Recently, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) decided to put on hold the government’s decision to commercialise genetically modified (GM) mustard, because of growing outrage by farmer groups against it. Let’s understand its basics in brief!

What is GMO?

  • GMOs can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination
  • It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non related species
  • Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods
  • Recently in India, GM mustard crop was introduced, which was later withdrawn. There is a raging debate going on advantages and disadvantages of GMOs
  • For a long time, further study was requested by farmers, environmentalist on GMO crops

<Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a body under the Environment Ministry that regulates the use of genetically modified organisms>

Why are GM foods produced?

  • GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods
  • This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both
  • Initially GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers and have concentrated on innovations that bring direct benefit to farmers (and food industry generally)
  • One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection

What really is India’s recently developed GM mustard?

  • A team of scientists at Delhi University led by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental has bred DMH-11, a genetically modified (GM) mustard hybrid
  • Hybrids are normally obtained by crossing two genetically diverse plants from the same species
  • The first-generation offspring resulting from it has higher yields than what either of the parents is individually capable of giving
  • But there is no natural hybridisation system in mustard, unlike in, say, cotton, maize or tomato
  • What team has done is, that they have created a viable hybridisation system in mustard using GM technology
  • The resulting GM mustard hybrid, it is claimed, gives 25-30% more yield than the best varieties such as ‘Varuna’ currently grown in the country

Is there a need, in the first place, for developing a mustard hybrid?

  • In 2014-15, India imported 14.5 million tonnes of edible oils valued at $10.5 billion
  • With the country’s own annual edible oil production stuck at below 7.5 million tonnes, of which mustard’s share is roughly a quarter
  • So, there is need to raise domestic crop yields and cut dependence on imports
  • Hybrid technology is a potential technique to boost yields, as has been successfully demonstrated in a host of crops

What are the environmental risks?

  • GMOs contaminate forever. GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel far and wide
  • It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool
  • Genetic engineering allows plants to survive high doses of weed killers, resulting in higher herbicide residues in our food
  • GMO crops are creating ‘super weeds’ and ‘super bugs,’ which can only be killed with more toxic poisons

Are there any advantages?

Insect Resistance

  • Some GMO foods have been modified to make them more resistant to insects and other pests
  • This means the amount of pesticide chemicals used on the plants are reduced, so their exposure to dangerous pesticides are also reduced

Stronger Crops

  • Another benefit that GM technology is believed to bring about is that crops can be engineered to withstand weather extremes and fluctuations,
  • This means that there will be good quality and sufficient yields even under a poor or severe weather condition

Environment Protection

GM crops often requires less time, tools and chemicals, and may help with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion and environmental pollution

More Nutritious Foods

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), some GM foods have been engineered to become more nutritious in terms of vitamin or mineral content.

Economic Benefits

  • Larger production leading to increased farm income, reduced poverty, low food prices and thus reduced hunger and malnutrition.
  • Besides new food products are also included, diversifying food varieties

Then, Why has there been so much concern about GM foods among some public interest groups, activists and consumers?

  • Since the first introduction on the market in the mid-1990s of a major GM food (herbicide-resistant soybeans), there has been concern about such food among activists and consumers, especially in Europe
  • In fact, public attention has focused on the risk side of the risk-benefit equation, often without distinguishing between potential environmental impacts and public health effects of GMOs
  • Consumers have questioned the validity of risk assessments, both with regard to consumer health and environmental risks, focusing particulary on long-term effects
  • Consumer concerns have triggered a discussion on the desirability of labeling GM foods, allowing for an informed choice of consumers

What further developments can be expected in the area of GMOs?

  • GM organisms are likely to include plants with improved resistance against plant disease or drought, crops with increased nutrient levels, fish species with enhanced growth characteristics
  • For non-food use, they may include plants or animals producing pharmaceutically important proteins such as new vaccines


Any doubts?

  1. Profile photo of Carbapenem Carbapenem

    it is also being said that the farmers will have to buy seeds every time as the crop produce using GM seeds are infertile ie the seed company has altered the potency of the produce.the resultant crop would be it true?

  2. Profile photo of Lokesh Gola Lokesh Gola

    This debate would go long.

  3. Profile photo of Harsha Premdev Harsha Premdev

    A tradition that lands tribal youth in jail

    The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO) is an effective deterrent to sexual exploitation and harassment of minors.

