India Seed Industry News 2020

This page features a compilation and selection of Indian seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in the Republic of India.

The news here covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

May 2020

Seeds to be distributed directly to farmers in Andra Pradesh villages

In order to discourage farmers from travelling to urban centers to buy seeds from private traders, officials in Andhra Pradesh plan to distribute seeds directly to farmers in villages from May 18, reports The Hindu. Farmers were requested to enroll in the seed distribution scheme through village agriculture assistants. 

Tamil Nadu model for self-sufficient vegetable supply 

Despite a rough lockdown start throughout India in March and April, which has been characterized by crops rotting in fields and produce supply shortages at local markets, villages are now becoming more self-sufficient in their vegetable supply chain, reports the Times of India. The article cites as a model the state of Tamil Nadu, where the agriculture department has confirmed a daily vegetable supply of 6,000 tonnes per day, produced by some 570 farmer producer organizations, who are supplying directly to consumers. 

Summer gales destroy banana crop, rains submerge paddy crops

Many hundreds of hectares of banana plantations and rice paddy have been damaged by strong winds and rain in Tamil Nadu in April and May. Reports the New Indian Express, the adverse weather particularly affected farmers in the locales of Tiruchy and Pudukai. 

Tobacco farmers, industry in distress

The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) on behalf of millions of tobacco farmers and workers in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat has appealed to the government to ease on lockdown restrictions that have inhibited the auction and trade of tobacco crops and products, while weakening demand at the same time, reports the Siasat Daily.

DAP fertilizer production sinks 38% in April

The production of Diammonium phosphate (DAP) in India experienced an 18-month low in April, reports Argus Media, citing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions since March. According to figures cited, DAP production in India in April reached about 260,000 tonnes, which was the lowest since November 2018, and represented a 38% drop from the same month last year. 

Maharashtra farmers hesitant about Kharif season sowing 

Farmers in the State of Maharashtra are unsure what crops they should plant for the coming Khariff or summer/rainy season. According to the New Indian Express, cotton and corn farmers had suffered from unfavorable market prices for their produce, and many of them can’t access the usual market channels and are without storage options. 

State Govt mulls legal action against tomato virus rumour mongers

After invalidated reports about a new mysterious ‘deadly virus’ targeting  tomato crops and consumers in Maharashtra was broadcast on local TV stations in Maharashtra, farmers were unable to sell their produce, which were left to rot in fields and markets. According to one ‘fact check’ article, broadcasts allegedly claimed that the virus, which has been referred to as “Tiranga Virus” was somehow linked to coronavirus, though no verification or evidence had been provided to support such claims. The Times of India reports that state officials intervened after affected farmers demanded for action. Samples have been sent to Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bengaluru, for analysis.  

Punjab seed dealer raided, charged

A seed shop in the Punjab city of Ludhiana was raided by officials, who seized seed samples, bill books and other documents, while charging the dealer under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. As reported by Hindustan Times, the dealer is accused of selling “spurious” paddy seeds at high prices. An investigation is ongoing. 

Nagaland crops devastated by bad weather

Heavy rainfall, thunder squalls and hailstorms in the first few weeks of May have reportedly destroyed crops on no less than 522.45 hectares in 11 districts, with most of the affected crops being maize, tomato, kholar, potato, watermelon, cucumber, cabbage, carrots, beans and yams, reports East Mojo.

Marigolds as an alternative in Tamil Nadu

Plans are in place to mass cultivate marigold (Saamanthi Poo) in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu following a successful pilot planting of 10,000 flowers on one acre in the Kollidam block of Mayiladuthurai district. The crop provides an alternative or complementary crop for farmers who typically plant jasmine flowers, paddy, cotton, pulses and cashew, coconuts and casuarina, reports New Indian Express.

Plant clinics provide virtual diagnosis for farmers 

Some 30 plant clinics — where farmers go to diagnose plant health and disease issues — in four Indian states have now been adapted to be virtual clinics online. Such clinics were started in 2012 by bringing plant health experts to villages on a biweekly basis to examine offer diagnostics services. According to this article, since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns, there have been seven virtual plant clinic sessions, drawing participation from some 350 farmers in the states of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam and Puducherry. Common issues among farmers growing jasmine flowers, groundnut, eggplant, chilli and rice include pests like bud worm, pod borer and thrips. The virtual clinics have been made possible by Chennai-based charity, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, and the nonprofit Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).

