BT brinjal - the first food crop under evaluation - is all set to be introduced in the Indian market before year-end by a Maharashtra-based company.
The BT Brinjal variety, awaiting central government clearance for commercial release, will be the first Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB) vegetable biotech crop to benefit farmers who face nine per cent losses in fruit damage and up to 70 per cent in commercial plantings in India, sources at Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co, which is developing the BT brinjal, said.
They claimed the crop has undergone rigorous scientific evaluation to assess its food safety, environmental safety, human and animal health, safety and biodiversity.
Sources said there are no brinjal varieties with adequate FSB resistance in India and scientists had used biotechnology to develop a variety that can resist FSB attack.
Though many attempts have been made to develop resistant cultivars through traditional plant breeding, these have met with limited or almost no success.
Brinjal is grown on nearly 550,000 hectares in India and is an important cash crop for more than 1.4 million small, marginal and resource-poor farmers, the sources said.
A hardy crop that gives good yields even under drought conditions, major brinjal producing states are West Bengal (30 per cent share), Orissa (20 per cent) and Gujarat and Bihar (around 10 per cent), with average national productivity around 15.6 tons per hectare, they said.
BT Brinjal was found effective against FSB, with 98 per cent insector mortality in Bt Brinjal shoots and 100 per cent in fruits, compared to less than 30 per cent mortality in non-BT counterparts, the sources claimed.
Multi-location research trials confirmed that it required on an average 77 per cent less insecticides than non-BT counterparts to control FSB and 42 per cent less for control of all insect pests of brinjal.
The benefits of BT Brinjal would translate to an average increase of 116 per cent over popular open-pollinated varients, they said.
Scientists have estimated that BT Brinjal will deliver farmers a net economic benefit ranging from Rs 16,299 (330 USD) to Rs 19,744 (397 USD) per acre with national benefits to India exceeding 400 million USD per year, the sources said.
BT Brinjal has enormous potential to benefit both farmers and consumers and results of studies submitted to regulatory authorities confirmed that it offered the opportunity to provide effective control against FSB and more marketable fruit, the sources added.