    Many tribals, who are ignorant of the stringent provisions in the Act, marry minor girls, in keeping with their traditional practice, and end up in jail on rape charges. Most cases are registered without any formal complaint from the girls or their parents.

    The situation is prevalent in almost all tribal belts of Kerala, the worst affected are the Paniya and Kattunaika community members in Wayanad.

    Child marriage is common among the Paniya and Kattunaikars tribes and this has remained a part of their custom for many years.

    These people are not aware of the existence of a law or even the age of majority status under the Indian law.

    The law needs sensible implementation. There is a blind spot in the law that says it is applicable to all people, irrespective of their customs, practices or their vulnerability.

  4. Profile photo of Harsha Premdev Harsha Premdev

    200th Birth Anniversary of Tatya Tope !!

    Ramachandra Pandurang Tope was an Indian leader in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and one of its notable generals,Born in a Yeola of Nashik District (Maharashtra)

    when James Andrew Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie deprived Nana Sahib of his father’s pension, Tatya Tope also became a sworn enemy of the British.

    He progressed with the Gwalior contingent after the British reoccupied Cawnpore and forced General Windham to retreat from the city.
    Later on, he came to the relief of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and with her seized the city of Gwalior.

    However, he was defeated by General Napier’s British Indian troops at Ranod and after a further defeat at Sikarabandoned the campaign.

    He was executed by the British Government at Shivpuri on 18 April 1859.

  5. Profile photo of Harsha Premdev Harsha Premdev

    Integration of Homoeopathy/Yoga with NPCDCS!!
    The Union Minster of State for AYUSH (Independent Charge) and Health & Family Welfare Shri Shripad Yesso Naik launched the pilot project ‘Integration of Homoeopathy/Yoga with National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke (NPCDCS).
    5.8 million Indians die from diseases like heart & lung diseases, cancer & diabetes etc. i.e. one out of every four Indians runs the risk of dying from one of these diseases before they reach the age of 70.
    What is National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke (NPCDCS)?……………………………………………………………………………………. The focus of the programme is on health promotion and prevention, strengthening of infrastructure including human resources, early diagnosis and management and integration with the primary health care system through NCD cells at different levels for optimal operational synergies. National Cancer Control Programme, an on-going programme, has been integrated under NPCDCS.
    Major risk factors for these NCDs are raised blood pressure, cholesterol, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and obesity which are modifiable. Hence a majority of cancers and CVDs can be prevented and treated if diagnosed at an early stage.

  6. Profile photo of Sneha Sodhi Sneha Sodhi

    Both sides cite their studies to prove their point of view, I don’t even know when they are speaking truth, when it’s propaganda. All studies seem like paid studies. What should be the ideal course of action, anyone?

    1. Profile photo of vaibhava srivastava vaibhava srivastava

      The only way out is rigorous scientific tests which need to be transparent and without any elimination of conflict.
      Those who oppose GM say it can have long term harmful effects and sample duration for tests is not enough. Those who support GM say – till now there have been no harmful effects, it has been in US for long, hence it is safe.
      GEAC needs to fix a timeline – Rigorous tests will be conducted for next ‘x’ years and then an objective call based on hard scientific results will be taken. The tests have been ridden with conflicts of interests – being conducted by the very companies who will benefit from their release. The results not being shared in public domain despite CIC and SC orders. This fuels the vicious cycle of skepticism.
      Transparent tests through independent scientific bodies and open reports are the way out.

      Let us not ignore growing our food security needs and balance them with concerns of biosafety. We can not afford to follow precautionary principle in this regard like EU.

Should we grow GM crops?


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
This op-ed is critical about GM crops. Now if a Question comes in exam about GM crops You will have to write a balance answer where you will have to highlight both positives and concerns of raising GM crops. After You are done reading this op-ed . We are sure You will be able to fully attempt the below mentioned Questions. Search news-trail on GM crops in our website You will be able to find many op-eds which are supportive of GM crops. Jolt down both supportive and critical points to write a balanced answer on GM crops in the exam.
To know more about GM crops Click here:

Q.) What are the myths and realities associated with GM food? Do you think India should maintain its still-rich genetic diversity for the future of our agriculture instead of going for GM crops? Critically comment. (200 Words)

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:
Prelims level:GM Crops in India
Mains level: Various Issues associated with GM crops in India, food security

