Friday, July 28, 2006

ICAR Transgenics to Market

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has announced that it will be able to commercialise its first transgenic crop varieties by 2008.

According to a report by Haris Damodaran in the Hindu Business Line, the ICAR has been under intense scutiny for "not doing enough" in the area of GM crops. But Dr Mangala Rai, Director-General of ICAR, told the Hindu Business Line, "There are seven GM varieties on which field trials have been completed under teh supervision of the Department of Biotechnology's Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) ." The RCGM, which is made up of representatives from the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), ICAR, and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as well as other experts in their individual capacity, monitors safety related aspects of research projects and other activities involving GM organisms.

The RCGM stage of approvals has been passed for all seven transgenics, which include American bollworm-resistant cotton, yellow stem borer-resistant rice, fruit and shoot borer-resistant brinjual, leaf curl virus-resistant tomato, protein-enriched potato, and salinity/drought tolerant tomato and mustard.

The ICAR suggests that one of the most important aspects of increased momentum in the area of commercialisation of GM crops is competition, maintaining that such competition will benefit farmers in the long run. To this end, the Government has already approved 59 hybrids of Bt cotton for commercial release, with 52 of these based on Monsanto's Bollgard gene technology.

The ICAR will be making applications to Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) this season. GEAC functions within the Department of Environment Forests and Wildlife for approval of large scale use of recombinants in research and industrial production in the context of potential environmental concerns, as well as the release of GMOs into the environment, such as in experimental field trials.

ICAR will be seeking the permission of GEAC to conduct large-scale trials and seed production, with a view to delivering the first transgenics to farmers' fields by 2008/9.

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