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Friday, May 24, 2002

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Monsanto gets another Bt cotton variety ready

L.N. Revathy


SIX years after commercialisation of the first Bt-gene — Cry 1 Ac — for controlling all major species of bollworms in cotton in the US, Monsanto is now ready to release another Bt-gene — Cry 2x also known as Cry 2 Ab for pest resistance in cotton.

This is, however, expected to be released in the company's home country soon.

The Director of Research of the company's Research Centre in Bangalore, Dr T.M. Manjunath, told Business Line that the proposal had reached its final stage, as all regulatory trials were over in the US.

He said the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd (Mahyco) had sought the clearance from the Department of Biotechnology for stacking this gene.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Union Government, he hoped, would permit commercialisation of the Cry 2 Ab within the next two to three years. ``Since commercialisation of Bt-cotton cultivation has now been permitted in India, it should not take more than 3 years to accord sanction for release of the Bt-gene Cry 2 Ab,'' he said.

This gene — Cry 2 Ab would help to control the pest, Spodoptera frugiferdi. ``This pest infestation, though is not very serious in India,'' he added.

Dr Manjunath said the company's research wing was working at identifying genes that could resist cold and drought weather conditions, besides enhancement in yield and resistance to salinity conditions. ``There is a need to develop saline resistant gene, as we have a long coastline and the saline soil could be made cultivable with the introduction of this gene,'' he said.

He disclosed that the company had so far made an investment of Rs 18 crore for establishment of the research and development centre at Bangalore.

On a parting note, he said Bt-cotton was not recommended as a stand-alone technology for management of cotton pests. ``Although it is very effective against bollworms, it is better to treat it as a major component of IPM, so as to delay or prevent the development of pest resistance to Bt-protein in the transgenic cotton,'' he said.

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