If this story's true, it certainly would be worrying.


Rasi Seeds likely to launch GM bajra hybrids in kharif '07

COIMBATORE: For the kharif 2007 season (July-October), Salem-based private seed major Rasi Seeds (RSPL) is planning to launch a range of genetically-modified (GM) bajra or pearl millet hybrids covering all the major bajra-growing states in the country.

RSPL's MD M Ramasami told ET that after a successful trial marketing in kharif 2006 season, the company is launching hybrid bajra in collaboration with Icrisat, Hyderabad. The two hybrids, Rasi 4461 and Rasi 3051, will target markets in Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. "Farmers' reports are in favour of the product and the next season will be dominated by GM versions," he added.

Biotechnology apart, gene manipulation technique also appears to be catching up with the company. RSPL is in talks with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) and US-based Danforth Foundation to explore the possibility of improving and developing disease-free Bhendi and Kesava planting material.

"The MoU basically is for transfer of technology. It is still in the conceptual stage. This is not a commercial venture, but a social initiative to help the Kesava growers in this belt," he said.

The Kesava crop suffered a huge setback in yield levels due to the mosaic virus. Both the area and yield in TN has dwindled considerably in the past couple of years - from over 1 lakh hectares and yield potential of 35 tonne per hectare to less than 15 tonne per hectare at present.

On the Bt cotton front, Mr Ramasami said that in the next season starting October, the acreage under GM crop is likely to go up to 140-150 lakh hectares, a 75% jump from the present 86 lakh hectare.

The continued improvement in the per acre yield and the moderation achieved in the seed price, now settled at Rs 750 for a packet of 450 gm this season, are cited as the reasons for this acreage hike.

During the 2006-07 cotton year, RSPL has distributed commercial Bt cottons in north, central and southern cotton zones. Of the country's total Bt cotton production, RSPL's share works out to 27% (or 26 lakh tonnes). With this, Rasi Seeds has become the largest vendor of Bt cotton seeds in the country in the last kharif season.