India freezes controversial GM notification, says open to discussions

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Photo courtesy - Cargill

India has withdrawn a controversial notification capping royalty for new genetically modified (GM) traits after biotech industry and experts warned the move would impact introduction of new agri technologies in the country.

The government said in a statement it was now inviting comments from the stakeholders before taking a final call on last week’s notification that took many by surprise.

“The notification regarding the guideline for Bt cotton technology issued on May 18 will be put in the public domain for the period of 90 days, in the same form for comments and suggestions of all stakeholders,” an official statement said.

A clause requiring all existing bilateral agreements between seed licence providers and licensees to adhere to the new pattern within the next 30 days or be considered void was one of the main contentious points in the notification issued last week.

The notification capped the royalty fee for all new genetically modified (GM) seeds at 10 percent of the maximum sale price, a move that seed technology providers said was a huge blow to the innovators in agri-biotech sector.

The government notification that the fee will be capped for the first five years from the time the technology is commercialised in India and then will be lowered by 10 percent every year.

India already regulates the retail sale price of BT cotton seeds. Cotton is the only crop in which GM technology is allowed for commercial use in India, and the government regulates the retail price of BT cotton seeds,

Companies such as Monsanto had earlier threatened to quit the country of the royalty fee was capped.

The Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises – Agriculture Focus Group said the government’s notification was a huge blow to the innovators in agri-biotech sector.

Such a decision will further create an environment of uncertainty and disincentive to technology developers for bringing new technologies into India, which will ultimately harm the farmers as new technologies come slow to them, it said.

 

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