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Cotton is India’s only GM crop

In terms of acreage, India is ranked fourth after the US, Brazil and Argentina in adopting of GM crops. While the top three grow more than one GM crop, India grows only cotton. Bt cotton was introduced in India in 2002 amid a raging controversy. This is a genetically modified seed. Many activists were alarmed at the decision to permit GM crops in India, and there were widespread agitations. Bt cotton continues to be the only genetically modified crop permitted in India and has captured about 95 per cent of the crop area under cotton. However, the increase in productivity has not been commensurate. The average yield was 472 kg per hectare in 2005-06 (when only about 15 per cent of the cotton crop was covered by Bt cotton.) The yield rose marginally to 484 kg per hectare in 2015-16. A dispute arose between several seed companies and Monsanto regarding Bt cotton trait fee payments.

Initially, the dispute between Monsanto and seed companies was the quantum of royalties or trait value to be paid by the latter. In 2010, some state governments fixed the maximum retail prices of cotton seeds, which included the trait values as a component. The governments did this so as to ensure that seeds were available to the farmers at reasonable prices. However, Monsanto put pressure on the seed companies to pay the trait values as determined by them on the ground that they had a patent on Bt cotton seeds. The seed companies had no alternative but to pay under protest.