Andhra Pradesh

Farmers up in arms against Monsanto

Upset with Monsanto allegedly fleecing farmers and making super profits in the form of royalty, the Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangam has decided to go on a warpath demanding that the Union government rein in multinational hybrid seed company and make available genetically-modified seeds at affordable prices.

After holding a preparatory meeting with like-minded farmers, the original breeders of seeds, for a protracted struggle, APRS State Secretary K.V.V. Prasad said on Tuesday that it was high time the Centre slashed the price of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton seeds as also licensee fee, including royalty charged by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India Pvt. Ltd (MMBL) on its licensees, considering the worst experience of growers ever since the deregulation of the seed sector.

“We will impress upon State Agriculture Minister P. Pulla Rao to use his good offices with the Centre to make available Bt cotton seeds at reasonable rates as Monsanto controls 95 per cent of India’s cotton seed supplies,” said another APRS State leader K. Veera Reddy ahead of the APRS State Mahasabha later this month.

The Rajasekhara Reddy government in united Andhra Pradesh, where about 27 lakh bales of cotton was produced each year by growing the ‘white gold’ in 17.50 lakh acres, had brought the Bt cotton seed prices under price control order following a sustained campaign by the APRS. But over a period the MNC had been back to old ways of imposing royalty fee on local seed companies, which passed it on to the peasants while selling the seeds produced through the Bollgard II technology, lamented yet another farmer leader B. Prasad taking a cue from struggles by their counterparts in Brazil and other countries over the ‘unfair’ collection of royalty.

Over six million farmers grew cotton in the country and about 95 per cent of which was grown using the transgenic Bt technology licensed to 49 seed manufacturers by MMBL, pointed out Andhra Pradesh Kavulu Rythu Sangam State secretary N. Ranga Rao.

Though the farmers had a better yield as a result of the Bt cotton seeds’ resistance to bollworm initially, productivity had declined over the years due to more virulent pests and weeds, triggering suicides among farmers, particularly among the most vulnerable section of growers, the tenant farmers, he observed.

Meanwhile, retired ANGRAU Professor N. Venugopala Rao, who had brought together over 200 farmers to form the Rythu Rakshana Vedika (RRV), suggested that farmers floated mutually-aided seed cooperative societies to produce seeds, on their own and keep at bay the indigenous genetic resources from multinational companies.

‘Hybrid seed mania’

Farmers should shed the ‘hybrid seed mania’ and realise that by following better agronomic practices they could improve productivity as well through open pollinated cotton seeds, which could naturally adapt to local conditions and changes in climate.

Bt cotton seeds were priced at Rs. 930 per packet of 450 grams in the State now while the farmers who produced them with parent seeds supplied by the company were hardly paid Rs. 250 per kg, he added.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 4:03:38 PM |

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