Agri-biotechnology Briefing Bt cotton

Save-N-Sow Bt Cottonseed Varieties Cheaper Than Monsanto’s in the Works

Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) has developed two cotton plant cells which have been mutated with the cry 1Ac gene. These are Tg2E-13 and TM-2, reports Harish Damodaran in the Indian Express.

These cells have been used to produce entire transgenic plants. Their protein content declines over the growing season, but the overall level is two to three-times higher compared to Monsanto’s MON 531 cell whose US patent expired in 2012 and can now be freely used. The toxic protein in the plants developed at the DU centre is concentrated in leaves, bracts and flower buds, which makes it more effective, says Deepak Pental, who heads the DU team. In the Monsanto version, he says, the protein level drops as the plant matures and sets bolls. It is also high in roots, which serves little purpose as bollworms do not eat underground plant tissue.

The other promising event is whitefly-resistant cotton developed by National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow. It has a gene isolated from an edible fern called Tectaria macrodonita. The gene, Tma12, produces a protein which kills whiteflies, a sap-sucking pest. It was found after screening 38 species of ferns. This website had reported the event in November 2015.

Punjab Agriculture University is crossing Tg2E-13 with three of its own high-yielding American cotton varieties. The transfer of technology happened in April last year. PAU’s research director says it would also sign an MOU with NBRI as well to produce varieties with stacked genes, to make cotton resistant to both American bollworm and whiteflies.

The Central Institute of Cotton Research is also using DU centre’s technology in its own high-yielding varieties. The technology transfer agreement was signed in June 2015. Trials to assess it safety to humans, animals and the animals will take time. K R Kranthi, Director of CICR does not expect cotton varieties with the genes to be available to farmers before 2020.

To read the Indian Express article in full click here.

(Top photo of Deepak Pental at his office in Delhi University South Campus, by Vivian Fernandes, February 2015)

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