CURRENT AFFAIRS FROM SCIENCE & TECH SECTION
News in Focus
- According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), India has the world’s fifth largest cultivated area under genetically modified (GM) crops, at 11.4 million hectares (mh) in 2017.
Important highlights of the report:
- The country with the highest area under transgenic crops, at 75 mh, is the United States.
- Similarly, Brazil’s total 50.2 mh GM crop area included 33.7 mh soyabean, 15.6 mh of maize and 0.94 mh of cotton.
- Farmers across the world to have planted 189.8 mh under transgenic crops last year. This is as against 1.7 mh in 1996, the year when they were grown commercially for the first time.
- Total planted area grew particularly during the first decade of this century, while slowing down in the last five years.
- Highest share in the world’s total 189.8 mh GM crop area for 2017 to be of soyabean (94.1 mh), followed by maize (59.7 mh), cotton (24.1 mh), canola (10.2 mh), alfalfa (1.2 mh) and sugar-beet (0.50 mh).
- The GM traits in these crops — through introduction of alien genes into host plants — included both insect-resistance and tolerance for application of glyphosate herbicide.
- In India, the GM crops that are under regulatory consideration — apart from the already commercialised Bt/insect-resistant cotton — include glyphosate-tolerant cotton and biotech hybrid mustard.
- In the case of BG II-RRF cotton, the developer (Monsanto) itself has withdrawn its regulatory applications, following disputes with the government over intellectual property protection on GM technologies. But that has come even as a high-level expert panel constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office has found 15 per cent of cotton area planted across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Gujarat in the 2017 season — and about five per cent in Punjab — to be under hybrids containing the “unapproved” BG II-RRF event.
Genetically modified crops are produced by transforming gene from one organism to other organism by the help of biotechnology.
Uses of GM crops
1.high crop yield and production.
2.reduce the farm cost
3.increase the farm profit
4.resistant to pest/weeds which are harmful to crops.
Now only Bt cotton allowed in india for commercial cultivation.
In 2010 Bt.brinjal was stopped by memorandum released by environment ministry.
Many controversies surround the development and release of genetically modified foods, ranging from human safety and environmental impacts to ethical concerns such as corporate control of the food supply and intellectual property rights. The brinjal is an important food crop for India, and the potential commercialization of a genetically modified variety has drawn support and criticism.
What is different about GM MUSTARD?
It is not like bt.cotton because it is edible and major population of india take it in the form of oil. So people will have more reservation about it than bt. cotton.
Why GM mustard ?
1.We import lot edible oil from abroad. Demand for oilseeds and oil are keep on increasing everyday. This GM MUSTARD can increase the productivity of oil to 20-25 %
3.This is resistant to glutosinate – pest which affect mustard.
4. It is produced by combination of 3 gene ( bar , barnase , barstar)Which are used in rapeseed production in canada , US , Australia. These countries did extensive biosafety test and said that the oil contain no gene from this proteins.
5. it is used as edible oil, fodder, body and hair massage.
Is India really lag in oil seed production?
During rajiv Gandhi tenure as a prime minister , he introduced “technology mission in oil seeds” in 1985 which helped to double the oil seed production between 1986-1993 → yellow revolution.
During that time india achieved 97% self sufficiency in oil seed and import only 3 %. But soon this scenario has changed by government deliberate policy to lower the import duties and allow cheaply and highly subsidized oil to flow inside India. This led us to present situation in oil seeds import.
Issues present in GM MUSTARD
1. Issues of allergies/irritant can be there in human.
2. superweeds formation is high in india due to its ( diversity and small farm landholding).
3.It cause insecticide to buildup on the soil and affect the food chain.
4.pollen from GM crop blows into organic farming site and cause seed pollution.
5. It causes behavior changes and create problem to honey bees. GM crops will be less prefer by honey bees.
6.issues of gene stacking – more than one gene found in same plant due to cross pollination. But it was not understood by farmers , so they keep on pouring addition of more herbicides which damages soil and ultimately lead to “weediness”.
7.Till now we dont know the exact effect of this GM crops, so once this allowed in country then after 3 years, when we found effect are bad , it is impossible to withdraw back.
So banning GM crop is solution?
1.it discourage agriculture R&D developments.
2.Due to rising population and demand for oils, this GM crop can act as solution for this demand and supply mismatch.
1.Increase the import duties of edible oil in line with WTO norms – 70% (now – 0%)
2.encourage farmers to cultivate oilseeds by providing high price and assure markets to that crops.
3. Reports about GM crops prepared by various committee and government should be kept in public domain. Because till now government not allowing the reports in public domain due to IPR violation. But they are some clause in IPR which says for larger public interest reports can be kept in public domain. Which ultimately help to change the mindset of consumers towards GM crops.
4. In Europe and china they label the products as GM crops .So here choice rest on consumers.
5. Government should come forward to pass the biotech regulatory authority bill 2013 . This give statutory backing to this authority to work independently, so this help to bring accountability and transparency in GM crops approval.
Rising population and demand for oil made us to explore all the possible avenues to get solution for demand – supply mismatch. GM crops -( GM mustard) shows positive signs. But government has to find balance between public safety and GM crops. For all this strong political will is must.
Bt cotton issue:
What is Bt?
- Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a spore forming bacterium that produces crystals protein (cry proteins), which are toxic to many species of insects..
- Bt is largely used in agriculture, especially organic farming. Bt is also used in urban aerial spraying programs, and in transgenic crops.
- Bt cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to bollworm. It is produced by Monsanto.
Serious issue pertaining Bt cotton:
- In less than two decades, cotton seed has been snatched from the hands of Indian farmers by Monsanto, displacing local varieties, introducing GMO Bt cotton seeds and coercing extravagant royalties from farmers.
- Since Monsanto’s entry into India in 1998, the price of cotton seeds has increased by almost 80,000% (from ₹5 – ₹9/KG to ₹ 1600 for 450 gms). 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, trapped in vicious cycles of debt and crop failures, 84% of these suicides are attributed directly to Monsanto’s Bt cotton.
Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM)
- established under the Department of Biotechnology, ministry of Science and technology
- to monitor the safety related aspects in respect of on-going research projects and activities (including small scale field trials) and bring out manuals and guidelines specifying procedure for regulatory process with respect to activities involving genetically engineered organisms in research, use and applications including industry with a view to ensure environmental safety.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
- Established under MoEFCC is the apex body to accord notified under Rules 1989.
- For approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- The GEAC is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials