Sweet and sticky: Workers
harvest sugarcane at a plantation in Tulungagung, East Java, Indonesia. The
government recently approved the first transgenic sugarcane and other 13
biotech food crops for commercial production. Antara/Sahlan Kurniawan The
National Genetically Modified Product Biosafety Commission (KKHPRG)
recently approved the first genetically-altered sugarcane crop, paving
the way for the development of transgenic sugarcane for commercial
Bambang Purwantara, a member of the commission, said
that the institutions which held the mandate to approve biotech plants
had all given the nod to a drought-resistant transgenic sugarcane seed
cane, developed by state plantation firm PT Perkebunan Nusantara, the
Indonesian Sugarcane Plantation Research Center (P3GI) and experts from
the State University of Jember in East Java, is currently under a
limited field testing.
“We are proud to announce that the first
biotech staple crop will be a drought-resistant sugarcane. We expect to
see the transgenic sugarcane planted by next year at the latest,”
The commission is currently assessing another
sugarcane variety — said to be resistant to herbicide — developed by
the state plantation company and scientists from the research center and
The drought-resistant sugarcane is the first out
of 14 recommended biotech crops that are being assessed by the
commission, which was established in 2010 to oversee the developing
Thirteen other transgenic food crops have passed
food safety testing, which ensures that the products are safe for human
The recommended biotech crops include several varieties of corn, soybeans, sugarcane and an antifreeze protein producing plant.
food safety testing, the biotech plants also have go through feed
safety and environmental safety tests to assess use as animal fodder and
to assess its environmental impacts respectively, as laid down in the
Agriculture Minister’s regulation No. 61/2011 sets out the establishment
of a transgenic system.
Genetically modified crops are designed
by scientists to for higher yields and resistance to insects and
herbicides, but still the idea has generated controversy worldwide.
Scientists who view biotech crops with caution have linked the
consumption of biotech crops with illnesses, such as cancer.
Environmentalists also regard genetically-altered crops as tampering too much with nature.
Conversely, others say that the crops use less pesticide and land, thus benefiting the environment.
With growing population and demand production needs to increase on limited plots of lands.
Critics also raise economic concerns over expensive patents on seeds.
are plans to import 2.27 million tons of raw sugar this year, up by 8.1
percent from 2.1 million tons in 2012, in a bid to meet the surge in
refining capacity of local sugar mills.
Data from the Agriculture
Ministry shows that 780,000 tons of corn were imported in the first
quarter, three times as much as the 260,000 tons last year.
from BPS also shows that consumption of grain increased by an average 8
percent each year between 2000 and 2012, while corn yields increased on
average by only 6 percent and corn per planted hectare increased by
only 1 percent per annum.