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December 15, 2009

Will Metahelix Bt Cotton plan succeed?

Forbes India has an article on how the VC-backed agri-biotech company is taking on the big daddy of the Bt Cotton space (Monsanto).
Sometimes in the midst of all these technologies we forget that farmers don’t grow cotton to kill pests, but to get a better yield,” says Narayanan. If Metahelix can engineer a hybrid that can grow faster, utilise nutrient-s more effectively or produce a better yield, that might be its differentiator. This opinion is shared by Suman Sahai, convener of rural advocacy group Gene Campaign. “The success of Bt. cotton in India owes as much to the hybrids developed by Rasi and Nuziveedu, as to Monsanto’s technology. In fact, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB)’s initial seeds which were the first to get government approval were spectacular failures,” she says.

...when it goes to the market next year, its strategy will be two-pronged: Convince farmers using Bollgard-1 cotton (the first generation of Bt. seeds) to upgrade to Metahelix’s seed which offers added protection against pests, and demonstrate to Bollgard-2 (second generation Bt. seeds) farmers how their hybrid varieties offer better yields while offering the same level of pest protection.

In order to do this it is organising demonstrations of its cotton crops in over 250 locations around the country, where farmers will be allowed to examine Metahelix’s claims through live crops. It is also combining this with village-level meetings where company representatives will explain the benefits of their products over the competition.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at