Agri Business

Bt cotton puts India at 4th slot in GM crop acreage

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 24, 2011 Published on February 24, 2011

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India has the world's fourth largest area under genetically modified (GM) crops.

The country's GM crop acreage in 2010, at 9.4 million hectares (mh), was next only to the US (66.8 mh), Brazil (25.4 mh) and Argentina (22.9 mh), while ahead of Canada (8.8 mh) and China (3.5 mh), according to the latest global status report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

The 9.4 mh GM area in India consisted entirely of Bt cotton. This was unlike in the US, where the 66.8 mh acreage was distributed among maize (31.7 mh), soyabean (30 mh) and cotton (3.9 mh), besides canola, alfalfa, sugarbeet and potato.

In Brazil, too, the 25.4 mh area was split between soyabean (17.8 mh), maize (7.3 mh) and cotton (0.25 mh), while in Argentina, soyabean (19.5 mh), maize (3 mh) and cotton (0.375 mh) accounted for the total 22.9 mh coverage.

But even within the area planted under GM cotton in India, there have been some interesting new developments. Till 2005, the entire GM cotton area was occupied by hybrids incorporating a ‘single gene' event.

In 2006, farmers, for the first time, planted hybrids featuring two foreign genes, cry1Ac and cry2Ab, expressing proteins toxic to the American bollworm as well as armyworm insect pests. In 2009, the area under ‘multiple gene' Bt cotton hybrids exceeded that of ‘single gene' hybrids.

In the latest planting season of 2010, Bt cotton accounted for 9.4 mh or 85.5 per cent of the total estimated 11 mh area sown under cotton in India. And within the 9.4 mh, 6.6 mh or 70 per cent was occupied by dual or multiple gene hybrids.

According to ISAAA, the number of cotton hybrids approved for marketing in India has gone up from a mere three in 2003 and four in 2004 to 20 in 2005, 62 in 2006, 131 in 2007, 274 in 2008, 522 in 2009 and 780 (including one open pollinated variety) in 2010. Of the total 780, 438 hybrids incorporated the dual gene Bollgard-II event of Monsanto.

The coming planting season could see the commercialisation of a new event featuring three genes. These include, apart from cry1 Ac and cry2Ab (coding for insect resistance), the cp4-epsps gene to impart tolerance to the glyphosate herbicide.

“In 2010, four cotton hybrids incorporating this three-gene event (‘Bollgard-II Roundup Ready Flex') were approved for seed production in an area of 25 acres per hybrid. This could pave the way for their commercial release in 2011-12, making it the first GM event in India to feature stacking of two traits (insect resistance and herbicide tolerance)”, said Mr Bhagirath Choudhary, India Coordinator at ISAAA.

The ISAAA report estimated the total global GM crop acreage in 2010 at 148 mh, up from 134 mh in 2009 and just 1.7 mh in 1996. Of the 148 mh, 73.3 mh was under soyabean, 46 mh under maize, 21 mh under cotton (with India being No. 1), 7 mh under canola, 0.5 mh under sugarbeet and 0.1 mh under alfalfa.

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Published on February 24, 2011
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