US firm told to cut cost of GM seeds

Mumbai, May 12:

US biotech giant Monsanto has been told to cut the cost of its genetically-modified seeds to Indian farmers after monopoly investigators ruled it was manipulating prices, according to a report Friday.

The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission said the Indian joint venture, Mahyco Monsanto, imposed “unjustified” costs on farmers and demanded prices come down in a month, the Press Trust of India said.

Activists and farmers’ groups claim failed crops, falling prices and surging production costs have contributed to an Indian farming crisis that saw 4,100 farmers commit suicide in the western state of Maharashtra alone in 2004.

“We find that prima facie it has been established that the respondent is indulged in trade practices, which have the effect distorting competition,” said Justice B K Rathi, of the commission in ruling on Thursday.

Mahyco Monsanto immediately announced it would appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, saying the ruling was “beyond the commission’s jurisdiction and inconsistent with the laws of India.” The company cut its royalty fee by 30 per cent to 900 rupees ($20) per 450 gm bag of GM cotton seeds in March amid growing controversy over its tight grip on the Indian cotton GM seed market.

It said the cut was in order “to best meet current market conditions.” The commission rejected the company’s claims it was not involved in fixing prices and backed a report by investigators in March that it was charging “exorbitant” prices, the Press Trust of India reported.

Farmers in Maharashtra told AFP last month that they used to pay Rs 450 for a bag of traditional seed, but about 1,600 for GM seed.