Saturday, April 26, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Committee rejects Bt cotton
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 25
In a significant development, the commercial release of Bt cotton (MECH-915) in northern India was today rejected by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex environmental body of the government.

“Cotton production in the North could be adversely affected by widespread cultivation of MECH-915,” the GEAC observed.

The committee noted with concern the high sensitive nature of this Bt hybrid towards curl leaf curl virus that affects the yield of cotton and is rampant in the area where it is to be grown.

On the commercial release of transgenic mustard (brassica juncea) by M/s Proagro Seeds, the GEAC was of the view that the trials conducted by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research were not conclusive.

The GEAC has now asked the ICAR to conduct further trials to address all issues regarding agronomic superiority, cross ability, gene flow and resistance to herbicide.

The committee noted that since mustard was an edible crop, further studies to establish the health safety aspect needed to be conducted.

The GEAC had allowed three Bt cotton varieties to be grown for the first time in the kharif season (last summer) in six states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Farmers, influenced by the hype of better prospects of the new biotech crop, expressed eagerness in cultivating these varieties.

However, the new varieties belied the farmers’ hopes, who even resorted to agitation in various states, seeking compensation for the loss incurred due to the sowing of Bt cotton.

Environmentalists and NGOs, including Greenpeace, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Environment (RFSTE), and the Kheti Virasat, who have documented the “poor yield, with no saving on pesticides” from the GM varieties as against other popular hybrids, have demanded a complete moratorium on GM organisms in the country.

However, the developer and promoter of Bt cotton, Monsanto-Mahyco, has been claiming that the GM crop had given a better yield, with a saving on pesticide expenses.


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