April 2020

Ag operations, workers permitted during Phase 2 of lockdown

The Government of India issued a new set of guidelines for the second phase of India’s lockdown, effective until at least May 3. According to an article by The New Indian Express, the government would continue to permit farming operations and farm workers to be in the field, as well as permitting “agencies engaged in procurement of agri-products, including MSP [Minimum Support Price] operations … mandis operated by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee or as notified by the state government as well as direct marketing operations by the state government or industry directly from farmers or Farmer Producers Organisations.” The article also states that the new guidelines would permit operations of tea, coffee and rubber plantations to operate with maximum 50% of their usual workers

FSII Members pledge INR90 million toward Covid-19 relief

Members of the Federation of Seed Industry of India have made substantial contributions to the Indian government and agricultural sector to support covid-19 relief measures, according to an April 23 Statement. The statement notes that FSII has been constructively engaging with the Central and State Governments in representing needs of the seed industry and in getting the necessary policy support for the processing, packing and transportation of seeds necessary for the Kharif (rainy or summer) season. Specifically, FSII members pledged more than 90 million rupees in donations which will be used towards PM Cares Fund, Chief Minister relief funds and towards other measures like procuring PPE, implementing safety measures, food distribution and awareness programmes. Click here for the full statement. 

Ag Minister, ICAR reinforces digital platforms during lockdown

The Hitavada has reported on initiatives by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), under direction from Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar to continue to ensure Agriculture institutions are maximizing the use of online communication tools, apps and courses to help farmers overcome problems arising during the continued nation-wide lockdown. Accordingly, ICAR Director General Dr Trilochan Mohapatra has confirmed that the Council is using digital platforms to provide information to farmers, with three ICAR institutes engaged in COVID-19 testing on humans; moreover, ICAR has issued a total of 1,126 national and state-specific advisories, disseminated in 15 regional language through digital platforms to reach some 54.8 million farmers. These include advisories on appropriate crop management technologies for wheat, rice, maize, pulses, millets, oilseeds, sugarcane, fiber crops, mango, citrus, banana, pomegranate, grapes, litchi, spices, flowers, vegetables, melons and plantation crops such as coconut, cocoa and tuber crops. Institutes working under ICAR in Nagpur include the Central Citrus Research Institute (CCRI), Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Utilisation Planning (NBSS&LUP).

Anticipated wheat setbacks in Madhya Pradesh

There are anticipated delays and increased expenses for the winter wheat harvest this year, extending to shortages of, and increased rental expenses of harvesters. Usually, the state depends on additional harvesters from Punjab, which are not as available due to lockdown conditions. The article notes that this year is anticipated to be a bumper crop year due to increased rainfall last year that prompted increased planting, reports India Today.

Bihar Rabi harvest almost complete thanks to abundant labor 

By the last week of April, it was estimated that 90% of Rabi crops had been harvested, with credit being given to a surplus of labourers, as reported by The New Indian Express here. According to the article, daily wages have also dropped, from 450 rupees previously, to about 300 to 350 rupees, presently. The abundance of labor in the state contrasts shortages reported in Punjab and Haryana, which are related to strict COVID-19 measures. 

High hopes for normal monsoon forecast, planting prospects 

The Register Citizen reports on early optimism for Indian agriculture this year, citing a prediction by the Indian Meteorological Department of a 40% chance for a normal monsoon rain this year, anticipated to commence on schedule between June and September for much of the country. The article notes a record monsoon last year which contributed to a bumper foodgrains year.  

Gujarat summer sowing up by 35%

The Indian Express reports that Gujarat farmers as of April 13 had sown crops for the upcoming kharif season across 891,000 hectares, which represents a 35% increase over the same period in the previous year.  The article notes that onion sowing jumped by 300%; sesame by 200% and urad by 175%. Citing figures from the state agriculture department, the planting was higher than the three-year kharif seasonal sowing average of 758,000 ha. The leading planted crop was bajra , sown acros 251,000 ha, followed by banaskantha (152k ha). 

Jute seeds stuck at Bangladeshi border

The Hindu Business Line on April 24 reported that as many as 50 trucks carrying nearly 1,000 tonnes of jute seeds were stuck at  Petrapol Land Port in Bangoan in North 24 Parganas district, despite the clear directive from the Central government permitting movement of seeds and other planting materials. “Indian exporters whose consignments are stranded at the border since the announcement of the nation-wide lockdown on March 24 are worried because the jute sowing season in Bangladesh is drawing to a close,” reports the article, which states that Bangladesh depends on India jute seeds for 90% of its planting. 

