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2-Plants: Monsanto to begin GM corn trials in India soon

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TITLE:  Monsanto to begin GM corn trials in India soon
SOURCE: The Economic Times, India, by Sudha Nagaraj
DATE:   June 7, 2003

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Monsanto to begin GM corn trials in India soon

NEW DELHI: Monsanto has imported two kg of transgenic maize into the
country and will begin pollen flow studies very soon - in this khariff season.

The Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation has authorised the studies
which is the first step in a long and complicated regulatory process
which may run to several years.

Reliable sources in the company revealed that the Roundup Ready corn
seeds were imported through the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research
(NBPGR) who received it and conducted checks before declaring
satisfaction over the "research material."

Roundup is the name of Monsanto's agricultural herbicides. And as the
name implies, Roundup Ready corn will not be destroyed if Monsanto's
herbicide is used to kill all other weeds that damage and destroy maize.
This GM corn has cleared food, feed and environmental safety regulations
in US, Canada and Japan. However, country-specific clearance is required
due to the varying agro-climatic and soil conditions.

"Corn has greater pollen flow than cotton. It would require a large
enough area and we are looking at various options, mostly agricultural
universities, to conduct the study," the sources said. Confirming the
development, government sources said that a single location pollen flow
study would begin at the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth in Rahuri in
Maharashtra by end June. "The present habit of hand-picking of weeds is
not effective and takes a heavy toll on the farmer. A proven herbicide
tolerant corn means they can resort to spraying which is more
convenient," sources said.

Pollen flow studies essentially means studying the pattern of pollen
scatter and whether it would affect other varieties of corn or other crops.

Following this a range of biosafety studies also have to be done to
establish its effect on flora, fauna, humans, environment and so on only
after which the RCGM will give its nod.

The agronomic evaluation would be the next stage involving limited and
large-scale field trials to be cleared by the Monitoring and Evaluation
Committee. It is only after this that the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee will take a view.

All regulatory studies would be done under guidance, including the
ministries of environment, agriculture and science and technology as also
expert bodies involved are all inter-ministerial.


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