The Centre has kept the maximum sale price of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds unchanged at Rs 730 per packet for the next fiscal but scrapped the royalty to US-based technology provider Monsanto, now controlled by global agri major Bayer. Bayer, which in June 2018 completed the $63-billion deal to acquire Monsanto, has expressed disappointment over doing away with trait value or royalty altogether.
According to a government notification, the maximum sale price for Bollgard-II (BG-II) cotton seed for 2020-21 has been fixed at Rs 730 per packet of 450 gm. The seed value is Rs 730 and trait value zero.
The rate for the current fiscal is Rs 730 per packet including Rs 20 as trait value, which goes to Bayer group.
The maximum sale price of BG-I version of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) cotton hybrid has also been kept unchanged at Rs 635, with no trait value.
Under the Cotton Seed Price (Control) Order, 2015, the government has been fixing a maximum sale price for Bt cotton every year considering the seed value, recurring royalty (trait value), trade margins and others.
Earlier this month, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had informed Parliament that the Centre was considering writing off trait value charged from farmers for Bollgard-II variety of Bt cotton to ensure the seeds are available to farmers at affordable prices.
When contacted, Bayer spokesperson said: "While it is disappointing to see the full elimination of trait fees, we will in collaboration with other technology providers continue to highlight the need to maintain a reasonable level of trait fees."
The royalty fee is essential to support stewardship, maintaining longevity and at the same time investing in future technologies, the spokesperson added.
"Bayer shares the government's objective of ensuring India's farmers continue to benefit from high-quality cotton seeds and technologies. For 18 years, Bollgard® cotton technologies have helped local farmers produce cotton sustainably and boost their livelihoods," the company spokesperson said.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Tomar had also said that the government's research body ICAR believes that the technology is still effective against American bollworm and spotted bollworm, although industry body NSAI mentioned that BG-II has become ineffective against pink bollworm.
Farmers are cultivating Bt cotton in more than 87 percent of cotton area.
Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial cultivation in the country.Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL), a Monsanto group firm, had sub-licensed Bt technology to various seed companies in India.