Odisha crops inundated, can’t reach the market and without storage options

Excess rain in many districts across Odisha are compounding hardships farmers are facing related to the coronavirus lockdown. At this time, farmers are concluding harvest of various rabi crops, including summer paddy, pulses and groundnuts, but rains have hampered their efforts, with effects reported in 19 districts, reports The New Indian Express. Likewise, this report details how standing crops over 4200 hectares were damaged following heavy rain and hailstorm in Sambalpur district on April 21. Aside from the bad weather, tomato and pumpkin farmers in Dhenkanal, Hatibari, Sankarpur, Pamal and Kamakshyanagar districts  who are sitting on surplus stocks following bumper harvests in March — are struggling to get their produce to market, as wholesale buyers aren’t able to reach them and the farmers report challenges in obtaining necessary passes to move the produce. To add to their woes, storage in the district is inadequate and much of the crop is starting to rot. 

Telangana papaya farmers at loss from lack of buyers due to covid restrictions

 Papaya farmers in Telangana’s Khammam district are sitting on a surplus of fruit that they cannot sell due to the absence of the usual buyers from Delhi. The New Indian Express reports that as a result of the nationwide lockdown, buyers of the fruit, who use to travel from key market locales such as Delhi, have not shown up. The farmers have reportedly spent around 40,000 rupees per acre, however, without buyers, they are left with a surplus and plummeting prices, which have dropped from already-low prices of 15 rupees per kg, to as low as 5 rupees/kg. 

March 2020

Govt exempts farm workers, agriculture companies in nationwide lockdown

The Indian Economic Times reported on a March 27 order from the government that exempts “farm workers in the fields and farming operations by farmers, agencies engaged in procurement of agriculture products including MSPs, mandis notified by the state governments, inter and intra-state movement of harvesting and sowing related machines and manufacturing, packaging units of fertilisers, pesticides …” from the 21-day lockdown ordered from March 25, with restrictions on movements of people, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The news follows strong advocacy from the Indian seed and farm input sectors: 

Seed industry advocates for hassle-free movement or seeds, inputs 

Representatives of the Indian seed industry have been actively engaging central and state government reps to ensure there are no interruptions in the transport of seeds and other essential farm inputs across state borders during the ongoing lockdown. In India, March and May are crucial for preparing seeds for the upcoming rainy or kharif season sowing, for which around 60 percent of India’s food supply and farmers incomes are dependent.

As a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus, many State governments in India have closed borders, allowing for only the movement of essential commodities. Seeds fall under said essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act, according to an article by the Hindu Business Online; however, a  letter issued by the Cabinet Secretary to all State governments on March 22 did not explicitly mention seeds, prompting reps from the country’s two main national seed associations – the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) —  to each issue statements/letters to the government on March 23, asking for cooperation to ensure the unhindered movement of seeds and farm inputs. 

In its letter, the NSAI asked for the government to allow essential staff and workers at seed companies to continue functioning, while permitting hassle-free movement of seed crops from farmers’ fields to processing centres, between different processing centres, and from processing centres to distributors and retailers so that farmers can get seeds on time for kharif sowing. According to NSAI Program Director for Policy & Outreach, Indra Shekhar Singh in a TV interview with NewsX, seed demand in India is pegged at about 250 lakh quintals, or 2.5 million tonnes. 

In its statement, the FSII also called for unrestricted flow of seeds and other essential farm inputs, proposing the use of special food lanes at national and State toll booths, as well as “check-posts and on highways where food and agricultural input delivery vehicles can pass unhindered and are not subjected to roadblocks which might have been put up to restrict movement of people and other materials to fight the virus”  

More India coronavirus impact, Rabi cropping news:

