In a move which is sure to irate the manufacturers of the genetically modified product, the Indian Government has announced that it will not allow commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal. India has been a political GMO hotspot.
The Bt brinjal is a transgenic brinjal created by inserting a crystal protein gene (Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the genome of various brinjal cultivars. These Brinjal plantare foundto be resistance against lepidopteran insects like the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer Leucinodes orbonalis and Fruit Borer Helicoverpa armigera.
Bt Brinjal is the first Genetically Modified food crop in India that has reached the approval stage for commercialization. Bt Brinjal has been developed by inserting a gene cry1Ac from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis through an Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer. It is a genetically modified brinjal developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd. (Mahyco), a leading Indian seed company. Bt brinjal contains three foreign genes which have been inserted namely:
1. The cry1Ac gene which encodes an insecticidal protein Cry1Ac, is derived from common soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) subsp. kurstaki to produce the insecticidal protein. The cry1Ac gene is driven by a viral promoter, the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter.
2. The nptII gene for an antibiotic resistance marker, neomycin phosphotransferase-II.
3. The aad gene for another marker 3” (9) O-aminoglycoside adenyl transferase.
“The government has imposed a moratorium on commercialization of Bt Brinjal event EE-I on February 9, 2010 till such time independent scientific studies establish to satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country,” India’s environmental minister Jayanthi Natarajan said.
“There is no proposal to lift the moratorium imposed by the Ministry on commercial release of Bt brinjal event- EE-I for the purpose of conducting lab tests or field trials,” Natarajan said.
The minister specified that, some of the state governments, non profit groups and some section of the scientific and farming communities have expressed apprehensions on the safety of the Bt Brinjal and have called for extreme caution as it is the first GM crop to be introduced in the country.