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Crop Biotech Update

Bt Brinjal: Coming Soon in India?

January 16, 2009

Bt brinjal is likely to be the first biotech food crop to be approved and adopted in India in the near term.  Bt brinjal has been under development by Mahyco in collaboration with public sector institutions in India for the last 8 years. It has undergone a rigorous science-based regulatory approval process in India and is currently at an advanced stage of consideration for deregulation by the Indian regulatory authorities which approved the experimental seed production of Bt brinjal hybrids by Mahyco in 2008-2009. Studies on food and feed safety, including toxicity and allergenicity tests, have been conducted on rats, rabbits, fish, chickens, goats and cows; these studies have confirmed that Bt brinjal is as safe as its non- Bt counterpart. Similarly, environmental impact assessments to study germination, pollen flow, invasiveness, aggressiveness and weediness, and effect on non-target organisms were completed, and it was confirmed that Bt brinjal behaves in a similar way to its non-Bt counterpart.

Agronomic studies under multi-location research trials (MLRTs) and large-scale field trials (LSTs) confirmed that insecticide requirement for Bt brinjal hybrids was on average 80% less than for the non-Bt counterpart for the control of FSB; this translated into a 42% reduction in total insecticides used for control of all insect-pests in Bt brinjal versus the control. As a result of the effective control of FSB, Bt brinjal’s average marketable yield increased by 100% over its non-Bt counterpart hybrids, 116% over popular conventional hybrids and 166% over popular open- pollinated varieties (OPVs) of brinjal.

Thus, to-date the studies submitted to the regulatory authorities confirm that Bt brinjal offers the opportunity to simultaneously provide effective control of the most important pest of brinjal, FSB, decrease insecticides for this important insect-pest by 80%, and more than double the yield over conventional hybrids and open-pollinated varieties, thereby providing significant advantages for farmers and consumers alike. At the national level it can thus contribute to food safety, security and sustainability.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications' (ISAAA) discusses this crop in the latest Brief 38 on “The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India (Eggplant/Aubergine)”. Brief 38 is a comprehensive review of all aspects of the cultivation in India of the important vegetable brinjal, also known as eggplant or aubergine. The Brief summarizes the development, status and content of the extensive regulatory dossier in India for biotech Bt brinjal, which confers resistance to the most important insect-pest of brinjal, fruit and shoot borer (FSB).

For more information or a copy of Brinjal Brief 38-2009 contact ISAAA South Asia Office at b.choudhary@cgiar.org or k.gaur@cgiar.org.  An online version is available at http://www.isaaa.org and http://www.isaaa.org/kc.