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India's Mahyco Plans Field Trials for Herbicide-Tolerant GM Wheatqrcode

Nov. 15, 2013

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Nov. 15, 2013
India's seed-development major Mahyco is developing a series of genetically modified varieties of wheat and rice to boost crop yields by tackling drought, salinity and pests, a senior company official said.

"We are working on a herbicide-tolerant variety of wheat and have submitted an application to GEAC seeking permission to undertake field trials," Usha Zehr, chief technology officer of Mahyco, told Dow Jones. Monsanto has a 26% stake in Mahyco.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee( GEAC), is the regulatory authority that grants permission for such trials in India.

Mahyco has also undertaken laboratory tests to develop genetically modified rice with improved nitrogen use efficiency and now plans to undertake field trials.

"We are awaiting no-objection certificates from state governments in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra," Ms. Zehr said.

A cycle of field trials has been undertaken for salinity-tolerant GM rice, and three cycles of field trials have been done for yellow stem borer resistant GM rice, she said. After completing such trials, the next step is to obtain permission for large-scale trials in multiple locations.

She said the salinity in soil is a major issue hurting grain production and developing tolerance can improve yields in the case of wheat by 5%-7%.

"We are developing drought and salinity tolerant [GM] wheat and aim to start field trials in the coming two years," Ms. Zehr said.

Such research is significant because unlike corn, soybeans, cotton and canola, in which genetically modified varieties are grown on millions of hectares globally, no commercial cultivation of transgenic wheat and rice is permitted anywhere in the world because of concerns over food safety.

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