  • Indian cooperative relieved on government exemption: IndianCooperative.com
  • Farmer labour shortage affects harvesting in Tamil Nadu: New Indian Express
  • Chili harvest affected by labour shortage in Andhra Pradesh: New Indian Express
  • Indian farmers association seeks waiver on loan interest, repayments: The Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) on March 28 asked the government to issue a moratorium on loan repayments and interest waiver on crop loans, citing losure of shops, non-availability of pesticides and fertilizers and farm labour, reports the Times of India.
  • Crop prices slumping by as much as 50 percent: Prices of crops have slumped by between 16 and 50%, according to farmers accounts in three Indian States: Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. This is despite increased planting of Rabi crops due to high soil moisture content thanks to excess rains June to September 2019, a y-o-y increase of 10% to 165 million acres, reports Producer.com

 

  • Winter crops in wheat-belt damaged by rain: Yahoo Finance: Unseasonal torrential rains and hailstorms have damaged the winter-planted crops of millions of Indian growers, inundating wheat, potato, chickpea and rapeseed farms in large parts of the fertile northern plains. 

 

February 2020

APSA Founding Father, India Seed Mogul Passes Away

Dr. Chopra speaks at the First National Seed Conference in India, during the early years of APSA.

Dr Kuldip Raj Chopra, researcher, entrepreneur, co-founder and honorary lifetime member of APSA, passed away on the 6th February, aged 86. Obsequies were held in Hyderabad. A seed industry giant, Dr. Chapra’s career spanned more than half a century – his influence felt by farmers in their fields, in academia, business and in government.

The founder of Mahendra Hybrid Seed Co. Pvt. Ltd., he graduated in 1953 from Allahabad Agricultural Institute, took his Master’s in Agriculture Botany in 1956 and his PhD in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska. His professional career began as a research assistant with the All India Coordinated Maize Improvement Project wherein the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR), state agriculture universities and the Rockefeller Foundation cooperated in collecting, characterizing and developing stable, high yielding lines of disease and pest tolerant germplasm for adaptable Maize Hybrids (1957-59) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi.

To honor his legacy and achievements Asian Seed will feature Dr. Chopra in the upcoming Q1 edition, out March, 2020. Stand by.  

 

10th NSAI Indian Seed Congress in Delhi

L-R: RK Trivedi, Sudhir Kansal, Siddhartha Sen, Dineshbhai Patel, K Praveen, KS Narayanswamy, M Prabhakar Rao, Ashwini Garg, Ch Rambabu

Held 15-17 February t JW Marriot, Aerocity in New Delhi, the 10th NSAI Indian Seed Congress brought together hundreds of seed industry company reps, scientists,agro-specialists and government officials from across India, the region and the globe. The meeting, which is the annual flagship event of the National Seed Association of India, featured a number of lively technical sessions to promote dialogue, discussion and discourse on how to best develop and strengthen the Indian seed sector. Various common topics were covered, including Farmers and Breeders rights; varietal development and innovation, seed certification and registration systems and all related regulations and laws outstanding, including a status update of the 2019 Draft Seed Bill.

A number of noteworthy highlights were reported by leading national business news outlets. The Hindu Business Line reports that plans were revealed at the Congress by the UP State Agriculture Minister to create special seed zones across UP to make quality seeds available to its farmers; the Agricultural Secretary promised to prioritize the fasttrack of seed certification and export applications; and the NSAI President pushed for government stimulus and for establishing seed hubs across all of India’s Agro-climatic zones.
Another hot topic addressed was the status and update of the 2019 Draft Seed Bill, as Union Minister for Agriculture of India pledged “all possible support to help the seed industry to grow”.

Five technical sessions were held on 16 and 17 February as follows:

  • The opening session on February 16 afternoon, titled “Progress in innovation for harnessing Genetic Gains for Plant variety improvement”, was chaired by Dr Kuldeep Singh, Director, and National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).
  • The second session, also on February 16, “Trends in seed industry: Potential Drivers for profitable agriculture” was chaired by Dr S K Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner, MoAF, Govt of India
  • The third session, held on February 17 morning, “Key enablers for the growth of seed business” was chaired by Dr VK Gaur, the Chairman and Managing Director of India’s National Seeds Corporation
  • The fourth session, held on February 17 afternoon, “Seed quality regulation and IPR regime in India” was chaired by Dr KV Prabhu, Chairperson at the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, Govt. of India; and co-chaired by Dr D K Yadava, Assistant Director General (Seeds), ICAR.
  • The fifth and final session of the Congress was NSAI’s CEO forum, which brought together 10 panelists to diliberate on the topic of “Envisioning Indian seed industry in the next decade: Priorities for shaping an action agenda”. It was chaired by Shri S K Pattanayak, Director General, ASCI, Hyderabad/ Joint Secretary (Seeds), MoAF, Govt of India.

