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2-Plants: GE crop news from Monsanto India and ICRISAT

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  'Bt cotton not a failure'
SOURCE: The Hindu, India
DATE:   Jan 21, 2003

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'Bt cotton not a failure'

NEW DELHI Jan. 20. Contrary to the earlier reports that the genetically
modified Bt Cotton had been a failure in many areas, the Mahyco Monsanto
Biotech (India) today claimed that a comprehensive survey of the farmers
who had completed their final picking of the crop showed that they had
earned an extra income of Rs. 7,000 per acre. According to the company,
nearly 55,000 farmers who had already harvested their crop reported 30
per cent increase in their yields and a 65 to 70 per cent reduction in
the use of pesticides. In a press release, the company said the farmers
in Madhya Pradesh reported the maximum gain of Rs. 9,600 per acre,
followed by those in Gujarat (Rs. 7,370), Maharashtra (Rs. 7250),
Karnataka (Rs. 6,480) and Andhra Pradesh (Rs. 5930). "In Tamil Nadu, the
harvesting is yet to be completed, but farmers are excited by the
performance of the crop so far", the release said. Savings on pesticide
usage was to the extent of Rs. 1,090 per acre in Andhra Pradesh, Rs. 950
per acre in Madhya Pradesh, Rs. 720 per acre in Maharashtra, Rs. 610 per
acre in Karnataka and Rs. 530 per acre in Gujarat, the report said. The
Bt Cotton, which is the first ever biotech crop to be cultivated in
India, was planted in June last year, two months after the Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee under the Union Environment Ministry gave
its nod for its limited plantation.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Field trials for GM chickpea by 2004
SOURCE: The Hindu Business, India, by Ch. Prashanth Reddy
DATE:   Jan 20, 2003

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Field trials for GM chickpea by 2004

HYDERABAD, Jan. 19 - THE International Crops Research Institute for Semi-
Arid Tropics (Icrisat), here is hopeful of conducting field trials of
genetically modified seed of chickpea by 2004. The institute is currently
testing the transgenics in greenhouses. According to Icrisat scientists,
Dr P.M. Gaur, Dr C.L.L. Gowda and others, the institute is using
biotechnology to address several pests of chickpea including helicoverpa
pod borer, botrytis gray mold, ascochyta blight, dry root rot, drought
and cold. Protocols for efficient transformation and regeneration of
chickpea have been developed. They said the transgenics had been
successfully produced for resistance to pod borer by using genes derived
from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis and soyabean trypsin
inhibitor. The molecular characterisation and bioassays are currently
going on. The first field trial of this product was anticipated by 2004.
Besides, Icrisat has taken up a project, funded under the Indo-Swiss
collaboration in biotechnology, for developing transgenic chickpea that
would be tolerant to drought and low temperature stresses by using genes
with regulatory functions such as drought responsive elements and osmo-

The global demand for chickpea, as per Icrisat's estimates, will be
around 11.1 million tonnes (mt) by 2010 as against 8.2 mt in 2001-02, an
increase of 35 per cent. Approximately 85 per cent of the additional
demand will come from India. A combination of yield and area expansion is
the possible option in meeting the projected additional demand. At
present, global productivity of chickpea at 0.8 tonne per hectare is far
below the potential of 5 tonnes per hectare.

Apart from chickpea, Icrisat is the first institute to develop transgenic
groundnut in the world. Its transgenic peanuts have reached the field
trial stage and it was expected to conduct open field trials by this
year-end. These groundnuts are engineered with the genes for resistance
to Indian peanut clump virus (IPCV), which is widespread in the country.
Last year, the Department of Biotechnology had given permission to carry
out field trials under controlled conditions. Icrisat is also in the
process of developing genetically modified pigeon pea, sorghum and pearl
millet. The institute has found that some of its pearl millet genotypes
with yellow endosperm were having beta-carotene levels comparable to
those of "golden rice".