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India: Government Official Lauds Bt Cotton

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- Dilip Kumar Jha, Business Standard, January 20, 2010 

India has generated an additional income of Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 12,000 crore annually (~ $3B) because of its higher yield, J N Singh, joint secretary in the Union textiles ministry, told Business Standard.

According to official figures, 80 per cent of the overall cotton crop is from Bt seeds. The area under Bt cotton has been growing between four and five per cent a year, more so in region with irrigation facilities.. Bt cotton is, however, unlikely to replace conventional cotton completely, especially in rain-fed regions like Vidarbha, Singh added.

The country’s annual cotton output is 30 million bales (1 bale = 170 kg). It earned a sum of Rs 2,800 crore (~ $700M) through exports in 2008. Cottonseed oil availability has eased the vegetable oil shortage, while cottonseed meal exports have fetched an additional annual income of Rs 3,500 crore.

Hybrid seed companies had a total sale of Rs 110 crore. Research and development (R&D) has been largely remained confined to public sector companies and government organizations. The agri-biotechnology industry needs a favourable environment that encourages R&D of new technologies to help achieve food security and drive inclusive growth, said V R Kaundinya, CEO and managing director of Advanta Seed Ltd, a company engaged in hybrid seed production.

Visionary policies are required to encourage R&D investment and innovation, promote choice and free markets that encourage competition and the freedom to operate in all states, he said..

Also, industry wants a reasonable return on the big investments needed for bringing new technology in important crops like cotton, mustard, wheat, rice, vegetables, etc.

On Bt brinjal, Kaundinya said Bt soybean and mustard had been used without a problem for years in various parts of the globe. So, brinjal should be no problem. “The world needs to set a priority to meet the widening deficit of food availability due to growing population,” he said.