New Delhi The Centre has sought details from the Maharashtra government about reasons for cancelling the licence of private seed firm Mahyco to sell Bt cotton seeds in the state.

The Union Agriculture Ministry has also asked Mahyco to submit its views, a senior government official said. On August 8, the state government had issued an order cancelling the licence of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) to sell Bt cotton seeds with immediate effect, following various complaints against the company for creating artificial shortage and charging higher prices.

Environmentalists have called for stopping all field trials of genetically (GM) modified crops and a wider public debate on the issue.

New Delhi Maharashtra has banned the sale and distribution of the genetically modified cotton seeds of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) with immediate effect on charges of supplying inferior quality seeds, a senior state government official said on Thursday.

“Mahyco has not received any official communication from the Maharashtra government about the cancellation of its license to sell Bt cotton seeds in the state,” the company said in a statement. “Mahyco has complied with all the guidelines set by the state agriculture department and has always provided required information to the agriculture department....We will address the concerns raised by the authority once we have received the official communication from the department,” the statement added.

‘Probe how Bt brinjal seed was allowed to be commercialised’

In a major setback to the proponents of genetically modified technology in farm crops, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture on Thursday asked the government to stop all field trials and sought a bar on GM food crops (such as Bt. brinjal). The committee report, tabled in the Lok Sabha, demanded a “thorough probe” into how permission was given to commercialise Bt. brinjal seed when all evaluation tests were not carried out.

Complaints that Mahyco is exploiting farmers, promoting black marketing and ignoring rules have led the Maharashtra government to call into question the agri biotechnology company’s licence to prod

Can develop generics only by referring to an India-approved innovator biologic drug

Companies such as Biocon, Panacea Biotec and Avesthagen will now have to follow a fresh set of norms while seeking marketing approval for their biotech products in India. The new norms mandate that companies can develop a biosimilar or a biotechnology generic drugs only by referring to an innovator biologic drug approved in India. The guidelines, though, fail to address the issue of testing of such drugs with no details on patient size for clinical trials.

The Himachal Pradesh government has cleared a proposal for setting up two industrial units which are likely to bring in investments worth Rs 215 crore. The Rs 196 crore unit of Indian Tecnomac company will manufacture aluminum granules and quick lime which is likely to generate 624 jobs.

The Rs 19 crore project of Panacea Biotech would expand its operations in the state and would open 52 jobs vacancies, a spokesman for the state government said.

The Government has to step in to curb the stranglehold the seed companies have over the choice of seeds, speakers at a round table on ‘Protecting Farmers from Seed Crises' said.

Multinational seed companies like Monsanto are dominating the market and not allowing farmers to retain a portion of their crop for seed, K Nageswara Rao of the All-India Kisan Sabha said here on Friday. He demanded that the Government step in to curb black marketing of seeds.

The Association of Biotech Led Enterprises(ABLE), the voice of the biotechnology industry in India, has urged for a series of reforms to propel the sector in the next phase of its growth.

The important one among them includes the ones pertaining to finance — upto Rs 5,000 crore biomanufacturing fund for soft loans at 4-6 per cent with a two-year moratorium and five-year tax holiday from date of commercialisation; larger SEZs specifically meant for biologics, including biotech drugs under the ‘free medicines scheme’ being contemplated by the Government of India;

Biotech industry’s propaganda is false

The only transgenic crop grown in India is Bt cotton developed by injecting a toxin from a soil bacterium called Bacillus Thuringiensis [Bt] into a cotton seed through a highly sophisticated process. When planted the seed produces a highly toxic cotton plant. Its roots, stem, leaves and boll continuously secrete Bt toxin.