Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Jul, 12, 2018

India’s genetically modified crop area fifth largest in world

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), GM Crops

Mains level: Growing use of GM crops by farmers and what are regulatory impediments in furthering their expanse


News

Growing demand for GM crops

  1. 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
  2. This is an indication of demand for GM technology among Indian farmers
  3. India’s entire GM crop area is under a single crop i.e. cotton
  4. This finding was published in ISAAA’s latest ‘Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/ GM Crops in 2017’ report

GM crops under regulation

In India, the GM crops that are under regulatory consideration are:

  • glyphosate-tolerant cotton
  • biotech hybrid mustard

Bt/insect-resistant cotton has already been commercialised

Transgenic mustard has been developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (harbouring three alien genes that enable higher yields through hybridisation)


Back2Basics

International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)

  1. ISAAA is a non-profit international organization that shares agricultural biotechnology, focusing on genetic engineering
  2. ISAAA documents approved GM crops worldwide and present them in a database available in the organization’s website
  3. The Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology is the information network of ISAAA
  4. The organization releases an annual publication on the global status of commercially approved genetically engineered crops
  5. The ISAAA receives funding from both public and private donors
May, 15, 2018

More tests required for GM mustard: regulator

Note4students

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 perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Particulars of the committee

Mains Level: The main issue


News

Observation of the the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee

  1. The committee has said that in light of several representations both “for and against” the release of GM mustard, there was a need for more tests
  2. The Centre has also demanded more tests for genetically modified mustard, a year after clearing the crop for “commercial cultivation”

One of the main issue

  1. The GM mustard has never been tested as a herbicide tolerant crop, for its environmental and health ramifications
  2. It is a point that has remained unaddressed by the regulators

Backrgound

  1. Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11) had been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University
  2. It was developed under a government-funded project

Back2basics

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  1. It functions in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). 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
  2. The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the enviornment including experimental field trials
  3. GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). Presently, it has 24 members and meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above
Mar, 07, 2018

Govt: GM soybean imports only after regulator’s approval

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DGFT, GEAC

Mains level: GM crops and issues related to it


News

Stop imports of GM soybeans

  1. The Union environment ministry has asked the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to stop imports of genetically modified (GM) soybean for food or feed without the approval of the regulator for transgenic products
  2. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had received a complaint regarding “illegal/unauthorized import of GM soybean into India from countries like the US and Ukraine

Import regulations

  1. GEAC has not authorized or approved GM soybean or any other products derived from GM soybean seeds for import or cultivation in India
  2. GM Cotton is the only transgenic crop which is allowed to be cultivated
  3. The environment ministry is yet to take a final call on allowing the commercial cultivation of GM mustard

Back2Basics

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  1. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) functions in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)
  2. 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
  3. The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the enviornment including experimental field trials
  4. GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)
  5. It meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above
Oct, 22, 2016

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
Oct, 22, 2016

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
Oct, 07, 2016

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

Sep, 13, 2016

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
Sep, 13, 2016

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
Sep, 09, 2016

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
Aug, 26, 2016

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
Aug, 16, 2016

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
Jun, 09, 2016

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!
Jun, 09, 2016

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
Jun, 02, 2016

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
Apr, 08, 2016

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
Apr, 07, 2016

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
Mar, 28, 2016

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
Mar, 10, 2016

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
Feb, 06, 2016

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
Jan, 28, 2016

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.
Dec, 26, 2015

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.
Oct, 19, 2015

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.
Feb, 25, 2015

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

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