Research approval from State Govts big hurdle

Global agriculture biotechnology major Monsanto Company has set for itself a target of three years by which it hopes to obtain the Indian Government's approval for introducing genetically modified corn (maize), Dr Robb Fraley, Chief Technology Officer, told a group of media teams visiting Farm Progress Show at Decatur, Illinois.

Currently, field trials are going on according to approved plan and preliminary results may be available by September 2012. However, there are new roadblocks. Last June, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the Ministry of Environment directed seed-research companies to obtain permission from State governments for conducting field trials. This has upset players in agri-biotech research as the attitude of States to such research varies.

Asked how Monsanto proposes to address regulatory challenges, Dr Fraley said the company will not compromise on compliance with regulatory requirements. But he has demanded a transparent and stable regulatory procedure.

Stable regulations

“We will comply with regulatory requirements, but it must be transparent and stable,”he said. Elaborating the point, he referred to Brazil where in the last three years unsteady policies of yore have given way to steady and transparent ones, which have led to approval of many new products.

India is among the top five of the 30 countries worldwide that have taken to GM technology, he said. Currently, India grows only one crop — Bt cotton — on a commercial scale, while research for genetic modification of several other crops — grains, oilseeds, vegetables, etc — is going on. Corn or maize is one of them. Stem borer is the biggest threat to maize crop.

Monsanto is building research engagements with Indian institutions, Dr Fraley said, adding: “We are starting to look at expanding relationships in corn breeding and testing.”

Earlier, in a presentation on the future of US agriculture, Dr Fraley said the world was in the middle of three major technological changes. Suggesting that higher crop yields lay at the intersection of multiple technologies, he forecast that yield increases will come through a combination of advanced seed genetics (plant breeding), improvements in on-farm agronomic practices as well as hardware and software innovations. New resistance traits are made possible due to major technological infusion in breeding research, he said.

(This article was published on September 10, 2011)
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