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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 15:03 GMT
India nears decision on GM crops
The planting of GM crops raised controversy around the world
The planting of GM crops raised controversy around the world
India has moved one step closer to approving genetically modified crops.

The government has started carrying out data analysis on oil seed and cotton crops, following one year of experiments.

The results are set to be passed to the government's genetic engineering approval committee - with a decision possible as early as next month.

While support for GM crops is growing in India, there are still many people locally - and worldwide - who have voiced concerns over the danger such crops pose to the environment, and ethical issues involved.

Productivity gains

Vivek Bharti, an adviser to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), believes that GM crops offer the potential for huge productivity gains.

He points to China's experience of GM crops, adding that if "the kind of productivity increase seen in China, is possible in India, then I can certainly say that... genetically modified crops hold a lot of promise for Indian agriculture".

He pointed to recent slowdown in growth in Indian agriculture, the mainstay of the country's important rural economy.

"To eradicate poverty, this growth rate needs to be stepped up," he added, indicating that GM technology may be a way forward.

Biotechnology, like software, is knowledge intensive.

This gives India's highly-qualified and English speaking, but relatively cheap, workforce a real commercial advantage.

A report last year by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the national market in biotechnology was now valued at $2.5bn, a fivefold increase since 1997.

Vivek Bharti, FICCI
"The use of these new genetically modified crops [could] hold a lot of promise for Indian agriculture"
See also:

04 Jan 02 | Business
Biotechs fight to win back investors
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
India allows sale of GM seeds
06 Apr 01 | South Asia
Indian firms embrace biotechnology
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