For the last few months, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the Indian government agency that monitors and approves GM activity, has approved field trials of many GM crops. Sharma has been working on developing a potato variety that can tolerate the fungal disease late blight since 2005. The pathogen Phytophthora infestans causes late blight. It can also harm tomatoes and other members of the Solanaceae family, which includes peppers & brinjals.
Late blight is a big worry for potato growers in India, where the potato is one of the most important crops. According to an ICAR assessment, late blight can result in yield losses of up to 50%. The illness can also make potatoes unfit for human consumption or processing, resulting in additional economic losses. According to ICAR data, the average annual loss due to late blight in India is estimated to be 15% of overall crop. The disease is widespread across the country, but losses are higher in hilly areas, where the crop is produced under rainfed circumstances, than in plains.