A  PIL has been filed  against GM crops in the Supreme Court of India
Issues associated with GMO
  1. GMOs carry risks of ‘unintended’ effects and toxicity and long term,health impacts  such as cancer.
  2. GMOs are self-replicating organisms and genetic contamination of the environment, of non-GM crops and wild species through gene flow 
  3.  It cannot be contained, reversed, remedied or quantified.
  4.  Our seed stock will be contaminated at the molecular level. 
  5. The traits for disease, saline and drought resistance, yield, etc. are found in nature, not biotech labs.
  6. California reaffirmed glyphosate,included in a list of chemicals labelled as “cancer-causing
What is Glyphosate?
  • Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States and  considered the safest herbicide.
Issues associated with Glyphosate
  1. Glyphosate is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor.
  2. But no regulatory agency regulates for endocrine disruption despite evidences from Argentina that it causes birth defects because of glyphosate used herbicide-tolerant (HT)soybeans
Concerns with GMOs in India?
  1. Bayer’s glufosinate, the herbicide linked with Indian HT mustard, is an acknowledged neurotoxin banned in the EU.
  2. The Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee recommended a ban on any HT crop in India 
  3. The myths with GM crop technology that it “will feed the world” — are fast dissolving.
  4. The current GMOs, Bt cotton and HT on empirical evidence are proven unsustainable technologies. 
  5. There are promises of GMOs with traits for disease, drought etc, but these are complex, multi-gene traits and remain futuristic. 
Where we lacks?
  1. Serious lack of expertise in risk assessment, and we are sitting on an agri-biosecurity danger situation.
  2. We have moved from dismal regulation in Bt cotton in 2002 to outright delinquency in commercialising HT mustard.
  3. The regulation is subterranean, unconstitutional and also in contempt of Supreme Court orders pertaining to Bt brinjal/mustard.

[op-ed snap] Bringing GM to the table



From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: The article explains the problems associated with the GM crops and they can be tackled. Important for Mains Paper 3



  1. The article is about the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) which had recently cleared GM mustard for commercial production
  2. Writer discusses about the relevance of GM Crops in Indian context

Reasons behind the opposition of GM Crops

  1. One of the principal reasons for opposition to GM crops is the potential for serious, irreversible damage to human health and the environment
  2.  This is especially relevant in the context of crops such as Bt brinjal which involve direct consumption by humans, unlike Bt cotton


  1. The precautionary principle for regulatory decision-making and a lack of trust in government and industry that promotes and benefits from GM technologies.


  1. All the safety tests for regulatory approvals are typically conducted by the same party that applies for commercialisation of GM crops
  2. For Example, Mahyco on Bt brinjal or Delhi University on GM mustard


  1. Conflict of interest was made worse by the refusal of GEAC to publicly release the safety testing data submitted for regulatory approval
  2.  This tendency to operate in secrecy has not only created a serious distrust of the government and the promoters of GM crops but is also fuelling the conflict

The Way forward

  1. Extensive research on GM crops will identify trust in regulatory agencies and industry as being a critical factor in public willingness to accept GM technology
  2. The government should adopt a participatory approach to bring together all stakeholders to develop regulatory protocols that restore trust in the process
  3. The burden of proof(that GM crops are not harmful) lies with the promoters of GM technology to persuade consumers, farmers and activists that among various alternatives available for sustainable food production

[op-ed snap] Say no to GM mustard



Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics of GM Crops Production, Indian Agencies working on this issue

Mains level: This articles gives important arguments against the GM Crops. Knowing the story of both side is important i.e. how GM crops can be beneficial and how they are harmful



  1. The manner in which the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) recently cleared the proposal for genetically modified (GM) mustard is not compatible with BJP Manifesto(according to the Writer)
  2. Earlier, the Prime Minister had delighted consumers by lending his weight to the promotion of organic food
  3. On the other hand, GM and organic are completely incompatible

Arguments against Bt Cotton

  1. Despite increased fertilisers and irrigation, the expectations of enhanced cotton yield have not been realised
  2. Most of the countries that have higher cotton yields than India do not grow GM cotton

Yield claims on which GM mustard has been cleared

  1. These claims are based on comparisons with 30-year-old cultivars, and not on more recent high-yielding hybrids
  2. The highest yields in mustard are from the five countries which do not grow GM mustard — U.K., France, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic — and not from the GM-growing U.S. or Canada (FAO data)

