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BUSINESS & SEEDS: Agri biotech on fast track in India




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  AGRI BIOTECH ON FAST TRACK IN INDIA

SOURCE: The Economic Times, India

AUTHOR: Press Trust of India

URL:    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/Economy/Agri_biotech_on_fast_track_in_India/articleshow/2237660.cms

DATE:   27.07.2007

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AGRI BIOTECH ON FAST TRACK IN INDIA

 

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please download the USDA report at:

http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200707/146291827.pdf

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NEW DELHI: Riding on the success of Bt cotton, agriculture biotechnology has emerged as one of the fastest growing biotech industries in India in recent years, a latest report of the US department of agriculture (USDA) has said.

”It is the third largest contributor among various biotech sectors with total revenues of more than $229 million in 2006-07 fiscal, registering a growth of 55%,”? the report said. Export revenue from agriculture biotechnology has grown to $11.6 million in 2006-07 from around $8 million in the previous year, it added. The report, titled ”India biotechnology” and prepared by Santosh Kumar Singh, claimed Bt cotton coverage has surged over the past five years to cover 70% of total cotton area in 2007.

However, according to data available with the agriculture ministry, Bt cotton acreage stood at 24.4 lakh hectares, out of a total of 72.3 lakh hectares covered under cotton, till the week ended July 20 in the on-going kharif season. The USDA report said, the continuing legal issues pertaining to the pricing of Bt cotton seed are likely to be detrimental to technology transfer and foreign direct investment in India’s biotechnology sector. The report alleged that the regulatory process governing the biotechnology sector is not entirely science-based. ”The regulatory process, which is still evolving, is not entirely science-based,”? it said.

The environmental protection act of 1986 lays the foundation for India’s biotechnology regulatory framework, which involves a hierarchy of monitoring committees, it added. Commenting on import policy, USDA said India’s trade policy stipulates that imports of all biotech food and agricultural products, or products derived from biotech plants or organisms should receive prior approval from the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC).

”The only biotech product approved for commercial imports by India so far is soybean oil derived from round-up ready soybeans for consumption after refining,”? it said, adding agricultural trade balance is almost 3:1 in India’s favour. ”US exports to India estimated at $365 million and India’s exports to the US at $1.04 billion in 2006,”? the report said.

Agricultural trade between the US and India reached a record $1.4 billion in 2006, which excludes fish and forest products, it added. India’s major agricultural exports to the US include cashew, sugar, spices, essential oils, processed horticultural products, rice, tea and castor oil. While US exports to India are almonds, cotton, fresh fruits, pulses, soybean oil, processed horticultural products and other consumer food products.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  GEAC FOR SC ORDER MODIFICATION

SOURCE: The Financial Express, India

AUTHOR: Ashok B. Sharma

URL:    http://www.financialexpress.com/news/GEAC-for-SC-order-modification/211074/

DATE:   17.08.2007

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GEAC FOR SC ORDER MODIFICATION

New Delhi, Aug 17 The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), after approving field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops for the first time, has decided to file an application for modification of the Supreme Court order of May 8, 2007.

The Supreme Court in May 8, this year had stipulated that an isolation distance of 200 metre should be maintained during GM crops’ field trials. Prior to the field trials, the concerned company or the institution submit a validated event specific test protocol to detect at least 0.01% genetic contamination and confirm that there has been no contamination.

According to minutes of the 79th GEAC which was made available on Friday, implications of the Supreme Court order was discussed in the meeting and the members authorised the chairman, BS Parsheera to file an application urging the apex court to modify its order.

Deliberating on reports submitted by the GEAC sub-panel headed by the CICR director, BM Khadi and the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), members were of the view that a uniform isolation distance is not tenable as the nature of the pollen flow and level of contamination depends on the biology of the crop and the host environment in which it is being cultivated.

The GEAC noted that Indian Minimum Seed Certification Standards’ Manual has prescribed different isolation distance for different crops depending upon its nature of pollination and the pollinating agents GEAC also resolved that when adequate biosafety measures are to be ensured, the need for a validated protocol to detect at least 0.01% genetic contamination may be dispensed with.

However, while approving large scale field trials of four Bt Brinjal at five locations, the GEAC directed the developers to comply with the Supreme Court order, until iit is favourably modified.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:  NEW BT COTTON VERSION TO HIT MARKET BY 2010

SOURCE: CommodityOnline, India

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.commodityonline.com/news/topstory/newsdetails.php?id=2421

DATE:   23.08.2007

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NEW BT COTTON VERSION TO HIT MARKET BY 2010

NEW DELHI: The war for GM seeds is hotting up. In a new development, JK Agri Genetics Ltd is planning to commercially launch an improved version of its Bt Cotton, containing a stacked combination of cry1Ac and cry1EC genes, by 2010.

The new version of Bt Cotton, which has already been approved for multi-location research trials (MLRT) at 16 locations in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu during the current kharif season, will give competition to Monsanto’s Bollgard-II.

According to company officials, if things proceed as per schedule (one year of MLRT and two years of large-scale field trials), the new stacked gene event should hit the market in kharif 2010.

JK Agri Genetics Ltd, a Rs 85-crore Hyderabad-based company, which is part of H S Singhania’s JK Organisation, had introduced its first event — involving incorporation of the cry1Ac gene from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), in four cotton hybrids — during the 2006 season.

