Assam: World’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant was planted on the outskirts of Guwahati at the Rubber Board’s Sarutari research farm on Tuesday.

The plant was developed at the Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) after years of research at its biotechnology laboratory and is expected to grow under the climatic condition of the northeast.

KN Raghavan, Chairman and Executive Director of the Rubber Board said that the genetically modified rubber plant, the first of its kind developed exclusively for this region, is expected to grow well under the climatic conditions of the mountainous northeastern region.

Addressing the media, he said that 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.

“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.

Raghavan said that through breeding and selection, RRII, a Rubber Board research body, had earlier developed two high-yielding hybrid clones of rubber that are adapted to the climatic conditions of the northeast region.

MnSOD gene used in the GM rubber was taken from the rubber plant itself. 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 genes flowing from the GM rubber into any other native species, a concern often raised by environmental groups against GM plants in general,” he said.

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