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Pink Bollworm-Resistant GM Cotton Gets Nod for Field Trials in Hisar, Haryana

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has approved confined field trials for Pink Bollworm-resistant GM cotton in Hisar, Haryana, just months after approving new field trials for a variety of genetically modified crops, including mustard, potatoes, and rubber in the nation for the first time in 16 years.

Shivam Dwivedi
Pink Bollworm is a pest that attacks the reproductive organs of cotton plants, which are where the fibres are made.
Pink Bollworm is a pest that attacks the reproductive organs of cotton plants, which are where the fibres are made.

Bioseed Research India, Hyderabad, received approval from the GEAC, India's biotech regulatory body, to conduct a Biosafety Research Level-1 (BRL-1) trial for resistance against Pink Bollworm during the Kharif season at Hisar, Haryana.

Despite applying to conduct the BRL-I trials in five locations- Janwada (Telangana), Jalna (Maharashtra), Akola (Maharashtra), Junagadh (Gujarat), and Hisar (Haryana)- Bioseed Research India has only thus far gotten a no objection certificate from the Haryana government. The BRL-1 trials are constrained experiments in which a single acre of land may be sown at each trial site. At this time, researchers are only able to plant the seeds on a total of 20 acres at once.

The meeting's minutes, which were made public on Thursday, state that the genetically altered cotton expresses the Cry2Ai gene for resistance to the Pink Bollworm. The Pectinophora gossypiella, also known as the Pink Bollworm, is a pest that attacks the reproductive organs of cotton plants, which are where the fibres are made.

It is a significant issue for the cotton industry in India and is regarded as one of the most destructive pests of cotton globally. The cotton yield and quality are decreased as a result of the Pink Bollworm larvae feeding on the seeds and fibres found inside cotton bolls. The GEAC had approved the use of the BT cotton, another genetically modified variety of cotton, in 2002 to combat this pest.

This particular variety possesses the gene Cry2Ai, which was isolated from the bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis and aids in the production of a protein toxic to the Pink Bollworm. However, by 2009, the Pink Bollworm had started to develop a resistance to the protein, necessitating further study into GM cotton.

The new variety's Cry2ai gene, which confers pest resistance on the cotton and is also derived from the bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis, was also introduced. The two genes and the proteins they generate do, however, differ from one another. While Cry2Ai targets a wider variety of insects, including some coleopteran (beetle) and dipteran (fly) species, Cry1Ac primarily targets lepidopteran insects (moths and butterflies).

The researchers will assess a variety of crop parameters during the field trials, including seed cotton yield, Pink Bollworm infestation damage, and crop safety from mice and rabbits. In order to determine whether the crop has any effects on other unrelated organisms in the ecosystem, the team will also examine how the crop affects soil microorganisms and fauna.

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