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2-Plants: Some details on Bt-cotton rejection by Indian authority

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TITLE:  Bt Mech 915 Hybrid Cottonseed Sensitive To Leaf Curl Virus: GEAC
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok Sharma
DATE:   Apr 27, 2003

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Bt Mech 915 Hybrid Cottonseed Sensitive To Leaf Curl Virus: GEAC

The Bt Mech 915 hybrid cottonseed developed by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech
(I) is sensitive to dangerous leaf curl virus, said Genetic Engineering
Approval Committee (GEAC) chairperson Sushama Choudhary.

Greenpeace India scientific advisor Dr Asish Tayal also said that his
organisation's survey of the field trials in Punjab and interview of
farmers found that Bt Mech 915 variety was sensitive to leaf curl virus.
Quoting farmers, he said that on Bt cotton spraying of pesticides cost Rs
3,500 per acre as compared to Rs 3,000 per acre in case of non-Bt cotton.

Leaf curl virus, which damages cotton crop and decreases its yield,
usually occurs on susceptible cotton crop and can easily be carried by
white flies to other crops in the region and cause considerable damage.

Therefore, it was because of this reason that GEAC, at its meeting on
April 25, rejected MMB's application for commercial cultivation of Bt
Mech 915 variety of Bt cottonseed in northern India.

Incidentaly, this apect of Mech 915 Bt cottonseed was highlighted as one
of the shortcomings of Mech 915 hybrid cottonseed in its cautionary note
by the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR). Also, the CICR
report analysing the fibre samples of Bt cotton said that it was not up
to the mark.

Also, the CICR report stated, "When the average yield of seed cotton of
north India is considered, the other hybrids gave higher yield over Bt
Mech 915." The report noted that the population of aphids, jassids and
white flies were less on Bt Mech 915 as compared to Bt Mech 162, but it
was at par with other check entries. The CICR had conducted detailed
evaluations of field trials in nine locations in north India including
Sirsa and Hisar in Haryana, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Abohar in Punjab,
Sriganganagar and Banswara in Rajasthan and Mdipuram and Kanpur in Uttar

One good aspect of Bt Mech 915, which the CICR found, was that it could
be harvested within 150 days. This short-duration crop can be ideally
suited for the irrigated areas of north India which are already under
intensive cultivation of paddy in summer followed by wheat in winter.

Cottonseeds like Bt Mech 915, non-Bt Mech 915, Bt Mech 162, non-Bt Mech
162, Om Shankar (national check variety), LHH-144 (national check
variety) and local check varieties were sown between April 26, 2002 and
May 5, 2002, the ideal time for sowing in north India. Bt Mech 162 has
already been approved for cultivation in the southern and central India.
This variety was taken in current trials as a matter of comparison. The
trials of all locations were conducted as per protocols provided by All
India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project (AICCIP). Based on the
CIRCOT analysis of the fibre samples of the trials, obtained from Sirsa
and Modipuram, it found that no hybrid had fibre strength of length ratio
of 0.80 and above, as set by CIRCOT, Mumbai. The CICR report, however,
admitted that the fibre strength to length ratio of the national check
variety, LHH-144 was satisfactory at 0.79.

Under integrated pest management (IPM) practices, the Bt Mech 915 variety
recorded lower incidence of all sap-sucking pests across the locations.
The CICR report said that the difference in the number of Sympodia,
number of bolls per plant and boll weight in all the varieties under
trial were not significant. Bt Mech 915 can be very well compared with
other test hybrids in respect of lint index and seed index.