Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - June 21, 2004:
* Monsanto withdraws GMO wheat from all but US FDA
* US takes GMO pitch to Africa
* Egypt will help Tanzania with 'inevitable' GM crops
* For the Sake of our Stomachs
* Agricultural Conference to Address West African Food Shortage
* GENETICALLY ALTERED FOODS MIGHT BECOME NECESSARY: FAO
* WHY ARE PEOPLE HOSTILE TO BIOTECHNOLOGIES
* BIOTECHNOLOGY SEEN PAVING RP RICE SECURITY
* Banking on biotech
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 18:45:44 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Timur Hyat-khan"
Subject: Partial Answer
Shanthu Shantharam, Biologistics International LLC, Ellicott City, MD
"The developments are there but they have not yet been commercialized."
I asked about plants that use less water and fertilizer, the answer covers less water, where is the less fertilizer. I did not mention Herbicides and Pesticides, that we know about. Could you share the great developments for less water and fertilizers. Even if they have not been commercialized, unless you are working for their commercialization and wish to keep the details secret. Dont you think that the reported developments for plants that use less water and fertilizers are more important than less herbicide and pesticide. If so why cant they be commercialized on emergency basis? We need all the plants that grow without less water. Also those plants that grow with less fertilizer -- How did they manage that? How does it work? do you include Nitrogen fixing genes into plants without this system, or do you have plant food synthesis in the plant? Great developments, Why are they secret.
Monsanto withdraws GMO wheat from all but US FDA
- Reuters, June 21, 2004
WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Monsanto Co. (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) has formally withdrawn submissions for its genetically modified wheat from all regulatory agencies except the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a company spokeswoman said.
The withdrawal is the last step in Monsanto's announcement last month that it would shelve plans to introduce the world's first GMO wheat, spokesman Chris Horner said.
"It's a natural part of the process that we announced last month," Horner said.
Monsanto had asked for government approvals for the GMO wheat in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and Columbia, Horner said.
The company and regulators in the countries "mutually agreed" that Monsanto should withdraw its submissions, he said.
Monsanto had planned to commercialize the wheat for growth in Canada and the United States, but ran into opposition from export buyers who worried their consumers would reject it.
Canadian and U.S. farm groups and exporters worried that the modified wheat could not be kept separate from their traditional crops, putting other grain at risk of rejection from buyers.
Environmental groups around the world also demonstrated against the wheat because of safety fears.
Monsanto has said it would wait to resume work on the wheat, designed to resist applications of its Round Up weed killer, until other types of GMO wheat are commercialized.
In the United States, the company withdrew submissions it had made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, but decided to proceed with an application at the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA review is believed to be almost complete, Horner said. Approval from the agency would establish that the wheat is safe for human and livestock consumption. "It would establish the safety for food and feed consumption, and it would be be one less regulatory approval to obtain, if and when that day ever comes," Horner said.
Approval from the FDA alone would not be enough to allow Monsanto to commercialize the wheat, Horner added.
"It doesn't change the commercialization status at all, but from a regulatory perspective it (would) indicate that there are no issues with this product from a food and feed safety perspective," he said.
The U.S. wheat industry agrees with Monsanto's decision to proceed with FDA approvals, said U.S. Wheat Associates, a trade group that promotes U.S. wheat overseas.
"We appreciate that FDA will complete its reviews of health aspects of Roundup Ready wheat, so that the concerns of critics can be answered," the group's president Alan Tracy said in a release.
Monsanto withdrew all its feed, food and environmental safety regulatory applications in Canada, where the Canadian Wheat Board, which exports most of the country's wheat, had threatened to sue the company if it received approvals.
"Monsanto has made the right decision," said Louise Waldman, a spokeswoman for the wheat board.
The CWB continues to lobby the Canadian government to change its regulatory process to consider the market impact of future GMO wheat varieties before granting them approval, Waldman said.
US takes GMO pitch to Africa
- News24.com, 20/06/2004
Ouagadougou - Delegates from 15 west African countries will gather on Monday in Burkina Faso at a summit sponsored by the United States aimed at sparking interest in genetically modified organisms as a way to boost food production on the world's poorest continent.
But whether the west Africans will join South Africa as pioneers in the use of GMOs, or will share Zambia's mistrust in the scientifically engineered strains of staple crops remains to be seen.
Some 400 representatives from the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) will spend three days listening to experts seek to prove how biotechnology will help farmers in the developing world feed another two billion people in 30 years.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that 23 out of 53 African states suffer from dire food shortages, primarily due to drought.
