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Chennai , Jan 19: Globally, the hectarage of geneticaly improved crops areincreasing. It has gone upto 44.2 million hectares from 1.7 millionhectares in 1996 in 11 countries, mainly Argentina, USA, Mexico, Canada,Australia, South Africa and China.In India, genetically modified or transgenic crops are still creating ascare and are talked of as manipulations of a few multinational companies.Experts like Prof MS Swamianthan say that biotechnolgy and transgenicsoffer an opportunity to meet the increasing food needs of the country. Butthey also call attention to the possible risk factors, an oft-repeateddictum of Prof Swaminathan is that ``We have to go fast in research andslow in application of genetically modified crops''.The Indian agriculture scientists are of the view, that India has todevelop its own GM crops and several Indian private and public sectorinstitutons, have been doing research in this new branch of life scienceswith considerable success.Indian public sector institutions are doing transgenic researches in rice,tobacco, mustard, potato, tomato, brinjal, cauliflower andcabbage.Transgenic research in rice is being conducted by Bose InstituteCalcutta, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, DelhiUniversity, and Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), sub-stationShillong.The Bose Institute is working with Bt toxin genes to generate plants,resistant to lepidopteran pests. It is ready to undertake green housetesting. IARI, Shillong also is doing similar research and transformationis in progress. TNAU focus is on reporter genes to study the extent oftransformation. Delhi university studies on selectable marker genes.Tata Energy Research Institute, Delhi, Monsanto and Michigan StateUniveristy are to collaborate in the adoption and transfer of technology,to develop a golden mustard that will yield cooking oil high inbeta-carotene with financial assitance from USAID.The Central Tobacco Research Institute, Rajahmundri, is doing researcheswith Bt toxin gene to generate plants resistant to two specifc pests. Oneround of contained field trial, has been completed and further evaluationis in progress. It is ready to undertake green house trials.Jawaharlal Nehru University, also is into transgenic research on potatowith seed protein containing lysine, obtained from seeds of Amaranthusplants. Transformation is completed and transgenic potato is underevaluation.IARI, New Delhi is in a very advanced stage of research andapplication of Bt gene in brinjal, tomato and cauliflower to impartlepidopteran pests resistance. Transforamtion and green-house trials arecompleted for all the three. Meanwhile field evaluation is completed forbrinjal and tomato.The institute also has completed the transformation and greenhouse trialsof mustard, modified with arabidopsis annexin gene. It is ready for fieldtrials for moisture stress resistance.The Chennai-based MS Swaminathan Research Foundation is developingsalt-resistant paddy, with a gene obtained from a mangrove plant in thecoastal belt of Tamil Nadu.The Department of Biotechnology and Swiss reserchers are reported to betrying to reach an agreement, that would allow Indian agriculturescientists to insert the `golden rice' gene sequences into popular Indianvarieties of rice.In the private sector Mahyco, Rallis India and Proagro PGS (India) Ltd areengaged in the development of transgenic crops. Novartis is expected tojoin them very soon.Mumbai-based Mahyco, in collaboration with Monsanto, has completedmulticentric field trials of pest resistant cotton in over 40 locations.Contained field trials are in progress.Rallis India Ltd. is doing researches into the introduction of lectin genein chilli, bell pepper and tomato. The target is resistance againstlepidopteran, coleopteran and homopteran pests. Transforamtion experimentsare in progress in all the three vegetables.Proagro is working on mustasrd, tomato and brinjal. For mustard the planis to develop better hybrid cultivars, suitable for local conditions.Contained field trials have been completed in 15 locations. Containedopen-field research trials are in progress at several locations.Research for pest resistance tomato also has made good progress. Glasshouse experiments, and one season contained filed experiment completed.With regard to brinjal, glass house experiments are in progess.Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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