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

Jan, 10, 2019

[op-ed snap] SC Bt cotton verdict is relief for Monsanto

Note4students

Mains Paper 3 Science and Technology| Bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics of IPR, GM, GEAC.

Mains level: The newscard discusses impact of SC ruling on IPR environment, in a brief manner.


Context

  1. The Supreme Court restored Monsanto Co.’s patent claim on genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton until its validity is decided by a single judge of the Delhi high court.
  2. It ought to reassure biotech companies that had held back on introducing new technologies in India after the controversy over genetically modified (GM) cotton erupted.

Background

  1. The ruling is the result legal battles between Monsanto and domestic seed companies, led by Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd.
  2. In 2004 Monsanto entered into a sub-license agreement with domestic company Nuziveedu for an initial period of 10 years.
  3. The agreement had entitled the Indian firms to commercially exploit genetically modified hybrid cotton planting seeds with help of Monsanto’s technology within the limits of the agreement on the payment of a license fee.
  4. Local seed firms, which get licenses from Monsanto to sell genetically-modified seeds, used to pay a “trait fee” fixed by the government.
  5. Recently Nuziveedu Seeds was arguing that the U.S. company was not entitled to get any more money from them and had petitioned in the court to cancel Monsanto’s patent
  6. Soon after, Monsanto had lodged counter cases for patent infringements by Indian companies.
  7. The agreement was terminated in November 2015, giving rise to the patent suit.
  8. The Single Judge, in March 2017, restored the agreement and ordered the parties (Monsanto and companies like Nuziveedu) to adhere to their obligations under it.

Why did the Delhi HC reject patent?

  1. The judge reasoned that Monsanto’s Bt gene was useless to farmers unless inserted into a cotton hybrid, which farmers could then grow to repel pests.
  2. This insertion is carried out by seed companies, who cross a Bt gene-containing plant (from Monsanto’s donor seeds) with their proprietary cotton varieties.
  3. The judge argued that this crossing of plants was a natural and biological process.
  4. This argument undermined Monsanto’s patent, because under Section 3(j) of India’s Patents Act, a seed or a plant, or a biological process to create a seed or plant cannot be patented.
  5. If this argument is correct, few plant biotechnology innovations would be patentable in India.
  6. This is a dangerous conclusion because the lack of patent protection would discourage crucial research by the agri-biotech industry.

Significance of SC ruling

  1. SC order validates that patents are integral to innovation and reinforces faith in the Indian judiciary and the Indian patent system.
  2. Technology developers will now be encouraged to invest more money into bringing new technologies to the market.
  3. The court has recognised that products of biotechnological processes such as man-made DNA constructs are patentable in India.
  4. The ruling may prompt some biotech companies to revive expansion plans that were placed on hold amid restrictions imposed by the government and local courts in recent years.
  5. SC ruling will bring certainty in the policy environment and looking to improve Indian cotton farmer’s competitiveness.

Regulatory fog

  1. IPR issue-
  • Protecting intellectual property rights is vital to improving the competitiveness of the Indian farmer.
  • The Supreme Court’s suggestion to the Delhi high court—a division bench of which had ruled that life forms cannot be patented—that all aspects related to Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds can be considered could allay apprehensions among technology developers over losing pricing freedom in India.
  1. Reduced Royalty
  • The government has capped royalty payments to Monsanto and asked it to grant licences to more seed companies for using Bt cotton. Indian seed companies pay a government-mandated trait fee, as such royalty is called, on genetically modified seeds.
  • Multinational biotechnology companies like Monsanto which has held back other Bt cotton varieties from India and Bayer has gone slow in introducing a hybrid rice seed that can withstand flooding for two weeks.
  1. Maze over field trials
  • Regulatory clarity over field trials for genetically modified seeds is overdue. A moratorium on field trials for Bt brinjal, for instance, is in its ninth year and the government wants more research done for GM mustard, which involves more field trials that, in turn, await permissions from state governments.

Way forward

  1. Transgenic technologies such as Bt cotton are an important part of India’s cotton production arsenal. They are not infallible.
  2. But this is true of all technologies, like antibiotics, that fail when used improperly, as was the case with Bollgard-2.
  3. The important thing for India is to keep incentivizing the development of such technologies and to use them properly. Strong patent protection is a crucial part of this process.

