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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 18:33 GMT
India allows sale of GM cotton
Cotton pickers
The date for the sale has not been set yet
By the BBC's Alastair Lawson in Delhi

The Indian Government says it will soon allow genetically modified cotton to be sold commercially for the first time.

The head of the Department of Biotechnology, Manju Sharma, told the BBC that a date for the sale had not yet been set.

The announcement is the culmination of over a year's experiments involving GM cotton crops. The Biotechnology Department said the tests had been positive.

The crop trials have taken place in 40 locations across the country's main cotton-growing areas, including the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Resistant crops

Such crops are resistant to cotton bollworm, which causes heavy damage to India's cotton harvest.

A farmers rally in Bangalore
Environmentalists are likely to get angry
This has experienced low yields for several years in comparison to developed countries.

India devotes more land to growing cotton than any other country in the world, but it produces far less per hectare.

The government research into GM crops has already been strongly criticised by the environmental lobby, which is likely to be incensed by the latest news.

The lobby have called for a 10-year moratorium on field trials and production.

Some cotton farmers argue that many who are opposed to GM seeds are acting in concert with the domestic seed and pesticide companies which want to protect their interests.

The government announcement is also likely to be criticised by those who argue that it contradicts its stance against multinational companies, which it has criticised for acquiring patents on staple foods such as rice.

See also:

20 Jul 00 | South Asia
India to test GM cotton
06 Apr 01 | South Asia
Indian firms embrace biotechnology
29 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
GM 'solution' to over-fishing
25 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Mosquito attacks its own problem
03 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Lethal 'switch' kills pests
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