Possible way of increasing mustard yield in India

  1. Mustard yield can be increased rapidly and safely  by adopting the practice of System of Mustard Intensification, for which successful trials have been done in Bihar through a World Bank project.
  2. Results showed higher yields and better income. All this without the spraying of any toxic herbicide

Arguments against GM Crops

  1. HT (herbicide tolerant) GM crops have been condemned by a number of medical professionals and other scientists for increasing chemical herbicide use, leading to serious health conditions — at all stages, but most worryingly at the foetal stage
  2. A scientific report from Argentina found a fourfold increase in birth defects and a threefold increase in childhood cancers in HT soya areas
  3. Seventeen of the 20 most developed countries — including Japan, Russia, Israel and most of Europe — refuse to grow GM crops
  4. The U.S. is a prime example of a country which has galloped into the GM mode of agriculture.
  5. Studies have shown a strong correlation between growth of GM crops, the herbicides they promote, and diseases such as acute kidney injury, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and cancers in the past 20 years in the U.S.

Problems with HT GM Crops

  1. The GEAC had itself rejected a similar HT GM mustard proposal in 2002. The same reasons apply now
  2. A herbicide-tolerant crop promotes constant exposure to a single herbicide — which eventually results in weeds becoming resistant.
  3. For example, over 20 species of weeds in the U.S. are now resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide
  4. Glyphosate has been declared to be a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organisation.
  5. The glufosinate-based herbicide to which the proposed GM mustard is tolerant will also have adverse impacts on health

Is pesticide industry influencing policymakers?

  1. A recent report by the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, says: “Recent mergers have resulted in just three powerful corporations: Monsanto and Bayer, Dow and Dupont, and Syngenta and ChemChina. They control more than 65 per cent of global pesticide sales. Serious conflicts of interest issues arise, as they also control almost 61 per cent of commercial seed sales. The pesticide industry’s efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions globally.”


To know more about GM Mustard 


[op-ed snap] Indian scientists develop transgenic rice that can withstand drought



Mains Paper 3: Development in Science & Technology

The op-ed talks about a newly developed rice variety. Since India has also contributed in its development, UPSC may put up question on this. Few points to keep in mind while reading this op-ed are:

Prelims Level: Remember the name of the new variety for PT

Mains Level: Make note of the advantages of this transgenic variety but it is very less likely that you will be asked to reproduce the fact. We say less likely but still include this op-ed because in 2016 mains, UPSC ended up asking a direct question:

Paper 3: What is allelopathy? Discuss its role in major cropping systems of irrigated agriculture.


  1. A group of Indian, Chinese, and Canadian scientists have developed transgenic rice that gives high yields even under severe water deficit

The new variety:

  1. The new rice variety has been developed by transferring a gene from a common plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, into a variety of Indian rice called samba mahsuri
  2. This gene is known to be involved in pathways controlling growth and development
  3. Arabidopsis thaliana is a flowering plant widely used for research purposes but it has no agronomic value as such

How does it work:

  1. The content of chlorophyll which is required for plants to grow reduces under stress conditions like drought, in turn hits the yield
  2. The transgenic rice maintained high chlorophyll content even under water-deficit and therefore performed better


  1. Putting the thaliana gene into rice increased its height, length of the panicle that encloses the grain, efficiency of photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, and water use efficiency
  2. Under water scarce conditions created in laboratory, the transgenic rice performed better than their unmodified counterparts
  3. The need of extensive irrigation is a major constraint in rice production
  4. Overexpressing TOR gene plays a major role in improving plant development, biomass, and yield potential under limited water conditions
  5. Transgenic plants would be expected to have higher yields and better plant performance
  6. Saved water, the most important ingredient in cultivation, could be utilized in the cultivation of other crops that need water and are deprived of it

[op-ed snap] Mulling over mustard


Mains Paper 3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

The op-ed talks about Genetically Modified crops. We almost did not want to curate this one since so much has been written on this topic that even UPSC has left interest. Why we still end up picking this op-ed? It presents a new point of view (global level)

From UPSC’s perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Remember the names of the GM crops and the gene of Bt Brinjal. It is best that you re-read this newscard again to gain the B2B level understanding

Mains Level: Read about the global perspective and the response to GM crops for developing an understanding. But don’t give much weight to it just yet. Let’s see what GM has in offing for this year!



