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Thursday, Jun 20, 2002

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Limited seeds to restrict Bt cotton cultivation

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BACILLUS thuringiensis (Bt) cotton is expected to be sown in less than half a per cent of the country's total cotton growing area in the current planting season due to limited availability of seeds.

Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company), the first company allowed to sell the genetically modified cotton seeds in the country, has only 1,05,000 units (of 450 gram each) of GM cotton seed for sale this season. The official clearance for commercial cultivation of the Bt cotton was received only in March this year.

``This is a test marketing year for us. At this point in time, it will be very difficult to give the target for the next season, as it will depend on farmers' response. But, we will be evaluating the position one month down the line,'' Mr Raju Barwale, Managing Director, Mahyco, told reporters here on Wednesday.

He was here in connection with a seminar on Bt Cotton, organised by the South India Cotton Association.

Mr Barwale said 80 per cent of the seeds would be sold in cluster villages, where the 2001 Bt trials were conducted and the balance 20 per cent in new villages around these clusters.

Bt trials had been conducted in over 400 locations across six States in the country in kharif 2001. Maharashtra has taken the lead with as many as 180 trial locations, followed by Karnataka (89), Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (23 each), Andhra Pradesh (49) and Tamil Nadu (31), apart from 11 ICAR locations.

The company has invested about Rs 40 crore in its R & D. Although Mr Barwale refused to comment on Mahyco developing independent Bt gene, he did not deny it. He said, ``we are only looking at achieving targets. Research trials run for years before they can be cleared for commercial exploitation, by which time newer techniques are available. Further, the investments involved are huge,'' he added.

He conceded that Mahyco had started field trials for two more GM cotton hybrids that would be best suited for northern India.

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