Indian farmers cotton on to new seed, in blow to Monsanto

In a tiny hamlet at the heart of the cotton belt in northern India, Ramandeep Mann planted Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt cotton seed for over a decade, but that changed after a whitefly blight last year.

Mann’s 25-acre farm in Punjab’s Bhatinda district now boasts “desi”, or indigenous, cotton shrubs that promise good yields and pest resistance at a fraction of the cost.

Mann is not alone.

Thousands of cotton farmers across the north of India, the world’s biggest producer and second largest exporter of the fiber, have switched to the new local variety, spelling trouble for seed giant Monsanto in its most important cotton market outside the Americas.

The Indian government is actively promoting the new homegrown seeds, having already capped prices and royalties that the world’s largest seed company is able to charge.