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The Game-changer: World’s 1st Genetically Modified Rubber Plant Planted in Assam

Rubber Plant

In a historic step, the world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant was planted on Tuesday on the outskirts of Guwahati. 

In a major experiment in rubber farming, the GM rubber plant developed in the biotechnology laboratory at Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) in Puthuppally, Kottayam was planted at the board’s Sarutari research farm in Guwahati by the Chairman and Executive Director of the Rubber Board, K.N. Raghavan. 

Raghavan said that the GM rubber plant, the first of its kind developed exclusively for this region, is expected to grow well under the climatic conditions of the mountainous northeast region.

The GM rubber plant would be a game-changer in natural rubber cultivation in India, with additional copies of the gene MnSOD (manganese-containing superoxide dismutase) inserted in it, added the Rubber Board Chairman. 

“The GM rubber plant is expected to tide over the severe cold conditions during winter, which is a major factor affecting the growth of young rubber plants. Natural rubber is a native of warm humid Amazon forests and it is not naturally suited for the cold conditions in this part of the country,” he said, according to a report.

“This is the reason for the long immaturity period of this crop in the region. The MnSOD gene can protect the plants from the adverse effects of severe environmental stresses such as cold, drought etc. “Laboratory studies conducted at the RRII in Kerala’s Kottayam showed that GM rubber plants over-expressed the MnSOD gene as expected, offering protection to the cells. Therefore, it is expected that the GM rubber plants will grow fast here,” Raghavan said.

However, the plant planted is not for commercial purposes but on an experimental level following all mandatory bio-safety measures applicable to field trials involving GM crops. 

“Its copies were multiplied in the laboratory and reinserted into a cell of the rubber plant which was then regenerated into a full plant that is now planted in the field. “There are no plant species in India that can breed with natural rubber. Therefore, there is no risk of the genes flowing from the GM rubber into any other native species, a concern often raised by environmental groups against GM plants in general,” he pointed out. (IANS)

The field trials of the GM Rubber were relaunched in Assam a decade after Kerala Government denied permission for the same citing its possible adversity on the environment and apprehension on GM crops.

“It’s a major achievement as we are the first to plant a GM crop on the soil, while others are still keeping them in labs. The new crop will greatly benefit farmers once the trials are over. It will resist reduced moisture or drought, low and high temperatures as well as high light intensity,” said Dr James Jacob, director, RRII, according to a report. 

Developed to withstand adverse climate condition, the GM variant is likely to boost rubber production in the country. GM Rubber is the second genetically modified crop to start field trial in India after Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) Cotton.

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