Tuesday’s move to defer the launch of Bt brinjal — India’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop — has cast a cloud on not just other such crops being field-tested but also the $500-million biotech industry, experts have said.
As in other sectors, India has preferred a public-private partnership model for biotech initiatives in agriculture. GM crops such as rice, tomato, corn and groundnut are in various stages of trial.
“I think crucial private initiative will slow down,” R.K. Sinha, executive director of the National Seeds Association of India, told HT.
India’s farm policy promotes GM crops in view of the precarious food situation, where demand outstrips production.
India allowed GM cotton in 2002 after which output surged sharply, making it the second-largest cotton grower.
“It is a setback because domestic capability on GM is not enough. To rely solely on state-owned biotech initiative will not be conducive to Indian agriculture,” Sinha said.
A handful of MNCs are involved in India’s farm biotech, such as Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Agro, Bayer and Dupont.
According to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications estimates, private and public sectors each pump in investments of $250 million annually into Indian biotech research.