GENET archive


APPROVAL: Monsanto sees India adopting biotech corn in 5 yrs

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Reuters, India

AUTHOR: Euan Rocha


DATE:   12.12.2008

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - U.S. biotech company Monsanto Co hopes to gain regulatory approvals to commercialize some varieties of its biotech corn in India in about five years, a company official said on Thursday.

?There is a fundamental (amount of) time that is required for crops to be evaluated ... We can be in the four-year time frame, but my guess is we will be in the five-year time frame on this one,? Sekhar Natarajan, head of Monsanto?s Indian operations, said in an interview with Reuters.

Monsanto, which has been operating in India for almost six decades, recently got approvals to start initial trials for some varieties of its YieldGard and Roundup Ready corn seeds.

India has taken a conservative approach to the adoption of biotech crops due to efficacy- and safety-related concerns. The country only approved Monsanto?s Bollgard BT cotton trait in 2002. Since then it has also approved Bollgard II technology -- the traits protect the cotton crop against bollworms and other pests.

The Bollgard traits -- which are marketed by MMB, an equally owned joint venture with Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co -- have been a success for the company, and in 2008 Bollgard seeds were grown on 17.2 million acres, or 76 percent of India?s total cotton acreage, according to Monsanto.

Monsanto contends that the wide acceptance of Bollgard has moved India from being a net importer of cotton to being the world?s second-largest exporter.

?We are seeing how small farmers, given the right tools, innovations and technologies, can really turn around and make India a powerhouse in agricultural crops,? said Natarajan.

Monsanto is now conducting trials on its third generation of Bollgard cotton, which it hopes to launch in about three years. The new seeds will be stacked with a Roundup Ready trait, which will make the crop tolerant of glyphosate -- a common herbicide used for weed control that was originally developed by Monsanto.


In fiscal 2007, Monsanto India Ltd, which is 72 percent owned by Monsanto Co, posted revenues of 3.4 billion rupees, or about $70.4 million.

While Monsanto India?s revenue was still a fraction of the parent company?s fiscal 2007 revenue of $8.35 billion, Monsanto plans to double its revenue in India by 2012, said Natarajan.

In India, Monsanto is currently focused on expanding its corn, cotton and vegetable seeds businesses, while also growing its glyphosate herbicide business.

Monsanto is pushing to convert more Indian corn farmers to using hybrid seeds. Only 45 percent of the corn grown in India currently comes from hybrid seeds, so the company sees strong growth potential in this market, even before the commercialization of biotech corn seeds.

Natarajan sees the drought-tolerance traits which Monsanto is currently developing as proving to be a great prospect for Indian farmers in the years ahead, as crop yields in many parts of India are primarily limited by a lack of adequate irrigation.

The company would consider making acquisitions in India to grow its businesses, said Natarajan.

?We continually evaluate opportunities in India and around the world for appropriate acquisitions that can strengthen our pipeline, R&D, breeding efforts, or market access,? he said.

?I look at Monsanto in India as in a growth mode. But, yes we are going to be careful about how we invest, because we don?t want to throw caution to the wind.?

($1 = 48.30 Indian rupees)

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Commodity Online, India



DATE:   11.12.2008

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NEW DELHI: In order to boost cotton production and enhance the quality, the government has taken several steps including the release of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt.) cotton.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha the Minister of State for Textiles, E V K S Elangovan said, there is a marginal decline in the production of textile items due to various external and internal factors including high input costs.

The Government has taken following steps to increase the yield and to enhance the quality of cotton: The Government had launched Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC) in February 2000 to increase the production, productivity and quality of cotton fibre in a mission mode.

The Mission has achieved success in reducing the contamination and enhancing the quality to the international standard through the upgradation of cotton market yards and modernization of ginning and pressing factories.

Since 2003-04, the Government had commercially released Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt.) cotton, which is pest resistant, to improve the cotton yield and quality. This new application of technologies i.e. biotechnology has resulted in more cotton produced from lands already in production, more efficient use of water resources and less use of farm chemicals.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India

AUTHOR: G. Chandrashekhar


DATE:   15.12.2008

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Govt under pressure to explore other crops

Mumbai, Dec. 14 The Union Minister for Health, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, is reportedly opposed to the entry of genetically modified (GM) foods and seeds. The basis of the Minister?s opposition is unclear. Whether it is based on sound science or out of ideology or political compulsion is something the Minister himself must clarify.

According to reports, the Minister?s political party ? Pattali Makkal Katchi ? had taken a political decision to oppose introduction of GM seeds.

A number of activist groups are, of course, opposed to cultivation of modified crops. Some of them had even indulged in vandalism, uprooting plants and disrupting research work.

Inspired by Bt cotton

On the other hand, the country?s experience in cultivation of GM cotton (Bt cotton) has been positive. After the introduction of the country?s first GM crop, cotton output has expanded by leaps and bounds. From 170 lakh bales five years ago, the output is over 310 lakh bales now.

Nearly 60 per cent of the total area under cotton is planted with Bt cottonseeds. Yields have considerably improved. Farmers have favoured the new technology seeds as they have perceived its value. This has turned India into an exporter of cotton from being a large importer five years ago.

The fact that technology has delivered cannot be denied. Inspired by the success of GM cotton, there is now pressure on the Government to explore other crops.

One such crop is Bt. brinjal, genetically modified brinjal, containing an alien gene Bascillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Trials on for Bt brinjal

Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co Ltd (Mahyco), which holds authorisation from the Government to research the seed, is already at the final stage of its trials.

Large-scale field trials are currently going on in 11 different locations in the country, including States such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

When contacted, Dr M.K. Sharma, General Manager at the company?s research centre at Jalna in Maharashtra, told Business Line that the large-scale field trials are going on for the second year according to Government directive through a Government agency ? Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR) headquartered at Varanasi.

Results of the large-scale field trials are yet to be received and compiled, the process of which may take up to a couple of months, he said. After that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee will take a decision about permitting commercialisation of the product.

Some positives

A popular vegetable grown across the country, brinjal faces threat from fruit shoot borer, an insect that growers claim creates huge problems. To fight the pest, growers indulge in frequent indiscriminate spraying of agro-chemicals.

According to Dr Sharma, spraying takes place between 25 and 60 times during the 120-130 days of the crop growth cycle.

This not only adds to production cost, but also pollutes the environment. On the other hand, the Bt. gene in the researched vegetable is known to repel fruit shoot borer and help save on agro-chemicals, the scientist added.

It is obvious the country?s Health Minister is unaware of what?s happening in the realm of scientific research. The Government is committed to encouraging agricultural biotechnology and introduction of technology seeds.

Checks in place

In order to address bio-safety-related issues, several layers of monitoring have been mandated. Corporates engaged in such seed research have to go through a series of closely monitored procedures.

Without doubt, food quality and safety, in addition to food access and affordability, are critical issues for the country. The Health Ministry is responsible for availability of safe food to consumers. Obviously, views of the Ministry would invariably influence policy decisions relating to introduction of technology seeds in agriculture, especially in food crops.

But what is disturbing is that here is a case where research has made substantial progress according to Government specified protocol and is in the final stages of conclusion.



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