GEAC seeks data on GM Bt brinjal from Bangladesh, revives hope for cultivation in India

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New Delhi | Published: October 14, 2018 1:01:53 PM

The development comes after eight years when the then Union government had imposed a moratorium on its commercial cultivation in India.

The technology for Bt brinjal was developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco). (Representational photo: IE)

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Environment ministry will approach the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) seeking data and relevant information on the post-release effects of the genetically modified (GM) Bt brinjal crop grown in Bangladesh. The development comes after eight years when the then Union government had imposed a moratorium on its commercial cultivation in India.

According to an Indian Express report, the GEAC will write to the ICAR to seek information and data about the vegetable from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute. The farmers of the neighboring country are growing Bt brinjal since 2013. Also, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research in Bengaluru will be directed to undertake an independent scientific study on the post-release effect of Bt Brinjal.

The GEAC had in 2009 sent its recommendations to the Environment ministry based on the field trials and bio-safety studies conducted from 2006. The GEAC had concluded that Bt brinjal was safe for environmental release. However, the government in 2010 announced an indefinite moratorium citing the need for independent scientific studies to establish the safety and its long-term impact on human and environment. Subsequently, the company which developed Bt brinjal technology offered the same to Bangladesh, where during the 2017-18 season it was cultivated on over 3,439.06 acres.

The technology for Bt brinjal was developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco). Bt brinjal contains a ‘cry1Ac’ gene, that codes for a protein toxic to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), a major insect pest that attacks the brinjal crop throughout its life cycle. The ‘cry1Ac’ gene is isolated from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis. The technology involves the process of integrating the foreign gene into the host plant, which includes developing the protocols as well as identifying the specific location in the genome where the insertion is to take place.

Moreover, commercial release of GM mustard has been stuck due to the governments of both UPA and NDA caving in to opposition from green groups.

The GEAC functions under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It is responsible for appraisal activities involving large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. The committee is also mandated to appraise proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials. The committee has powers to take punitive action under the Environment Protection Act.

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