From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : First-ever genetically modified rubber planted in Assam
Mains level : Hazards of using GMO crops
A Rubber Board research farm on the outskirts of Guwahati now sports the world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant tailored for the climatic conditions in the Northeast.
- The GM rubber has additional copies of the gene MnSOD, or manganese-containing superoxide dismutase, inserted in the plant.
- The plant was developed at the Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII).
- It is expected to tide over the severe cold conditions during winter — a major factor affecting the growth of young rubber plants in the region.
Why need GM rubber?
- Natural rubber is a native of warm humid Amazon forests and is not naturally suited for the colder conditions in the Northeast, which is one of the largest producers of rubber in India.
- Growth of young rubber plants remains suspended during the winter months, which are also characterized by progressive drying of the soil.
- This is the reason for the long immaturity period of this crop in the region.
What does MnSOD gene offer?
- The MnSOD gene has the ability to protect plants from the adverse effects of severe environmental stresses such as cold and drought.
- Laboratory studies conducted at the RRII showed the GM rubber plants overexpressed the MnSOD gene as expected, offering protection to the cells.
- The plant is thus expected to establish well and grow fast in the region.
- There was no risk of genes flowing from the GM rubber into any other native species, a concern often raised by environmental groups against GM plants in general.