ISAAA to facilitate European tour of Indian Bt growers

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Nov 4 | Updated: Nov 5 2007, 04:56am hrs
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), with a view to promote transgenic technology in agriculture, has decided to facilitate visits of Indian farmers to Europe to narrate the success stories of Bt cotton cultivation in the country.

The ISAAA held its board meeting for the first time in India, last week (October 23) and deliberated on various issues for promotion and propagation of transgenic technology in agriculture worldwide. The co-chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), CD Mayee is the sole representative from India on the ISAAA Board.

Speaking to FE, the ISAAA chair, Clive James said, Last year we facilitated visits of some African nationals to Europe to discuss about the issue of African countries to grow more food to meet their needs. They met European Parliamentarians and pleaded that transgenic technology can be an option to increase production and countries may import genetically modified (GM) food if needed. This year we are planning visits of Indian farmers to narrate their success stories of Bt cotton cultivation.

According to James Indian farmers have been benefited by the cultivation of Bt cotton and they need to convince their counterparts in other countries where there is a stiff resistance by NGOs to the GM crops. He said though GM crops were cultivated in 22 countries, 51 countries have allowed imports of GM crops for use as food or feed.

During his stay in India James visited some Bt cotton growers in Haryana, regional center of Central Institute for Cotton Research in Sirsa in Haryana and met scientists and government officials. However on October 31, there was massive demonstration of farmers in Delhi led by Krishan Bir Chaudhary and Atul Anjan demanding hike in minimum support prices for various crops and a moratorium on GM crops.

James said that ISAAA was taking up many such promotional activities. At the instance of the Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, ISAAA will facilitate the visits of experts from India to Brazil to study sugar-ethanol sector in that country. ISAAA has already facilitated the royalty-free transfer of transgenic papaya technology by Monsanto to the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. There is a need for farmers in Brazil, Argentina, India, China, South Africa and the Philippines to visit other countries of the globe and narrate their success stories of sowing GM crops, said James.

He said that the Indian agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar has shown great interest for boosting soybean production. In this context GM soybeans can be a better option, said James and added that it was the Brazilian farmers who prevailed upon the Lula government to legalise cultivation of GM soybeans and today Brazil was a leader in soybean production.

He said that India, being one of the 14 mega biotech countries, would be the hub for spread of transgenic technology in South Asia.