By Indra Shekhar Sing, The Citzen – 28 September 2016
image credits: The Citzen
NEW DELHI: P. Pardha Saradhi is a Professor in Environmental Studies at University of Delhi. After attaining stature of first team in the world to successfully develop transgenic Indian mustard genotypes through genetic transformation, his team was also successful in developing other transgenic crop plants, viz. chickpea, sorghum, tomato and rice, with enhanced tolerance to salt, water and temperature stresses. The Citizen’s INDRA SHEKHAR SINGH speaks to the professor on a host of issues:
TC: What happened in November 2014, that lead to Deepak Pental’s Arrest?
PPS: Deepak Pental was taken into custody for disobeying 1989 Rule – The Manufacture, Use, Import, Export, and Storage of hazardous Micro-organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells under Environment (Protection) Act 1986. His team member (co-accused) in connivance with him had taken away seeds of transgenic Indian mustard genotypes that we developed at Jamia Milllia Islamia (JMI) without our consent or any MoU. This accounts to stealing of sensitive transgenic material from my lab transgressing all biosafety norms.
Secondly, progress report of a DST project under taken by co-accused under the mentorship of Mr. Deepak Pental shockingly and unethically reflected that the GM mustard research carried out by our research team at JMI lab between ’96-99 was carried by his team between 2000-2004 at Delhi University South Campus. Our publications in peer-reviewed International journals clearly reflect that we are the first in developing Indian mustard genotypes. You can see our publications in Molecular Breeding and Plant Science or see the Project progress report with the authorities. Both are public documents.
TC: Having worked on GM mustard, could you tell us, a little about the Barnase/barstar/bar gene system? And maybe who owns the patent for this system?
PPS: This system consists of three bacterial genes, barnase gene produces an enzyme that destroys RNA, barstar gene produces an inhibitor that inhibits the activity of this enzyme and bar gene, which is used as a marker gene, produces an enzyme that imparts herbicide resistance. Deepak Pental’s team used these genes for raising Indian mustard hybrids. This system is nothing new and know for generating hybrids since 1992. There is nothing new about the hybrid seed production , we were taught about non-GM methods of heterosis breeding in school over forty years ago.