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Monsanto Closer To Introducing Genetically Modified Food Crop In India

In Business, Environment, GM Crops, India on May 1, 2009 at 10:26 pm

The first genetically modified food crop, Bt brinjal (eggplant), is on the verge of being cleared and could be released commercially in India by year-end.

According to a report by Down to Earth magazine, Bt brinjal, developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), under license from Monsanto, is in the final stage of the getting the green light from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the biotechnology regulatory body of the Government of India.

In 2006, Mahyco submitted data to the GEAC, which permitted the Indian seed company to carry out field trials of Bt brinjal (eggplant). Additional studies were then conducted and Mahyco submitted its reports along with an application for commercialization again in 2008. However, Mahyco’s efforts hit a snag last year as several groups stepped forward questioning its safety.

There is much debate regarding the release of Bt brinjal. While some opponents question its safety, proponents argue that it poses no threat and could save crops and benefit farmers.

According to Mahyco, “Studies have shown that Bt brinjal farmers would use 70 percent less insecticide to control the [fruit and shoot borer] and 42 percent less to control other insects.” Higher yields would equal higher profits and it is estimated that farmers could earn at least Rs 16,000-19,000 per hectare.However, some brinjal farmers have expressed some concern about the cost of transgenic seeds.

There are currently more than 230 varieties of 56 GM plants at different stages of trials in India, which includes 41 food crops.

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