3 Oct 2008

Biotech Experiment in India Has Paid Off Well

The biotechnology (B.T.) experiment in India has paid off well as the cotton crop yield has increased from 13.7 million bales per hectare in 2002-03 to 23.4 million bales in 2006-07, prompting a senior agricultural scientist to suggest that the experiment can be replicated in other crops.

“B.T. crops are as safe as conventional crops and the production of cotton, using this technology, has nearly doubled from 13.7 million bales per hectare in 2002-03 to 23.4 million bales per hectare in 2006-2007,” Indian Agricultural Research Institute (I.A.R.I.) Professor K.C. Bansal and National Research Center Principal Scientist on Plant Biotechnology told reporters here.

“The B.T. cotton experiment in India has paid off really well and it is high time we replicate this concept to other crops like rice and sorghum,” he said, adding that B.T. brinjal, which has stirred up quite a controversy, will go commercial by 2009.Among other benefits, B.T. crops enjoyed reduced insecticide spraying and gave increased yield, he said, adding the agricultural revolution would be possible only by genetically modified crops (G.M.), also known as B.T. crops.

About criticisms from N.G.O.S. that the B.T. brinjal tested on lab rats had resulted in health complications, Bansal allayed such fears saying the trials are being conducted under strict governmental supervision, and permission for commercial production would not be given till many safety criteria were satisfied. Refuting reports of suicides by B.T. cotton farmers in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra allegedly after their crops failed, Bansal claimed most of them had taken their lives following the pressure from money-lenders while some others did not have proper “education” on using the crops.

“It could be other socio-economic issues like loan with high interest rates or spurious pesticides, but the technology is proven,” he claimed.The country was world’s second largest producer of cotton and third largest exporter of the product, he said.“As many as 12 million farmers in 23 countries are benefiting from this technology,” he said.

Source : India Journal 2nd October 2008

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