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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: The Gene Revolution

 Source: Indian Express

 

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance, GM crops, DMH-11, Bt cotton, GEAC etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Science and technology- development and applications in everyday life, Biotechnology and issues related to it.

 

 ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Government has decided to release India’s first genetically-modified (GM) food crop — Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) for environmental release.
    • Some activists approached the Supreme Court to ban it for various reasons.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

GM Crops:

  • GM foods are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified.
  • By inserting genetic material from another organism, in order to give it a new property, such as:
    • Increased yield
    • Tolerance to a herbicide
    • Resistance to disease or drought
    • Improve its nutritional value.
  • GM rice(golden rice): Golden rice involves the insertion of genes from a plant — both daffodils and maize have been used — and a soil bacterium to create a grain that is enriched with Vitamin A.
  • Bt cotton: India has approved commercial cultivation of only one GM crop, Bt cotton.
  • Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC): All GM crops in India require approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for use in commercial production.

Benefits of GM-crops:

 

 

Risks associated with GM crops:

 

 

Achievements from introducing Bt Cotton:

 

  • Cotton productivity: It increased from 302 kg per hectare in 2002-03 to 566 kg per hectare in 2013-14(increase of 76 percent)
  • Area under cotton cultivation: It expanded by 56 percent, of which about 95 percent is under Bt cotton.
  • Gains to cotton farmers: Bt cotton led Gujarat’sagrarian miracle” of very high (above 8 percent) annual growth rate in agri-GDP during 2002-03 to 2013-14.
  • Second-largest producer after China and the second-largest exporter after the US.

 

Risks highlighted from Bt cotton:

  • Pest damage: Sucking pest damage in Bt cotton
  • Increase in secondary pests such as mired bugs and Spodoptera
  • Pest resistance: Emergence of pest resistance
  • Environmental and health implications in terms of toxicity and allergenicity
  • Monopoly: Farmers’ exposure to a greater risk of monopoly in the seed business.

 

Import of GM crops for daily use:

  • India heavily depends on imported edible oils:which is all from GM technology (in soybean and canola)
  • Cotton seed is also fed to cattle which gives the milk its fat content.
    • Even poultry feed, such as soya and corn is GM.

 

Way Forward

  • Field trials of GM mustard: It showed 25-28 percent higher yield and better disease resistance compared to indigenous varieties.
    • This can help in augmenting domestic mustard oil supplies and farmers’ incomes.
  • Dissent: It is a good sign in any democratic society and forms an essential part of checks and balances. But once the safety tests are done and the scientific body (GEAC) has given the green signal, the process should not be hampered.
  • Science based: The agriculture of tomorrow is going to be science-based, and the winners will be those who adopt it and develop it further today.
  • Jai Anusandhan ” slogan given by PM: . It will have meaning only when the government goes ahead with not just GM mustard but also fast-tracks Ht Bt cotton, Bt brinjal, and even GM soya and corn.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

  1. What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification ?(UPSC 2021)

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