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Indian state revokes order to check planting of Monsanto GM cotton

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Indian state revokes order to check planting of Monsanto GM cotton

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By Mayank Bhardwaj NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A leading Indian cotton producing-state has withdrawn an order asking government officials to inspect fields planted with an unapproved variety of genetically modified (GM) cotton developed by Monsanto Co <MON.N>, the world’s No. 1 seed maker. Farmers in Andhra Pradesh have planted 15 percent of the cotton area in the state with Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex (RRF), prompting the local government on Oct. 5 to form a panel of officials to inspect the fields of farmers growing RRF. The earlier order has been cancelled, senior Andhra Pradesh official B. Rajasekhar said in a statement issued on Friday, and seen by Reuters. Rajasekhar did not give any reason for rescinding last week’s order. Calls to his office went unanswered. Bollgard II RRF is a proprietary technology owned by Monsanto, which last year withdrew its application seeking approval from the regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), for this variety. It is not clear how Bollgard II RRF seeped into some cotton fields without the approval of GEAC. Monsanto applied for GEAC approval of Bollgard II RRF, known for its herbicide-tolerant properties, in 2007. When the U.S. company withdrew the application last year, it was in the final stages of a lengthy process that included years of field trials. A Monsanto spokesman had earlier said that it was a matter of “grave concern” that some seed companies were attempting to incorporate unauthorised, unapproved technologies into their seeds. New Delhi approved the first GM cotton seed trait in 2003 and an upgraded variety in 2006, helping transform India into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of the fibre. Monsanto is locked in a bitter battle with a leading India seed company, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, drawing in the Indian and U.S. governments, Reuters revealed earlier this year.(http://reut.rs/2ncBknn)

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Adrian Croft)
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