Agri Business

Board gets GEAC nod to take up BRL-1 trials of GM rubber in Assam

V Sajeev KumarVishwanath Kulkarni Kochi/Bengaluru | Updated on September 14, 2020 Published on September 14, 2020

The crop will develop tolerance to environmental stress as well as tapping panel dryness   -  The Hindu

‘Proposed field trials may last 10-15 years’

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has recently given approval to Rubber Board to carry out the confined field trials of the GM rubber developed by the State-run entity.

The Rubber Research Institute of India, under the Rubber Board, has developed GM rubber that has additional copies of the MnSOD (Manganese Superoxide Dimutase) gene, making it tolerant to stressful climatic conditions and show less incidence of tapping panel dryness syndrome, resulting in better productivity. GEAC, in its meeting on July 28, approved the Biosafety Research Level - 1 (BRL-1) trials of GM rubber.

NOC obtained

“We are prepared to start field trial as soon as the official communication of permission in this regard is obtained from the Central government. Being a perennial tree crop with economic life span of more than 20 years, the proposed field trial will last for at least 10-15 years,” said KN Raghavan, Executive Director, Rubber Board. The Board has received a no objection certificate from Assam Government to take up the confined field trials.

The release for commercial cultivation can be considered only after the successful completion of the proposed field trials which may take 10-15 years, he added.

The Board had approached Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal seeking permission for field trials. “We have received a positive response only from Assam,” he said.

James Jacob, Director (Research), Rubber Research Institute of India, said that the GM crop developed by RRII is exactly the same rubber clone (RRII 105), but with additional copies of MnSOD gene. The GM rubber has also got an antibiotic-resistant gene sourced from a bacteria which is used as a marker to identify successfully transformed cell lines. Both these genes are present in commercially grown crops which include Bt cotton in India and various species of edible GM crops grown abroad.

MnSOD gene is closely associated with antioxidant activity in rubber plants (as well as other organisms including animals). Overexpression of this gene in the GM rubber is expected to impart tolerance to environmental stresses such as drought, high temperature, cold etc. as well as tapping panel dryness (patta marappu).

Therefore the productivity would be better, he said.

RG Kala, Principal Scientist, RRII, said that the Board developed the GM variety after a long and painstaking exercise after receiving necessary expertise and training from the University of California through a World Bank-funded project. When the Board first developed GM rubber in 2003, it was the first-ever commodity developed anywhere in the world and the first GM tree species developed in India.

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Published on September 14, 2020
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