Since 1996 plants have been modified with short sequences of genes from Bt to express the crystal protein Bt makes. With this method, plants themselves can produce the proteins and protect themselves from insects without any external Bt and/or synthetic pesticide sprays. In 1999, 29 million acres of Bt corn, potato and cotton were grown globally. It has been estimated that by using Bt protected cotton, the United States was able to save approximately $92 million.
Bt GM crops are protected specifically against European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, tobacco budworm, cotton bollworm, pink bollworm and the Colorado potato beetle. Other benefits attributed to using Bt include:
Reduced environmental impacts from pesticides – When the plants are producing the toxins in their tissues there is no need to spray synthetic pesticides or apply Bt mixtures topically.
Increased opportunity for beneficial insects – Bt proteins will not kill beneficial insects.
Reduced pesticide exposure to farm workers and non-target organisms.
Potential risks to using Bt:
Invasiveness – Genetic modifications, through traditional breeding or by genetic engineering can potentially change the organism to become invasive. Few introduced organisms become invasive, yet it’s a concern for the users.
Resistance to Bt - The biggest potential risk to using Bt-crops is resistance. Farmers have taken many steps to help prevent resistance.
Cross-contamination of genes - Although unproven, genes from GM crops can potentially introduce the new genes to native species.
Transgenic plants possess a gene or genes that have been transferred from a different species. Although DNA of another species can be integrated in a plant genome by natural processes, the term "transgenic plants" refers to plants created in a laboratory using recombinant DNA technology. The aim is to design plants with specific characteristics by artificial insertion of genes from other species or sometimes entirely different kingdoms. See also Genetics, List of genetic engineering topics.
Varieties containing genes of two distinct plant species are frequently created by classical breeders who deliberately force hybridization between distinct plant species when carrying out interspecific or intergeneric wide crosses with the intention of developing disease resistant crop varieties. Classical plant breeders use a number of in vitro techniques such as protoplast fusion, embryo rescue or mutagenesis to generate diversity and produce plants that would not exist in nature (see also Plant breeding, Heterosis, New Rice for Africa).
Such traditional techniques (used since about 1930 on) have never been controversial, or been given wide publicity except among professional biologists, and have allowed crop breeders to develop varieties of basic food crop, wheat in particular, which resist devastating plant diseases such as rusts. Hope is one such wheat variety bred by E. S. McFadden with a gene from a wild grass. Hope saved American wheat growers from devastating stem rust outbreaks in the 1930s.
Methods used in traditional breeding that generate plants with DNA from two species by non-recombinant methods are widely familiar to professional plant scientists, and serve important roles in securing a sustainable future for agriculture by protecting crops from pests and helping land and water to be used more efficiently. (see also Food security, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International development)
Bt cotton is the only genetically engineered crop approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for commercial cultivation in nine cotton growing states. These states are Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The total area under Bt cotton cultivation is approximately 128,44,000 acres. The GEAC has also approved the field testing of Bt rice, Bt okra, Bt brinjal, Bt tomato, Bt potato, Bt groundnut and Bt cotton expressing new gene events of which field trials of Bt rice, Bt okra, Bt brinjal and Bt cotton have been initiated. The states where field trials of GM crops have been undertaken include Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, , Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.Extensive Rules and guidelines have been framed for evaluating the environmental and health safety aspects of genetically modified crops. The GEAC also takes into consideration the results of the biosafety data, findings of the field trials as well as recommendations of the Monitoring cum Evaluation Committee (MEC) constituted by the Government for evaluating the field trials of GM crops and recommendations of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) before approving the GM crop for commercial cultivation. Only those transgenic crops which are found to be safe for human consumption as well as the environment are approved for commercial release
Thrissur: The Kerala Agriculture University (KAU) on Monday denied reports that it has entered into an agreement with Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co (Mahyco) to provide it with the germplasm of indigenous rice varieties.KAU director of research D. Alexander told sources: "Though the company has approached us for the germplasm, we did not provide it." Mahyco is a company associated with the multi-national agribusiness firm Monsanto.A television channel in Kerala reported that the rice research station has entered into an agreement with the Mahyco to supply around 50 varieties of seeds conserved at its Regional Agriculture Research Station at Pattambi near here without the knowledge of the state government. The research centre conserves a large variety of indigenous rice varieties.The report added that KAU has agreed to make its fields available to experiment the 'terminator seeds' developed from the germplasm provided by the university.