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Crop Biotech Update

Acceptance of GM Crops Growing: India's Agriculture Minister

December 4, 2009

"Since the release of the first genetically modified variety of tomato in 1994, the acceptance of GMOs have grown over time throughout the world," said Prof. K.V. Thomas, India's Minister of State for Agriculture, while inaugurating the 7th Pacific Rim Conference on the Biotechnology of Bacillus thuringiensis and its Environmental Impact held on 25th-28th Nov 2009 in New Delhi. The four day Conference was organized by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), University of Calcutta, Kolkatta and the All India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA) and attended by more than 150 Bt scientists from different parts of the world. Prof. Swapan K Datta, Dy. Director General (Crop Science), ICAR was the convener of the conference.

Minister Thomas stated that various traits have been improved in soybean, maize, cotton, oilseed Brassica, sugarbeet,  papaya and others through genetic engineering. Notable of which are herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, combination of these two, and virus resistance.  In this context new innovation and technology in terms of improved products and processes become absolute requirements in modern agriculture research. Applauding the success of Bt cotton, Minister Thomas said, "The first commercialized GM crop in India is Bt cotton which has been a spectacular success story. Many transgenic crops are currently being developed and tested at various public and private institutions in the country. Such efforts include among others, development of insect resistant rice at Calcutta University, late blight resistant potato at Central Potato Research Institute, pro-Vitamin A enriched rice at IARI, DRR and TNAU, Bt brinjal and Bt cotton at Mahyco, Jalna."

"In the near future we may expect many GM crops that have been modified for better availability of vitamins, iron, micronutrients, quality proteins and oils, which would ensure nutritional security to the masses, in addition to insect pest resistance. Based on the experience of several successful field evaluations of GM crops, it is evident, that gene technology combined with precise plant breeding and efficient crop management has the potential to provide benefits to human society. Utilization of the technology to maximally benefit Indian agriculture demands a greater coordination among technology owners and innovators, policy makers, agri-industry and farmers" said the Minister.  "The much needed production enhancement, sustainability and profitability in agriculture has been imparted by the use of Bt in India. Bt has a history of useful utilization in pest management and there is no doubt on the environmental safety of Bacillus thuringiensis. Transgenic culture in agriculture is the order of the day," said Dr. Mangla Rai, Secretary, Director General of ICAR.

More information about the 7th Pacific Rim Conference is available at http://www.7btconference.org/ For more information about biotechnology developments in India contact  b.choudhary@cgiar.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org