Indian tribal farmers hold placards as they take part in a demonstration against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to protest against the promotion of multinationals in farming sector by the Indian government at the time in Bhopal, India, 31 March 2012. Farmers staged protests under the campaign ‘Hamara Beej Abhiyan’ or ‘Our Seed Agitation’ to protest against Monsanto, the US-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, and other world trade organisations, demanding they leave India. The farmers claimed that one decade has completed for the BT cotton industry accepted in professional farming as a result of which farmers engaged in cotton farming have become helpless and poor by the day and also got debt-ridden and are compelled to commit suicide from time to time. The farmers alleged that with the introduction of genetically modified BT cotton in the country, such companies are monopolising the seed industry.
India is dumping Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt cotton in favor of “desi”, an indigenous variety, which comes at half the cost and farmers are allowed to save seed to plant next year.
Sales of the seed are down by 15% year on year, worth $75 million according to Reuters.
Monsanto stands losing the world’s biggest cotton producer and second largest exporter of the fiber. While Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered cotton variety remains dominant, the government is promoting indigenous varieties. Monsanto may have lost as much as 5% to indigenous varieties this year alone.
Additional losses come from Indian farmers dumping the water-intensive cotton in favour of other crops, like pulses and lentils; there has been a 10% drop in cotton production year-on-year.
The main competitive advantage of the Monsanto seed is resistance to pest such as the bollworm, but not to the whitefly, especially common in India during dry seasons. Local varieties appear more resistant to whitefly, while Monsanto’s resistance to bollworm is declining.