US biotech giant Monsanto has written to the Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh that they had warned about the bollworm developing resistance to Bt seed in 2015. Monsanto claims the technology is ‘still effective against American bollworm, which is the primary targeted pest. Pink bollworm, which has damaged cotton crop, is a secondary pest’. Guess the Indian bollworm must have turned into a horror monster Frankenstein. It claims even seed makers were warned and advised to spread awareness about practices to be followed by farmers to prevent losses.
The claim gains importance post the company's dispute with domestic seed makers over the pink bollworm attack on the cotton crop in Maharashtra. The National Seed Association of India (NSAI), which represents seed makers, says Monsanto's letter about the warning in 2015 is a confession that its technology has failed. In that case, it should stop charging a technology fee from seed makers, which is eventually passed on to farmers.
The company has developed the genetically modified Bt cotton seeds. The mass production is done under a licence agreement by several domestic seed companies, which pay a fee per bag to the multinational. The Bt seeds are supposed to be resistant to bollworm.
Monsanto operates in India through its local arm — Mayhco Monsanto Biotech Limited (MMBL). NSAI had earlier written to the ministry as well as MMBL, threatening the industry may not make fresh Bt seeds. In response, MMBL sent a letter to the minister saying, "The Genetic Engineering and Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the government was informed about high level of tolerance to Cry2Ab protein as early as September 2015." Even the sub-licensee seed companies were provided specific guidance in February 2016 and March 2017 to undertake farmer advisories on right practices to prevent losses. In a meeting with Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR), to which NSAI was an invitee too, it was decided to continue using the technology along with right practices, the letter says.