Monsanto loses as Indian Farmers shift to Desi Seed

Monsanto BT Cotton

A tiny hamlet at the heart of the belt in northern India, Ramandeep Mann planted ‘s genetically modified Bt cotton seed for over a decade, but that changed after a whitefly blight last year.

Mann’s 25-acre farm in Punjab’s district now boasts “desi”, or indigenous, cotton shrubs that promise good yields and pest resistance at a fraction of the cost.

Mann is not alone.
Thousands of cotton farmers across the north of India, the world’s biggest producer and second largest exporter of the fibre, have switched to the new local variety, spelling trouble for seed giant Monsanto in its most important cotton market outside the Americas.

The Indian government is actively promoting the new homegrown seeds, having already capped prices and royalties that the world’s largest seed company is able to charge.

“Despite the whitefly attack, farmers in northern India are still interested in cotton, but they are moving to the desi (indigenous) variety,” says Textile Commissioner Kavita Gupta.

Official estimates peg the area planted with the new variety at 72,280 hectares in northern India, up from roughly 3,000 hectares last year.

That is still a tiny percentage overall, and most farmers in the key producing states of Gujarat and Maharashtra are sticking to Monsanto’s GM cotton, which has been instrumental in making India a cotton powerhouse.

But the new seed is still a setback for Monsanto, which has also been hit by a roughly 10% decline in cotton acreage in India this year as farmers switch to crops like pulses and lentils in the aftermath of the whitefly blight.

:Reuters