Prelims cum Mains Science & Tech

To end UPA freeze on Bt brinjal, regulator looks at Bangladesh

The News

  • India’s GM crops regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee(GEAC) has sought information on effects of release of Bt Brinjal from Bangladesh in wake of applications seeking approval for commercial release of Bt Brinjal in India.

 

Context

  • In 2006 GEAC had it permitted Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) to carry out large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal in India.
  • Based on the data obtained from field trials, the GEAC in 2009 had recommended commercial release of Bt Brinjal.
  • However amidst protests over various issues, the Ministry of Environment and Forest had imposed an indefinite moratorium on commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal.
  • Bangladesh, on the other hand in 2013, had approved commercial release of Bt Brinjal from Mahyco’s seeds.
  • Now in response to an application by the seed company Mahyco seeking approval for commercial release of Bt brinjal in India, the GEAC has sought information about after effects of commercial release of the GM crop from Bangladesh.
  • GEAC has directed the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to obtain relevant from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI).

 

Bt Brinjal: A Backgrounder

 

What are GM crops?

  • Transgenic (GM) plants are those that have been genetically modified using recombinant DNA technology.
  • Genetic modification is done to confer a particular trait to the plant.
  • The main reasons a plant is genetically modified are
  • To increase the yield of a crop.
  • To increase the nutritional content of a crop.
  • To develop resistance to:
    • Abiotic stresses like temperature,salinity or herbicide-resistant
    • Biotic stresses like insect-resistant crops
  • BT cotton is the only genetically modified crop that is commercially allowed in India from 2002.

 

Bt Brinjal

  • Bt brinjal draws its name from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis which contains a gene with insecticidal properties.
  • In 1980s using Recombinant DNA technology, scientists inserted ‘cry1Ac gene’ isolated from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis into brinjal.
  • It was found that the cry1Ac gene disrupted the digestive system of the insect that feeds on the crop, thus killing it.

Case for Bt Brinjal

  • India is the second largest producer of brinjal in the world with with 26 per cent of total brinjal production.
  • The roots and stems of brinjal are used largely in treatment for rheumatism, asthma, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Further 50-70 per cent of the damage to brinjal crop is due to a major pest called the fruit and shoot borer.
  • Thus using the GM version of brinjal would drastically reduce the use of insecticide to control the disease.
  • This results in increased yields resulting in higher profits for farmers.

Case against Bt Brinjal

  • The increase cost of the transgenic seed would mean increased cost to the farmer.
  • There is a concern that growing transgenic crops would require more fertilizers which may have effects on environment.
  • Effect on Human health and Environment:
  • Biosafety of GM crops on entering the food chain is also an area of contention
  • Contamination of non-GM crops grown adjacent to GM crops due to cross-pollination

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