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Illegal Cultivation of Bt Brinjal

  • 26 Apr 2019
  • 4 min read

The activists representing the Coalition for a GM-Free India (CGFI) have alleged that Bt brinjal is being cultivated illegally in Haryana.

  • Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, has been at the centre of controversy in India.
  • Bt brinjal, a genetically modified strain created by India's seeds company Mahyco in collaboration with American multinational Monsanto, claims to improve yields and help the agriculture sector.
  • However, environment activists say the effect of GM (genetically modified) crops on rats have shown to be fatal for lungs and kidneys. It is dangerous to introduce these experimental foods into the market without proper research.
  • It can be noted that recently, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), has sought information about Bt brinjal from Bangladesh, where farmers have been growing the crop since 2013.

Bt Brinjal

  • Brinjal is prone to attack from insect pests and diseases, the most serious and destructive of which is the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) Leucinodes orbonalis.
    • Since FSB larvae are concealed within shoots and fruits, the pest normally escapes insecticide sprays.
  • Therefore, FSB-resistant brinjal or Bt brinjal was developed using a transformation process similar to the one used in the development of Bt cotton.
  • According to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), which works to promote bio-technology, Bt brinjal incorporates the cry1Ac gene expressing insecticidal protein which creates resistance against fruit and shoot borer , a pest.

Genetically Modified Organisms

  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.
  • The technology is called “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”.
  • It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another and also between non-related species.
  • GM crops are aimed at providing increased level of crop protection by introducing resistance against plant diseases caused by insects, viruses and from herbicides.
    • The resistance against insects in GM crops is achieved by incorporating into the food plant the gene for toxin production, which is currently used as a conventional insecticide in agriculture and is considered safe for human consumption.
    • Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses, resulting in higher crop yields.
    • Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides. In situations where weed pressure is high, the use of such crops has resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the herbicides used.
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