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May 13, 2009

Mahyco campaigns for Bt brinjal

After the success of Bt cotton in 2002, Bt brinjal is ready for release at the earliest with trials having been completed, Mahendra Sharma, General Manager, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (Mahyco), told a press conference here on Tuesday.Thanks to Bt cotton, India with 315 lakh bales of cotton has been able to move to the world’s second position from the third, he added.

Explaining the need for Bt brinjal, Bharat Char, Lead – Biotechnology, Mahyco, said the Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB) prevalent in conventional brinjal was causing enormous damage to crops. Besides, it also increased insecticidal sprays that were harmful to health and also led to poor yield.“Bt brinjal or Fruit and Shoot Borer Resistant (FSBR) brinjal is genetically engineered to contain its own FSB resistance mechanism, the Bt gene Cry1Ac. When used in conjunction with good farming practices, FSBR brinjal will give higher yield (116 per cent in marketable fruit), requires fewer insecticidal sprays (70 per cent less), etc.,” Mr. Char said.

He elaborated the field trials that had been conducted over the past nine years in association with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, and other organisations.P. Balasubramaniam, Director, Centre for Plant Molecular Biology, TNAU, said four popular brinjal varieties were used for field trials in four of its centres. “Many important factors were tested for.

Benefits

The two main inferences that were made were the volume of marketable fruit increased from 72 per cent to 96 per cent in Madurai and 73 per cent to 96 per cent in Coimbatore. The other was the benefit cost ratio to farmer. For every Re. 1, the return was Rs. 4.47 in Madurai, while it was Rs. 3.80 in Coimbatore,” he said. Even though the trials were done on fields and various other organisms and animals, no kind of testing had been done on humans.

The representatives said human testing was not possible. However, they maintained that the genetically modified brinjal, which would be the “India’s first genetically modified vegetable crop”, would have no adverse effect on the health of humans.

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