  1. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) attached to the ministry of environment has recommended commercialisation of the genetically modified mustard

The opposition:

  1. The Supreme Court has stayed the commercialisation of GM mustard
  2. Mustard will be the first GM food crop to be grown in India
  3. Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and anti-GMO activists have voiced their disapproval

Other genetically modified crops:

  1. UPA’s Jairam Ramesh in the case of Bt brinjal (in which the bacillus thuringiensis gene is introduced) imposed a moratorium on its release
  2. The only GM plant to be grown in India is Bt cotton, since 2002
  3. In its hearing last October, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to seek public opinion on GM mustard before going ahead
  4. If the apex court does lift its stay, it could clear the way for the spread of Bt brinjal and other transgenic varieties

Response to GM crops:

  1. Farmers and scientists would welcome the move because of the improvements in yield
  2. There are concerns over the health and environmental consequences of GM technology, perhaps a trifle overblown
  3. However, the Centre must allay apprehensions that surfaced in the case of the Bt brinjal trials
  4. A body of scientific opinion had then said that the GEAC had not observed due process in carrying out the tests
  5. It was also argued that the agency developing the plant variety should not be involved in the field trials
  6. An independent body, with multiple stakeholders, should take a call on issues related to GM

Global perspective:

  1. Europe has by and large shut its doors on GM foods
  2. However, US and Latin American countries have accepted them
  3. All the more reason, then, to have an open regulatory regime that demystifies the technology and is transparent in its functioning

The green side:

  1. GM foods promise a way out of a potential Malthusian trap, arguably with less pesticide use in the short run than existing varieties
  2. In the case of GM mustard, yields are expected to rise by up to 30%

Govt. regulator gives nod for GM mustard



From UPSC’s perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Structure and functions of GEAC; Basic concept of GM Crops, especially DMH-11

Mains Level: GS paper 3 clearly mentions the topic Biotechnology. Thus any news related to GM crops becomes very important for mains. GM Mustard issue could be linked to economics since if we increase the production of GM Mustard it will save a lot of foreign exchange as we import a lot of Mustard..


  1. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has cleared GM mustard (Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11)) for environmental release and use in farmer fields
  2. However, the approval is contingent on a final nod from Environment Ministry
  3. DMH-11 uses a system of genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard a self pollinating plant  which is better suited to hybridisation than current methods
  4. Criticism: Activists have maintained that publicly-available data on DMH-11 shows that its yield is no better than existing varieties
  5. Background:  Above decision is not the first time GEAC has cleared a transgenic food crop for release
  6. For example, Bt Brinjal was cleared by the Committee in 2010 but was blocked by then Environment Ministry


  1. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is India’s apex regulator for genetically modified seeds
  2. Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11), the transgenic mustard, has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University under a government-funded project.

Why do we need GM Mustard?

  1. In 2014-15, India imported 14.5 million tonnes of edible oils valued at $10.5 billion. That included nearly 0.4 million tonnes of imported rapeseed oil, which many processors and traders are blending with indigenous mustard oil.
  2. With the country’s own annual edible oil production stuck at below 7.5 million tonnes, of which mustard’s share is roughly a quarter, the need to raise domestic crop yields and cut dependence on imports cannot be doubted.
  3. Hybrid technology is a potential technique to boost yields, as has been successfully demonstrated in a host of crops. 

What is a controversy about GM Mustard?

  1. Many scientist claim that at a time when sustainable farming and low-input agriculture are becoming the buzzwords, it is surprising that agricultural scientists continue to recommend crop varieties that will end up doing more harm to the environment and crop fields.
  2. GM mustard will require almost double the quantity of fertiliser and water.
  3. Other Health concerns of GM Hybrid Mazie include: allergenicity; gene transfer, especially of antibiotic-resistant genes, from GM foods to cells or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; and ‘out crossing’, or the movement of genes from GM plants to conventional crops, posing indirect threats to food safety and security.

GM mustard can affect honeybees directly and indirectly through effecting flowering and pollen production. Protease inhibitors have proved detrimental to the longevity and behaviour of bees.

