India: USAID funds global spin consortium to counter NGO & farmer resistance to Bt brinjal
New Delhi Wednesday July 5 2006
Global consortium vouches for Bt brinjal ASHOK B SHARMA
NEW DELHI, JULY 4: With a few days left for the regulator to decide on the proposed large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal, a global consortium funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched an active campaign vouching for the benefits of this transgenic crop.
The Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project-II (ABSP-II) funded by USAID and led by Cornell University is a global consortium of public and private sector institutions. In India, ABSP-II is coordinated by Sathguru Management Consultants.
The country’s regulator for transgenic crops, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has said it would decide on the crucial fate of Bt brinjal after July 15, the deadline set for receiving comments from NGOs and farmers’ organisations.
Regional director of ABSP-II, K Vijayraghavan said: “The developing world can benefit from advances in biotechnology, but much needs to be done to make bio-engineered products available in forms that farmers can use. The ABSP-II believes that farmers and consumers worldwide should have the opportunity to make informed choices about using bio-engineered products. It focuses on safe and effective development and commercialisation of GM crops as a complement to traditional and organic farming in developing countries."
ABSP-II is active in eastern and western Africa, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and The Philippines. In india and Bangladesh, ABSP-II has supported the development of several transgenic crops like pod borer resistant chickpea, tobbacco streak virus resistant sunflower and groundnut, late blight resistant potato and drought and salinity tolerant rice.
The four Bt brinjal hybrids developed by Mahyco is also the outcome of the support given from ABSP-II
Vijayraghavan said that the technology for developing Bt brinjal has been shared, free of cost, with the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University and Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi. He made it clear that technology transfer to private parties for commercial use would be at a cost.