India farmers have been allowed to grow Bt cotton, but additional biotech crops for food and feed are not receiving registrations, which is limiting the country’s farmers from advancing yields using less inputs.
A report from rediff.com, an India news service, reported that there is a substantial push for allowing more biotech crop production in the immediate future. India was a “pioneer among developing countries” for approving Bt cotton, but it is now lagging behind and paying the cost.
The founder and chair of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications and the director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics both recently spoke loudly about the need for India to adopt much more biotech cropping. They were part of the organizers for a conference on biotechnology held in Hyderabad, India. The one-day conference was mainly to demystify crop biotechnology for the Asian media. Representatives came from India, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden and other European countries not specifically recognized.
Clive James, founder and chair of ISAAA, and William Darr, director general of ICRISAT, contended, at the conference, that biotech crops are needed to feed the growing world population, of which India’s population will be growing as rapidly as any country other than China.
"Indian farmers have already tasted the success from commercial cultivation of Bt cotton. . . why are these farmers not given the opportunities to reap rich benefits by growing other Bt crops," James is quoted as telling the conference.
James did agree that biotech seed costs are higher, but he contended that is no reason for India's farmers to reject paying the prices considering the offsetting reduced input costs and higher yields.
James and Darr blamed activist organizations for spreading “untrue” claims that biotech food is unhealthy and dangerous to eat.
"By displaying strong political will, China has approved Bt in cotton, papaya, poplar, tomato and sweet pepper, and its farmers are reaping rich benefits," James said in emphasizing the need for adoption of biotech crop technology by other countries.
Darr and James called the India government’s hold on approving brinjal (eggplant) since February 2010 a travesty.
"From 1996 (when Bt technology was introduced) to 2010, Bt crop acreage increased by an unprecedented 1 billion hectares,” Darr told the conference.
The two organization spokesman concluded that India farmers must be part of the ever expanding biotech production to be competitive in the world markets and to feed the country’s population.