Nine agri biotech companies have come together to form ‘Alliance for Agri Innovation’, a body to promote adoption of global advances in agri-technology, seeds and plant breeding in the country.
Besides this, it will also work for enhanced investments in the area, create public awareness of the issues as well as work with government and regulatory authorities towards a more supportive policy environment, said Ram Kaundinya, Advisor to the Alliance.
Stating that a few more firms were also expected to join the Alliance, he said the challenges faced by agri biotech companies pertained to the regulatory process, intellectual property protection and price control.
In a media interaction here on Tuesday, Mr. Kaundinya and Executive Director of the Alliance Shivendra Bajaj said only Bt cotton is permitted in the country. The process and time taken for allowing other such crops, they said, had resulted in many of the member companies of the Alliance scaling down research operations in the area and as a corollary, laying off people.
Mr. Kaundinya said the Alliance’s stand is that permission for other crops should be approved after thorough evaluation. “Once the regulatory body is happy with the data, they should approve,” he said, adding a political will to permit the same was lacking.
The government’s decision to prescribe the price of Bt cotton is also worrisome for the companies as it may set a pattern for any future GM product too. “We believe the prices should be decided by the market not by the government,” he said.
The Alliance would be working with regulators, including on different evaluation and assessment methodologies as well as risk assessment.
Mr. Bajaj said many biotech companies were likely to consider Philippines to undertake trial on GM rice. “There the regulations are clear, they have very strict regulations, but they don’t change...” he added.