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India withdraws seed control order

Faced with sharp criticism from major biotech companies like Monsanto, India has decided to withdraw the notification issued last week capping the trait value charged by them on new genetically modified (GM) traits.

It was felt that fixing the trait value for new GM traits at 10 per cent of the maximum sale price of Bt cotton seeds for the first five years, and lowering the same by 10 per cent annually thereafter, could undermine R&D for superior GM traits and hit India’s cotton productivity in the medium term.

Innovators in the agri-biotech industry opposed the gazette notification. Besides, the notification nullified the existing seed licenses and proposed execution of new licensing agreements in a new format in 30 days, which seemed to be impractical. It was felt this could lead to a delay in providing Bt cotton seeds to farmers in the next kharif season by the companies because of the short time span.

About 90 per cent of the country’s cotton area of 11.8 million hectares 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.

 
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