GM Endorsements

IARI’s Research Director Says Genetic Engineering Necessary for Desired Traits in 13 Priority Crop Plants

Though the science of genetic engineering of crop plants has been vilified by activists because of its association with multinational corporations like Monsanto, Indian public sector research institutes are quite active in the field. K V Prabhu, Joint Director (Research) at Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) says it is the only way to create resistance against certain pests and diseases.
“For brown plant hopper and yellow stem borer in paddy, spot blotch in wheat and pod borer in chick pea (chana) and pigeon pea (tur), we have no option but to look for this,” he says. “In brinjal, for fruit and stem borer we have no resistance in any of the native evolved materials available in the country.” Those who cultivate brinjal know the amount of insecticide applications that have to be given. “In my own kitchen garden, if I do not spray once in 12-15 days, the brinjal I pick up is bound to have a fruit borer inside.”
Prabhu says GM mustard developed by a team of Delhi University scientists has passed all the recommended bio-safety tests. He says the regulator has followed the protocols of transparency by posting a summary of the voluminous bio-safety study on its website for public reading. He says the barnase-barstar technology to create mustard hybrids is superior to conventional non-GE methods.
Prabhu says the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) has endorsed genetic modification technology in a policy document. IARI, he said, has identified 13 priority crops out of 35 where the desired traits cannot be incorporated in plants except through genetic engineering.

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I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?