With industry pressure building up, the government today said it will undertake an “elaborate” multi-stakeholders’ consultation to finalise the notification capping royalty for new genetically-modified (GM) traits and licensing guidelines on Bt cotton seed.
In May, the Union agriculture ministry had temporarily withdrawn the notification capping new GM traits as well as new licensing format for Bt cotton seeds. The same was then put as a draft for public comments amid opposition from the crop biotech industry.
“We are evaluating the public comments received on the draft notification. We will undertake an elaborate multi-stakeholders’ consultation process for finalising it,” Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh told reporters.
The ministry has received thousands of representations from farmers, companies and other bodies on this matter, which will be examined before holding a final round of consultation process with stakeholders, a senior ministry official said.
Some sections of the seed industry are divided on this issue and putting “pressure tactics” through different associations, the official added.
It may be noted that major seed companies, including global major Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Dupont Pioneer and Syngenta, today formed a new body — the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) — to protest against the government’s move to tighten regulation on GM crops in India.
Currently, there are two bodies representing seed firms — the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and ABLE-AG.
In the draft notification, the Centre has proposed capping royalty for new GM traits at 10 per cent of the maximum sale price of Bt cotton seeds for the first five years. The new licensing norms also ensured eligible seed companies get access to the GM technology.
After the 5-year period, royalty would reduce by 10 per cent of initial value every year. If the GM technology loses its efficacy, the technology provider would not be eligible for any royalty.
In the draft notification on licensing guidelines for GM cotton seeds, the ministry has also capped upfront fee for the new GM trait at Rs 25 lakh to be paid in two equal annual instalments.
The notification prescribed a new format for bilateral agreements and said the existing signed pacts between licensors (technology providers) and licensees (seed firms) will become invalid and they should execute the agreement in new format in the next 30 days.
The new licensing norms were issued to ensure all eligible seed companies get access to the GM technology while technology providers like Monsanto are adequately rewarded under the “fair, reasonable and non-discriminative mechanism (FRAND mechanism)”.