India should ‘definitely adopt’ new GMO crops, nation’s top biotech cotton expert argues

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The logjam in approval of newer genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds [in India] has catalyzed planting of unauthorized seeds known as herbicide-tolerant [and insect-resistant] (HTBt) [cotton]. Vijay N Waghmare, director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, speaks to Vishwa Mohan on the issue:

[Editor’s note: Read India moves to restrict cultivation of illegal but easily acquired GMO herbicide-tolerant, insect-resistant cotton for background on the regulatory situation in India.]

What would you advise farmers who are forced to use HTBt as their cost of production has increased substantially due to weeding problem with the authorized Bt?

Since [the] Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which [makes the] call on genetically modified organism (GMO), has not approved the HTBt variety, I would suggest farmers not to go for this. It’s illegal.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Europe missed the GMO revolution. Sensible regulation could ensure they don't miss out on CRISPR gene editing

What’s your view as a scientist on GM varieties?

We should definitely adopt new technology like what we did by introducing Bt legally in 2002. It could effectively control bollworm. As a result, areas under cotton crop, production and productivity have increased substantially. Now, we have noticed that even the legally available Bt has become vulnerable to pink bollworm infestation in Gujarat, Maharashtra and southern states.

On the other hand, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan don’t have this problem as these states could go for second crop after terminating cotton in October due to assured irrigation.

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