Regulatory weakness: 

  1. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which is responsible for approving large-scale releases and commercialisation of GMOs, functions under the Ministry of Environment and Forests and is not entirely independent.
  2. The case of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation that supervises and clears research activities and also small-scale field trials is even starker.
  3. It is part of the Department of Biotechnology, whose primary task is to promote biotechnology.
  4. DBT therefore is the promoter as well as the regulator.
  5. On several occasions, developers of transgenic crops have also been members of regulatory committees



Punjab varsity develops new Bt cotton varieties

  1. Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana has announced that it has developed the country’s first genetically-modified varieties of cotton
  2. Significance: Its seeds could be reused by farmers with no commercial restrictions, resulting in savings on repeat purchases every season as against the presently used terminator seeds which cannot be re-used
  3. The price of these varieties will be much lower than current Bt cotton hybrid seed, and it can cut cultivation costs
  4. The varieties: PAU Bt 1 and F1861 were developed by PAU, while RS2013 was developed at Rajasthan Agricultural University (RAU), Bikaner
  5. While the PAU Bt 1 was completely developed at PAU, the F1861 and RS2013 were converted to Bt version by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur
  6. Cry1Ac gene at work: All three varieties carry the Cry1Ac gene imparting resistance against bollworm complex
  7. The genetic modification involves introduction of the Bt bacterial gene that codes for a protein which kills the bollworm cotton pest
  8. Background: Cotton is the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in India
  9. Punjab alone needs around 20-25 lakh packets of Bt cotton seed which amounts to about ₹225 crore


Important for prelims and mains. Read a comprehensive coverage on basics and debated around GM crops by clicking on the GM crops story. You can also click here.

Many States skip meet on GM crops II

  1. Further steps: GM Mustard needs to be cleared by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, the apex regulator
  2. And then also a possible approval by the Environment Minister
  3. Previously: Bt Brinjal was cleared by the GEAC in 2010 only to be vetoed by former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh
  4. UNEP: The consultation with States was part of a three-year long project funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  5. The purpose is to “educate” a variety of stakeholders on biosafety and India’s commitments, under international treaties, to treat GMOs responsibly

Many States skip meet on GM crops I

  1. Event: The Ministry of Environment and Forests held a meeting with states representatives to discuss impediments to research in genetically modified crops
  2. The manner in which field trials ought to be conducted was also discussed
  3. Context: GM mustard has been declared safe for cultivation by a technical committee of India’s apex body that clears GM crop trials
  4. It is the first transgenic crop entirely developed by Indian researchers and with public money,
  5. Problems: This has also prompted States such as Bihar — an important cultivator of mustard — to challenge GM mustard
  6. The SC has begun hearing a petition by anti-GM activist groups
  7. They say that the technical clearance to GM mustard will lead to commercialisation and contaminate India’s mustard gene pool
  8. They also allege that results of tests on GM mustard weren’t fully open to public scrutiny and the clearance violates recommendations of a SC committee

GM mustard may be stalled indefinitely

  1. News: Even though GM mustard may have been declared safe by a government sub-committee, it may yet remain in the can for an indefinite period
  2. Why? Centre’s preliminary clearance to GM mustard, named Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11), contravenes a 2013 report by a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee
  3. This committee had said that herbicide-tolerant crops ought not be permitted in India
  4. One of the genes in DMH-11 contains a gene called ‘bar’ that confers herbicide tolerance
  5. This makes plants resistant to a class of weedicide containing the chemical glufosinate
  6. Critics say glufosinate is toxic and makes farmers dependent on certain brands of crop chemicals
  7. If the court sees merit in the argument, then this could indefinitely stall GM mustard

Consider the following techniques/ phenomena: [Prelims 2014]

1- Budding and grafting in fruit plants
2- Cytoplasmic male sterility
3- Gene silencing

Which of the above is/are used to create transgenic crops?

a) 1 only
b) 2 and 3
c) 1 and 3
d) None

What is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)?

