Friday, February 26, 2010

What happens if you put the genetics of a bacteria into a food crop?

Major field tests have been done since 2000 in India by USA Monsanto through an Indian Corporate partner, with a GM Eggplant called "BT Brinjal." Commercial release to the domestic Indian agriculture market was scheduled for this year. It has been delayed.

Basicly, you put the genes of the bacteria BT into the egg plant tissue structure.
An insect eats the plant until the accumulation of BT toxin kills it. Since the toxin will also be in the fruit of the eggplant, some people are concerned about eating it.

Since it has been proven with Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops (yes they are resistent to Roundup weed-killer also made by Monsanto) that GM changes can be transfered to plants around the GM crop field. There is also an environmental impact (or should I say "hazard") with GM crop plants. For example, grass growing around the field can acquire the weed-killer resistence, thus producing a better weed.

And, another food crop in the neighboring field might also become weed-killer resistent.

Finally, the pollen off BT GM plants is just as poisonous as feeding on the BT GM plant: there was a monarch butterfly larve kill off on milkweed covered in BT GM corn pollen. That got BT GM crops banned in Europe... I need to note that we commercially grow lots of BT GM and other GM crops in the USA and Mexico.

So, India is concerned about BT GM Eggplant....

Wall Street Journal

India is halting the release of its first genetically modified food crop due to safety concerns. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told a televised press conference that more independent studies must be done to ensure the hybrid eggplant is safe for human consumption.


Bt Brinjal (named for its gene modification) was developed in India one of its largest seed companies (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company - Mahyco) The Bt Brinjal modification provides a build-in-pestiside against insects that bore into the plant's fruit and shoots and destroy it. India is one of the largest producers of eggplant in the world: eggplant is also a major food source for the country accounting for 9% of the country's total vegetable production.

The band on genetically modified eggplant wouldn't stop the use of biotechnology in the country's agricultural sector: India is one of the world's largest producer of genetically modified cotton. Genetically modified (GM) crops are commercially cultivated in 25 crop-growing countries world-wide, including the USA and Mexico.


"Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, is right now in the middle of an environmental and health controversy in India..."


Bacillus thuringiensis
by W.S. Cranshaw1 (12/08)
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease of insects. These bacteria are the active ingredient in some insecticides.
Bt insecticides are most commonly used against some leaf- and needle-feeding caterpillars. Recently, strains have been produced that affect certain fly larvae, such as mosquitoes, and larvae of leaf beetles.
Bt is considered safe to people and nontarget species, such as wildlife. Some formulations can be used on essentially all food Crops.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is an insecticide with unusual properties that make it useful for pest control in certain situations. Bt is a naturally occurring bacterium common in soils throughout the world. Several strains can infect and kill insects. Because of this property, Bt has been developed for insect control. At present, Bt is the only "microbial insecticide" in widespread use.

The insecticidal activity of Bt was first discovered in 1911. However, it was not commercially available until the 1950s. In recent years, there has been tremendous renewed interest in Bt. Several new products have been developed, largely because of the safety associated with Bt-based insecticides.

FD: This is a long paper on the topic, and it can be downloaded as a PDF file.


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