This is just the latest intervention by the United States in order to promote GM crops in India and nor is it the first involving the USAID-backed initiative, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project-II (ABSP-II), which is based and directed from Cornell.
ABSP partners have included Asgrow, Monsanto, and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Promoting GM is, of course, an official part of USAID's remit - one of its roles being to "integrate GM into local food systems."
The ABSP Bt brinjal project referred to below also involves Monsanto's Indian partner Mayhco.
India is the Centre of Origin for brinjal (or aubergine/eggplant). Brinjal has been cultivated in India for the last 4000 years or so. It is grown all over the country, year-round and is one of the most popular vegetables of India. (Briefing paper on the threat of Bt brinjal in India)
Global consortium vouches for Bt brinjal
ASHOK B SHARMA Financial Express, July 05 2006
NEW DELHI, JULY 4: With a few days left for the regulator to decide on the proposed large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal, a global consortium funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched an active campaign vouching for the benefits of this transgenic crop.
The Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project-II (ABSP-II) funded by USAID and led by Cornell University is a global consortium of public and private sector institutions. In India, ABSP-II is coordinated by Sathguru Management Consultants.
The country's regulator for transgenic crops, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has said it would decide on the crucial fate of Bt brinjal after July 15, the deadline set for receiving comments from NGOs and farmers' organisations.
Regional director of ABSP-II, K Vijayraghavan said: "The developing world can benefit from advances in biotechnology, but much needs to be done to make bio-engineered products available in forms that farmers can use. The ABSP-II believes that farmers and consumers worldwide should have the opportunity to make informed choices about using bio-engineered products."
ABSP-II is active in eastern and western Africa, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and The Philippines. In india and Bangladesh, ABSP-II has supported the development of several transgenic crops like pod borer resistant chickpea, tobbacco streak virus resistant sunflower and groundnut, late blight resistant potato and drought and salinity tolerant rice.
The four Bt brinjal hybrids developed by Mahyco is also the outcome of the support given from ABSP-II
Vijayraghavan said that the technology for developing Bt brinjal has been shared, free of cost, with the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University and Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi. He made it clear that technology transfer to private parties for commercial use would be at a cost.
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