PUSA BASMATI 1979,1985

  • Recently, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has developed the country’s first-ever non-GM (genetically modified) herbicide-tolerant rice varieties (Pusa Basmati 1979 and Pusa Basmati 1985).
  • These varieties can be directly seeded and significantly save water and labour compared to conventional transplanting.

Important points:

  • The new varieties contain a mutated AcetoLactate Synthase (ALS) gene making it possible for farmers to spray Imazethapyr, a broad-spectrum herbicide, to control weeds.
  • The ALS gene in rice codes for an enzyme (protein) that synthesises amino acids for crop growth and development.
  • The herbicide sprayed on normal rice plants binds itself to the ALS enzymes, inhibiting their production of amino acids.
  • Imazethapyr, effective against a range of broadleaf, grassy and sedge weeds, can’t be used on normal paddy, as the chemical does not distinguish between the crop and the invasive plants.
  • However, the new basmati varieties contain a mutated ALS gene whose DNA sequence has been altered using ethyl methanesulfonate, a chemical mutant.
  • As a result, the ALS enzymes no longer have binding sites for Imazethapyr and amino acid synthesis isn’t inhibited.
  • The plants can now “tolerate” application of the herbicide, and hence it kills only the weeds.
  • It is important to note that, as there is no foreign gene involved in the process, the herbicide-tolerance is through mutation breeding. Thus, it is not a Genetically modified organism


  • The new varieties simply replace water with Imazethapyr and there’s no need for nursery, puddling, transplanting and flooding of fields.
  • Water is a natural herbicide that takes care of weeds in the paddy crop’s early-growth period.
  • The new varieties will help in Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) which has several advantages over paddy transplantation.
  • DSR cultivation is currently based on two herbicides, Pendimethalin and Bispyribac-sodium.
  • However, Imazethapyr is cheaper than these two options.


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