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No change in cotton seed price: Agriculture ministry

NEW DELHI: The agriculture ministry has decided not to change cotton seed price after the Delhi High Court ruled that Monsanto Technologies’ patents on a manmade gene used in Bt cotton seed variety Bollgard II were not valid. Officials said the government would wait for the judgement of the Supreme Court, where the matter is now being heard. The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has urged the government to scrap the trait fee on Bollgard II cotton to benefit farmers.
“There will be no change in cotton seed price for this season. Planting has already started in some parts of Punjab and will pick up in the coming days. The matter is now being heard in the Supreme Court and we will go by the final judgment,” said an agriculture ministry official.
The Supreme Court on Monday did not grant a stay on the HC judgement, but justices Rohinton Nariman and Abhay Manohar Sapre sought the response of Monsanto Technology, Nuziveedu Seeds and other seed companies. The matter has been posted for hearing on July 18.
NSAI director general Kalyan Goswami had discussions with the Department of Agriculture to scrap the trait fee on Bt II cotton seeds. “We have conveyed to the government and it is up to them to take it forward,” said Goswami .
The government had in March revised Bt cotton seed prices, including trait value or tech fees, to support distressed farmers hit by frequent pink bollworm pest attacks. The price of Bollgard II was kept at Rs 740 per packet of 450 gm each, including trait value of Rs 39, which seed companies pay to the technology provider, Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (India).
India is the world’s biggest cotton producer with eight million farmers who buy 50 million such seed packets annually to plant on 12.26 million hectares. A Delhi High Court bench had said in an April 11 ruling that Monsanto’s patent was not valid under Section 3(j) of the Patent Act, splitting opinion between those who said it would keep Indian farmers from getting the much-needed benefits of agricultural innovation and others who dismissed this concern as overblown.