The Supreme Court’s recent order allowing the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to consider granting approvals to more than 24 items, including genetically-modified cotton and rice, couldn’t have come soon enough for Vibha Agrotech Ltd.
The Hyderabad-based hybrid-seed company’s chief managing director, P. Vidyasagar, says he can now go back to selling hybrid seeds developed by his company to delivery agents, who, in turn, provide them to farmers.
Vibha Agrotech is one of the 35 companies that had submitted applications to GEAC, the apex body that approves genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), seeking permission to market hybrids of Bt-cotton—the only GM seed that can be marketed in India.
“We have had to go back on our packing and delivering commitments, signed before the stay order. Moreover, I still had to continue paying my ‘seed’ farmers,” he said.
Seed farmers, like contract farmers, cultivate crops for the company to produce desired kinds of seeds.
“In the last eight months, I’ve lost over Rs15 crore,” Vidyasagar claimed. That includes licensing fees that Vibha pays seed-technology developers.
GEAC’s work has been halted since 22 September. The committee met on Friday to discuss approving varieties of cotton for North and Central India. The sowing season is expected to begin in the South around the first week of June.
“For every month approvals are delayed, the industry suffers losses worth Rs50 crore,” Vidyasagar said.
R.K. Sinha, a spokesperson for the National Seed Association of India, the country’s largest seed-industry consortium, said while he couldn’t comment on the exact loss to the industry from the delays, “Vidyasagar knows the ground and financial realities well”.
Hema Chawda, owner of VNR Seeds Pvt. Ltd, also pegged her current losses at around Rs10 crore.