Indian seed firms producing Bt cotton seeds will no longer have to pay royalties to German agri and pharma giant Bayer as the government has decided to completely remove trait value on transgenic cottonseeds sold in the country.

In a notification issued on Tuesday, Agriculture Ministry said there will not be any trait value from now on Bollgard-I and Bollgard-II hybrid cotton seeds sold in the country. While a 450-gm packet of Bollgard-I Bt cotton hybrid seeds would be priced at ₹635, the same amount of Bollgard-II hybrid seeds would be available for ₹730.

In 2019, the government had halved royalties to ₹20, which has now been removed completely.

The Bt cotton technology was developed and introduced in India by the US agri firm Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018 in a $63-billion deal. More than 40 Indian seed firms currently pay royalty to Bayer for using the transgenic technology in hybrid cottonseeds that they make and sell to farmers. Bt cottonseeds are cultivated in more than 90 per cent of Indian cotton farms.

Bayer disappointed

Commenting on the development, a Bayer spokesperson said,

“This is essential to support stewardship, maintaining longevity and at the same time investing in future technologies; factors that are critical to preserve global competitiveness and livelihoods of millions of smallholder cotton farmers across India,” the spokesperson said.

“The decision is a complete disincentive for technology providers. Such a move will result in leaving the technology an orphan. This may lead to indiscriminate use (by local seed firms). We do not support the idea of technology being available free of cost to everyone, irrespective of their capability to handle the technology,” said Ram Kaundinya, Director General of Federation of Seed Industry of India, which represents major seed firms, including multinational seed firms operating in India.