A consortium of seven farmer organisations, RPKA, today demanded that the Centre rollback draft guidelines which prescribe new norms for licensing and royalty/trait value fixation of BT cotton seeds.
The Agriculture Ministry had issued a notification to this effect in May but it was withdrawn and turned into draft guidelines, seeking comments from stakeholders amid opposition from crop biotech industry.
A petition signed by over 3.24 lakh farmers from 23 states, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the draft licensing guidelines, was submitted to the Union Agriculture Ministry, Rashtriya Progressive Kisan Association (RPKA) said in a statement.
These guidelines, which seemed to target Monsanto, led to the Ministry of Agriculture slashing royalties payable to Monsanto, as per voluntary contracts, by 74 per cent. This was the result of the Ministry fixing royalties to be shared between Monsanto and its Indian partners for the Bt patents owned by the former Monsanto’s. It also slashed Bt cotton seed prices.
RPKA National Coordinator Raghupati Singh said: “Farmers across the country realised that the draft licensing guidelines are regressive and anti-farmer. If implemented, it will lead to complete halt in the availability of new technologies.”
Cotton farmers from across the country have said that seed prices form a very small part of their input costs and this has seldom been a consideration. Also, seeds have always been available, he said.
Given the lack of similar and relevant agri-technologies being available for farmers by Indian companies, such restrictions in the way of companies is detrimental to long-term farmer interest and to the overall domestic cotton economy, he said, adding that it also puts at risk the introduction of future technologies for Indian farmers not only in cotton but also in other crops.
The Association claimed that elected members from BJP, Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party among others have offered their support to the petition.
“States like Bihar and Odisha are with significant opportunities and can become big seed suppliers if agri-business in the state is well taken care of.
“Innovation is the key here but the current state of affairs is quite unfortunate. We appeal to the government to look into the matter and create a policy which will help poor farmers in the long run,” BJP National Vice President Renu Devi said, extending her support to the petition.
RKPA members met Deputy Agriculture Commissioner D.S. Misra and NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand in this regard. They plan to meet agriculture as well as environment ministers.