Monsanto to launch weed-resistant cotton variant by 2011

Monsanto to launch weed-resistant cotton variant by 2011

New Delhi: US-based biotech major Monsanto is planning to launch a new hybrid version of cotton in India for commercial cultivation by 2011, notwithstanding the criticism over its existing products in the country and allegations that yields from the cotton seeds are much below claims.

After the success of Bollgard I and Bollgard II genetically modified (GM) cotton, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (MMB) is hopeful that its Roundup Ready Flex (RRF), a second generation hybrid would be commercialized in the next two-three years.

Approvals have already been granted for field trials which are being done in South India to examine the growth, development, crop yield and fibre quality. The company plans to undertake trials in a wider area from next year.

“The technology is currently in early stages of regulatory trials and we expect to make it available to farmers by 2011," MMB Deputy Managing Director Raj Ketkar told PTI.

On earlier variants of Bt cotton, experts had expressed doubts on their productivity levels.

Explaining the significance of RRF cotton, Ketkar said the new version is a weed control variant. It has been modified using two copies of gene to tolerate applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Roundup family of herbicide.

“Conventional cotton is susceptible to glyhosate damage. Farmers can use RRF to control weeds that emerge in their crop without causing crop damage," he said.

“RRF cotton will allow applications of approved glyphosate herbicides well beyond the four-leaf stage, up to seven days prior to harvest, providing a more flexible application window. It also gives greater weed control efficacy resulting in higher yield and higher income to farmers," he added.

“Our goal is to bring technology relevant for Indian farmers. In the long term, we plan to launch drought-tolerant cotton in India," Ketkar said.

However, the success of Monsanto will determine only when RRF technology effectively yeilds good returns.