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Pakistan may get first indigenous Bt cotton variety in February 2010

Updated: 2009-11-6 Source: Business Recorder
MULTAN (November 06 2009): Pakistan is expected to get its first approved indigenous Bt cotton variety in February 2010. A seasoned cotton researcher said on Thursday that seven Bt cotton varieties, three from private sector, are passing through the final phase of research trials and Punjab Seed Council (PSC) will decide their fate in a meeting to be held sometime in February 2010, Director Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) Multan Muhammad Arshad told APP.

Punjab minister for agriculture will chair the meeting. Four other varieties were developed by public sector research institutions, including FH-113 by a Punjab government research facility, IR-1524 by National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) Faisalabad, and CEMB 1 and 2 by Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) Lahore.

Bt varieties from private sector included 121 by Neelam Seed Company, 802 by Ali Akbar group and Sitara-008 by Aziz group. Bollguard-1 Bt gene has been used in five of the seven indigenous cotton varieties. However, CCRI director said that CEMB researchers say they have developed their own Bt gene and infused it into cotton varieties CEMB-1 and CEMB-2.

The seven Bt cotton varieties have already been cleared by National Bio-Safety Commission and Punjab Seed Council will discuss the varieties in February 2010 meeting for approval or otherwise on the basis of their performance in the on-going final trails. The approval of all, any one or few of these varieties will enable growers have access to certified Bt cotton seed a year after having been deceived by Charlatans who sold fake Bt seeds to them.

CCRI director is himself leading a team of researchers working on CLCV-resistant or CLCV-tolerant cotton varieties which if developed can become an effective weapon against a major cotton enemy in Pakistan ie Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV). Country had to cut its cotton production target from over 13 million bales to 12.1 million bales this year after boll shedding caused by heat, water stress and CLCV attack damaged the silver fibre.

Around a month ago, Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), a Chinese firm Biocentury Transgene and Guard Agriculture inked an MoU in first ever public-private-partnership initiative in agriculture that paved the way for utilisation of country's best cotton varieties for infusion of Bt gene by Chinese company to develop Bt cotton seed.

CCRI director Muhammad Arshad says, they are just one to two years away from developing a CLCV resistant or tolerant variety. And, experts believe a cotton variety having resistance or tolerance against CLCV and protection against bollworm in the form of Bt gene can turn out to be the recipe to get 20 million cotton bales production a year.