K. V. Kurmanath
The Seed Bill might have been put on the backburner; but small and medium seed companies feel that it is only a temporary respite. They feel that the Bill, when passed by the Lok Sabha, could adversely impact their business prospects.
In a detailed note on the Bill to be circulated among its members, they said that “new technologies are coming up in large numbers with patent protection. This is fraught with danger as patentees are out to exploit their patents to the hilt, charging huge royalties on seed technologies”. This segment plays an important role in the Rs 8,000-crore seed industry, catering to local needs. Hybrid seeds, including GM hybrids, dominate the scene with a 75-80 per cent market share . They act as big source of seeds for bigger seed companies. Though there are about 300 seed firms in the market, only around 15 of those are large .
“Poor farmers cannot afford these huge fees. The Seed Bill is not giving any hope in this regard,” a representative of Seedsmen Association of Andhra Pradesh said.
The association has called for reserving a certain percentage of the newly developed crop technologies by private seed companies to the small and medium seed companies. It has cited the examples of compulsory sourcing clauses the Government has put in place to protect the interests of the small-scale industry and handloom sector.
“If you do not bring in such reservation, there is every possibility of small and medium seed firms going into the hands of multinational companies. The new Seed Bill will serve only the large and MNC seed companies because they have the wherewithal to conduct research and development and invest heavily in human resources and expansion,” the seed industry representative said.