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

The East African - - BUSINESS - By KENNEDY SENELWA Spe­cial Correspondent

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

Pic­ture: File

Ex­perts say the deals will open Mon­santo to stiffer com­pe­ti­tion.

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