Biotechnology has already been used, with varying degrees of success, to breed drought-resistant crops as well as African staples such as rice and cassava that require less water.
Those advancements may interest the Sahel countries within Ecowas, who have seen fertile cropland swallowed by the advancing desert and are able to produce just 128 kilograms of grains per person per year in the world's worst harvests.
More than 200 million people are malnourished on the continent that has seen its food production eclipsed by other regions in the developing world.
Egypt will help Tanzania with 'inevitable' GM crops
- SciDev.Net, By Deodatus Balile, 18 June 2004
[CAIRO] Egypt is to provide training and other forms of technical assistance to Tanzania to help it develop the capacity to produce genetically modified (GM) crops. The offer was made during talks between the countries on the sensitive issue of access to water from the River Nile.
"We are ready to support any of your projects," said Egypt's deputy prime minister and minister for agriculture, Youssef Wally, told a visiting Tanzanian delegation last week.
He was responding to a request for agricultural and veterinary training from Tanzania's minister for water and livestock, Edward Lowassa, who led the delegation.
But Wally warned that generating the capacity to develop GM crops is an expensive process, and that Tanzania was unlikely to be able to afford to embrace the technology on its own. He therefore suggested that it should seek further assistance from China and India, both of which have the considerable technological experience with GM technology.
Wally told the Tanzanian delegation that implementation of the technology was inevitable. Egypt is already carrying out tests of GM strains of cotton, sugarcane and other crops, although it has yet to grow any of them commercially.
"We must not be too sensitive about this issue," Wally said. "It is like unnecessary fear of globalisation, computer technology or the internet. Remember that fifty per cent of maize grown in United States is produced through biotech."
The Tanzanian delegation included nine members of parliament and eight journalists, and was visiting Egypt primarily for a week-long official dialogue on issues surrounding the use of water from the River Nile.
Tanzania is refusing to recognise the 1929 Nile River Agreement between Great Britain and Egypt, which bans any country from using water from the Nile for irrigation without Egypt's permission. The treaty also restricts East African countries from using waters from Lake Victoria — hundreds of miles from the Egyptian border.
Egypt's deputy prime minister declined to comment on whether the offer of aid for GM technology was related to his country's efforts to persuade Tanzania to take a more flexible stance on the treaty. Nor did its minister for water and irrigation, Mohamed Abu Zeid, who said that there are issues other than the Nile on which the two countries can collaborate.
Meanwhile, views remain divided among ordinary Tanzanian farmers about GM issues. Some — as elsewhere in East Africa — are openly hostile.
"GM involves large scale farming accompanied with highly modernized technology, hence it is likely to kill the livelihood of peasantry farming in Tanzania, " says Said Hassan, a farmer from the suburbs of Dar es Salaam.
But others say they lack sufficient information to make an informed judgement.
"I have read about GM products, through newspapers, but I can't tell exactly what it is," says Majura Ndege, a farmer in Coast Region, Tanzania. "What I can say we depend much on the government's decision to lead us, if wrong decision is done, then we will be in trouble, if the decision is right, then we reap the profit."
For the Sake of our Stomachs
- News Watch (Nigeria), By Chikodi Okereocha, June 21, 2004
450 million Dollar international boost for Nigeria's battle against hunger
Nigeria's fight against hunger received a major boost recently with a $450 million development assistance by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID. A substantial part of the multi-million dollar lifeline which cover a period of five years would help improve the country's agricultural productivity through the development of biotechnology in Nigeria. Biotechnology is the new tool that assists conventional breeding techniques by selectively giving plants and animals new qualities and better nutritional value.
Dawn Liberi, USAID mission director in Nigeria, announced this at the formal launch of Nigeria Agricultural Biotechnology Project, NABP, and West Africa Biotechnology Network, WABNET, in Abuja, May 3. NABP is an initiative of the United States government through USAID and it is being implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan. The project, among other things, seeks to improve research and development of crops and livestock, improve the implementation of bio-safety guidelines and field testing of genetically modified crops. WABNET, on the other hand, would, through networking, ensure the exchange of information and cooperation in the exploitation of biotechnology-based resources in the sub-region.
Liberi disclosed that as part of USAID's support for the projects, it would be providing $2.1 million within the period of three years to provide the foundation for Nigeria to take advantage of biotechnology to improve agriculture. The fund, she said, would assist leading Nigerian Universities and institutions in the research and development of bio-engineered cowpea commonly known as groundnut and cassava varieties which resist insect and disease pests. It would also help the Nigerian government implement a bio-safety policy and also enhance public awareness and acceptance of biotechnology.
