India produces close to 20 million tonnes of coarse cereals, but yields are typically less than two tonnes per hectare. Monsanto thinks there is a lot to gain in the country when using GM crops.
After the success of genetically modified cotton in India, Monsanto is interested in extending its product line to include corn (maize), rice, wheat and vegetables such as tomato, okra and pepper.
Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, says that they are interested in expanding corn production in India. “I expect Indian farmers to move from rice to corn as rice uses a lot of water. Our technology will help reduce water usage and increase yield on less land,” he adds.
The crop giant is already testing modified corn in India. It is the first season for the grain and it is being tested for use in animal feed.
A foodgrain of interest to the company is wheat. Monsanto recently made a tech investment in wheat to research new traits that will help farmers improve yields and reduce input resources.
India is world’s second largest wheat producer (75-77 million tonnes) after China.
Explaining the rationale behind interest in grains such as corn and wheat, Fraley said that lifestyles in India are changing due to income increases and population pressure.
It is known that Indian wheat and maize are at the limit of heat tolerance. Both crops are at risk of yield loss, if global warming causes average temperatures to rise.
Fraley remarked that although India has taken a cautious approach to regulation of such products, at the same time it has taken a science-based approach. “Indian regulatory process decision is made on fair science basis,” he asserted.
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