Biotech cotton seeds hit problems in India

Farmers sore over low supply of Bt cotton seeds

BS Reporter / Chennai/ Mysore May 03, 2011, 0:28 IST
Over 10,000 farmers from villages around Mysore had gathered on the busy Jaganmohan Palace Road and the Ramavilasa Road to get their ‘quota’ of the much-vaunted Bt cotton seeds. Packets of the seed was being sold to farmers who had been waiting to buy two packets each, today.
The build-up of the crowd of farmers affected the movement of traffic on the two main roads and the police, drawn from reserve and other forces were posted to ensure no untoward incidents occurred because of the huge crowd of possibly disgruntled farmers. The roads were blocked and traffic diverted on to the other roads.

While the farmers wanted Bt seeds of a particular company, Mahyco, they had to be content with just the one or two packets of seeds of other companies like Bollard and Rasi. They complained that the seeds of the latter companies were of poorer quality compared to that of Mahyco, the yields of which were better, both in terms of quality and quantity. Besides, they were prone to pests as the seeds are sweetish, unlike the Mahyco seeds.
Agriculture department authorities maintained they had released 5,000 bags of seeds. However, a large number of farmers went disappointed unable to get the seeds.
“Even if we pay Rs 1,500, Mahyco seeds are not available. We have to buy the seeds of the other two companies. They are inferior in quality and hence priced less,” complained a farmer Nanjappa hailing from Mysore taluk.
Another farmer of Nanjangud taluk complained: “I paid Rs 930 for a packet which is the MRP mentioned on it. Generally, we pay Rs 730 for this. But we are helpless. We have prepared our lands for cultivation as it has rained during the last few days. So, we have to buy whatever is available and pay the price the shopkeepers demand.”
Serpentine queues were seen in front of the four agro shops on the Jaganmohan Palace Road. Braving the afternoon sun, farmers, including women, stood in queues.
“We never faced such a situation. It is only this time we have to struggle to get the Bt seeds. I have been coming every day for the last four days. Today I could get only one packet, though I need 10 packets,” Rache Gowda, a farmer of Induvala village in Nanjangud taluk, complained, cursing the State Government for pushing them to the current predicament.
“We have to come again tomorrow or send some one from our family to get the seeds which we urgently need,” added another farmer of Hunsur, who was yet to get his turn. Most of the farmers were seen blaming the State Government for for ignoring their interests.
Farmers from H D Kote, Nanjangud, Gundlupet, Hunsur, Malavalli, Periyapatna and Mysore taluks were at the receiving end on April 25 when they were lathi-charged by the police as they resorted to a protest at K R Circle, demanding Bt seeds. Subsequently, district incharge minister S A Ramadas had assured sufficient supply in two days. However, farmers are continuing to face hardship.
David Tribe

Written by David Tribe

David Tribe’s research career in academia and industry has covered molecular genetics, biochemistry, microbial evolution and biotechnology. He has over 60 publications and patents. Dr. Tribe's recent activities focus on agricultural policy and food risk management. He teaches graduate programs in food science and risk management as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Melbourne.

5 comments

  1. The problems with Bt brinjals is complex, which means, hard to encapsulate in a comment. I will try.
    India’s chemical spray industry is completely fragmented among hundreds of chemical producers, and more hundreds of formulators. These companies learned their lesson with the advent of Bt cotton. In some areas of India, chemical companies lost 70 percent of revenues as a result.
    They’re not going to repeat that mistake.
    Endosulfan is a major chemical spray for the protection of brinjals, and farmers spray about 70 times per season, to control the fruit and shoot borer. The same control can be accomplished with Bt brinjal seed. Imagine losing a market that size to GM brinjals. The chemical companies will fight like cornered rats to stay in business, and a good part of that will be payments to NGOs. For the money involved, that’s the cheapest and most effective solution to protecting revenue.
    I’m not alleging a conspiracy. I’m just saying, businesses and industries tend to protect sources of revenue. Economics at the simplest level.

  2. I think that the same issues apply here. Presumably the chemical companies selling sprays for brinjals (eggplant?) are selling sprays for cotton as well.

  3. GM cotton blocks roads! Forces farmers to stand in sun all afternoon (thus causing cancer!!)
    Clearly this stuff offers no tangible benefit to farmers – I know I’d certainly spend this amount of effort to get something which was all just a big con designed to steal my farm from me.

  4. When I read this, I thought, I wish there was a picture in the article. Then I decided to do a search, and I found an article that had a picture, and added it in. Pictures are so important for things like this, because they can convey a much more memorable image of what it is like than many well-crafted words can. I’m glad I found a photo that puts truth to the falsehood that the farmers don’t want the seeds. No one waits in line for days straight for seeds that don’t work.

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