She said that NABP, was already working in collaboration with key Nigerian Universities and institutions among which are; the National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA, whose job it is to disseminate biotechnology information and Sheda Science and Technology Complex, SHESTCO, for the training of scientists. Others are the National Root Crops Research Institute, NRCRI, Umudike, Umuahia, for plant transformation; Institute of Agricultural Research, IAR and, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta for tissue culture experimentation and advanced biotechnology training, respectively.
Liberi, however, told Newswatch in an interview that apart from providing the financial support for the project, USAID had initiated a number of other development assistance to help put food on the table of Nigerians. For instance, the agency, she said, had signed partnership with Nigeria in three main areas. The first one, she said, was with government, IITA and Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, SPDC, which focused on involving states in the Niger Delta region to help increase cassava production and also increase resistance to cassava mosaic disease.
There is also a similar partnership between IITA and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the production of rice. USAID also recently signed an agreement with the Cross River State National Park that would help protect the tropical rain forest for the purpose of increasing tree crop production. Biotechnology resources offered by the park is unique, hence the need to protect it.
The USAID mission director also told Newswatch that the agency provides technical assistance in form of training and capacity building. It also helps in linking Nigerian research institutions with their counterpart in the world with similar experiences so that they can improve on their sources. "You see, as part of USAID strategy we are hoping that we would be able to help Nigeria increase its non-oil production, increase agricultural production and also improved productivity in non oil areas."
The high point of the project launch was the signing of a memorandum of understanding, MOU, between the federal government of Nigeria, IITA and USAID, signalling, the beginning of a new dawn for Nigeria's agricultural sector.
Turner Isoun, minister of Science and technology who signed on behalf of the Nigerian government explained that biotechnology has the potential to solve the pervasive problem of poverty and food insecurity in the developing world including Nigeria. Biotechnology has immense potentials in all its major fields of application like health, agriculture, industry and environment, he said. His words: "No one can ignore the economic impact which the control and communication of some biotechnological procedures could have on a nation. Countries may, due to lack of infrastructure and capacity, have little influence in the direction of international research but they, should not lose interest in modern biotechnology because of the high prospects it offers in health, agriculture, industrial and environmental issues".
The launch of NABP and WABNET was part of the programme of an international workshop titled: Facilitating Biotechnology in West Africa: Communicating Issues to the Stakeholders. The workshop was held between May 3-5 in Abuja and was organised by the National Biotechnology Development Agency, IITA and Tuskegee University based in USA. It was sponsored by the USAID.
Agricultural Conference to Address West African Food Shortage
- Voice of America, 18 Jun 2004
The human and economic costs of Africa's food crisis are staggering. Poverty and lack of food force one out of every three people to go hungry. An upcoming conference in West Africa will examine technology as a way to help farmers in that region of the continent.
In an effort to better feed West Africa's 226 million people, the United States and Burkina Faso governments are co-sponsoring an agricultural science conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital. U.S. Agriculture Department official J.B. Penn says the focus is on using science and technology to increase food production in West Africa.
"We recognize that technology is not an end in and of itself," he says. "It's developed to serve people and their needs. And this conference is a response to the needs of hundreds of millions of people who simply don't have enough food. It's a response to farmers who are struggling to grow enough food first to feed themselves and then enough to earn income to feed their families."
Hunger is continent-wide in Africa. Mr. Penn says the meeting focuses on West African countries because they have established some political security. "Investment is only going to flow into places where there is some safety, and security, and good government," he added.
Ghana-based agricultural scientist Walter Alhassan welcomes the attention on West Africa. He is the West African coordinator for the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project Two, a public-private consortium promoting research and policy development. Mr. Alhassan says technology needs to help farmers not only grow more food, but also find better ways to store it and bring it to market.
"We think it's a very good opportunity since it brings together policymakers at the very high levels," he explains. "When there's a buy-in at that level, it facilitates the development of the technology."
Officials will discuss water management, biotechnology and regulatory policies to fight drought, crop diseases, and barren soil. J.B. Penn says that rather than looking at new inventions, policymakers will concentrate on making existing technologies more usable. "It may be better seed varieties, better planning practices, better processing techniques or better ways of irrigating crops," he notes. "Whatever the technology, it needs to be affordable, appropriate, and accessible."
