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7-Business: Indian Cotton Mills Federation wants monopoly on Btcotton to go

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TITLE:  Mills want monopoly on Bt cotton to go
SOURCE: Financial Times - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, by M.R. Subramani
DATE:   Feb 2, 2003

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Mills want monopoly on Bt cotton to go

CHENNAI, Jan. 31. - EXCITED by the 'fairly successful' cultivation of Bt
(Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton, spinning mills have urged the Government
to permit more companies to produce the genetically-modified organism.

Currently, only Mahcyo Bt cotton, grown by the 50:50 joint venture
company of the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company and the US seeds major,
Monsanto, is allowed to be cultivated by farmers.

"The Indian Cotton Mills Federation (ICMF), the apex body of spinning
mills, has asked the Government seed prices should be reduced and the
monopoly on Bt cotton seed should be diluted by arranging more
suppliers," an industry sources told Business Line.

While a section of 55,000 farmers have reported poor results, a majority
of those who took to Bt cotton have reaped success, according to the sources.

"The Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) has been told by the Government that
there has been substantial improvement in yield and significant reduction
in spraying of pesticides in Bt cotton. A survey conducted by the
Agriculture Ministry has indicated that 80 per cent of the crop showed
excellent results, while 20 per cent did not fair well for various
reasons," the sources said.

CAB is a body that takes into account cotton cultivation, supply and
demand for each crop year. Textiles Ministry officials, industry, growers
and traders are all represented on it.

Stating that the mills did not have any problem with Bt cotton, the
source said "in fact, the industry is excited about the prospects of GM
cotton and is looking forward to increased cultivation of GM cotton in
the country."

It is in this context that the mills have demanded that more players be
allowed. While Monsanto itself is reportedly ready with another Bt
variety, a couple of other firms have prepared themselves to introduce
this GM variety.

First among these is the Tamil Nadu-based Rasi Seeds Company Ltd, which
got the Department of Biotechnology's nod to conduct field trials of
transgenic Bt Cotton containing the Cry 1A (c) gene. The company got
permission to conduct 15 trials.

Next is the Hyderabad-based Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) is planning to
introduce Bt technology into its 'Bunny' and 'Mallika' varieties of
cotton hybrids. It plans to hold field trials this year after getting the
Government's permission.

Though Bt cotton cultivation took place in western, central and southern
India, it was not allowed in North India since field trials were not
conducted earlier. However, with field trials being conducted in eight
places, the region might witness Bt cotton cultivation this year.

Mahyco-Monsanto has claimed that farmers reaped success with its Bt
cotton. It said a sample study showed an average increase in yield of
3.24 quintal per acre and an average reduction in pesticide use per acre
of Rs 770, translating to an increase in income for farmers to the extent
of Rs 7,260 per acre.

However, no details are available yet on the prices commanded by Bt
cotton. In fact, no price quotes are available for the Bt variety.

According to industry sources, currently price quotes are not possible as
it is difficult to distinguish Bt from non-Bt cotton. This is because the
volume of Bt cotton inflow is very less. Trading associations, too, are
not ready to list as they don't consider Bt cotton as a variety.

"But the bottom line is that the user industry faces no problem," the
sources added.