The introduction of BT cotton, has helped the cotton farms to deal with the bollworm. But the pest pink bollworm is resistant to the GM technology and has been a reason for the farmers plight. As a solution to this, Hyderabad-based Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) might have found an answer to the dreaded pink bollworm, which continues to infest BT cotton. The company has developed an alternative trait to tackle the bollworm, which developed resistance to BT cotton in single-gene traits in 2008-09, and to two-gene traits in 2015.
Researchers at NSL, India’s largest seed company, claim to have developed a new trait by combining two existing genes. The gene has been tested at the laboratory and found to be successful in resisting bollworm attacks. The breeding of the gene is being conducted at NSL’s Hyderabad facility.
An application on the new finding with the Review Committee on Genetic Modification (RCGM) has already been submitted, set up under the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology. It is also preparing to file an application with the biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a statutory body set up under the Environment Protection Act.
According to government statistics, cotton is grown on 10.5-12.5 million hectares across 11 major States — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Tamil Nadu. In case there is an attack of bollworm, a farmer has to shell out about ₹2,000 per hectare for pest control. In the last cotton season, the pest caused a crop loss of 25-30 per cent.
Cry1Ac and Cry1EC, developed by National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), are endotoxins acting as insecticides.Cry1AC gene has been combined with Cry1EC, to achieve the success. The trait has shown good results in bioassays conducted in the labs and there are hopes to get regulatory approvals in two years.