Agricultural: Punjab rebuffs Monsanto attempt to sell BT cotton seeds to farmers

Published: March 6, 2012

US agrichemical giant wanted legal protection for its intellectual property; provincial govt unwilling to comply.

ISLAMABAD: 

The Punjab government has refused to agree to US agrichemical giant Monsanto’s demands for intellectual property rights protection for its BT cotton seeds and has accused the company of a “monopolistic” plan to take over agriculture in Punjab.

The problem lies in Monsanto’s demand that farmers not be allowed to share its seeds and that the Punjab government pay a fine to the company if farmers in the province are found doing so. The company argues that it spends millions of dollars each year in developing those seeds and deserves to have its intellectual property protected and paid for and illegal to transfer without payment, much like the copying of movies and songs is illegal.

The Punjab government, however, is up in arms at this proposal, effectively calling it a conspiracy to make Punjab’s agricultural sector dependent on Monsanto. Government officials are so incensed at the proposal that they have gone to the extent of exaggerating Monsanto’s demands.

For instance, while Monsanto admits to wanting Lahore to pay a fine if its seeds are passed on between farmers without payment to the company, government officials claim that the company wants a complete ban on the sale of any other variety of seeds in the province.

Monsanto officials denied that allegation, stating that their only aim was to protect their own intellectual property rights. They said the company is not against the use of other seeds, just against the illegal transfers of its own seeds. “We are against the illegal commerce of our own seeds in Pakistan,” said the company spokesperson.

The provincial government, however, seems inclined to think that farmers sharing seeds should not be illegal. Pakistan uses about 40,000 tons of cotton seeds every year, about 25% of which comes from the 770 seed companies operating in Pakistan. The remaining three-quarters of seeds are those that farmers share with each other. The government views Monsanto’s opposition to this trade of its own seeds as a monopolistic practise.

The primary advantage of BT cotton is that it produces a disease and parasite-resistant crop, which requires less usage of pesticides and is thus more environmentally friendly. Federal government officials, however, dispute this.

“The number of pesticide sprays in Pakistan and even India have not been reduced after sowing BT cotton varieties,” said Khalid Abdullah, the cotton commissioner and the textile ministry. “The use of BT cotton varieties had not caused increase in production. The production increase in India has not been due to the usage of BT cotton but other factors like an increase in irrigated areas and agriculture sector reforms, etc.”

The federal ministry for food, agriculture and livestock signed a letter of intent with Monsanto on May 13, 2008 to expand cotton production by using its Bollgard variety. Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding with Monsanto for introducing Bollgard-II technology on April 10, 2010.

The main threat to Pakistani cotton comes from parasites like spotted bollworms, American bollworms, pink bollworms, army worms etc, which dramatically reduce Pakistani cotton yields, since most farmers either do not use pesticides or not enough of the right combinations pesticides. Monsanto’s BT cotton would render the crop immune to these parasites.

Government officials said that there are several other parasites to which the BT cotton would still be vulnerable, such as the red cotton bug, the mealy bug and the dusky cotton bug.

Farmers do not seem happy with Monsanto’s proposals either. Ibrahim Mughal, the chairman of Agriforum Pakistan, a farmer’s lobby, said that “Monsanto would destroy Pakistan. If we want a free economy in Pakistan, then Monsanto must not be allowed to market its seeds in Pakistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Its (still) the Economy Stupid
    Mar 6, 2012 - 6:03AM

    farmers not be allowed to share its seeds. This is a standard clause insisted by Monsanto all over the world. This is nothing new. Please do not senalize a no news. Nobody is asking dfarmers to buy this seed. However, if they do buy there are certain conditions attached to it. Just like when you ask for nuclear technology it comes with certain conditions. If you agree to abide by and has money to pay for it, than it is yours. A normal business practice.

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  • Food smart
    Mar 6, 2012 - 6:56AM

    What fantastic news. Power to the punjabi government for recognizing this disgusting company and it’s terrible approach and corrupt ways of working.

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  • Harry Stone
    Mar 6, 2012 - 9:45AM

    Once again PAK wants something for nothing. Hopefully Monsanto will withdraw from the market. Then again PAK could develop its on seeds. I expect the SC anyday to demand this.