The NSAI is working on a comprehensive report of the proceedings. For more information, visit nsai.co.in/isc2020/

Okra virus insurance lauded as Advanta bags two Innovation Awards.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recognized Advanta for its innovation excellence in two categories:

  • Top 25 Innovative Companies of 2019
  • Top Innovative Company (Special Category) in Manufacturing Agri Products

Advanta’s Okra Assurance Scheme was commended as an innovative solution dedicated to enhancing farmer prosperity. Through the Okra Assurance Scheme, Advanta offers smallholder farmers seed insurance against yellow vein mosaic virus and okra leaf curl virus on its Jaani hybrid, at no extra cost. The scheme is the first of its kind as other insurance schemes only protect against weather anomalies. Seeds represent the most critical investment for farmers. Guaranteeing a virus free crop, especially during the critical early growth stages, gained immense popularity amongst okra farmers propelling Advanta to become the number one okra seed player in India.

The Innovation Award recognition reaffirms Advanta’s vision to sustainably serve farmers with high quality seeds technology and innovative agriculture solutions. Innovation, a core pillar of Advanta, has been instrumental in delivering in-house new products and technology to address farmer’s needs amidst climate change and fast changing consumer demands. Through this cross functional approach, Advanta is driving innovation and synergy across its functions and riding on a steady growth curve. To ensure Advanta’s value added products maximize its outreach to small and marginal farmers, innovative marketing campaigns with value added services has become an integral business process. The Industrial Innovation Award is a boost to Advanta team to further drive and manage innovation across the organization.

The CII Industrial Innovation Awards were instituted in 2014 to identify and celebrate innovative Indian enterprises across industry segments and sectors. In the last five years, these awards have established themselves as one of the most coveted innovation awards in the country. The awards evaluate new processes, products, services, technologies, and other innovations that can fuel growth in the industry. They also assess new ideas and approaches along with tangible results.

The Award ceremony was hosted by CII, the apex industry body, at the Indian R&D Ecosystem Conclave, New Delhi on Dec 18, 2019. Awards were presented by eminent dignitaries, namely Mr. Ratan P Watal, Member Secretary, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, GoI; Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the GoI; and Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Past President, CII, Chairman, CII National Start-up Council and CII AI forum.

Salinity-tolerant paddy successfully trialed in low-lying area o Tamil Nadu

The New Indian Express reports on successful trials with a new salinity- tolerant variety of paddy in low-lying town of Thalainayar, which is in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. The new variety, CSR-36, was produced by ICAR-Central Soil Salinity Research Institute in Karnal in Haryana, and can reportedly be harvested in 135 days after planting. One farmer quoted said he had harvested 2.5 tonnes from his crop planted on one acre. The variety was developed to address challenges of the town which had suffered flooding and salinity issues, forcing farmers there to plant in January/February instead, when farmers elsewhere were harvesting.

Chilies damaged by ‘untimely rain’ in Telangana

Farmers in five mandals of Telengana’s Khammam district blame untimely rain early in February for damages to chili crops that were left exposed to dry. According to the New Indian Express, the farmers in Kusumanchi, Nelakondapalli, Tirumalayapalem, Khammam rural and Mudigonda were mostly asleep when the rain swept through and drenched their drying chillies. 

Summer, winter seed kits provided for Punjab

To promote gardening and self-sufficiency, the Horticulture Department in Punjab has prepared some 25,000 seed kits for locals, reports the Tribune India. The kits, sold for 80 rupees, contain seeds for ten “summer” vegetables. Namely, bottle gourd, sponge gourd, pumpkin, bitter gourd, tinda, long melon, lobia, cluster beans, ladyfinger and muskmelon. The article also notes that winter seed packets had also been distributed previously. They contained seeds for Radish, carrot, turnip, methi, spinach, coriander, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, black carrot and lettuce.

Locals prefer indigenous crops over high yielding govt seeds

Mongbay India reports on the annual seed festival recently held in Nayaghar district, Odisha, where several villagers were interviewed about their preference for indienous seeds over high-yielding varieties (HYV) provided by the government. The villagers claim their indigenous seeds are more resilient to local conditions, and climate change. 

