TNAU plans field trial of transgenic version of Bt brinjal

New Delhi, Sept 29 | Updated: Sep 30 2006, 05:37am hrs
Even before the controversy over the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal hybrids developed by Mahyco seed company, to be resolved, the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) has planned to go ahead with its programme for the transgenic version of the same crop.

Speaking to FE, TNAUs centre for molecular biology, director, P Balasubramanian said, We have chosen four elite brinjal genotypes keeping regional preference of brinjal types in the mind. These elite genotypes - CO2, KKM1, MDU1 and PLR1 - are backcrossed to ingress cry 1 Ac gene. Currently, we are generating BC3F1 seeds. We propose to conduct field trials in early 2007. When these lines are approved for commercial cultivation, these lines will probably be the first GM edible crop. It will be the first of its kind which is derived out of public-private partnership in India.

Balasubramanians words are not clear whether TNAUs Bt brinjal would be the first food crop to be approved in the country or the transgenic brinjal hybrids developed by Mahyco.

The proposed field trials of Mahycos Bt brinjal has entered into a controversy and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has set up an inhouse panel to review the companys claims. The NGOs too have set up a panel of independent scientists to study the hazards connected with Bt brinjal hybrids.

Bt technology of the US seed multinational, Monsanto, was transferred to the public sector institutes in India under the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Programme-II funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by Cornell University.

TNAU, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Lucknow, and Mahyco are a part of the ABSP-II network.

TNAU has plans to develop tobacco streak virus resistant groundnut, late blight resistant potato and drought and salinity tolerant rice.

According to government sources, a number of transgenic crops are in the pipeline like Bt rice, leaf curl resistant and delayed ripening tomato, potato with enhanced levels of essential amino acids, GM mustard and bollworm resistant pigeaonpea.

The chairman of Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board, CD Mayee who has been recently elected as a full board member of ISAAA claimed the succes of Bt cotton in the country. The regulatory affairs officer of Monsanto, Roy L Fuchs claimed that Bt cotton has covered an area of 8.5 million hectare in the current season across the country.