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Genetically modified Cotton gets a nod for environment release by GEAC

  • Published
    29th Oct, 2022
Context

After the clearance for GM-Mustard crops for field trials, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is going to recommend an ‘environmental release’ of genetically modified (GM) cotton. 

GEAC is a body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that appraises GM products for their testing and commercialization (environmental release).

Background
  • Nearly two decades ago, a genetically modified type of cotton, known as Bt cotton, was introduced to India to reduce farmers’ insecticide use.
  • Using advanced statistical methods, Professor Ian Plewis from the University of Manchester investigates the effect of Bt cotton on farmers’ expenditure on insecticides, cotton yield, and profits, across Indian states.
  • The findings of the research show that the effects of Bt cotton on farmers’ yield vary across Indian states, but most states show a decrease in insecticide use since the introduction of Bt cotton.
  • A reduction in insecticide use may be beneficial for farmers’ health and the environment by reducing pollutants.

About BG-II RRF cotton:

  • Earlier, the BG-II RRF cotton had already undergone biosafety research and field trials by 2012-13.
  • Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex (BG-2 RRF) is an herbicide tolerant and insect resistant variety of BT cotton.
  • BGII RRF offer protection against weeds such as American Bollworm, besides continuing protection against insects.
  • India has already allowed commercial use of BG-1 and BG-2 GM cotton while the approval for the BG-2 RRF has been pending at various stages.

Recent GM-Cotton alterations:

  • A German multinational company ‘Bayer AG’ is going to introduce the modification in cotton plant which will allow farmers to spray the herbicide ‘glyphosate’.
  • The transgenic cotton — Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex (BG-II RRF) contains three alien genes;
    • the first two (‘cry1Ac’ and ‘cry2Ab’) being isolated from a soil bacterium,
    • Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt, and coding for proteins toxic to the American bollworm, spotted bollworm and tobacco caterpillar insect pests.
    • The third gene, ‘cp4-epsps’, is sourced from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumafaciens.
  • Significance:
    • Its incorporation into cotton makes the crop “tolerant” to glyphosate.
    • This herbicide cannot be applied on normal cotton, as the chemical does not distinguish between the crops and weeds.
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