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2-Plants: GEAC plays safe on Bt cotton approvals

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TITLE:  GEAC plays safe on Bt cotton approvals
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok B. Sharma
DATE:   13 Oct 2005

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GEAC plays safe on Bt cotton approvals

NEW DELHI, OCT 13: The controversy over the performance of Bt cotton in
India is far from over. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)
tried to mediate over the controversy arising out of the publication of a
research paper in July edition of Current Science written by Dr KR
Kranthi and others of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR).

It deliberated twice in two successive meetings in August and September
and failed to give a clear verdict. It came to the conclusion "that there
is a possibility of variation in the Cry 1Ac protien expression in
specific tissue of the plant depending on the genetic background of the
host and the environment in which it is deployed."

The scientific paper itself is a study on "temporal and intra-plant
variability of Cry 1Ac expression in Bt cotton and its influence on the
survival of the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera." The inserted
transgene Cry 1Ac is designed to counter pests like bollworm.

The GEAC by admitting the "possibility of variation in the Cry 1Ac
expression in specific tissues" depending upon the genetic of the host
has indicated the possibility of failure of Bt cotton under certain

The GEAC also admitted: "It is also a fact that Bt technology does not
confer 100% elimination of bollworms and, therefore, there is a need to
follow the prescribed integrated pest management (IPM) approach."

Playing safe about its approval of Bt cotton varieties, the GEAC said:
"Taking into consideration the above fact, the GEAC has taken a decision
to approve the Bt hybrids on a case-by-case basis. All hybrids approved
by the GEAC for release have been tested at several sites in various zones."

It suggested that information on IPM should be included in the seed
packet. It also concluded that the present practice of reviewing the
performance of released Bt cotton hybrids after every three years should

However in the meeting on August 10, GEAC defended Bt technology and
said: "It does not mean that the Bt technology is inadequate to confer
protection from bollworms in cotton plants." It suggested CICR and Dr
Kranthi to "take necessary action to counter the allegations and put the
issues in proper perspective as the findings of CICR are being quoted by
NGOs all over the world.


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