Mr. Penn says the conference will not address the controversial subsidies the U.S. government pays to American farmers and crop buyers. Many Africans are critical of these subsidies, saying the price breaks out-compete West African growers, especially in cotton. The U.S. farm official says the place to discuss foreign subsidies is at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Ouagadougou conference teams several U.S. government groups with West African economic and agricultural organizations like ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States. Mr. Penn thinks that the West African meeting will improve regional communication.
The U.S. Agriculture Department is expected to sign an agreement with a new group called the African Agricultural Technology Foundation to enable technology transfer to West African scientists.
"This foundation we see as a device that will help us facilitate the dissemination of the technology," Mr. Penn adds. "We can deal with the foundation. The foundation in turn can deal with all the member countries that it represents."
In Ghana, Walter Alhassan says better science is just one part of the solution for West African farmers. He points out that for all but the richest farmers, the cost of advanced methods eats into profits. He believes countries should subsidize fertilizers and other supplies and make policies that support the new technologies. Mr. Alhassan also says more must be done to get farmers to accept the technologies. There has been particular resistance to genetically engineering plants to stave off disease.
"The resistance is out of ignorance," he states. "We need to do more public enlightenment to disabuse the minds of people of the perceived dangers of the use of genetically modified organisms."
The West African meeting is modeled after a Central American regional conference in May.
GENETICALLY ALTERED FOODS MIGHT BECOME NECESSARY: FAO
- The Statesman (India), June 18, 2004
Use of genetically altered foods might become necessary as the world population increases from the current level of six billion to nine billion by 2050, thus requiring a 60 per cent increase in global food production, a top UN official has indicated. The developing countries must increase their scientific capabilities to meet that challenge, executive director of the Food and Africulture Organisation (FAO), Mr Jacques Diouf, said. Since expanding arable land is increasingly not feasible, we will have to use the scientific tools of molecular biology, in particular the identification of molecular markers, genetic mapping and gene transfer for more effective plant enhancement, going beyond the phenotype-based methods, Mr Diouf said.
The FAO director was responding to an open letter from NGOs charging that FAO's State of Food and Agriculture report for this year omitted to mention that five companies make up virtually 100 per cent of the transgenic seed market, a situation for which, they said, FAO should propose alternatives. "Decisions on the rules and utilisation of these techniques must, however, be taken at the international level by competent bodies," he said. Developing countries should take part in the decision making, develop their scientific capacity and master the necessary expertise and techniques to understand their implications and make independent choices in order to reach an international consensus, Mr Diouf said. FAO would promote an international dialogue on these issues based on sound scientific principles, the official said.
WHY ARE PEOPLE HOSTILE TO BIOTECHNOLOGIES
An article by Bucchi and Neresini in Science
“Why Are People Hostile To Biotechnologies?” by Massimiano Bucchi and Federico Neresini is published in the latest issue of the journal Science (vol. 304, 18 june 2004).
Why Hostile to Biotech? What determines the public's attitudes toward biotechnology? The paper suggests that hostility toward biotechnology represents, in large part, the public's concern for the procedures concerning scientific expertise, decision making and political representation. Using responses from the third of a series of studies on Italian citizens’ attitudes to biotechnologies – partly supported by Observa Cultural Association together with Fondazione Bassetti - and drawing on past studies suggesting that something more than media coverage and scientific awareness are at play, researchers addressed the question of what shapes public opinion of biotechnology. The authors hypothesize that the public does not fear biotechnologies so much as the interaction between science, politics and business.
The article is available on the Science website www.sciencemag.org
On Observa website www.observanet.it at http://www.observanet.it/observa/news.asp?LAN=ENG#73 the following materials are available:
- The main results of the most recent survey on Biotechnologies and the Governance of Innovation;
- Previous studies on Biotechnologies and Public Opinion in Italy (2000, 2001);
- Biotech remains unloved by the more informed: an article by M. Bucchi e F. Neresini published in Nature, vol. 416, 21 march 2002, p.261.
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BIOTECHNOLOGY SEEN PAVING RP RICE SECURITY
- TODAY, By Dennis D. Estopace, 17-June-2004
TINKERING with genes in a grain could feed 107 million Filipinos by the year 2005. So hopes a 32-year-old scientist banking on the potentials of this 10,000-year-old staple through biotechnology.
"The need is of course to shift the yield potentials some more from the 10 tons that [we achieve through existing] varieties. We have to push it higher, up to 65-percent higher," said Dr. Jose de Leon. "One factor that can unleash that potential os the impact of biotechnology."
