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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 20 October, 2022

  • 7 Min Read

GM Mustard (DMH-11)

GM Mustard (DMH-11)

The Central government may soon approve genetically modified crops, but protestors are still fighting to prevent their commercial usage.

Approval of GM Mustard (DMH-11)

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change's Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) may give its approval for the commercial production of modified mustard.
  • This would be the first time since 2002 that GM mustard, a hybridised variant of the mustard species that has undergone genetic modification, has been approved for mass consumption.
  • After testing at the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) and Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, the national government gave the GM mustard the all-clear in 2017.
  • The Environment Ministry's permission, though, was still waiting.
  • Future crops: Following the approval of the GM mustard, BT cotton, BT brinjal, and HT cotton are next in line to receive the green light for commercial production.

Objections to it:

  • After activists and farmer organisations sought the Supreme Court to object, the decision to approve it was put on hold.

After approval, the following problems could occur:

  • Food security and crop diversity may be at risk as a result of this.
  • Indigenous crop types, which are essential for battling climate change, could be in danger.
  • Since private firms rather than farmers would control the seed market, it will have a significant impact on the agricultural industry.
  • The entire biosafety evaluation of GM mustard was conducted in an improper manner without adhering to any rules.

Government position:

  • Farmers cultivate these cultivars illegally in various states, including Haryana. The goal is to normalise such unlawful behaviour.
  • Since genetic editing would not fall under the category of genetic modification, the government has been debating whether to approve it.

What are GM crops, and what are they used for?

  • They are the kind of plants whose DNA has undergone genetic engineering modification in order to confer a new attribute on the plant that does not naturally occur in the species.
  • By inserting an alien gene into the seeds to produce the desired results, genetic engineering tries to break down the genus barrier. The foreign gene may be from a plant, an animal, or even a soil bacteria.

Indian GM crops

Bt cotton:

  • Two foreign genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) enable Bt cotton, the only GM crop authorised in India, to produce a protein harmful to the common insect pink bollworm.
  • Contrarily, Bt cotton is created by introducing a second gene from a different soil bacterium, which enables the plant to withstand the common pesticide glyphosate.

GM Mustard

  • The commercial distribution of genetically modified (GM) mustard has previously been delayed by the government due to vehement resistance from NGOs and anti-GMO campaigners
  • Global variations: GM versions of maize, canola, and soybean are also offered everywhere.

Genetically modified crops' legal status in India

  • The top authority in India that approves the commercial release of GM crops is known as the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The GEAC has permitted the commercial distribution of Bt cotton in 2002.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Act of 1989, using the authorised GM variety might result in a 5-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh.
  • Several types of genome-edited crops were for the first time exempted by the Central Government from the strict laws that apply to genetically modified or GM crops, opening the path for more R&D on them.
  • The acceptable limit for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in imported food crops was established at 1% by the FSSAI ruling on February 8, 2021.

Benefits of GMO Agriculture

  • Enhances output and increases farmer income.
  • Using less pesticide and insecticide in farming could be a major step toward improving the availability of food.
  • Food Security: It can feed a population that is growing quickly due to the drastically higher yields.
  • More Yield: Smaller plots of land can yield greater yields.

Disadvantages

  • Due to the potential for one organism to be favoured by the "superior" qualities created by modifying genes, the production carries significant dangers for the destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Consequently, it may eventually interfere with how genes move naturally.
  • It raises the expense of farming and makes farming more prone to marketization, which focuses on unethical profits.
  • In addition to endangering farmers, transgenic crops also threaten the environment and the trade.
  • The majority of the negative consequences from GM crops are not sufficiently captured by the present safety assessments.

Way Forward

  • The decision will undoubtedly let GM seeds be used for commercial purposes.
  • In the event that the Ministry approves, appropriate instructions and the SOP must be drafted.
  • Additionally, traditional seeds that would guarantee food security need to be strengthened, conserved, and preserved.

Source: Down To Earth


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