His statement comes in the backdrop of complete halt in new commercial application and development of genetically modified seeds in India after the genetically modified BT cotton crops (that were advertised as resistant to pink bollworm pest attacks), were infested with the same pest variety leading to loss of several crores for farmers in Maharashtra and other States.
Ram Kaundinya, however, rubbishes these allegations and points his finger at poor farming practices and stoppage of technology development in GM seeds. He said, “BT cotton was resistant to the pink bollworm for 15 years. But the pink bollworm evolved and started infesting only in some areas, especially in Maharashtra, mainly due to poor management practices on the field.”
“Regulation requires the cotton plant to be cut down in November after harvest. But in Maharashtra they don’t cut the crop so that once in a month they get new flowers and make extra profit. Because it is allowed to remain till March, the pest survives in the crop and formed resistance to the BT variety,” he explained.
Talking about poor farming practices, he added that 25 per cent of the seed supplied along with BT cotton seeds are of the non-BT variety and has to be planted around the farm for resistance management. “But nobody is doing that. We can only educate farmers, it is up to them to follow it,” he said.
CHALLENGES IN GOVT REGULATION
“After 2002, no new GM technology has been approved. In the last 6-7 years nobody has brought in new gene for development in the country,” says Ram Kaundinya, and adds that it is mainly due to government regulations. One of the main reasons is that seed companies are afraid to invest in new technology as the government fixes the price.
“We believe that for any new product to come up the pricing option should be left to the market and not fixed by the government. Price fixation is a disincentive for people to invest and those who want to invest in crores will be hesitant to do so,” he said.
THREAT TO COTTON INDUSTRY
Ram Kaundinya said, “Our own cotton and textile industry will suffer. Due to the high yield of BT cotton, India’s cotton production tripled from 13 million in 2002 to 39 million today. By 2028 we will require 90 million bales. If next generation GM cotton is halted, it will severely affect cotton production and we may have to start importing for our textile industries. This will hit our economy.”
ALLIANCE OF AGRI INNOVATION
Ram Kaundinya says that there is no political support to science and only activists’ voice is being heard. He said, “The one issue we face is that whatever we say is seen as biased opinion. People don’t look at it scientifically. It is easy to appeal and write negatively about GM and create a sensation.”
“Research-based companies felt that they were not being represented properly. To raise awareness about FSII and major companies that are part of FSII formed a separate body called Alliance of Agri Innovation. The active companies want to continuously provide information and communication about biotechnology and its effectiveness and safety, and promote new technologies,” he added.
Written by A Harsha Vardhan in News Today. See original article link here.