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2-Plants: Indian firm develops 5 new Bt cotton varieties

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TITLE:  Salem firm develops 5 Bt cotton seed types
        Field trials conducted in co-ordination with ICAR
SOURCE: The Business Standard, India, by S Kalyana Ramanathan
DATE:   May 2, 2003

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Salem firm develops 5 Bt cotton seed types
Field trials conducted in co-ordination with ICAR

Rasi Seeds (P) Ltd, a seed supplier from Tamil Nadu, is expected to come
out with five of its own hybrid-Bt (Bacillus Thurengiensis) cotton seeds.

Field trials, according to company sources, were conducted in co-
ordination with Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR). The
company had on its own tested its transgenic Bt seeds in 10 locations in
the country, and another five locations were covered by ICAR.

The trials were conducted over a period of one year. The results
according to M Ramasami, managing director, Rasi Seeds, have been encouraging.

The results of the field trials have now been submitted to evaluation
committee under the Directorate of Bio-technology, Government of India.
Ramasami said, "The Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation met on April
23 and have recommended to Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
Ministry of Environment, for final its consideration."

GEAC, before it gives its verdict could ask for additional tests to be
conducted. If additional test are not recommended, Rasi could start
marketing its transgenic seeds to farmers as early as July. The company
expects the GEAC to give permission for supply of Bt cotton seeds to
caters to only about 1,500 acres.

"We would like to hear a favourable response from GEAC before May so that
we do not miss the next season," said Ramasami. Rasi Seeds has developed
five hybrid Bt cotton varieties. Some of these are meant for the southern
states and some for central India.

RCH-2, RCH-20 are targeted for Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Its other varieties include RCH-134, RCH-138 and RCH-144 would be
released in suitable combinations into the Central India.

On the Bt controversy, Ramasami said. "There are two issues we need to
focus on. First the Bt technology itself and another on the hybrid
variety into which the Bt gene is inserted.

Bt Cotton by itself does not promise higher yield. Farmers, by using Bt
Cotton, will save crop loss caused by bollworms. That results in higher

"In India, there are over 50 different types of hybrid seeds for cotton
alone. Selecting the right hybrid seeds to insert the Bt gene is
important. Since Bt by itself does not promise higher yield, one cannot
blame Bt if the seed in question is of a relatively low yield type,"
Ramasami said.