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Coimbatore, July 28

THE Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) will soon take for field trials a genetically modified eggplant that is resistant to fruit and shoot borer.

Fruit and shoot borer have been affecting eggplant yield in a big way and the GM brinjal is likely to help in overcoming this problem.

After successful completion of the trials, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University is proposing to distribute the seeds to thebrinjal farmers on cost basis.

The Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) has developed the technology after receiving the representative seeds from the varsity. Dr Usha B. Zehr, Joint Director (Research) of Mahyco, handed over the backcrossed seeds to the TNAU Vice- Chancellor, Dr C. Ramaswamy, during the recently held `Insect Resistant Management' meeting.

Earlier, the Professor and Head of the Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Dr P. Balasubramaniam, said India and China accounted for nearly 84 per cent of the world's production of brinjal. However, this important vegetable crop was plagued by high infestation of the fruit and shoot borer pest, forcing extensive pesticide application to curb the pest menace and eventual damage to the crop.

Estimates suggest that the crop loss due to pest and disease infestation ranged between 54 and 70 per cent in India. It touched a 100 per cent if the loss due to fruit and shoot borer was also factored.

The frequent and heavy spraying of chemical pesticides, scientists apprehend, would have adverse impact on the environment besides increasing the production cost.

"To provide a global solution to this problem, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded consortium, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Programme (ABSP) II of the Cornell University devised a strategy that brought together public and private institutions in various countries, including India. With the efforts of the ABSP II team and Sathguru Management Consultants, Hyderabad, a private-public partnership with a number of global partners was constituted. In partnership with Mahyco, public sector institutions are engaged in developing transgenic varieties," Dr Balasubramaniam said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 29, 2005)
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