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India to develop Bt cotton genes

India is working to develop Bt cotton genes that can be integrated into traditional varieties and be made available to farmers as a viable alternative to the current technology, which is largely sourced from Mahyco Monsanto Biotech.

Historically multinational companies’ research budgets have far outweighed that of Indian research agencies. This project will have to address that because translating genes into commercial products is a huge challenge. Cotton is the only genetically-modified seed that’s legally allowed in India. Genetically modified food crops such as brinjal and mustard, which are in advanced stages of regulatory clearances, are yet to become available to farmers due to stringent opposition by anti-GM activists.

There are already several genes available in various labs and stages of development, but the aim is that India should not be dependent on foreign technology. While Bt cotton has always been controversial, it is now in the throes of a new controversy with the way seed companies and seed-technology companies such as MMB share royalty, technology and determine the price at which farmers buy cotton seed. There are different opinions on whether seed tech companies have the right or are obliged to license their technology to seed companies on request.