Mumbai: Seed producer Monsanto India Ltd has sought regulatory approval in India to sell its genetically modified (GM) corn that is tolerant to herbicides and provides protection from pests.
“We have started the regulatory process for approval of this new GM crop in the Indian market,” said Harvey G. Glick, senior director, scientific affairs, Asia, Monsanto Singapore Co. (Pte) Ltd.
The GM corn, currently undergoing field trials in the country, would be the second such product, after Bt cotton, to be marketed by the Indian arm of US-based Monsanto Co.
Monsanto India managing director Amitabh Jaipuria said the firm has received approval from India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to conduct field trials to evaluate the bio-safety of the genetically modified product against target insects and weeds. “The field trials are being conducted by state agriculture universities across India,” he said in an email.
GM corn is cultivated in 16 countries and has been approved by at least another 10 nations, the company said.
Monsanto is focusing on development and launch of new vegetable seed varieties in the Asian markets, especially India and China, Glick said.
Monsanto India, which launched its genetically modified cotton in the domestic market in 2002 in the face of protests from environmentalists, also sells hybrid corn, fruit and vegetables, and several other agrochemical products in the country.
The US parent—which also operates a wholly owned subsidiary in India called Monsanto Holdings Pvt. Ltd—markets Bt cotton through a joint venture company, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd. The GM corn will provide an 8-10% increase in yields, Glick claimed.
Crops tolerant to weed killers are common in developed countries where weed control strategies typically rely on herbicides, which can sometimes be toxic for the targeted crop as well with excessive use.
A 2006 report, authored by agricultural scientists S.R. Bhat and V.L. Chopra in Current Science magazine, says resistance to herbicides is an important trait of GM crops.
“While the proponents advocate that the new technology is scale neutral and its benefits should be made available to Indian farmers, the other section firmly believes that such crops are not suitable to our conditions and pose serious threat to the employment and livelihood opportunities of the poor and marginal farmers and labourers, and adversely impact environment, ecology and biodiversity,” the report adds.