Bt Brinjal | UPSC
Experts slam move for approving new Bt brinjal variety, cite regulatory lapses
WHY IN NEWS:
Experts have slammed a recent move of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) — a government-appointed committee responsible for appraisal of proposals of genetically engineered organisms — giving its greenlight for biosafety research-level-II (BRL-II) field trials for Event 142, a new variety of genetically modified brinjal (Bt brinjal) during its 139th meeting May 19, 2020.
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: GM Crops
For PRELIMS go through the proteins , toxics and the pesticide variants concerned to BT BRINJAL .
For MAINS do you think such experiments at this stage are worth ? Bangladesh should be a wonderful example in your answers
WHAT IS BT BRINJAL
- In Bangladesh, eggplant is known as “brinjal.” It’s also known as “talong” in the Philippines and “aubergine” in Europe.
- “Bt brinjal,” a genetically engineered variety of eggplant.
- Bt brinjal-4—the variety ; can produce an insecticidal protein that is toxic to FSB.
- Bt brinjal technology is not owned by any company.
- India-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co.(Mahyco) did the first work to establish that Bt genes .
- Mahyco initially developed an eggplant that expresses Cry1Ac (EE-1) to control eggplant fruit and shoot borer.
- Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines-Los Baños has been conducting similar research on its local cultivars.
THE NEED OF BT BRINJAL
- Brinjal is a very popular fruit in South Asia.
- However, it is subject to frequent and intense attacks by the FSB.
Bt Brinjal | UPSC
- This practice exposes farmers, consumers, and the environment to high levels of hazardous pesticides.
- It also represents a substantial expense that smallholder farmers cannot easily afford.
- Worse, farmers often experience significant losses even after applying pesticides.
- Recently, there has been progress towards establishing appropriate regulatory structures for testing and possible commercialization in the Philippines.
- The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approved its commercialization in 2009 following field trials and safety evaluations.
- Researchers inserted insecticidal crystal (Cry1Ac) proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium into the genetic code of brinjal cultivars.
- The Bt approach to insect control has been safely and effectively used globally in other crops, such as maize, for over two decades.
NEED FOR PESTICIDES
- Bt brinjal is the first genetically engineered food crop created specifically for smallholder farmers in a developing nation.
BT BRINJAL SEEDS
- Farmers can save Bt brinjal seeds because the approved varieties of Bt brinjal are open-pollinated.
- This is best done when farmers follow best practice guidelines, such as using conventional brinjal borders around the plot for growing Bt brinjal.
- Extensive international research has documented that Cry1Ac proteins are safe for human food and livestock
- Rigorous food and feed safety studies, evaluation and nutritional studies, confirmed that Bt brinjal is as safe as its non-Bt varieties.
- Other studies have found Bt brinjal has no adverse environmental effects.
- These extensive studies indicate that Bt brinjal has no unintended effects.
DOES INDIA NEED BT BRINJAL
- India was the centre of origin and the centre of diversity for brinjal.
- Like Bt cotton, developers claimed they developed this variety to target the shoot borer pest and increase yield.
- But the pest is not the problem for a brinjal farmer. The price offered for the crop is.
- The Bt technology worked initially, but the pink ball worm became resistant to the Bt toxin within five years.
- The GEAC has now, however, gone ahead with trials for Event 142, stating the earlier moratorium had no implications for this variety.
- Bangladesh, however, has become an example of how Bt Brinjal failed.
- With the country’s story similar to India’s, where an approval was given without any data in the public domain.
- Farmers after the first and second rounds of seed distribution were not promising.
- The farmers lost between 15,000 and 30,000 Bangaldeshi Taka (approximately Rs 13,011 and 26,022).
- Farmers were promised ‘no pest attack, no pesticide use’ along with a higher yield and income.
- This, however, was not the case as major pests observed in the Bt Brinjal field included viruses, fungus, insects and mites.
- Around 35 types of pesticides were used to control the pests.