The Maharashtra government has decided to put in place stricter norms for seed companies against co-marketing of brands. The government has asked seed companies to amend their licences issued for co-marketing as per the permissions granted by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). According to senior officials of the state agriculture department, several co-marketing companies with distribution rights for a product have been found selling the product under multiple brands to attract farmers. “In such cases, the brand of the product is displayed prominently while the name of the parent company that has developed the product is enclosed in brackets which is hardly noticeable. Moreover, there is no way the farmer can confirm if the product is the same, whether the number of packets is the number authorised by the parent company,” an official said. Usually co-marketing rights are granted for a certain amount of packets ( for example 10,000). But sometimes, these co-marketing companies sell more than the stipulated amount of packets that are licensed to them,” the official said.
There are over 150 companies in the market, which include around 65 seed companies. Usually seed companies enter into distribution arrangement with companies to widen their market reach. Selling Bt seeds that are produced in other states under different brand names is called co-marketing. This kind of marketing makes it difficult for the government to take any action against such companies. The official said that there is a move on the cards to restrict the marketing rights or even put a blanket ban on co-marketing. MG Shembekar, vice president, National Seeds Association of India ( NSAI), said that a blanket ban on co-marketing is not needed. Quality control inspectors of the government can conduct checks and tests and monitor the companies, he said.
Earlier, state agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar had said that co-marketing practice makes it difficult for the authorities to take legal action against such companies. “What is happening is one company is selling the same variety under different brand names which is like duping farmers,” he said, adding that at least 100 such companies were operational in the state. It is only the original brand of the variant of BT seeds that should be given the licence, he had said. The state has given permission to 111 companies to produce Bt cotton seeds. The government had earlier decided to blacklist Bt seeds of which samples have been tested and found to be unapproved. The decisions were taken at an agriculture department meeting. The government has also decided to conduct quality control checks on seeds at the state level instead of the district level.