Government Withdraws Notification On Bt Cotton, To Seek Public Views

New Delhi: Amid opposition from crop biotech industry, the government today withdrew a notification capping royalty for new genetically modified (GM) traits and would now seek comments from stakeholders before taking a final call.

Sources said the decision to seek public comments was taken at the highest level in view of severe criticism from biotech industry and farm experts, who are of the view that the move would hurt foreign investment in agri-research and discourage introduction of new technologies into India.

“The notification regarding the guideline for Bt cotton technology issued on May 18 will be put in the public domain for the period of 90 days, in the same form for comments and suggestions of all stakeholders,” an official statement said.

When contacted, Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan said: “We are withdrawing the notification but not rolling back the decision. We are issuing the same as draft notification so that to take public comments.”

Biotech industry body ABLE-AG, which has members like Monsanto, Mahyco, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer and Bayer BioScience, had opposed the government’s notification saying that decision would be a “huge blow” to the innovators in agri-biotech industry.

Last week, the Agriculture Ministry issued a notification capping royalty for the new genetically modified (GM) traits at 10 per cent of the maximum sale price of BT cotton seeds for the first five years. The new licensing norms also ensured that eligible seed companies get access to the GM technology.

As per the notification, after the five-year period, royalty would reduce by 10 per cent of initial value every year. If the GM technology loses its efficacy, the technology provider would not be eligible for any royalty.

The ‘Licensing and Formats for GM Technology Agreement Guidelines, 2016’ comes two months after the Centre had fixed the MSP of Bt cotton seed packets at Rs 800 per packet for bollgard (BG)-II version of Bt cotton hybrid, including Rs 49 for the trait value. The seed price was fixed as per the Cotton Seeds Price Control Order issued in December 2015.

Issuing a notification on licensing guidelines for GM cotton seeds, the Agriculture Ministry has also capped upfront fee for the new GM trait at Rs 25 lakh to be paid in two equal annual installments.

The notification prescribed a new format for bilateral agreements and said the existing signed pacts between licensors (technology providers) and licensees (seed firms) would become invalid and they should execute the agreement in new format in next 30 days.

The new licensing norms were issued to ensure that all eligible seed companies get access to the GM technology, while technology providers like Monsanto are adequately rewarded under the “fair, reasonable and non-discriminative mechanism (FRAND mechanism)”.

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