Speaking before agriculture department employees and scientists, de Leon, supervising science research specialist of the Philippine Rice Research
(PhilRice) and author of the soon-to-be-released book, The Rice That Filipinos Grow and Eat, envisions a higher-yielding rice variety that can grow with less water and soil.
"We need a variety that could double the 10-ton-a-hectare grain produced by farmers today," de Leon said at the National Pesticide Analytical Laboratory conference room in the Bureau of Animal Industry compound.
A high-yield variety of rice, the oldest crop in continuous cultivation, could boost grain production of farmers beyond the current benchmark. That's a long way from the first rice plantings that grew in Andarajan, Cagayan, during the second millennium before Christ.
And it won't be long before the country could produce its first genetically modified rice; Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo, in fact, expects PhilRice to do just that by 2006.
"We have to look at technology as a solution and an approach to improving the ability to feed our people," Lorenzo said. "The technology is there. We just have to adopt it, acclimatize it to local conditions."
Indeed, the use of such technology has led to a variety now sitting in the laboratory of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), according to de Leon. Through genetic engineering, he said, the IRRI was able to produce a so-called golden rice that has a component to stop vitamin A deficiency. The golden rice, he explained, was engineered from the IR64 variety that was released in 1985, is preferred by millers and commands a higher price in the market.
"Now that it can be expressed in a modified IR64, in the future it would be easy to transfer this trait to other varieties using conventional approaches," de Leon said, adding however, that research is costly. He did not say how much needs to be spent to create this high-tech rice variety.
"The research for superior varieties is the first logical step toward the end goal of increasing productivity per se and securing the per capita food consumption of a similarly growing population," de Leon said.
Banking on biotech
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 06/19/2004, By Rachel Melcer
In India, where 650 million people eke out a living on the land, biotechnology could be a tool for survival, leading scientists and farm advocates say.
The nation is squeezed by a growing population and a diminishing amount of available, arable land. Farmers are poor and often malnourished. More than half the fields lack irrigation, so productivity depends on monsoon rains.
Crop biotechnology - inserting a gene for a desirable trait from a plant or bacterium into seeds - could lead to wheat that grows in a dry season or rice that thrives in salty, coastal soil.
Biotech has produced rice enriched with Vitamin A as well as corn, cotton, canola and soybeans that have higher yields, resist pests and make it easier to kill weeds.
"We need to feed our people. I don't see any other route but through biotechnology ... unless we fell the jungles," said Satish Deodhar, an economist on the faculty at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.
Monsanto Co., the world's leading developer of commercial biotech plants, sells the only type available in India: insect-resistant cotton.
The nonprofit Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, near Monsanto's headquarters in Creve Coeur, is conducting basic research on biotech-crop advances that can help humanity.
The company and the research center have said they want their work to improve conditions in India and other developing nations.
But while one is motivated by profit, the other pursues science accessible to all.
Some farmers and observers in India accept both models as helpful. But others say the divide between for-profit and nonprofit makes all the difference in the world.
"Agriculture is not a commercial activity here - it's a livelihood," said Suman Suhai, founder of the Gene Campaign, which fights for farmer and tribal rights to indigenous plants and genetic resources. Indian farmers can't afford to take risks and should not be seen simply as a market for corporations, she said.
Biotechnology has potential to help poor farmers, but the available genetically modified crops are of little use to them, said Suhai, a geneticist.
Biotech's value, she said, will come in plants that can survive harsh conditions or that carry added nutritional or medicinal value.
Such crops are being developed at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, a nonprofit similar to the Danforth Center. It is named for and run by the father of India's Green Revolution, which brought high-yielding hybrid seeds that helped to stop cyclical famines.
"At the moment, this technology is doing nothing for us. And that is what makes us nervous and concerned," Suhai said.
Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, for example, make it easier for farmers to kill weeds. But weeding is a valuable job for workers who otherwise would be unemployed. And the weeds might have value as food or traditional medicine, Suhai said.
Yet, the company says Roundup Ready technology greatly reduces the use of pesticides, which threaten the health of farmers and the environment. India's waterways are highly polluted, and the use of chemical sprays and fertilizers is a significant cause.
What's more, Roundup Ready crops are not available in India.
The only commercial biotech seeds the central government has approved are for Bollgard cotton, which wards off insect infestations. India is the world's third-largest cotton producer.
Ranjane Smetacek, director of public affairs for Monsanto India, based in Mumbai, said Bollgard cotton helps farmers to save money on labor and pesticides as well as to produce greater quantities of higher-quality cotton, which fetches a greater price.
