Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday expressed his concerns over the new Seeds Bill that is to be placed before the Parliament, describing it as anti-farmer.
In the letter to the union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, a copy of which has also been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the chief minister said the bill in its present form would lead to unrestricted commercialisation of varieties in the public domain, including the farmers' varieties.
"The bill brazenly favours multinationals in the garb of higher productivity," the chief minister said.
Kumar also said state governments should have the authority through the seeds bill to fix the retail seed price and royalty charges.
"This is imperative because of reports of spurious seeds leading to enormous crop losses and their high market prices contributing to the complex agrarian distress resulting in farmer's suicides," he said.
The chief minister said the proposed bill should also carry provisions for regulating the prices of seeds, their trait value and their timely supply.
"Our experience with private companies producing hybrid maize seeds underscores this. While public sector companies like NSC sell grain seeds at less than R100 per kg, the cost of private seeds runs into hundreds of rupees or even several thousands in case of hybrid vegetable seeds," he argued.
Objecting to the provision of re-registration, Kumar said it would increase the monopoly of seed companies for at least 20 years.
Reiterating his reservation to the use of genetically modified (GM) crops without adequate safeguards, he said the proposed bill should lay down explicit safeguards.
"GM seeds should be registered only after extensive research," he said.