Hyderabad-based JK Agri Genetics Ltd, an arm of the JK Organisation, is collaborating with the Bangladesh government to hold field trials of genetically-modified cotton in the neighbouring country.
“The Bangladesh government is conducting the field trials, which have been completed for the first season. The results are good. Field trials will be held for the second season this year sometime between April and November,” said Gyanendra Shukla, President and Director of JK Agri Genetics, better popularly known as JK Seeds.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in a note on the Bangladesh development, said that Dhaka’s Cotton Development Board (CDB) began trials of the genetically-modified or bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton with two varieties — JKCH 1947 Bt and JKCH 1950 Bt — which can resist bollworm and Fall armyworm in the plant.
According to the USDA, the CDB obtained the Bt cotton varieties under the material transfer agreement from JK Seeds, an erstwhile division of JK Tyres and Industries Ltd.
“Though the first season trials gave good results, more trials need to be done. Once the Bangladesh government is satisfied with the results, it will begin the deregulation process wherein farmers will be allowed to cultivate the Bt variety,” said Shukla. The CDB completed the greenhouse trial of the cotton varieties successfully on March 4 last year, and it got the permission of Bangladesh’s National Committee on Biosafety Clearance to start confined field trials for the current crop year (August 2020-July 2021), the USDA said.
“We are doing nothing on our own. Nor are we engaged in any commercial activity in Bangladesh,” the JK Seeds President said, hinting that the Sheikh Hasina Wajed government is independently handling these activities, while his company is collaborating.
Bangladesh’s objective behind these trials is to develop “efficient genetically-modified cotton” as part of its efforts to increase cotton production. Currently, it meets about 25 per cent of its raw cotton requirements through imports from India.
The USDA has pegged Bangladesh’s 2020-21 crop at 1.86 lakh bales (of 170 kg) on 46,000 hectares.