Focus on Asia
Indian seed firms are now seeking to build on Monsanto's hype to make a killing out of Indian farmers:
"Even as the debate continues about the benefits and adverse impact of Bt cotton, seed companies in the fray are bullish about the prospects of GM seed crops. The two varieties of Bt cotton seeds currently available have, however, been able to benefit farmers mainly in Gujarat and Maharashtra."
It will be remembered that an expert report for the set up by the Gujarat government under S.K.7 Sangami Joint Director, Agriculture (Oilseeds), to evaluate the performance of Bt cotton in the State concluded it had let farmers down so badly that it was "unfit for cultivation and should be banned in the State".
Indian firms to offer Bt cotton seeds
Indo-Asian News Service
Patancheru (Andhra Pradesh), Oct 12 : Several Indian companies are getting ready to offer farmers the choice of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds and give competition to US seed major Monsanto, currently the sole provider.
These companies, some of which have taken licence from Monsanto, are in the process of carrying out field trials in India.
"Eighteen companies are reportedly coming into the market under sub-licence from Monsanto plus from other sources in China, Swiss firm Syngenta or independently. At least 15 of the companies are currently conducting field trials," said R.P Sharma, emeritus scientist with the New Delhi-based National Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
"Some of the companies have started large-scale field trials so we can expect the price of Bt cotton seeds to come down in two to three years once the market gets more competition," Sharma told IANS on the sidelines of a three-day workshop being held here at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
The acreage under Bt cotton seeds -- which offer protection against bollworm insects and are expected to substantially reduce use of pesticides -- has risen to 70 million hectares in the two years since India gave approval for commercial cultivation in 2002.
India has the largest acreage under cotton cultivation though China is the largest producer.
Even as the debate continues about the benefits and adverse impact of Bt cotton, seed companies in the fray are bullish about the prospects of GM seed crops.
The two varieties of Bt cotton seeds currently available have, however, been able to benefit farmers mainly in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The new entrants are eyeing regions in the north too.
"We are hoping to start initial trials next year and are currently mobilising Bt into a hybrid cotton under sub-licence from Monsanto. We hope to come into the market in three to four years," said Paresh Verma, head of research at Bioseed Research India, a subsidiary of DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd.
Bioseed is a Rs.15.6 billion turnover company that is keenly looking at growth in transgenic or GM seeds though its major focus is on developing high-yielding and better quality hybrid seeds.
"With the emerging competition, the prices of Bt cotton seeds would become more affordable. Further, the adoption of the new seeds would be much faster with Monsanto having created a demand," said Verma.
"We are looking beyond Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to all the other cotton growing regions in the country," said Verma.
Scientists revealed that Monsanto is currently working on another Bt cotton seed that seeks to mobilise the Bt protein Cry1 Ac and Cry2 Ab to create Bollguard-II. The sequel is expected to outperform the original Bollguard Bt cotton.
"With companies like Bioseed having already acquired the licence from Monsanto, they would be able to benefit from the millions of dollars of research being conducted by the US seed major," said Sharma.
--Indo-Asian News Service
Indian firms to offer Bt cotton seeds (12/10/2004)
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