  1. It is established under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
  2. It is the apex body for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recom­binants
  3. It is also responsible for ap­proval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products including experimen­tal field trials

Let’s know about GM Mustard

  1. The GM mustard in question (DMH-11) has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of Delhi University
  2. If it gets the green light from the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), it will be the first GM food crop to be commercially cultivated in India
  3. Right now, only GM cotton is allowed
  4. GEAC is the environment ministry’s regulator for GMOs and transgenic products

Activists objections to herbicide resistant plants

  1. In 2002, India’s biotech regulators had refused to clear a herbicide tolerant plant developed by Bayer Crop Science
  2. Activist organisations from Greenpeace to the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture have protested over decades that using herbicide tolerant genes in plants locks farmers into using select brands of agrochemicals.
  3. However, such an argument is termed bizarre by geneticists
  4. Example: Germany uses four times more herbicide than India, there is no agriculture without herbicide in Western countries- even in countries that swear by organic farming

GM mustard is tolerant of herbicides, says geneticist

  1. One of the DMH-11 genes, called the bar gene, made the plant resistant to a herbicide (or weed killer) brand-named Basta
  2. It is a product sold by multinational company Bayer Cropscience
  3. If cleared by GEAC, it will be the first time a herbicide tolerant crop would be cleared for commercial use in India

Delhi varsity scientist develops GM cotton after success with mustard

  1. An Indian scientists’ team has developed a genetically modified (GM) mustard variety that is inching towards a possible commercial launch
  2. The team could soon hand to a state agency a GM cotton variety that can rival Monsanto’s seeds
  3. It worked on GM mustard for around a decade
  4. A Govt committee said that it found the seeds to be safe for food/ feed and environment
  5. It could be the country’s first GM food crop

GM mustard moves closer to approval

  1. News: GM Mustard has moved closer to being cleared for commercial cultivation in India
  2. A key committee is learnt to have given a favourable assessment on the tests done so far on GM mustard
  3. However there are multiple approvals still required for any likely clearance
  4. Committee: Was tasked with assessing all the available evidence so far on the plant’s suitability for Indian soil and risks posed to health and ecology

GM mustard trials: CIC asks govt to reveal bio-safety data

  1. News: Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the environment ministry to reveal safety data regarding trials of genetically modified (GM) mustard without further delay
  2. CIC: Any attempt to postpone or delay the disclosure will block the public discussion on the controversial issue
  3. Background: In April, CIC had pulled up the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) over its lack of transparency on trials of GM crops
  4. Also, directed it to make public all information, including bio-safety data, related to the field trials of the GM mustard crop before 30 April
  5. The CIC also directed the ministry to put in the public domain bio-safety data pertaining to all other GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the pipeline
  6. Context: The CIC’s directions came on an application by an environment activist who sought information regarding field trials of GM mustard from the MoEFCC, but was denied

Bt cotton has always been controversial. What’s new?

  1. Agriculture Ministry’s new policy on GM crop changes the way seed companies and seed-technology companies such as the MMB share royalty, technology
  2. Aim: India should not be dependent on foreign technology and untimely price fluctuations
  3. Challenge: While India has a healthy repository of GM technologies, translating genes into commercial products is a huge challenge!

Centre plans alternative to Bt cotton

  1. Purpose: To develop genes that can be integrated into traditional varieties for larger outputs
  2. This project would be led by CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) and DBT (Department of Biotechnology)
  3. Cotton is the only genetically-modified seed that’s legally allowed in India
  4. GM food crops such as Brinjal and Mustard still face opposition by anti-GM activist groups

Govt. is against the monopolies over seed technologies

  1. Context: Genetically modified seeds are only permitted in cotton and one company seems to be having the monopoly in deciding the prices
  2. Govt may consult with seed firms and farmers before introducing a new policy for technology for GM crops
  3. Aim: To ensure that the final licensing guidelines do not contradict the National IPR Policy, released on May

GM seeds key to food security: Javadekar

  1. Context: Environmental minister has said that GM technology for seeds is important for agricultural development
  2. It will improve agricultural productivity and food security
  3. Criticism: GM crops are unfit for human consumption
  4. A Panel is set up by Environment Ministry to take a call on GM mustard
  5. GM Mustard: First food-related transgenic crop

Make GM mustard data public: CIC

  1. Context: CIC has asked the Environment Ministry to make public all the data pertaining to the safety of GM mustard
  2. Safeguard: Data can be made public sans proprietary intellectual property data
  3. The first: GM mustard is likely to be the first transgenic seed, to be available in farmer fields
  4. Currently: GM cotton is the only transgenic crop commercially available in farmer fields

Environment Ministry draws flak over GM mustard data

  1. Context: GEAC, under the Environment Min, had rejected earlier requests for the bio-safety data on GM crops
  2. Why? They said that doing so would “breach commercial confidence” of the crop developer
  3. Now: CIC ordered that ‘data on safety issues which is matter of overriding public interest cannot be considered as confidential information’
  4. People should know how and why GM mustard is being permitted or denied

