has urged the Union agriculture ministry to increase the maximum sale price (MSP) of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seed by Rs 75 per packet and also impose a premium of Rs 100 per packet for a period of three years on new cotton hybrids, as an incentive for companies to invest in research and development.
The agriculture ministry in March this year had notified MSP for widely used Bollgard II (BG II) variety of Bt cotton seeds at Rs 800 per packet. The MSP would be applicable across the country for the 2016-17 season. This price includes trait fee of `49 per packet, down 70% from the current level, in what could hit technology provider Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMBL).
“We were disappointed with the notification that only Rs 751 was considered as seed value for BG-II. This situation leaves the companies without sufficient profit margins to invest in R&D, particularly on BG-II,” Kalyan B Goswami, NSAI executive director, stated in a communication to the agriculture ministry recently.
The NSAI communication has also stated that “there is also substantial requirement of carrying out extension activities to spread new agronomic techniques to farmers for increasing cotton crop yields”. However, the agriculture ministry has not accepted the proposal of the NSAI of increasing MSP and had fixed the BG-II seed packet price of Rs 800 per 450g packet for the 2016-17 kharif season.
Prior to the notification of the agriculture ministry, the BG II seeds had been sold for Rs 830 per packet in Maharashtra, `930 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and Rs 1,100 in northern states such as Punjab and Haryana. Earlier, a committee set up by the ministry had recommended the above rates.
This move follows the NSAI urging the agriculture ministry to advise the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to insist on a no-objection certificate (NOC) from technology providers like Monsanto for commercial release of Bt cotton seeds every season.
The seed companies have suggested that the GEAC could give approval for commercial release of Bt cotton seeds if it is satisfied with the results of testing done by public-sector labs to ascertain the elements present in such seeds. In 2006, the GEAC had made an NOC from trait providers mandatory for marketing of Bt cotton seeds.
About 90% of the country’s cotton area of 11.8 million hectare (in the 2015-16 season) is under Bt cover. Domestic cotton production has risen manifold since the introduction of Bt seeds — from 13.6 million bales in 2002-03 to a projected 30.5 million bales in 2015-16.