Companies are focusing on rice, corn, chickpea and cotton

There are some interesting comments from concerned Indian readers at the foot of this article on The Hindu’s website. For example, Shyamaprasad Bhattacharjee says:  

“The larger question is: Does India want to risk its large collection of crop varieties by letting in field trials of GM crops in the state , where from our union Environment Minister, Prakash Javedkar hails. In 2009, responding to large-scale opposition to Bt brinjal’s introduction in India, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh placed an indefinite moratorium on its further field testing. This was done after discussions with scientists, both pro and anti-GM crops, activists and farmers across the country. His successor, Jayanthi Natarajan, shared the same opinion; she was eased out of office and her successor Veerappa Moily lost no time in giving the green signal not just to Bt brinjal but the entire spectrum of GM crops for field testing. The BJP, in the opposition then, had opposed. Responding to a PIL [public interest lawsuit], 2006, the then Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal observed that the entire question should be examined by scientists. The committee formed, recommended stoppage of trial.”

Seed firms begin field trials of GM crops in Maharashtra

The Hindu Business Line, 31 March 2015

At least five large seed companies, including Monsanto, Mahyco and BASF, have started field trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops in Maharashtra, which granted permission earlier this year. The companies are focussing on crops such as rice, corn, chickpea, and cotton.

Mahyco, for instance, has started carrying out trials for GM rice in the Konkan region of coastal Maharashtra. The company eventually wants to develop a rice variety which will be tolerant to salinity in the environment. Others such as Monsanto, BASF, Sungro Seeds, and a large seed company based out of Andhra Pradesh have either started conducting field trials or are in the process of carrying out the same.

Public-private partnership

Mahyco, through its group company Sungro, is actively working on developing a GM chickpea (chana). Sungro is developing the seeds through a public-private partnership with Assam Agricultural University, which could increase farm production by 20-25 per cent.

Since the permission was granted in January, the company is waiting for the right weather to carry out the trials, according to an industry source.

German chemical company BASF, which also has a plant sciences division, is in the process of carrying out field trials for rice. The company, in a statement to BusinessLine, said “field trials are part of a global research project that aims to significantly increase rice yields.

"Through these trials in India, BASF will select the genetically enhanced rice lines which will be best adapted to Indian growing conditions and therefore most suitable for Indian rice farmers.” Monsanto is also carrying out trials for cotton and corn in Maharashtra, as a part of trials nationwide.

The company, in an email statement, said, “We understand that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has approved field trials requests of various organisations, including that of Monsanto. State no-objection certificates have also been secured.”