Commodities

Warring seed factions join hands

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 09, 2021

NSAI-FSII row to end; joint group for trait value, pricing, tech licensing on cards

Putting an end to over 16 years of dispute over trait value and licensing of seed technology, warring factions of the ₹20,000-crore seed industry in the country have prepared a mutually agreed upon “framework”.

The framework has agreed to keep the trait value at 5-20 per cent of the seed value, which will come down in phases after the fifth year. It will also put an end to the practice of agri-biotech companies restricting the access to technology to only a few companies.

The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) issued a joint statement on Thursday, announcing their decision to bury the hatchet and work together.

While the NSAI represents mostly the domestic seed manufacturers, the FSII constitutes research-based agri-biotech companies. The two sides had been engaged in battles over the years, with the former fighting to restrict the trait value, while the latter demanding a higher payment as trait value.

Long-drawn battles

The NSAI has also been opposing the practice of restricting the access to the technology arbitrarily to only a few companies.

Some of the companies on the two sides have been fighting long-drawn legal battles in various courts. This has created a lot of confusion and led to uncertainty over the launch of new technologies. “We have reached a consensus on commercialisation framework for new traits for development of superior plant varieties by plant breeders which will benefit the farmers,” the joint statement said.

“The agreement could end years of uncertainty over the seed pricing and royalty payouts, which has made several agribiotech firms to look at India with suspicion,” an FSII executive told BusinessLine.

For the NSAI, it would mean more number of local companies getting access to the agri-biotech traits and making them relevant in the market.

Centre briefed

“The agreement would put an end to restrictive entry to the seed market. The conditions have been amended and made quite reasonable. More companies will get access to traits,” M Prabhakara Rao, President of NSAI, said.

Senior officials of the Agriculture Ministry and the regulatory authorities were briefed on the salient features of the framework by the industry associations.

“This framework ensures that interests of all parties including farmers are taken care of and we are happy that the main concerns of the small and medium companies regarding monopoly of trait leading to excessive trait pricing is fully addressed,” Prabhakara Rao said.

“Illegal use of unapproved technologies is fraught with dangers to the environment, to the legally operating seed industry and eventually to the farmers themselves,” M Ramasami, Chairman of FSII, said. “This framework will be very beneficial to the farmers who have been waiting for new technologies for more than 10 years,” he said.

Highlights

The two associations will set up an Industry Governing Body (IGB) with representatives from both the associations, an independent scientist and an independent expert to chair it.

The Chair and the Scientist will take impartial view of the matters and ensure that concerns and interests of all parties including farmers are taken care of.

The IGB determines the trait value within a range of 5 to 20 per cent of the seed value and a gradual reduction in trait value over a defined period. “This ensures that the technology remains affordable for the farmer while the technology developers are provided with adequate return on their investment,” the joint statement said.

Published on July 08, 2021

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