The Issue of BT Cotton and HT Cotton- Complete Analysis - Seeker's Thoughts

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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Issue of BT Cotton and HT Cotton- Complete Analysis

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What are Genetically Modified crops in cotton?
Traditional hybrid seeds are a result of cross-pollination of two different but related plants, but Genetically Modified (GM) hybrid seeds involve the artificial insertion of a gene from a different species. GM seeds are mostly either pest-resistant or herbicide-tolerant (HT). The herbicide- tolerant or HT crop cultivation is not legal in India. Therefore, BT cotton is allowed in India but not the HT cotton.
What is BT Cotton?


BT cotton is an insect- resistant transgenic crop designed to combat the bollworm (A type of insects which eats the boll of cotton plant). BT cotton was created by genetically altering the cotton genome to express a microbial protein from bacterium bacillus thuringiensis.
 This gene editing, where a new gene was inserted into the plant’s genome produces toxin crystals that the plant would not normally produce. Therefore, it can be said that genetically modified BT cotton plants contain a poison that protects them from their most significant enemies like pest which harm the cotton crop. As a result, these plants rely less on their own defense system.

What is HT Cotton?
HT COTTON- Herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton also known as BG-III cotton is innovation in BT cotton as it takes care of weeds problem at much lower cost as compared to physical labor required weeding. It contain round-up ready and round-up flex (RPF) gene. The RPF  herbicide-tolerant trait was developed and commercialized by US- based multinational seed giant Monsanto.
Why is HT not approved by GEAC?
The herbicide – resistant gene in HT cotton can spread through pollen into biodiversity sites leading to transformation of weeds into Super Weed on large scale, which will threaten the growth and yields of all crops in future, high cultivation cost and leads to health hazards.

Note- Bollgard & Bollgard II technology that provide seed protection for cotton seeds. Bollard II is about protecting the boll from the inside against threats that exist externally the bollworm. BG-III , or herbicide Tolerant crops is further modification in BG- II crops which are used in HT cotton.
Who does approve the crop to cultivate post genetically modification?
 The approval of genetically modified crops is done by the GEAC or Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the Ministry of Environment.
What is the Issue?
There were constant media reports that illegal and unauthorized cultivation of HT cotton was in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
The Department of Biotechnology in Ministry of Science and Technology has constituted Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) to find out about the cultivation of HT cotton. Unofficial figures were that the extent of unauthorized use of cotton was 20% in the country.
Surprisingly, the field inspection and scientific evaluation committee (FISEC)’s  report on the planting of unauthorized herbicide tolerant (HT) or HT cotton also wrote that it has soared(increased) to 15% of the total cotton area in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana and 5% in Punjab during the 2017 kharif season (winter season).
Report says available seeds have not been smuggled from outside of the country, but manipulated with original varieties in the country itself.
What does the law says about HT cotton?
According to the Seed Act 1966, seed rule 1968, Seed (Control) Order 1983 with regard to Environmental Protection Act 1986 and Environmental Protection Rules 1989 – The commercial cultivation, sale , cultivation and seed production of unapproved HT cotton is a punishable offence.