Agri Business

‘Seed factions’ pact will clear agri-tech logjam’

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 13, 2021

The agreement will give smaller seed players access to the agri-biotech solutions, making them competitive with others   -  The Hindu

It will help small players pave way for access to new techs: Associations

The agreement between domestic seed manufacturers and research-based seed firms has raised eye brows after the two sides, which were engaged in a bitter fight for over 16 years, agreed upon a ‘framework’ on trait value and technology licencing last week.

The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) feels the framework would facilitate a smoother access to new technologies for the domestic seed companies.

“Many new technologies, both genetically modified (GM) and non-GM, have taken the world agriculture forward in the last decade when our farmers and seed industry suffered due to the logjam in the flow of technologies due to disputes between technology providers and licensees,” M Ramasami, President of FSII, told BusinessLine.

Modern technology

“This framework will end that and give confidence to the technology providers to bring new technologies into the country. The Indian seed companies will gain because they will get equipped to develop new plant varieties using modern technological tools,” Ramasami, also the Chairman of Raasi Seeds (P) Limited, said.

“This will help the industry to get modernised, develop seeds to fight many biotic and abiotic stresses that are emerging, fight climate change and to grow in its size,” he said.

Access to smaller players

Mandava Prabhakara Rao, the President of National Seed Association of India (NSAI), which represents the domestic seed manufacturers, has said that the agreement between the two associations would let even smaller seed players get access to the agri-biotech solutions, making them competitive with other players.

Domestic seed players have locked horns with the agribiotech firms, particularly Mahyco-Monsanto on the issues of trait value and giving technology to smaller seed players.

“Earlier the fixation of trait value used to be arbitrary. At one point of time, the trait value used to be ₹1,250 a packet, while the cost of seed is only ₹450. The new framework has fixed that 5-20 per cent of the seed value,” Prabhakara Rao, also the Managing Director of Nuziveedu Seeds Limited, said.

Focus on R&D

The FSII President said that the agreement would help the research-based firms to focus on research and development.

“Due to several disputes and issues which led to stagnation of the flow of new biotechnology tools into the country, Indian agriculture has remained a low attraction for research companies,” Ramasami said.

“Foreign companies have scaled down their research investments in technology development in India, some of them closed their biotech centres or scaled them down and some of them withdrew their regulatory applications or shelved their new technology launch plans,” he said.

The framework will give hope to research companies from outside and from India that there is a greater certainty of commercialising technologies and getting reasonable returns on their investments.

“This certainty and predictability will help companies to determine the extent of investments required, the returns they can expect and the probable timelines. This will make a big difference to the plans of different companies in bringing new technologies to the country,” he said.

“We can expect that in the next two years we will see more activity by the research companies on the regulatory front to get their technologies approved for commercialisation in the country,” he observed.

Benefits to farmers

Ramasami said that the farmers had really lost their competitive edge in the last 10 years. “This framework will make it possible for our farmers to access better quality seed varieties and modern technologies in a smooth and continuous fashion,” he said.

“He does not have to use illegal seeds made with unapproved technologies and face consequences on quality, costs and environmental damage,” he pointed out.

Could lead to monopolies

However, the anti-GMO activists see this as a ploy to clear the way to introduce technologies like herbicide-tolerant Bt in cotton and in paddy.

“All these years, they were fighting over technology access and trait value. They joined hands eyeing an opportunity in the herbicide-tolerant technology in cotton and paddy. They can argue that it will help address the issues of water and labour,” G V Ramanjaneyulu, Chief Executive Officer of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, argued.

Dhonti Narasimha Reddy, a critic of Bt cotton, has said that the framework could still leave out those players, who don’t fall under the criteria underlined in it.

“Seed diversity will also get restricted by these combined forces. The framework should go to the Competition Commission of India. The current cases cannot be withdrawn because this agreement is about resolution of business disputes, while the petitions raised questions on efficacy of technology, seed patents and legality behind collection of trait value,” he pointed out.

Published on July 12, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like