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SCIENCE & POLICY: GM crops the need of the hour, says Indian expert



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   GM CROPS THE NEED OF THE HOUR, SAYS EXPERT

SOURCE:  IBN Live News, India

AUTHOR:  The New Indian Express, India

URL:     http://ibnlive.in.com/news/gm-crops-the-need-of-the-hour-says-expert/186160-60-116.html

DATE:    21.09.2011

SUMMARY: "The myth that genetically modified crops are harmful to people and environment is wrong. Farmers and the public must be made aware of it scientifically, according to Palpu Pushpangadan, Director-General, Amity Institute for Herbal and Biotech Products Development, Thiruvananthapuram. [...] The population is on the rise and so is malnutrition and it is in this context that transgenic crops gain significance,? he said. [...] The yield of GM crop cultivation per hectare will be three fold more and of better quality than the normal crop."

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GM CROPS THE NEED OF THE HOUR, SAYS EXPERT

KOCHI: The myth that genetically modified (GM) crops are harmful to people and environment is wrong. Farmers and the public must be made aware of it scientifically, according to Palpu Pushpangadan, Director-General, Amity Institute for Herbal and Biotech Products Development, Thiruvananthapuram.

He was in Kochi to participate in a seminar on modern streams of biochemistry organised at the St Albert?s College.

?While the 20th century was the age of Physics with many sophisticated instruments coming into being, the 21st century is the age of biology propelled by technology, which should be applied to help tide over crises. The population is on the rise and so is malnutrition and it is in this context that transgenic crops gain significance,? he said. Today experiments are on to develop pesticide-resistant and water-resistant crops. For example Bt Brinjal is not harmful

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a toxic protein which is safe for consumption but at the same time the toxicity in it will keep pesticides at bay. Only thing is that they should be cultivated in isolation so that they won?t cross with other plants, Pushpangadan said. Experiments are on to transfer the protein in chicken to pulses so that they would like chicken, but the question whether it is vegetarian will linger.

Genetical modification takes place in nature also, evolving over the years by acquisition of genes from the environment.

The yield of GM crop cultivation per hectare will be three fold more and of better quality than the normal crop. ?Now experiments are on to create golden rice which would have other vitamins besides carbohydrate and can give 50 percent of the required nutrients to children,? he said. There is good scope for GM rubber, pepper and cardamom in Kerala, he said.

Numerous transgenic crops are being developed but only the best with least side-effects would be allowed for cultivation. So there is no cause for fear of terminator genes. Hence the little demerit of GM crop is nothing compared to the great purpose it would serve, he said.

Pushpangadan who has the most number of patents in India, (232) is the first scientist to get a patent for tribal folks. While he went trekking with the Kani tribes along with scientists working on the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Ethnobiology (AICRPE), he realised they were full of energy while he sagged as he walked on. But when he gobbled a few of the berry-like fruits that they offered, it had a magical effect. This ?magical? plant was identified as Trichopus zeylanicus. He took it to the Regional Research Laboratory in Jammu, got it tested and evaluated, which led to the herbal medicine ?Jeevani? and got them a patent for it.

Pushpangadan was instrumental in setting up the first ethnopharmacology laboratory in India at RRL Jammu, in 1987 and full-fledged ethnopharmacology laboratories at Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram, and the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow.

This multi-disciplinary scientist is a recognised PhD and MD guide and examiner of various universities in India and abroad. He is the recipient many national and international awards.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   HAU DEVELOPS BT PIGEONPEA

SOURCE:  IBN Live News, India

AUTHOR:  Press Trust of India, India

URL:     http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/hau-develops-bt-pigeonpea/826257.html

DATE:    16.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Haryana Agricultural University today said that it has developed Bt pigeonpea plants in the laboratory for resistance against pod borer insect known to cause huge loss to the production of different crops. HAU Vice-Chancellor K S Khokhar said [...] the genetically modified pigeonpea plants carried ?Bt Cry 1 Ac? gene that had been successfully transferred into an early maturing pigeonpea variety ?Manak? by Pushpa Kharab, Professor, Molecular Biology & Biotechnology of the university."

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HAU DEVELOPS BT PIGEONPEA

Hisar, Sep 16 (PTI) Haryana Agricultural University (HAU) today said that it has developed Bt pigeonpea (arhar) plants in the laboratory for resistance against pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera) insect known to cause huge loss to the production of different crops. HAU Vice-Chancellor K S Khokhar said this was the second achievement of the university in the development of Bt plants. Earlier it has developed Bt chickpea (gram) plants resistant against the same insect, he added. He said the genetically modified pigeonpea plants carried ?Bt Cry 1 Ac? gene that had been successfully transferred into an early maturing pigeonpea variety ?Manak? by Pushpa Kharab, Professor, Molecular Biology & Biotechnology of the university. Khokhar, a renowned entomologist pointed out that pulses were genetically low yielding and less responsive to inputs, but prone to attack of pests and diseases. In this scenario hybrids and genetically modified pulse crops like Bt pigeonpea was the only solution t
 o increase the production of pulses, he said. HAU Director of Research, R P Narwal said that the protocol used to transfer gene in pigeonpea was the same as it was applied in Bt gram. He said the university had filed a patent for this technique.He further said the gene Bt Cry 1 Ac used to develop Bt pigeonpea was procured from P Anand Kumar, Project Director, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB). It may be mentioned that the Bt chickpea was also developed by Pushpa Kharab and her team. Kharab at present is on deputation to Centre for Plant Biotechnology as its Director (Technical).