India plans regulatory mechanism for tracking transgenic plant varieties

Friday, 21 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India will have to move cautiously in the adoption of transgenic plant varieties for enhancing food and nutrition security of the country and set up a monitoring mechanism, according to a senior agriculture official.

"We have to hasten cautiously while looking at the adoption of transgenic plant varieties to address concerns on ecological, environment and health safety among others," Mohan Kanda, secretary in the department of agriculture and cooperation in the ministry of agriculture, said here Friday.

"The regulatory mechanism would look into the adoption of different transgenic varieties on a case-to-case basis," Kanda told IANS on the sidelines of the three-day "Knowledge Millennium III: The Business of Biotechnology", organized here by the Associated Chambers of Commerce And Industry of India (Assocham).

Biotechnology is expected to be the next big wealth creator in the country after IT, experts at the inaugural session said here Friday. Slated to become a $5 billion agri bio-business globally, India is keen to tap the potential by harnessing its knowledge capital.

As the same time, Kanda emphasized that India is keen to take proper precautions while considering adoption of new transgenic varieties for commercial cultivation.

So far India has granted permission to only BT Cotton for commercial cultivation, while permission is awaited for transgenic mustard, rice and several other transgenic.

"We are in the process of amending the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001 and the Seeds Act for registration of transgenic varieties. At the same time we are proposing to set up a regulatory mechanism to ensure proper testing and registration to track inflow of transgenic plant varieties and bio-products," said Kanda.

India currently has just two percent share in the agriculture biotechnology sphere as against China's share of 33 percent, said D.P.S. Verma of Ohio University.

Unlike in India and several other developing countries, Verma said all the parts of plants and animals are being used in the U.S "for producing a variety of valuable products."

According to Verma, a pioneer in cloning plant gene, a dead animal is more valuable than a live animal as they provide scope for producing several valuable products using biotechnology.

For India to realize its potential, Verma said, "Let agri-business be part of open economy and take the next step to becoming globally competitive. It is not IT or BT (biotechnology) but value addition and processing of agriculture and animal sources that could lead India to greater growth."
Source: IANS
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