Genetically Modified Crops

Mains Marks Booster     4th August 2023        
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Recently the government had cleared the ‘environmental release’ of a genetically modified (GM) variety of mustard, DMH-11, developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) at Delhi University

GM CROPS: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e., plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”.

GM crops in India

  • GM crops in India: BT cotton, BT Brinjal, DMH 11 Mustard. 
  • Till now (except DMH-11) no GM food crop has ever been approved for commercial cultivation in the country.
  • BT cotton is the only genetically modified (GM) crop that has been approved for commercial cultivation in India.

Regulation

  • India is a signatory of Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. 
  • Regulation for biotechnology products was started in 1982 and converted into the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology in 1986. 
  • MoEF drafted and notified ‘the rules for the manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous microorganisms, genetically engineered organisms or cells in 1989.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the highest body constituted in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change under the Environment Protection Act, 1986

ADVANTAGES OF GM CROPS

CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH GM CROPS

  • Climate change resistant: GM crops are disease and drought resistant plants that require fewer environmental resources (such as water and fertilizer).
  • Faster Growth & Less resources: Less use of pesticides aided with faster growing plants and animals.
  • Higher Production: Increased supply of food with reduced cost and longer shelf life. DMH-11 has an average of 20-25% more yield than the currently used mustard seeds.
  • Enhanced Quality: Food with more desirable traits and high nutritional value, such as potatoes that produce less of a cancer-causing substance when fried.
  • Medicinal Benefits: Medicinal foods that could be used as vaccines or other medicines.
  • Longer self-life: And hence less wastage. 
Health Concerns: Various studies have shown relation between GM crops and birth defects, cancers, kidney injury, diabetes, autism, and Alzheimer etc.
  • Antibiotic Resistance: Incorporation with antibiotic-resistant genes to make crops grow stronger might contribute to developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Reduction in Diversity: Can decrease species diversity by harming insects that are not the intended target leading to destruction of that particular insect species
  • Violation of Natural Law: Mixing animal genes in plants is against the natural order.
  • Allergic Reactions: There is a concern that GM Crops might play a part in increasing allergic reactions.
  • No concrete evidence of higher productivity: Many food analysts raise the issue of claim over higher productivity of GM crops.
  • Monopoly of seed manufacturers: In case of BT cotton, Monsanto has created monopoly control over the seed market.

Conclusion:  "Strengthening of plant breeding programmes including the use of new genetic technologies such as GE technology is important for meeting emerging challenges in Indian agriculture and ensuring food security while reducing foreign dependency

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