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July 28, 2000





"We want more yield, productivity": ORG-MARG study

Almost half the farmers interviewed in India by ORG-MARG Research Ltd.,
South Asia’s largest market research company, say the country needs a new
technology, like biotechnology, to increase yields and 92% of those
interviewed think that biotechnology is beneficial.

Nearly 70% of those interviewed cited increased production as their reason
for wanting new technology. They felt biotechnology was cheaper, saves
time, and results in good quality crops that are disease free and have
fewer pest problems. Of the 92% who said that biotechnology was
beneficial, 60% cited the benefits to be more yield, 20% more
profitability and 11% less plant disease.

These findings emerged from a survey of perceptions of biotechnology among
more than 1,000 farmers from seven key agricultural states. ORG-MARG also
interviewed politicians, civil servants, media persons, scientists, NGOs
and regulatory authorities to determine their perceptions of biotechnology
and its acceptance in India.

The majority of those interviewed in each segment favored the adoption of
biotechnology. Every one of the scientists interviewed was in favor of
using biotechnology in agriculture "because it is impossible to achieve a
breakthrough in agriculture through conventional methods." Politicians,
NGOs and the regulatory authorities, however, underlined the need to be
cautious and to safeguard the environment.

The findings of the study, done last year, are significant because the
Indian government recently cleared large-scale field trials of genetically
engineered pest-resistant cotton by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company
(Mahyco), India’s largest private sector seed company. This is the first
transgenic crop to be given such permission in India.

For most farmers improvement in yields is the most important factor. They
do not have reservations about using any technology, Indian or foreign, as
long as it improves productivity and increases yields. For them, new
technology increases production. Hybrid seeds are therefore seen by most
as new technology.

The findings from the farmers' segment are contrary to the belief that
Indian farmers are not aware of the latest developments in agriculture to
increase yields, tackle pests and reduce the use of insecticides. The
survey included small farmers, middle-level farmers and farmers with more
than five acres of land.

Asked whether biotechnology could cause harm, an overwhelming majority
said they did not believe it could. Most of those interviewed had a
fairly strong belief that "biotechnology is making significant changes in
the way we produce crops". Most said they "strongly agree" that they
would use any technology that improves productivity. A majority of the
farmers replied in the negative when asked whether biotechnology could
have a negative effect on their lives. ###

July 2000