December 2019 & January 2020

Delhi hosts 10th NSAI Indian Seed Congress

The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) is organizing the 10th edition of its flagship annual event: “Indian Seed Congress-2020” is set for 16 and 17 February at the JW Marriott, Aerocity, New Delhi. According to the NSAI, the event will attract delegates from nearly 500 national and global seed companies, allied agri-sector companies in seed processing machinery and seed treatment chemicals, members of public and private sector institutions, farmers, and students. The Congress provides for a multi-disciplinary and a vibrant platform for the seed and agri-input industry to interact closely with multiple stakeholders including, scientific and technology development professionals, commercial and business professionals, farmers, entrepreneurs and policy makers. Apart from inaugural and plenary sessions, exhibition and trading tables, the two-day technical sessions which enable comprehensive deliberations and discussions on scientific, technological, regulatory and business developments have always been the core attraction of ISC. Continuing with the tradition, ISC 2020 has been designed with enriching themes which have significant impact on agriculture sector and seed industry. For various technical sessions, the organizing committee has identified subject matter experts to present their views in alignment with the challenges and prospects of Indian seed industry. More info and registration on the event website.

Industry mulls impacts of Draft Seed Bill 

Seed industry representatives have formally submitted feedback to the Government of India regarding the pending draft Seed Bill 2019, which aims to replace the Seed Bill of 1966. Among the new provisions featured in the draft bill include compulsory registration of seed varieties based on VCU (value for cultivation and use), as well as evaluation and licensing of seed producers and processors. There are also provisions for price controls in the event of an “emergency”,  for example, as well as proposed definitions that differentiate between Seed Producer, Processor and the Dealer for licensing purposes. Comments formally submitted by the National Seed Industry of India (NSAI) and the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) mostly concern harmonizing, rectifying and/or aligning the bill with other relevant legislation and regulations, such as the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act and Consumer Protection Act. A number of international APSA members with operations in India are closely monitoring developments with the drafting process, as the provisions could potentially have significant implications for conducting seed business in the world’s second most populous country, particularly with respect to provisions proposed for price controls and the transparency and clarity of certain terms. The latest draft can be downloaded here. For the latest updates, questions and comments about the draft bill, please address India’s National Seed Associations:

India drafts guidelines for gene-editing regulatory framework

India’s Department of Biotechnology on On 9 Jan released a draft document “Genome Edited Organisms: Regulatory Framework and Guidelines for Risk Assessment”. As shared in an announcement from the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), the draft genome editing guideline is an unprecedented move to regulate genome editing technology under the existing biotech regulatory framework set in rules of the Environment Protection Act.

FSII has summarized the following salient features of the draft regulatory guideline on genome editing technology:

Genome edited products would be regulated under the existing EPA Rules 1989 & other applicable laws, Acts, and procedures governing Genome Editing

A tiered approach for risk assessment of genome-edited organisms and products derived thereof

Genome editing organisms (GEd organism) will be grouped into three regulatory categories: 

  • GEd Group I include GEd cells/organisms harbouring single or few base pair edits or small deletions like SDN-1, ODM, etc (To be regulated at IBSC/RCGM level)
  • GEd Group II include GEd cells/organisms harbouring targeted few/several base pair edits like SDN-2 (to be regulated at RCGM/GEAC level)
  • GEd Group III include GEd cells/organisms harbouring targeted edit(s) synthetic/foreign DNA like in SDN-3 (To be regulated at GEAC level)

Draft genome editing guidelines cover a broad range of Genome edited organisms GEd organisms, products, processes including plant, animal and human somatic cell excluding human germline editing.

Institutional mechanisms for governance & oversight of genome-edited products shall be divided into two layers e.g. Self-Governance (both individual & collaborative projects) and Institutional Governance

 The draft guidelines on genome-edited organisms can be downloaded here

Bountiful sowing of winter crops reported in Gujarat

The Indian Express reports that farmers in the Indian state of Gujarat significantly increased planting of winter season (Rabi) crops this season thanks to a bountiful monsoon. Rabi crops were planted across some 3.96 million hectares (39.66 lakh hectares), which represents an increase of 27 % over the past three years’ average sowing (3.11mn ha).  Citing data from the state agriculture department, the articcle notes the main crops with increased planting this season as: wheat (1.39mn ha), fodder (575,000 ha), cumin or jeera (487,000 ha) and gram (377,000 ha). The article provides detailed statistics on a locale and year-on-year comparison basis.