The National Seed Association of India, which represents the majority of the cotton seed companies in the country, has blamed Mahyco Monsanto and Monsanto India for widespread resistance developed by pink bollworm to Bollgard-II, the second-generation genetically modified cotton seed technology.
The association has threatened to stop selling the seeds developed with BG-II technology if the two Monsanto firms do not vouch for the efficacy of the second gene (which gave in to pink bollworm). It asks the firms to own up to the failure and compensate farmers. The association wrote a separate letter to the Agriculture Ministry disowning any responsibility for the efficacy of the trait (the second gene) that was meant to tackle the pink bollworm. “It (the company) collects the trait value from the farmers through us. It is their responsibility,” it said.
Pink bollworm, which showed signs of resistance to technology, turned virulent this kharif, causing extensive damage to cotton crop in several States. The incidence was so high that the Telangana government asked farmers to remove the plants after the second pick (of cotton bolls) so that the fields would be free of pink bollworm for the next season. “You went on to promote the usage of hybrids with the two gene trait (Bollgard-II) even after CICR confirmed incidence of resistance,” Kalyan B Goswami, Director-General of NSAI, said in the letter. NSAI members wanted to go back to the single gene (Cry1Ac) GM seed (which entails no royalty fee) that can take care of other bollworms like American and spotted bollworms.
MMBL, which licences Monsanto’s GM cotton technologies to seed firms in India, denied the allegation that it had not addressed the resistance. “We had, as early as in September 2015, informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the high level of tolerance to Cry2Ab protein,” an MMBL spokesperson said. The firm blamed non-adherence to recommendations on Insect Resistance Management (IRM) practices for the development of the resistance. “We asked seed companies in February 2016 and in March 2017 to advice farmers about the importance of following the prescribed guidelines,” he said. It is understood that the firm is in the process of giving a point-by-point rebuttal to the issues raised by the NSAI.