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  • Mastuj
    Mar 6, 2012 - 10:53AM

    Well done Punjab Government. Nobody should be under any illusions as to the ill intentions of Monsanto

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  • Doolittle
    Mar 6, 2012 - 11:28AM

    If a farmer buys a bag of seeds from Monsanto and shares it with others it should not be a problem as all the seeds have been bought from the company. The main issue is sharing seeds that are set on this planted crop. From what I have been told by farmers who have used these BT seeds, the seeds of the next generation are not very productive. There is an inbuilt genetic mechanism that does not let the farmer use these first generation seeds. Well, unless the brilliant farmers have come up with an ingenious way to beat the hi-tech Monsanto Inc. The company has put in millions to develop the variety and billions to protect the seeds from being spread by natural mechanisms!

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  • Tariq
    Mar 6, 2012 - 11:49AM

    Indian trolls shouldn’t defend Monsanto given the company’s experience in India. It is definitely a monopolistic company and its good to see Punjab standing up to it. We should avoid buying seeds from Monsanto in the first place.

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  • Attif Abbas
    Mar 6, 2012 - 9:39PM

    Monsanto should only allowed to work when their is a viable business plan or other competitors ,so that they won’t make a monopoly.

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  • Cautious
    Mar 6, 2012 - 9:47PM

    Monsanto places restrictions on their genetically altered seeds throughout the World — having the govt guarantee no seed sharing is a clear sign that they properly see corruption/non compliance as an issue in Pakistan. It’s a free World — if you don’t want the deal then just say so.

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  • Pro Bono Publico
    Mar 6, 2012 - 9:52PM

    @Its (still) the Economy Stupid:
    Please read and understand the dangers of GM foods. Prince Charles is a hardline opponent of such foods. They are not good for the or the consumers.
    Grains grown from Monsanto seeds cannot be planted the next year — with regular seeds, the farmers use a portion of the crop to plant the next year. Each year, the farmer has to buy new seeds.

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  • Shakky
    Mar 6, 2012 - 11:20PM

    The Punjab government is taking the right approach. It should kick Monsanto out. This company has been cited in many countries around the world for its unethical practices. It wants to control the market for its seeds but takes absolutely no responsibility for the human health risks and environmental impact caused by its products. The US and the European Union are already evaluating what actions they need to take to protect populations and the environment against Monsanto and its creations. Pakistan should also follow suit.

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  • aman
    Mar 12, 2012 - 12:21AM

    Great news! Bravo Punjab Government for this! Those who are unaware about MONSANTO should watch ‘The world according to Monsanto’ on youtube. MONSANTO is an evil monster which wants to control world’s food supply. Monsanto’s seeds have wrecked havoc in India leading 200,000 farmers to commit suicide. The monsanto bt cotton seed requires 4 times water than the conventional seed and also a much higher level of pesticides. Also it is much much much expensive. Genetically Modified seeds have huge health hazards. For more info on this please google about the dangers of Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs). Monsanto must not be allowed to introduce its seeds in Pakistan. I agree with above comment: Monsanto is worse than Blackwater.

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  • zulu
    Mar 12, 2012 - 12:28AM

    Congratulations Punjab gov!

    Monsanto is a chemical company posing as an agricultural company specializes in toxic, dependency-creating, genetically-engineered crops and pharmaceuticals. Monsanto is one of the world’s most notorious multinationals that has been caught red-handed for bribery, false studies and evaluations, and paying off scientists for favourable reports. It has been responsible for over 10,000 farmer suicides and thousands of poisoned sheep in India alone. Its GE products are banned in countries including in Europe after painful experiences.

    Monsanto sparked controversy with the introduction of Bovine somatotropin, it is a hormone that is injected into cows to increase milk production, causing a number of problems with the milk, among them, raising levels of pus, antibiotic residues, and a cancer accelerating hormone called IGF-1. IGF-1 is a natural hormone found in the milk of both humans and cows causing the quick growth of infants. Though this hormone is naturally found in mothers to be fed to their infants it has an adverse affect on non-infants.

    In 1997, Fox News reportedly bowed to pressure from Monsanto to suppress an investigative report on the health risks associated with Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone product, Posilac, a synthetic drug used to increase milk production in cows, is banned in most first-world countries, with the exception of the United States, where it can be found in much of the milk supply. Fox pressured its reporters, Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, to alter their report, despite evidence that Monsanto had lied about the risks of contaminated milk and infected cattle. The reporters refused to comply, and were eventually fired. Wilson and Akre then sued Fox News in Florida state court, claiming they could not be fired for refusing to do something that they believed to be illegal.

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  • sacred
    Mar 12, 2012 - 10:32AM

    Monsanto is worse than Blackwater!

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