The Jakarta Post
US-based biotech giant Monsanto Indonesia plans to help boost Indonesia's corn production by more than half in two years time by introducing its genetically modified corn seeds.
Monsanto Indonesia corporate affairs head Herry Kristanto said on Thursday that the company expected Indonesia's corn yield to increase from its current 4.95 tons per hectare to 7.5 tons per hectare by 2015, assuming that its technologically modified seeds would start trading in the domestic market by next year.
Monsanto Indonesia's move here is part of its parent company's global action plan to help double world corn production by 2030 amid dwindling plots of land and natural resources that have become more scarce, coupled with increasing populations.
Herry said Monsanto's proposed biotech corn, or transgenic, seeds had passed a series of tests by Indonesia's Commission for Genetically Engineered Bioproduct Safety, which examined whether or not the seeds would cause harm to humans or animals if consumed, while the commission was still assessing the environmental impacts of the seeds.
'With the transgenic seeds, Indonesia will not only be corn self-sufficient but will also be able to support neighboring countries, mainly Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines,' he said.
Monsanto Indonesia currently produces around 10,000 tons of hybrid corn seeds per annum from its facility in Mojokerto, East Java, with 30 percent of production going to Thailand and Vietnam.
Herry said Monsanto Indonesia would export some of the transgenic seeds to the Philippines once they passed all the tests conducted by the commission.
The Philippines, according to Herry, offers huge potential as it has around 18,000 hectares of biotech corn fields, with most of the seeds imported from outside the region.
Genetically modified crops are designed by scientists to make higher yields and are more resistant to insects and herbicides.
The technology, however, continues to be a topic of hot debate worldwide.
Scientists have said that they saw rats develop ailments, including cancer, as a result of consuming genetically modified crops.
Environmentalists also have argued that genetically modified crops can tamper with the nature.
Indonesia is currently home to 3 million hectares of corn fields but is far from self-sufficient in regards to the commodity.
The Indonesian Animal Feed Producers Association (GPMTI) predicted that Indonesia would import 2.8 million tons of corn this year, up 64.7 percent from last year's imports of 1.7 million tons due to the growing demand for animal feed.
Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data said that grain consumption increased by an average of 8 percent each year between 2000 and 2012, while corn yields increased on average by only 6 percent within the same period, with corn fields growing only 1 percent per annum.