After Delhi University’s transgenic hybrid mustard, India’s biotechnology regulator is set to recommend an “environmental release” of German multinational company Bayer AG’s genetically modified (GM) cotton, which would allow farmers to spray the herbicide glyphosate.
The transgenic cotton – Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flax (BG-II RRF) – contains three allelic genes, the first two (‘cry1ac’ and ‘cry2ab’) isolated from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, and proteins There is toxic coding for American caterpillar, spotted caterpillar and tobacco caterpillar insect pests. The third gene, ‘cp4-epsps’, is derived from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Its inclusion in cotton makes the crop “tolerant” to glyphosate. This herbicide cannot be applied to ordinary cotton, as the chemical does not differentiate between crops and weeds.
The regulatory body, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), in a meeting on 27 July, had constituted an expert sub-committee under Department of Biotechnology (DBT) scientist Sanjay Kumar Mishra to conduct a detailed review of the application by Mahyo Pvt. taken. Ltd., licensee for BG-II RRF technology at Mumbai, India.
The Deccan Era has learned that the panel has approved organizing the said genetically modified (GM) crop. “The review was completed last week, and the report of the sub-committee will be taken up at the next meeting of the GEAC,” said an ICAR official on anonymity. GEAC is a body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that evaluates GM products for their testing and commercialization (environmental release).
The members of the expert sub-committee also included AK Singh, Director Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI); DK Yadav, Assistant Director General (Seeds), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); K Annapurna, former head of IARI’s Microbiology Division. AH, Prakash, head of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Cotton, Nitin K Jain, DBT scientist and Abhilasha Singh Mathuria, scientist, Ministry of Environment.
Incidentally, the same panel submitted a report on 8 October, based on which GEAC recommended the environmental release of GM hybrid mustard DMH-11 for seed production, commercial cultivation and breeding of new hybrids. The meeting of the GEAC was held on October 18, 10 days after the submission of the report of the expert sub-committee.
BG-II RRF cotton had already undergone biosafety research and field trials by 2012-13. The dossier containing the results of these tests was submitted by its original developer, Monsanto, to GEAC in March 2013. Amid regulatory uncertainty and no decision, the US company withdrew calls for an environmental release of herbicide-tolerant GM cotton. The product.
In 2018, Monsanto was acquired by Bayer, the latter of which, through Mahyco, resubmitted its application earlier this year.
“The atmosphere has changed significantly in the last 7-8 months. The need to create an environment to promote agricultural research and allow new products to increase crop yields is more appreciated,” said the official quoted above.
According to him, the real push in this direction came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech, where he made a strong pitch for “Anusandhan” (research). Jai Anusandhan was added to the slogans given by previous prime ministers, praising “jawan” (soldiers), “Kisan” (farmers) and “Vigyan” (science).