ANDHRA PRADESH

No grievance against Bt cotton from Govt., says seed company

HYDERABAD May 22. Notwithstanding the State Agriculture Minister, V. Sobhanadreeswara Rao's assurance on compensation in the Assembly, the Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (India) on Thursday made it clear that it had not received any complaint so far from the State Government against Bt cotton (Bollgard) crop in the State.

Addressing a press conference, Vipin Solanki, Deputy Managing Director, said the company is prepared to pay compensation "if the complaint is received and if it is proved.'' He claimed that the Minister had only spoken about the State Government entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with all seed companies and did not specify Mahyco-Monsanto. But as far as the company was concerned, there were no complaints of crop failure. It was just that in a few areas, the crop did not come up to the farmers' expectations. This could partly be because of the Bt cotton of MECH 162 introduced in the State, which was of medium staple length and smaller boll size variety. Given this feedback, the company would launch MECH 12 having longer staple length and a bigger boll size in the coming season.

It may be recalled that the Minister gave an assurance to the House on March 10 that the company would be asked to pay compensation to Bt cotton farmers who suffered losses in Karimnagar and Mahbubnagar districts. This was as per a MoU between the Government and Mahyco-Monsanto. Farmers were entitled to compensation for poor germination of seed or poor yield. The process of getting compensation would begin as soon as a complaint was lodged by the farmers with the Government.

Mr. Solanki said such complaints, could not diminish the demand and there has been positive response from the farmers. As against 9,000 packets sold last year in the State, the company expected the demand this time to be 1 lakh packets. All over India, the company expected to sell six to seven lakh packets.

As for other states, wilting was noticed in Bt cotton crop in Gujarat and Maharashtra and this was not because of any technological problem. It has something to do with the environment. The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) has confirmed it. To another question, he said the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has not approved supply of MECH 915 in Northern parts of India saying it was not resistant to leaf curl virus. Again there was no problem with the technology.

Earlier, in his long power point presentation, Mr. Solanki showed how the Bt cotton could benefit the farmers through increased yield by controlling the pests, improvement in quality and reducing the pesticide sprays significantly. The approval was obtained after a series of trials certified by the Central Government agriculture research institutions.

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