Breaking the monopoly

indian scientists have developed transgenic cotton varieties, breaking the monopoly of us -based company Monsanto. The seeds contain the Bt gene derived from widely found bacteria called bacillus thuringiensis . They are capable of combating the attack of the dreaded American bollworm pest that has been taking a heavy toll on the cotton crop for the past few seasons. Successive crop failures have forced many farmers to commit suicide. The seed was developed by transferring the Bt gene from the living bacteria to plants of two popular cotton varieties, lra 5166 and lra 516 through the tissue culture technique. M S Kairon of the Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research ( cicr ), said "The few seeds containing the Bt gene will now be used to produce enough seeds for conducting field trials in about two years.'

Monsanto is already marketing the Bt gene containing cotton variety, Bollgard, in some countries. It is also conducting field trials of transgenic cotton varieties, notably, hybrids in India, evoking criticism from some sections of environmentalists in the country. Kairon said that while these transgenic varieties would be able to save themselves from the American bollworm, they might succumb to the attack of other pests, such as tobacco budworms and pink bollworms. The cicr scientists are therefore searching for other genes as well, which could guard the crop against these pests.