Onderstaand artikel is gepubliceerd in/published in: Financial Express, 11-1-2006

Ashok B. Sharma
Bt cotton seed firms at the receiving end

HYDERABAD, JAN 10: The Andhra Pradesh government has expressed concern over the inadequate payment to farmers by seed companies for producing Bt cotton seeds. It has also criticised “aggressive marketing strategies” of Bt cotton seed companies and urged them to educate farmers on pest control measures. The state government has written to the Union government as to why field trials of Bt Okra was conducted in the state without its knowledge. The state agriculture minister, N Raghuveera Reddy, admitted having received some adverse reports about performance of Bt cotton seeds. He said: “We sent a team of scientists from the agricultural universities to verify the situation.

They found occurrence of tobacco streak virus in cotton fields. This virus usually occurs on groundnut and sunflower crops and not on cotton. In some places, the incidence of this virus is more on Bt cotton fields and in other cases it is vice versa.”

In this context, it may be noted that a network of 20 NGOs in their report had said the incidence of tobacco streak virus was first noticed on Bt cotton fields, which spread to non-Bt cotton fields in the neighbourhood. The minister urged the seed companies selling Bt cotton seeds to adequately explain to farmers about pest and disease control measures as Bt gene alone cannot control many of the pests. Mr Reddy also complained of the high price of Bt cotton seeds paid by farmers on account of high trait value charged by the global seed multinational Monsanto. It is for this reason that the state government has sued the seed multinational before the Monopolies & Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC), he said. The minister said where the actual cost of the seeds is Rs 450 per 450-gm pack, the trait value charged by Monsanto amounts to Rs 1,250. Thus, the farmers paid Rs 1,700 per 450-gm pack in kharif 2004. This year the farmers paid Rs 1,850 per 450-gm pack. Mr Reddy also was not happy with the low prices paid to the farmer-seed growers by the seed companies. He said the farmers were paid a paltry Rs 250.

The minister’s statement confirms the study reports of India Committee of the Netherlands , International Labour Rights Fund of US, Eine Welt Netz NRW (One World Net, Germany) and MV Foundation about large-scale deployment of child labour for seed production in Andhra Pradesh.

The minister also confirmed the reports of field trials of Bt Okra in Narokoduru in Guntur district. He said this field trial was conducted without the knowledge of the state government. The state government, therefore, has asked the Centre as to why it was not informed on such a vital issue of public importance where adequate bio-safety measures are to be followed.

The Secundrabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture detected this field trials of Bt Okra and reported to the state government. Thereafter, the farmers uprooted Bt Okra under field trials.He informed that the state government had taken adequate steps to stop sales of spurious seeds, pesticides and fertilisers.

In the kharif season, some 57 persons involved in sales of spurious seeds were booked. The state government is also encouraging organic farming and encouraging the flow of institutional credit to farmers.

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Landelijke India Werkgroep - 11 januari 2006