The American agricultural giant, which has bet its future on crops genetically engineered to resist pests and herbicides, is suffering a major setback in the world’s second most populous land.
Farmers resent the company in part because they are no longer able to save seeds at the end of the harvest to plant the following year, but instead must honor the company’s patents and buy new every year, inflicting yet more economic hardship on hard-pressed smallholders.
But the main reason India’s farmers no longer buy the proprietary seeds is that they simply don’t work as promised.
From New Europe:
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.