Up take of GM cotton in Africa is the next battle ground for bio-tech firms
Monsanto dominates GM cotton seed sales on the continent
Africa could become a battleground for European, US and Asian multinationals seeking to control the growing of genetically modified cotton in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi.
The scramble for the GM seed market is expected to intensify next year after two notable multinational mergers: The $66 billion takeover of Monsato by Germany’s Bayer AG, and the $43 billion acquisition of Switzerland’s Syngenta AG by China National Chemical Corporation (Chemchina).
Experts say the deals will open Monsanto to stiffer competition from Chemchina which could support supply of cheaper generic GM cotton seed by other bio-tech companies — besides Monsato — to African farmers.
The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), a Johannesburgbased lobby group, said the fight for control of GM agriculture in Africa could play out between Bayer AG and Chemchina, with Indian companies also coming into play in the future.
GM cotton seeds such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) increases yields through in built resistance to pests like bollworms which lowers production costs by reduc- ing use of insecticides. However, Bt cotton seeds are more expensive compared with conventional seeds.
Monsanto dominates the global market as the sole owner of Bollgard technology cotton approved for commercial growing in US, China, South Africa, Argentina, India, Brazil, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Pakistan and Myanmar.
Chinese and Indian technology firms have been producing cheaper generic versions after Bollgard I patent expired in 2011. During the life of the patent, Monsanto sold seeds and got fees for use of the technology from rival biotech firms.
Ethiopia prefers seed from India and Sudan, rather than Monsanto’s Bt cotton.” African Centre for Biodiversity
Experts say the deals will open Monsanto to stiffer competition.