Cornell researchers and Sathguru Management Consultants of India have successfully led an international consortium through the first phase of developing a pest-resistant eggplant. By about 2009 this eggplant is expected to be the first genetically engineered food crop in South Asia. Farmers have grown genetically altered cotton in India since 2002.
The engineered eggplant expresses a natural insecticide derived from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), making it resistant to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), a highly destructive pest. The tiny larvae account for up to 40 percent of eggplant crop losses each year in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, and other areas of South and Southeast Asia.
The work on the resistant eggplant is part of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) II, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and administered by Cornell in partnership with Sathguru, a firm associated with Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).
Cornell researchers from plant breeding, entomology, molecular biology, applied economics, communication, international programs and the Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization began collaborating on the development of the Bt eggplant in 2002. Another partner, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds, is on schedule to commercialize the genetically modified fruit by 2009.
"Cornell has worked effectively to facilitate a productive partnership between the public and private sectors that will make this technology available to eggplant producers at every economic level," said Ronnie Coffman, international professor of plant breeding and genetics and director of International Programs in CALS.
"In five years, with support from Sathguru and Cornell, our partners were able to bring this flagship program to field trials and get food, feed and environmental safety approvals," said K.V. Raman, Cornell professor of plant breeding.
|Contact: Blaine Friedlander|
Cornell University News Service