The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has approached Radha Mohan Singh, Union minister of agriculture after the Maharashtra agriculture department issued notices to seed companies in the state directing them to pay Rs 93 crore in compensation to cotton farmers for damages caused by the Pink Bollworm attack. In a representation to the minister, M Prabhakar Rao, president, NSAI pointed out that seed companies cannot be held responsible for the attack. Rao said that Pink Bollworm (PBW)has developed resistance to BG-II since 2015. “Due to the lack of appropriate extension activity in Maharashtra, there was severe damage to the crop in the state. The officials of the agriculture department of Maharashtra as well as other states are holding seed companies responsible for the efficacy of the trait,” he said.
This is not correct since the efficacy of the trait falls under the domain of the trait developer as per the provisions of the Cotton Seed Price ( Control) order 2015, or under EPA, he pointed out. According to Rao, CICR and ICAR have repeatedly clarified this in meetings that happened in MoA last year. It may be clarified by DAC&FW to Maharashra and all other states that the trait efficacy is the responsibility of the trait developer, ie MMBL. In a separate representation to the joint secretary, seeds, Union ministry of agriculture, the Association sought clarity on the sole responsibility of the trait developer for the efficacy of the trait.
Reacting to the compensation announced by the Maharashtra government to the extent of R16,000 per hectare to farmers who have used cotton hybrids expressing two gene trait of MMBL, Rao said that more than 99% of the planted area of BT Cotton with more than 300 cotton hybrids expresses the same two gene protein of MMBL for which a trait value of `40 per 450 gm pack is determined by the ministry of agriculture and paid by every farmer.
As per the provisions of Cotton Seeds Price ( Control) Order, such such trait value is collected by the seed companies from the farmers and passed onto MMBL in toto. Neither the dealer nor the seed company gets any margin in the trait value, he said. The Association has urged the joint secretary to clarify to the government of Maharashtra that while the seed companies are responsible for the various seed quality parameters including the gene purity, they cannot be held responsible for efficacy of the trait.