GEAC defers decision on importing GM animal feed

  1. Context: The environment ministry has received several requests from companies seeking permission to import genetically modified feed for animals
  2. However, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has deferred a decision on these requests
  3. Why? Absence of an expert view and lack of detailed studies on the matter

Centre cuts fee & prices for Bt cotton

  1. Context: Centre has lowered the ‘trait’ (licence) fee for genetically modfied (Bt) cotton by 70 per cent for 2016-17
  2. Panel: The decision is in line with the recommendations of a panel constituted to determine a uniform national price of Bt cotton
  3. It was formed in line with the Cotton Price Control Order of December 2015
  4. The order empowered the Centre to fix a uniform national price of cotton hybrids

No nod for GM mustard now

  1. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) decided to put on hold any decision on GM mustard
  2. Background – Growing outrage by farmer groups and green activists against commercialisation of GM mustard
  3. The Environment ministry ensured that it will hold a consultative meeting with all the stakeholders before giving approval
  4. It might take couple of months before the trial and safety data could become ready to be publicly available

Centre sets up committee to fix Bt Cotton seed prices

The government constituted a committee to execute its cotton price control order that will decide the price farmers pay to seed companies.

  1. 9-member committee has a deadline of 31 March to decide on the MSP of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds.
  2. The committee is slated to meet within a week or two to decide the maximum sale price (MSP) of cotton seeds, including royalty fees and dealers’ margins.
  3. The agriculture ministry on 7 December issued a price control order to bring uniformity in Bt cotton seed prices.
  4. As several states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have brought in price control orders.
  5. At least six million farmers grow cotton in India, over 95% of which is grown using the transgenic Bt technology.
  6. The committee will be headed by the joint secretary (seeds) in the ministry, and will have the agriculture secretaries of Telangana and Gujarat as members.

Did you know about Bt-Cotton?

  1. Bt cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to bollworm. It is produced by Monsanto company.
  2. Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) produce over 200 different Bt toxins, each harmful to different insects.
  3. Most notably, Bt toxins are insecticidal to the larvae of moths and butterflies, beetles, cotton bollworms and ghtu flies but are harmless to other forms of life.
  4. The gene coding for Bt toxin has been inserted into cotton as a transgene, causing it to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues.

It is failure of Bt technology, opines expert panel

Expert panel opined that the Bt cotton, despite been cultivated as per the instructions and guidelines of seed producers and Agricultural Universities, was destroyed by pink bollworm pest.

  1. An independent fact-finding team of cotton experts that examined Bt cotton fields destroyed by pink bollworm in Raichur district.
  2. It strongly held that the crop destruction was not due to adulteration of seeds, but due to the failure of Bt technology itself.
  3. The outbreaks of white fly menace in North Karnataka and Andhra 1996, mirid bugs in Haveri in 2013.
  4. The pink bollworm now in Raichur have clearly refuted the claims Bt cotton seed producers claims on pest-resistance.
  5. Experts strongly demanded to amend Seed Act 1966 so as to incorporate provisions that would deal with genetic purity of genetically modified seeds.

GM cotton: whitefly attack raises anxiety among farmers

Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is now recommending farmers to sow traditional non-Bt varieties of American and indigenous cotton

  1. The ineffectiveness of genetically modified (GM) cotton against the recent whitefly attack in Punjab and Haryana.
  2. It is time for India to actively promote and involve public-private partnership (PPP) model in GM crop technology
  3. Focus on developing new technologies to fight pest infestation on cotton and other crops.
  4. The whitefly attack in Punjab that damaged over 75 per cent crop across the cotton belt had led to widespread protests in the past few days.
  5. Bt cotton is around 14 years old technology and is effective against specific type of bollworms, but not insects such as whitefly.

Eminent scientists praise genetically-modified crops

  1. They emphasised that the state govt’s prior approval for conducting confined field trials should be removed.
  2. Such permission is needed, under the national seeds Act, only for allowing commercial cultivation of new seeds, not for their field testing.
  3. There is no evidence of any adverse impact of the GM products either on human health or on environment.

Discuss: These scientists have written letters to Modi. Now is a good time to revise what are the cons of GM crops

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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