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Food Science

GMO brinjal, or eggplant, illegally grown in India

by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
May 25, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 21

 

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Credit: Shutterstock

A crop of genetically engineered brinjal, or eggplant, has been identified in northern India. The country has banned cultivation of genetically modified food crops since 2010; the only such crop allowed to be grown in or imported to India is cotton. The Coalition for a GM-Free India, a network of farm activists, initially identified the crop through private testing. The National Bureau for Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), a lab of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, confirmed that the farmer had cultivated genetically modified brinjal, NBPGR director Kuldeep Singh says. The NBPGR specifically identified the plants as having two gene-expression promoters—one viral and one bacterial—and an antibiotic-resistance gene commonly used to select plants that have been successfully modified. Groups against cultivation of genetically modified crops are asking India’s biotech regulator, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, for further investigation. A type of brinjal modified to produce an insecticidal bacterial protein had previously been developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, also known as Mahyco. The NBPGR did not find the gene for that protein in its testing, Singh says. The farmer who grew the modified brinjal had purchased seedlings from a bus stand, and his crop was destroyed, says Ranbir Singh, joint director of the Horticulture Department of Haryana, the state where the crop was grown.

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