Agri Business

Monsanto awaits clearance to begin field trials in India

| | Updated on: Aug 28, 2014
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GM cotton and corn traits too ready

Multinational biotech firm Monsanto Company has said that the Indian path to field trials in genetically-modified crops is complicated and confusing. The Narendra Modi Government must review the current situation with regard to policies on GM crops, according to a top official of the company.

Approvals pending

“We have new genetically-modified cotton and corn traits ready for India. We are enthusiastic about the new Government supporting latest technology to farmers. We hope approvals to hold trials will be given soon,” said Robert T Fraley, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, Monsanto Company.

Monsanto has been waiting for clearance from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee for its GM corn and Round-up Ready Flex cotton.

The GM corn will help farmers to combat rootworm, with the Bt gene in the plant resisting it. The Roundup Ready Flex cotton, according to the US biotech firm, will help overcome problems of pests and diseases besides controlling weed.

Limited pesticide usage

A roundup ready flex cotton plant withstands the effect of pesticide that is sprayed to kill weeds as its genes are modified to have capabilities to fight these menaces. Also, the number of sprays is reduced to one from a minimum of two in the case of this trait.

“We are ready to do field-testing and accelerate at any point. But the regulatory process must be effective and deeply test the process. We are ready to invest in bringing technology to India and prepared to go through the process required for the product to be cleared,” Fraley said, during his interaction with Indian journalists attending the Farm Progress Show at Boone, some 60 km from here in Iowa.

However, tests have stopped and things are unclear, he said, adding that the business is not surewhen commercialisation will be reached.

The Manmohan Singh Government had approved field trials in March but then put on hold the decision for the new Government to clear. Earlier this month, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said confined field trials of GM crop would be allowed soon.

Monsanto is prepared to invest more in technology and enter into partnerships but the Government will have to reactivate the process through which “science can in no way be stopped”, Fraley said.

Later, in his “Tech talk” at the Farm Progress Show, Fraley said Monsanto had introduced the first GM plant in 1980 and the first modified corn seed was launched in 1990. “Since then, not a single issue with food safety or technology has been reported because of GM crop,” he said.

The company is now looking at other fields too such as gene mapping, breeding, crop protection and precision farming.

“There have been incredible advances in technology of computerisation of farms,” he said.

Published on March 12, 2018

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