DNA test for Basmati

EU wants only authentic varieties; India stands to gain

Published: Saturday 15 October 2005

the eu recently asked for a dna test to prove the authenticity of Basmati rice and avoid the confusion created by inauthentic imports. India and the eu have agreed to work on a common dna test protocol to ensure the genuineness of the rice variety. In the recent past, the European market has witnessed a flood of fraudulent Basmati rice imports; it had even threatened to reject the imports of certain varieties. Many of the evolved varieties exported by non-traditional Basmati exporters, like Thailand, Vietnam and the us, are not even developed from original Basmati parents. In contrast, exports from India and Pakistan offer traditional authenticity.

This is a major development for India since eu accounts for 15 per cent of its Basmati rice market, says K S Money, chairperson of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (apeda). Europe is also prepared to lower its high tariff barrier by us $304.4 a tonne to facilitate the import of genuine Basmati.

apeda is establishing a dna testing facility by November 2005 in association with the Centre for dna Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, at a cost of Rs 3.52 crore. The move might give India an edge over non-traditional exporters as well as its biggest competitor, Pakistan. Though Basmati is native to India's Doon valley, it had spread to the whole of north India and Pakistan as early as 1933.

In fact, the first varietal selection of traditional Basmati varieties took place under the lead of scientist Sardar Mohammad Khan, who finally released a variety called Basmati-370 in Pakistan's Punjab province. Scientists in India, Pakistan and other rice exporting countries have developed many scented varieties in the name of Basmati, but without using the original parents in the breeding process. This has diluted the identity of the variety so much that even getting protection under article 23 (geographical indication norms) of the Trade-Related Intellectual Properties agreement was difficult. One of India's exported varieties, Pusa Basmati-1, came under the eu scanner in 1999 and the eu latter refused to consider it as derived from original Basmati parents.

Disputed inheritance
Many varieties in the European market don’t have original Basmat

Products of Basmati parents Impostors
Basmati 370 (undivided India), Type-3 (Dehraduni), Taraori,
Basmati 217, Ranbir Basmati, Pusa Basmati-1, Haryana Basmati, Punjab Basmati, Kasturi and Mahi Sugandha
Pusa Basmati-2, Pusa Basmati-3,
Pusa RH 10, Pusa 1121, Vasumati, Pusa Dhan-15
and Haryana Mahak
Note: Varieties not developed from original Basmati parents also include those that don’t contain immediate parental lines of traditional Basmati.

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