Transgenic Silkworms in India

As I opened the daily newspaper, little did I know that I was going to be left quite impressed! The headline ?Govt go ahead for field trials of transgenic silkworms? caught my attention. As I read on it was evident, that the Government, which has been actively advocating ? Make in India? and adoption of technology, was not making false claims. The approval of field trials for transgenic silkworms, that are not only disease-resistant but also high yielding was a major breakthrough, according to me.

The multi-location confined trials of transgenic silkworms (Bombyx mori L.) with a high antiviral capacity come as a result of the pioneering efforts of Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh State Sericulture Research and Development Institute (APSSRDI), Hindupur to address the economic impact of the baculovirus disease on silk production. The baculovirus, Bombyx mori nucleopolyhedro virus (BmNPV) is an important pathogen that hampers silk cocoon production and >50% losses documented in India are attributed to the virus infection. Given that the country is the second largest producer of silk and contributes nearly 18 per cent of global raw silk production, this was a major blow to the country?s income and reputation.

However, what interested me more was the thought that followed. India had a problem (losing worms to diseases which were adversely impacting silk production) and we found a solution (in transgenic silkworms)!

If news reports quoting a senior scientist and adviser to the Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T) are to be believed then, “This is for the first time that the RCGM has given permission to conduct field trials on any animal or insect”. He further added, ?”With the introduction of transgenic silkworm hybrids, apart from the resistance in the hybrid, the quality parameters with reference to silk grade will improve as compared to the present commercial hybrids. Based on the series of trials conducted at lab level, it was observed that the transgenic silkworm hybrids once introduced at commercial level will be a boon to the Sericulturists,?

Doesn?t this sound and feel like a good progressive step taken on the basis of sound scientific judgement and towards the betterment of society at large? Then shouldn?t such sound judgement towards solving other pressing problems of the country not naturally follow? With these open ended questions, I leave you with a thought, to think about. It is encouraging to see the Government progressive in its approach towards technology in agriculture but is it rational to be selective in the approach?