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Approved Bt Cotton variety to be treated at par with non-Bt hybrids

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, July 3: Extensive biosafety and agronomic testing will no more be necessary for approved Bt cotton variety.

Once an event has been tested for its biosafety and approved for environmental release, it should be treated on par with the non-Bt hybrids.

These decisions were taken by the GEAC committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest at its meeting here. The decisions were based on the final recommendations of a sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr C D Mayee, to look into the existing processes, protocols and other related issues.

While due consideration for the agronomic value of the hybrid should be given and not completely done away with, the parameters of prime importance to assess the efficacy of Bt technology are (i) confirmation of the gene/event, (ii) level of protein expression and (iii) morphological characterization based on DUS parameters.

Parameters such as level of protein expression, susceptibility to diseases, staple length, staple strength, etc will be given consideration while selecting promising hybrids as these parameters also contribute to the economic gain, according to the committee.

The technology in no way increases the yield potential of a hybrid but because of the inherent protection to bollworms there is a saving of bolls, and also reduction in number of sprays drastically, which results in increase in yield.

Since agriculture is a State subject, involvement of the State Agriculture Universities (SAUs) and State Agriculture Departments has been enhanced by delegating Director Research of SAUs as the nodal point for pre-release field monitoring and Direct Agriculture Extension of SAUs as the nodal point for post release monitoring mechanism under the direct supervision of the two respectively.

A funding mechanism for the same has also been proposed by the sub-committee.

ICAR trials in respect of Bt cotton with cry1Ac (Mon 531 event) have been made optional. This was done in view of the constraints expressed by ICAR in handling large number of field trials due to limited resources and infrastructure. Alternatively the Companies may opt for SAU trials, according to the approved recommendations. In case of Bt cotton hybrids expressing new gene events or new transgenic crops, the prevailing system of two year LST in tandem with two year ICAR trials after multi-location trials under RCGM would continue.

The liberalised procedure recommended for Bt cotton hybrids expressing cry1Ac gene (Mon 531 EVENT) would be applicable to new gene-events after its performance have been monitored post release and GEAC has renewed its approval for commercial release.

Regarding seed production of Bt Brinjal and its large scale trials permission will be granted.

The Committee, taking into consideration the comments received from several NGOs and others, has extended the time period of submitting their comments upto July 15, 2006.

Regarding the request of some NGOs for detailed biosafety package and statistical analysis of biosafety data, the Committee was of the view that the NGOs /Public may be permitted to examine the report in the MoEF in the presence of a GEAC representative. The GEAC also decided to constitute an Expert Committee to look into the comments received from the NGOs/ public and submit its recommendation to the GEAC.

According to the GEAC, the area under Bt cotton will reach 81 lakh acres during this year.

At present about 121 Bt cotton hybrids were under various stages of field trials.

During the year 2002 , Bt cotton was cultivated in 72,682 acres of land which increased to 31,00,000 acres last year.

India has approved the cultivation of Bt cotton with cry1Ac (Mon 531 event) in 2002 after extensive and exhaustive biosafety and agronomic evaluation.

Within a period of four years about 59 hybrids expressing cry1Ac (Mon 531 event) have been released by the GEAC.


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