The gene construct technology for this event was sourced from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. The company got the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee’s (GEAC) clearance to market four more hybrids based on the same event in the current season.

In kharif 2006, the company sold around two lakh packets, each containing 450 gm of our Bt hybrid cotton seeds. This year, the firm has sold around six lakh packet. At Rs 750 per packet, it would translate into a business of roughly Rs 45 crore.

JK Agri is next targeting the commercialisation of an improved Bt Cotton version, entailing pyramiding of a new cry1EC gene on the existing cry1Ac gene-based hybrids.

The technology for the new gene construct has been obtained from yet another publicly funded laboratory – the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) National Botanical Research Institute at Lucknow.

The cry1Ac gene synthesises proteins that are toxic to the dreaded Helicoverpa armigera or American bollworm insect pest, thereby, reducing reliance on spraying pesticides.

While JK Agri’s first event was a variant of Monsanto’s Bollgard-I (featuring the same cry1Ac gene and cleared for commercial release in 2002), the new event is expected to provide competition to the US life sciences major’s Bollgard-II.



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  BT COTTON CULTIVATION STARTS IN BENGAL: AGRI MINISTER

SOURCE: newKerala.com, India

AUTHOR: United News of India

URL:    http://www.newkerala.com/july.php?action=fullnews&id=51484

DATE:   03.08.2007

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BT COTTON CULTIVATION STARTS IN BENGAL: AGRI MINISTER

Kolkata, Aug 3: The cultivation of Monsanto’s BT cotton in Vidarbha, which resulted in disaster last year killing more than 540 farmers, is now making silent entry to Bengal. The cultivation of Monsanto’s BT cotton in Vidarbha--the main cotton growing belt of Maharashtra resulted in disaster. Literally hundreds of farmers committed suicide due to total failure of the Bt cotton crop and their resulting debts. Speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a seminar on ”Agri-biotechnology: Opportunities & Challanges” organised by ASSOCHAM, West Bengal Minister Agriculture Minister Naren Dey said,”We have started BT Cotton field trail.” When asked about BT Cotton cultivation in the state, Agriculture Secretary Atanu Purakayashta said there is no bar on cotton cultivation. ”The Bengal government is increasing cotton cultivation from 500 to 5,000 hecatres by the end of the 11th plan period,” he said. Member Secretary and Advisor to Department of Biotechnology, under government of India, Dr KK Tripathi said, ”The biotechnological application can bring about a lot of scientific challanges in front of us.”



                                  PART 5

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GMO CROPS LAUNCH DELAY HURTS SEED INDUSTRY

SOURCE: The Economic Times, India

AUTHOR: Reuters

URL:    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/Economy/GMO_crops_launch_delay_hurts_seed_industry/articleshow/2258972.cms

DATE:   06.08.2007

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GMO CROPS LAUNCH DELAY HURTS SEED INDUSTRY

MUMBAI: India’s hesitation to allow sale of genetically modified food and cash crops other than cotton is cramping growth of the biotech-based seed industry, players said.

After BT Cotton received the nod in 2002, the federal government has withheld approval for the commercialisation of any other genetically modified (GMO) crop.

Civil protests led to the Indian Supreme Court staying multilocation trials of GMO food crops. India’s stringent bio-safety norms have also been partly blamed for the delay.

In the past, several state governments, including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka have tried to control Bt cotton seed prices as cotton seed was an essential commodity.

However, the central government’s decision to remove cotton seed from the list in February prompted the Andhra Pradesh government to introduce an ordinance to regulate prices in the state last week.

The ordinance aims to cut prices of the new Bt cotton seed variety, Bollgard-II, by 21 percent to 750 rupees per 450-gram packet. Other states may follow suit, say industry watchers.

”No clear policy directive, and state intervention into seed marketing, has affected the revenue of seed companies drastically,” said S. Raghuraman, head of research with agri-sector research firm, Agriwatch.

The largest Indian GMO seed company, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (MMB), a joint venture between the Indian arm of Monsanto and privately held Mahyco, reported a revenue decline of 62 percent to 1.5 billion rupees in 2006/07.

Monsanto India , which sells Bt technology to seed companies, has seen revenues erode since 2004/05. Last year its revenue fell 7 percent to 3.09 billion rupees.

Bt cotton has found favour with a section of the farmers due to higher yields and reduced pesticide costs. However, there is opposition to GMO crops on several counts, including higher cultivation costs. Trade sources said more than half of the cotton area is expected to be under GMO cotton in 2007 crop season, but a high adoption rate will not be enough for growth.

State intervention in fixing Bt cotton seed prices is to blame, said M.K. Sharma, managing director of MMB.

”Although adoption has been higher, earnings will be comparatively lower, thereby impacting new investments.”

 

R&D HIT

Following Bt Cotton commercialisation, several seed companies have been heavily investing, some as much as 15 percent of revenue, to develop new GMO crops, R.K. Sinha, executive director of industry body All India Crop Biotechnology Association, said.

However, R&D spend will be hit if the government drags its feet on commercialisation of new GMO crops, say players.

”We spend a vast amount of capital on R&D prior to having a crop approved for commercialisation,” Sekhar Natarajan, Monsanto’s India regional lead said. ”If the approval is delayed, then our return on investment is also delayed”.

”It would be difficult for any company in any industry to consider bringing new technologies to India in a market where prices are set by the state governments,” Sharma said.


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