The government has raised doubts over crop biotech firm Monsanto’s recent findings that a variety of its genetically modified (GM) cotton is losing ability to fight a common pest. Two top government agencies — the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) — will now carry out separate studies to see if the pink bollworm, which attacks cotton, has developed resistance to Bollgard I, a Bt cotton variety that helped push up India’s cotton yields. "Monsanto’s methodology in concluding that cry1AC gene is not effective in controlling PBW (pink bollworm) may be flawed and therefore the inferences are inconclusive," a farm ministry note states. Experts say it is not unusual for some resistance to build up but conclusions could not be drawn hastily. "Monsanto’s data and sample is not 100 per cent conclusive. Our wing in CISR will help do the studies," Swapan Kumar Dutta, ICAR’s deputy director general of cash crops told HT. On February 5, Monsanto had disclosed that in four Gujarat districts, the single-gene Bt cotton was failing to resist an important pest. If Bollgard I is proved to be a dud, Monsanto can replace it with its second-generation Bt cotton variety, Bolgard II, which the company says is being farmed in 59 pc of Bt cotton area. However, the catch is that Monsanto licensing agreement suggests that eventually it will withdraw Bollgard I. The agreement requires seed companies to pull Bollgard 1 out after three years. "We will allow the marketing of Bollgard I beyond agreement deadline," a Monsanto spokesperson. The company says farmers are increasingly switching to Bollgard II.
Jan 16, 2017 21:08 IST
Jan 16, 2017 17:50 IST