Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) will have to wait for one more year to launch Bt cottonseeds with Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) technology as Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) asked the firm to repeat trials .

RRF is a technology that kills weeds in cotton fields. When herbicide is sprayed on the field only weed is killed, while cotton plants live on as the technology gives them biological strength to withstand the ill effects of herbicide.

While considering Mahyco’s plea for permission to conduct the crucial Biosafety Research Level (BRL-I) trials on RRF hybrids in July 2011, the GEAC asked the company to record data during pre and post spray of Roundup herbicide.

The committee objected to use of non-Bt RRF in refuge area. The company however argued that it did not result in environmental release as it was planted in small area with adequate isolation,

Since the kharif is midway, the company would have to wait till next kharif to take up field trials and submit findings to the committee after that, Ms Usha Barwale Zehr, Chief Technology Officer of Mahyco, told Business Line.

“We can only do this BRL studies in 2012 and the technology would be ready in the following year,” he said.

Refuge in bags

With the mandatory refuge was given a go-by, the GEAC and industry are now discussing introduction of ‘refuge in bags’. This would mean that the farmers could not distinguish between Bt and non-Bt seeds, forcing them to use all of the packet when they sow.

“GEAC asked the industry to present a representation on what could be done to improve compliance to refuge norm. This (refuge in box) is one of them,” she said.