"Farmers in India live in desperate circumstances. For them, what really matters is increased income and making farming more economically viable," Smetacek said.
"They are very quick to embrace new technology. They're extremely forward-thinking."
Value in a seed
Chengal Reddy, chairman of the Federation of Farmers Associations, said growers in his grass-roots organization welcome crop biotechnology. They have seen its rapid adoption in the United States, Brazil and other countries where agriculture is a profitable enterprise. Now, they want to reap the same benefits.
"Farmers go, by and large, by common sense and economics," he said. "They've tried biotech; it worked. Now, they want to go ahead with it."
Swaminathan said the technology is about ensuring "productivity in perpetuity, but without ecological harm." The key is ensuring that biotechnology is accessible and helpful to the poor.
Other nations struggle over whether to accept genetically modified crops, which some people fear can pose a long-term threat to human health or the environment.
But India largely has decided in their favor.
The central government invests hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in developing its biotech seeds, and it has adopted a science-based system for approving commercial varieties.
India also is too large to get caught in the middle of a dispute between the United States and the European Union, which largely has shunned genetically modified crops, experts said. Several countries in Africa have rejected biotech seeds and genetically modified food aid because they feared losing access to European markets for their grain and produce.
But India, with a huge internal market and regional trading partners, is not so dependent on exports to the EU.
India is a bigger player than Africa in money, population and research. It's a player, not a foil, said an official at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi.
The bigger issue for India is intellectual property rights - in other words, who owns genetically modified seeds and the right to make money by selling them.
The Gene Campaign says Indian seeds are the result of generations of careful stewardship and breeding by indigenous farmers, so the local population should not have to pay to use them. For example, when Monsanto takes a local seed variety and modifies it with a useful gene, the company should share the profits with the indigenous community or not charge them for using the seed, Suhai said.
"It is acknowledging the equity and justice," she said.
Monsanto said it charges only for the added value of its biotech trait. If farmers want to use a local variety of a non-genetically modified seed, then it is available to them, said Brett Bagemann, executive vice president of international commercial business for Monsanto. It is a farmer's choice to pay for Bollgard protection, for example.
"I don't believe they should have to pay us for what they already have. I don't believe we ask them to," he said. "We have to create enough value (in a genetically modified seed) that it makes it worthwhile for them to buy it."
Companies innovate to earn a financial return for shareholders. If the profit motive were removed, they would not conduct research and the product would not exist.
After patent protection expires, competing companies typically produce cheaper generic versions. That has happened with Monsanto's flagship herbicide, Roundup, and eventually it will occur with its genetically modified seeds.
Nonprofit organizations also are developing genetically modified seeds. The Swaminathan Foundation, for example, could complete work on a trait for drought resistance before Monsanto and donate it for use in poor countries.
"We can't compete with that," Bagemann said. "Sure, I want to be there first with drought tolerance - of course I do. ... But it's good for the economy and society if anyone does it."
If farmers are able to earn more money by planting drought-resistant soybeans, for example, then they will be better able to afford other Monsanto products, he said.
International agreements recognize companies' right to patent and profit from life forms, such as seeds. India has had such a law since 1988, when it allowed the private sector to enter the hybrid-seed business, which had been a government enterprise.
In 2001, India passed the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers' Rights Act, in part to satisfy a requirement of the World Trade Organization that countries engaged in global trade recognize one another's patents and other forms of intellectual property protection.
But the law tried to please seed companies and farmer advocates and wound up leaving key questions unanswered, according to a report by Anitha Ramanna, a fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.
For example, the law allows for multiple parties to lay claim to the same intellectual property in various overlapping bureaucracies, the report said. The process, which sets the stage for costly, time-consuming battles over ownership, could stifle innovation.
A panel convened by India's central government and led by Swaminathan is working to resolve these issues.
It also will try to streamline the process of commercializing genetically modified crops, a process that requires companies to gain approval for each local variety of seed modified with the same genetic trait. In other countries, including the United States, the trait is tested and given national approval for use in any variety of a seed type, such as corn or soybeans.
Bagemann said Monsanto would welcome added efficiency. The company is pleased that India has adopted a science-based approach to approving genetically modified crops, based on years of rigorous testing, to determine if they pose a threat to health or the environment. In other countries, decisions have centered around politics, trade concerns or undue precaution.
"Sometimes in international markets, you have to have a little more patience and a little more perseverance," Bagemann said. "But I see India being far more independent in biotechnology. ... They're not going to let anyone get in the way of their decisions."