20 October 2010

Seven Seed Companies To Control Rajasthan Agriculture

Seven Seed Companies To Control Rajasthan Agriculture
By Devinder Sharma
19 October, 2010
Ground Reality
Last week, you read how Monsanto had quietly entered into an agreement with the Rajasthan government virtually taking over its agricultural research and extension [http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2010/10/monsanto-takes-over-agriculture-of-semi.html]. Well, we now learn that Monsanto is not alone. There are six other companies which have signed almost a similar kind of agreement with the Rajasthan government.
An indication to this came from State Agriculture Minister Harjiram Burdak. He was quoted in Dainik Bhaskar (Oct 13, 20101) as saying that several other MoUs are in the offing.
After Rajasthan government wrote a letter on June 23 inviting seed companies under public-private partnership to come to the 'rescue' of the semi-arid State, Pioneer Seeds was the first to formally sign an MoU on July 20. Monsanto was probably the last of the lot to reach an agreement on July 27. As per the invitation letter, the State government would finally devise an action plan within three months of signing the agreements. It will therefore be interesting to see what action plan the State government is secretly developing with the private seed companies.
The six companies, besides Monsanto, are:
1. Pioneer Seeds
2. Advanta Seeds
3. Krishi Dhan
4. JK Seeds
5. Sriram Bio Seeds, and
6. Kanchan Jyoti
I will not repeat what I have already said in my earlier blog post Monsanto takes over agriculture of semi-arid Rajasthan. My colleague Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, has meanwhile expressed his concerns. I would like to share his viewpoint with you:
Its really scary to see this kind of agreement between a State and all its agriculture machinery (Add. chief secretary, commissioner agril, vice chancellors, director hort, state seed corporations) to create an appropriate policy environment to encourage innovation in agriculture. this agreement raises few fundamental issues.
This is in response to a invite by Rajasthan govt dated 23rd june, 2010 and the agreement was signed on 27th July 2010. what made the state govt to issue such letter? lack of innovation (if so on what basis?), why in such a hurry and how come so quickly? who are others who responded for this letter?
This MoU provides for identifying suitable high yielding maize/cotton/vegetable hybrids for rainfed areas of rajasthan whereas the experience till now shows that the hybrids are not suitable for rainfed areas. the report of planning commission on vidharba farmers suicides clearly stated that the Bt cotton hybrids not being suitable for rainfed areas as they are water guzzling
Cross licensing for hybrids developed by SAUs to Monsanto will give away public germplasm to private profits. the licensing of Monsanto hybrids to state will make state to spend public money to give private profits. In fact who needs these hybrids? the state? if so what happened to all the public sector maize var/hybrids released so far by rajasthan state agriculture universities? and All India Coordinated Research Project on Maize and Directorate of Maize Research?
Fair opportunity for Partnership seems to be to capture the seed subsidies provided by the department of agriculture/horticulture/tribal development and other development department to help farmers. on what basis such assessment would be made?
Feasibility of protected varieties and honoring the Proprietary rights Monsanto holds seems to be one of the real intentions behind this MoU. We may recall that in India patents on seed are not accepted and Monsanto and its affiliate MMB are using such license agreements (in fact private agreements which have no legal validity) to control their IPRs. Given the Bt cotton royalty experience in Andhra Pradesh (royalty on bt cotton is Rs. 150/packet) and Rajasthan (royalty on bt cotton is Rs. 1200/packet) shows how crucial it is for state governments to act on behalf of farmers rather than to benefit the private companies.
State providing land and infrastructure for the company to establish their units is completely unacceptable. the state governments which are not providing any funds to the state universities and state seed corporations spending huge money to support private industry is completely unacceptable.
Monsanto will take up Feasibility assessment of activities based on its own standard processes of decision making where as state and its machinery has not put in any such conditionality.
This MoU should be immediately withdrawn. Any new proposal made under this MoU should be subjected to public scrutiny and have a public debate. State cannot decide on its own as it has large ecological and economic implications and legal implications in long run.

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