Monsanto withdraws new GM cotton seed in dispute with India

AFP-JIJI

Monsanto has pulled an application seeking Indian approval for its next generation of genetically modified, pest-resistant cotton seeds, it said Thursday, sharply escalating an ongoing row with the Indian government.

The U.S. agribusiness giant said it withdrew plans to introduce the seeds in July over regulatory “uncertainty,” including a proposal to force crop developers to share their technology with domestic firms, which sparked an outcry.

Monsanto has also clashed fiercely with New Delhi over government plans to slash the amount paid by local firms in cotton seed royalties by about 70 percent, threatening in March to pull out of India over the issue.

“Our decision to suspend this introduction in India is an outcome of the uncertainty in the business and regulatory environment, which include the regulation of trait (royalty) fees and introduction of the draft compulsory licensing guidelines,” Monsanto said in a statement.

The move to withdraw the seeds is a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wants to attract more foreign investors to India and has sought to change its image as a difficult place to do business.

It will also negatively affect millions of farmers seeking access to the latest pest-resistant seeds as the old ones become less effective.

Monsanto said Thursday its existing cotton seed portfolio would not be affected by the move.

India has risen in recent years to become the second-largest cotton-producing country globally, in large part thanks to Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds.