Science & Technology
10th May, 2019
- India banned Bt brinjal in 2010 but, nine years on, the genetically modified (GM) crop is still in circulation, said activists recently.
- They cited the example of a farmer from Haryana’s Fatehabad who allegedly has been cultivating the crop for a couple of years now.
- Representatives of the activists- Coalition for a GM-Free India have demanded immediate action from the central and state governments.
What are Genetically Modified (GM) crops?
- GM is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism.
- To produce a GM plant, new DNA is transferred into plant cells. Usually, the cells are then grown in tissue culture where they develop into plants. The seeds produced by these plants will inherit the new DNA.
- One of the methods used to transfer DNA is to coat the surface of small metal particles with the relevant DNA fragment, and bombard the particles into the plant cells.
- Another method is to use a bacterium or virus. The viruses and bacteria transfer their DNA into a host cell as a normal part of their life cycle. For GM plants, the bacterium most frequently used is called Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The gene of interest is transferred into the bacterium and the bacterial cells then transfer the new DNA to the genome of the plant cells.
What is Bt Brinjal?
- Bt Brinjal is a GM crop created by inserting Cry 1Ac gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into Brinjal.
- The insertion of the gene gives Brinjal plant resistance against lepidopteron insects like the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (Leucinodes orbonalis) and Fruit Borer (Helicoverpa armigera).
- Upon ingestion of the Bt toxin by the insect, there would be disruption of digestive processes, ultimately resulting in the death of the insect.
- This was to bring down the economic cost of brinjal production in the country. As per studies, the Shoot Borer and Fruit Borer cause up to 20% damage in the crops. The introduction of Bt Brinjal would add to annual production and it would be good for farm economy in the country.
Why Bt Brinjal was banned?
- Despite of the claims of the Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co) company that it has done all Biosafety tests, there were concerns over potential health hazards and problem of terminator seed in Brinjal, which would compel farmers to by seeds from Monsanto.
- The matter reached to Supreme Court and an expert committee, appointed by Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all genetically modified (GM) food crops and a complete ban on field trials of transgenics in crops which originate in India.
- The result was that the government imposed a moratorium on field trials of Bt Brinjal in 2010.