Special Correspondent

Agriculture Ministers' meet adopts unanimous resolution

HYDERABAD: Agriculture Ministers and officials of seven States at a meeting here on Friday adopted a unanimous resolution to fight a joint legal battle against M/s Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Limited (MMBL) to ensure sale of Bt.cotton seeds at Rs. 750 per 450-gram pack as ordered by the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC).

The cotton growing states they represented at the first of its kind meeting on the controversial Bt cotton were Gujarat, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, apart from Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy chaired the meeting.

Speaking to reporters later, State Agriculture Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy and his counterparts from other States announced that they had signed a common MoU to the effect that they would all implead as parties before the MRTP Commission and the Supreme Court in the case and invite other States as well.

Karnataka Agriculture Minister Bandappa Kashimpur, Mr. Reddy and others made it clear that they were not against MNCs per se, much less Monsanto or their technologies. "Our only concern is that these technologies must reach the small/marginal farmers at the cheapest rate." If any company exploited the gullible, they cannot be expected to remain silent spectators.

By another resolution, the meeting appealed to the Centre too to implead itself before the Supreme Court. It wanted the Centre to introduce legislation on seeds on the lines of the one proposed by the Andhra Pradesh Government. Mr. Raghuveera Reddy said copies of the resolutions would be circulated among all States to involve them in the "movement".

The Ministers from other States heaped praise on the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister for the "bold initiative" taken by his Government in filing a case against the company for selling the 450-gram pack at exorbitant prices.

They included Bhupendra Sinh Manubha Chudasama and Suryakanth Misra, Agriculture Ministers of Gujarat and West Bengal. The Governments of Punjab and Haryana sent in letters associating themselves with the "concerted effort" proposed by Andhra Pradesh to fight out with Mahyco.