The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was behind the NDA government’s recent move against US-based seed giant Monsanto over the issue of monopoly and pricing.
A letter from an Andhra Pradesh BJP leader to agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh last year and the latter’s subsequent discussion with RSS functionaries at Nagpur last December led to the setting up of a committee to regulate the pricing of BT cotton seeds.
Last month, the government accepted the recommendation of the committee and slashed the royalty fee by 74%, ignoring threats from multinational giant Monsanto to re-consider its India operation.
“The RSS wanted the government to protect the interest of cotton farmers who are under distress. The government responded quickly,” a source privy to the deliberations told HT. “The process was set in motion when the minister received a letter on the pricing issue from the office bearer of BJP’s farmer cell in Andhra Pradesh. He ordered an immediate review,” an official with the agriculture ministry said.
Singh announced last week that the government will continue to regulate prices of seeds and pharmaceuticals. “It (Monsanto) is a good company. We respect them, but that does not mean you loot farmers and charge whatever price, because you have knowledge. Be it seed or pharma, we will continue to regulate prices, whenever required,” Singh said. The committee that looked into the matter was of the view that BG-I technology for BT Cotton was not patented in India and Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (India) Limited had already recovered the full value of this non-patented technology over the last 14 years.
The ministry accepted the recommendation of not including the trait value (royalty) for BG-1 technology in the price structure and it was made nil from the existing value of about Rs 122. The agriculture ministry is now exploring if at all it was possible to recover from MMBL the extra money that it may have charged as royalty for the non-patented technology.