Bt cotton: Karnataka high court lifts partial stay on central price control order

Industry body had approached the HC against portions of a union agriculture ministry order which regulated the maximum sale price of Bt cotton seeds

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: The Karnataka high court has lifted a stay on parts of a central cotton seed price control order which allowed the government to regulate royalty or trait fees being charged by technology providers.

On 21 March, the high court had said that the centre could not fix royalty as it is based on mutual agreements signed by companies.

Industry body for technology providers Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises Agriculture Group (ABLE-AG) had approached the high court against portions of a 7 December 2015 order of the union agriculture ministry which regulated the maximum sale price of Bt cotton seeds.

By this order, the government also sought to regulate royalty or trait fees charged by technology providers from seed companies.

In its 3 May order, Justice A.S. Bopanna said, “It is prima facie seen that the source of power to fix the maximum sale price including trait value is available and such step is taken to see that the essential commodity is made available at a fair price to farmers.”

The court also rejected the contention that Bt cotton seeds were not an essential commodity.

To continue the interim order would not be in public interest, the court said. It is the government’s duty to ensure production and supply of cotton seeds at a fair price and the interim order was hampering this, it added.

The latest order of the Karnataka high court is also temporary.

On 8 March, the government slashed prices of genetically modified cotton. It also cut the royalty fee component by 74%. The maximum sale price of Bollgard II cotton seeds was set at Rs.800 (per 450 gram packet) from Rs.830-1,000 earlier. Royalties were reduced from Rs.163 per packet to Rs.43 (excluding taxes).

Parts of the 7 December order were also challenged by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd in the Delhi high court. That case is also pending.

More than 90% of the cotton grown in India uses the Bollgard II technology, patented by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech.