GENET archive


PLANTS: GM crops get a subsidy boost in India

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GM crops get a subsidy boost
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India
AUTHOR: Ashok B. Sharma
DATE:   10.03.2007

GM crops get a subsidy boost

NEW DELHI, MAR 9 :  To promote genetically modified (GM) crops in the
country, the government has announced a special subsidy package. The
National Horticulture Board in its recent document has announced backed-
ended capital investment subsidy for projects developing genetic
modified organisms (GMOs) and bio-technology.

The NHB has also proposed similar subsidy for high-density plantations,
micro-propogation or tissue culture for mass production of "true-to
types", hi-tech cultivation under controlled climatic conditions like
poly-houses, green houses and net-houses, rainfed production through
efficient water management techniques, nursery management for quality
seed and planning material production, hybrid seed production, organic
farming, hydroponics for year-round quality production and for use of
plastics in horticulture.

Priority areas have also been defined to include export-oriented units,
projects in cooperative sectors, projects in Northeast, and those
involving women entrepreneurs. No GM horticulture crops have so far been
approved for commercial cultivation, while a number of them are in the

Exporters have expressed apprehensions that the introductions of GM food
crops are likely to affect exports.

Speaking to FE, executive director, Centre for International Trade in
Agriculture Agro-based Industries (CITA), Vijay Sardana, said: "The
government should formulate an uniform policy on genetic modified
organisms, taking into consideration their trade aspects. A public
interest litigation is pending before the Supreme Court and the apex
court has imposed a temporary ban on any fresh approval of GM crop
trials. The commerce ministry has already asked the Genetic Engineering
Approval Committee (GEAC) not to approve field trials of GM crops in
agri export zones. All these point to the need for a clear-cut policy on
genetic modified organisms."

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                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Seeking better biotech 'yields'
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India
AUTHOR: Sudhir Chowdhary
DATE:   12.03.2007

Seeking better biotech 'yields'

Genetic modification is going through the same fear process which many
technologies have seen in the past. "Any new technology would reach
perfection over time and the same holds true for genetically modified
(GM) or transgenic crops," says B Sesikeran, director, National
Institute of Nutrition.

Despite remaining a sensitive issue here as well around the world, India
is emerging as a test-bed for biotech crops. Several government-funded
R&D projects are being carried out in research institutions to achieve
this. Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, Central
Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and
Diagnostics, Hyderabad, among others, are engaged in advanced research
to develop transgenic rice.

Reduction of post-harvest losses, particularly in fruits and vegetables,
through delayed ripening genes, is also a major thrust. Besides IARI,
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
(ICRISAT), Hyderabad, Mahyco, Sungro Seeds and Monsanto are conducting
multi-location field trials of transgenic crops like cabbage,
cauliflower, corn, brinjal, groundnut, mustard, rice and tomato. Others
like Indo-American Hybrid Seeds, Syngenta and Metahelix are working on
this front to create their own indigenous technology.

The march to explore new transgenic crops comes from the newfound
confidence gained from growing acceptance of Bt cotton, the only
transgenic crop approved for commercial cultivation. The country tallied
the most substantial percentage increase at 192% or 2.5 million hectares
to total 3.8 million hectares, jumping two spots in the world ranking to
become the fifth largest producer of biotech crops in the world,
surpassing China for the first time.

The United States continues to drive growth in North America and
globally, accounting for the greatest absolute acreage increase in 2006
with the addition of 4.8 million hectares. Brazil leads growth in South
America with an increase of 22% to total 11.5 million hectares of
soybeans and biotech cotton. Growth also continues in the countries of
the European Union (EU) where Slovakia became the sixth EU country out
of 25 to plant biotech crops.

All in all, farmers around the world continue rapid adoption of biotech
crops. Biotech crop area is now 102 million hectares. The number of
farmers planting biotech crops too has gone up to 10.3 million.
Agriculturalists expect these adoption levels to continue accelerating
in the times to come. By 2015, more than 20 million farmers are expected
to plant 200 million hectares of biotech crops in about 40 countries.

Scientists aver that the importance and potential of transgenic crops is
hard to ignore. Importantly, India - a country with first-hand
experience of the life-saving benefits of the Green Revolution in wheat
and rice - exported rice and imported wheat last year. Yields in both
wheat and rice are now plateauing and the conventional technology
currently used in wheat and rice and other crops will need to be
supplemented to feed a growing population that will increase by 50% to
1.5 billion by 2050. Hence, the aggressive focus in research on new
biotech crops.

KC Bansal, principal scientist, National Research Centre on Plant
Biotechology (NRCPB) says, "Higher adoption rates reflect farmer
satisfaction with the products that offer substantial benefits ranging
from better crop management, lower cost of production, higher
productivity and net returns per hectare."

The adoption of Bt cotton by India and China can greatly influence the
adoption and acceptance of biotech crops in countries throughout the
world, particularly in developing countries. It is noteworthy that both
countries elected to pursue a similar strategy by first exploring the
potential benefits of crop technology with a fibre crop, Bt cotton,
which has already generated significant and consistent benefits in
China, with the same pattern emerging in India, the largest grower of
cotton in the world.

Going forward, research focus will be on new robust varieties of food
crops that could be drought or salinity tolerant, says Sesikeran.
Biotech crops with drought-tolerant traits are expected to reach the
market within the next five years, unlocking substantial production
opportunities in dryer climates. Also, biofuels will be a major growth
driver. Biotech crops will be used to increase the efficiency and meet
added demand for alternative energy, as well as exploring biotech
options to bring cellulose-based ethanol from energy crops to market.

No wonder, India's thrust on research will speed up the introduction of
new biotech crops not only here but also influence others in adopting them.

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                                  PART III
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TITLE:  In Punjab village, everyone loves BT
AUTHOR: Arijit Sen
DATE:   11.03.2007

In Punjab village, everyone loves BT

Harkishanpura (Punjab): Everybody in Harkishanpura village, located in
southern Punjab, swears by BT cotton. But it was also this village that
was put up for sale by its residents not too long ago when the crops had

Five years ago in a meeting, the villagers decided to put up their
village for sale, but now BT cotton seems to have revived their fortune
and seems to have changed their lives.

And though the wheels of political fortune have swung the other way for
Captain Amarinder Singh, the village located in the Malwa belt remains
faithful to him and BT cotton.

"Situation is improving for BT cotton. Though it's not a situation to
repay loan but day-to-day needs are fulfilled," says a farmer.

But Harkishanpura is also the village where farmers, under severe debt,
committed suicide over the past few months.

Therefore, many like Gurdawal Kaur - whose son Jeevan Singh was among
the many who killed themselves - is skeptical about this newfound
enthusiasm for BT cotton.

"The water is brackish and it does not matter to us if the crops are
doing well," says Kaur.

It's a fear that finds support from scientists.

"The problem with BT is that there is not enough genetic literacy in
villages, as a result of which, they have no refuge. They grow old and
therefore sow older varieties," says scientist and member of National
Commission of Farmers, M S Swaminathan.

So while as of now Harkishanpura seems to have come out of its "village
for sale" times and everyone loves BT cotton, the question is how long
will this run continue.

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