Dear Sri Ajit Singh:
The results from the first commercial cultivation of Bt cotton are coming in and all evidence points to the fact that the crop has not done well. It has reportedly failed in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. To protect the interests of the farming community, we request you to take immediate steps to ensure that Mahyco- Monsanto, the company that owns the failed Bt cotton variety, is made to pay adequate compensation to those farmers who have recorded crop losses. This is in fact mandated in the Indian law.
According to the law, any company that provides poor quality seeds, the performance of which does not match the claims made by the company, is to be held liable for the failure of the variety. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 provides for a liability clause, by which farmers are protected from being deceived by the producer or seller of the seed. The Act states that other conditions being stable, if the seed sold to the farmer fails to realize its expected potential viz. in areas like yield, quality, pest resistance, etc; as had been disclosed by the breeder, the farmer will retain the right to claim compensation from the breeder of that variety. The determination of the validity of such a claim will be by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority.
I invite your attention to the relevant section of the law. Clause 39(2) of the act states that:
- Clause 39(2), PPVFRA 2001.
It is important to take action against Mahyco- Monsanto and ensure compensation is paid by them to farmers so that farmers, as so often in the past, are not made the guinea pigs of new, uncertain technologies and then left to fend for themselves when the product does not work. It is also very important for the Indian authorities to demonstrate that having put in place a new law to protect the farmers, they will not hesitate to invoke the law to procure the rights that are due to farmers, that they will not let big companies get off the hook.
Bt cotton is the very first GM crop to be grown in this country. It is therefore particularly necessary in this case to set the correct precedence and to send the right signals, that the implementation of GM technology will not be done in a shoddy, careless manner and if the technology is poor, the farmer will not be allowed to suffer.
It is the duty of the Agriculture Ministry to ensure that any technology meant for the farmers is fully tested before they release it for use. If there has been a lapse, and the technology has failed to deliver, as in this case, the Agriculture Minister must invoke the law of the land and make sure the farmers are compensated for the losses they have incurred due to crop failure.