GS Paper 3:
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has issued guidelines easing norms for research into genetically modified (GM) crops and circumventing challenges of using foreign genes to change crops profile.
- These guidelines are applicable to all public/private organisations involved in research, development and handling of Gene Edited Plants
Overview of the ‘Guidelines for Safety Assessment of Genome Edited Plants, 2022’:
- Exemption: The researchers who use gene-editing technology to modify the genome of the plant are exempt from seeking approvals from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
- The final call however is taken by the Environment Minister as well as States where such plants could be cultivated.
- All requirements that researchers must adhere to develop transgenic seeds will apply to gene-edited seeds except clauses that require permission from the GEAC.
Concerns raised by Environmentalist groups:
Environmentalist groups have opposed this exception for gene-edited crops.
- That say, gene editing is included in genetic engineering. Therefore, there is no question of giving exemptions to particular kinds of genome edited plants from the regulatory purview.
- Gene editing techniques involve altering the function of genes and can cause “large and unintended consequences” that can change the “toxicity and allergenicity” of plants. “
What are GM crops?
The GM plants involve transgenic technology or introducing a gene from a different species into a plant, for instance BT-cotton, where a gene from soil bacterium is used to protect a plant from pest attack.
Issues surrounding GM Crops:
The worry around this method is that these genes may spread to neighboring plants, where such effects are not intended and so their applications have been controversial.
What is Genome Editing?
Genome editing involves the use of technologies that allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.
- Several approaches to genome editing have been developed.
- A well-known one is called CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC):
The GEAC functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
- It is a statutory body notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- As per Rules, 1989, it is responsible for appraisal of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- GEAC- establishment, composition and functions.
- Is it a statutory body?
- Bt Crops allowed in India.
Compare Gene editing with that of Genetic modification. Discuss the potential benefits and risks associated with Genetic modification in crops.
[Q.4) The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is constituted under the:
(a) Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
(b) Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
(c) Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
(d) Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. ]
Sources: the Hindu.