- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
Illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal suspected in Haryana
What to study?
For prelims and mains: bt crops- need, concerns, challenges in preventing their cultivation and measures needed.
Context: Farmer groups have alleged that Bt brinjal, a genetically modified variety, is being cultivated illegally in Haryana.
India banned Bt brinjal in 2010. The debate around BT brinjal started in 2000 when Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co) came up with a GM brinjal. Seeds were exported to Bangladesh and Philippines in 2006, as the civil society resisted field trials in India.
Need of the hour- the GEAC should:
- Visit the farms and conduct tests
- Identify the source of seeds
- Destroy GM crops
- Compensate losses incurred by farmers
- Penalise distributing companies
- Form a mechanism to avoid such incidents in the future
What is a GM crop?
A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination. The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.
Do we need GM crops?
Yes and why?
- Higher crop yields.
- Reduced farm costs.
- Increased farm profit.
- Improvement in health and the environment.
No and why?
Lack of clarity: It is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this.
While there are many in this community who feel that the benefits outweigh the risks, others point to the irreversibility of this technology and uncontrollability of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) once introduced in the ecosystem. Hence, they advocate a precautionary approach towards any open release of GMOs.
Threat to domestic crops: One of the concerns raised strongly by those opposing GM crops in India is that many important crops like rice, brinjal, and mustard, among others, originated here, and introducing genetically modified versions of these crops could be a major threat to the vast number of domestic and wild varieties of these crops.
In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centres of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive. Hence it will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.
There is also a potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops and the risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms. There is also the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.
Sources: down to earth.