Genetically modified (GM) seeds major, Monsanto is through with the field trials of Bollgard-II Roundup Ready Flex - a seed that offers inbuilt insect protection and weed management - conducted in the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, said executive vice-president (sustainability and corporate affairs ) of the company, Jerry Steiner on Tuesday.
Steiner, who was in Chandigarh along with the company's managing director Gyanendra Shukla to hold discussions with Punjab agriculture department officials and others, told Hindustan Times that Bollgard-II Roundup Ready Flex was the next generation of technology where they were able to combine efficient weed control.
“Lot of people are calling it Bollgard-III. But it is actually Bollgard Roundup Ready Flex. While Bollgard-II was meant to control only bollworms, the new Bollgard-II Roundup Ready Flex is equipped with weed management,'' Steiner said.
The executive vice-president said farmers in the US and Australia had used Bollgard-II Roundup Ready Flex successfully with good results.
Shukla said for northern India the company had completed all regulatory data generation. "The field trials for the new seed conducted in Haryana and Punjab are over. We are at the final stage where we are going to submit the file to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) which is the apex body created in the union ministry of environment and forests for approval. The challenge is that the regulatory body is not active and has not been reconstituted by the ministry after the expiry of its term,'' Shukla said.
Steiner, on the other hand, said another biotech trait, which was in the pipeline, was Bollgard-III.
"We continuously innovate to bring new modes of action against insects because nature is at work. Whenever you put a fence, the nature finds a way around it. That's the reality and it's happening for a long time. Herbicides and insecticides have resistance. This is quite normal. We continuously search for that next mode of action while selling the current mode so that we stay one step ahead.”
He said: “We have a third mode of action that we are bringing in cotton, which is unique. Also, we are researching to broaden the spectrum of insects to pick up insects such as Lygus in addition to the Bollworm. That's Bollgard-III.''
Shukla said for Bollgard-III they needed permission to conduct field trials.
Explaining about Bollgard-II Roundup Ready Flex, Shukla said cotton farmers were constantly challenged with reducing crop yields loss due to weed.
"Ineffective weed management also increases the susceptibility of crops to sucking pests, bollworms and fungal diseases, thus restricting the plant growth, limiting yields and impacting farmer income. Managing weeds in the early stage, especially eight to 10 weeks after emergence, was critical. The prevalent solution of hand weeding is labour intensive, time consuming and expensive. On the other side, no single chemical gives complete protection from weeds in cotton crop,'' he added.