Back2Basics

GM Crops in India

  1. India has the world’s 5th largest GM crop acreage. The world order is – USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India.
  2. If that’s not interesting enough, then let me add another fact on this – this rank is largely on the strength of Bt cotton, the only genetically modified crop allowed in the country. 
  3. At present, 96% of India’s cotton cultivation area is under Bt cotton crops.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • GEAC is apex body under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for regulating manufacturing, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms or genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and cells in the country.
  • It is also responsible for giving technical approval of proposals relating to release of GMOs and products including experimental field trials.
  • However, Environment Minister gives final approval for GMOs.

What is Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis)?

  1. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil and produces proteins that kill certain insects.
  2. Through biotechnology, scientists can use these naturally occurring Bt proteins to develop insect-protected crops that protect against insect damage and destruction.
  3. When targeted insects eat the plant containing the protein, they ultimately die; but impact of Bt on humans and other animals is still being questioned.
Dec, 31, 2018

PM inaugurates Rice Research Institute, to improve production of crop

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GM technology

Mains level: Various researches related to GM crops and how GM technology can help Indian farmers


News

  • The International Rice Research Institute South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI SARC) in Varanasi was dedicated to the nation by PM.

IRRI SARC

  1. With an aim to double farmers’ income the 6th IRRI SARC campus will serve as a hub for rice research and training in South Asia and SAARC region.
  2. The major aim of IRRI is to improve livelihood and nutrition, abolishing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition among those countries which depend on rice-based agri-food systems.
  3. This new Centre is expected to improve crop production, seed quality and the nutritional value of rice.
  4. It will also work with national partners to enhance farmers’ knowledge and income and deliver advanced research, teaching and services in the connection.
  5. It will also teach scientists and agriculture leaders about the latest technologies and innovations for sustainable farming; and laboratories for digital crop monitoring and assessment, and demonstration fields where variety testing is conducted.

Other Features

  1. IRRI SARC facilities will include the Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA), a suite of modern laboratories where rice grains are assessed for: quality and nutritional value and sensory evaluations for grain taste, texture, and aroma are conducted; on-site facilities.
  2. This centre will catalyze South-South collaboration, strengthen the research expertise and capacity of rice-growing countries in the region, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

About IRRI

  1. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international agricultural research and training organization with headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna in the Philippines.
  2. IRRI is known for its work in developing rice varieties that contributed to the Green Revolution in the 1960s which preempted the famine in Asia.
  3. The Institute, established in 1960 aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming.
  4. It advances its mission through collaborative research, partnerships, and the strengthening of the national agricultural research and extension systems of the countries IRRI works in.
  5. It is also the largest non-profit agricultural research center in Asia.
  6. IRRI’s semi-dwarf varieties, including the famous IR8 saved India from famine in the 1960s.
Dec, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] Don’t believe the anti-GMO campaign

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GM technology

Mains level: Various research related to GM crops and how GM technology can help Indian farmers


Context

GM crops debate

  1. A review article, “Modern technologies for sustainable food and nutrition security” authored by geneticist P.C. Kesavan and leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan describes Bt cotton as a “failure”
  2. In 2016, 107 Nobel laureates signed a letter challenging Greenpeace to drop its anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) technology stance
  3. They stated that the anti-GMO campaign is scientifically baseless and potentially harmful to poor people in the developing world

GM crops effectiveness

  1. Genetic modification is the technology of choice for solving abiotic problems like drought flood, salinity, etc
  2. It may not be equally effective in the case of biotic stresses since new strains of pests and diseases arise all the time

Usefulness of GM crops

  1. Data from a large number of peer-reviewed publications have shown that, on average, GM technology adoption has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yield by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%
  2. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops
  3. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries
  4. Data from a billion animals fed on GM corn have not indicated any health hazards

GM crops not a failure in India

  1. Bt cotton is not a failure in India
  2. The yields hovering around 300 kg/ha at the time of introduction of Bt cotton (2002) have increased to an average of over 500 kg/ha, converting India from a cotton-importing country to the largest exporter of raw cotton
  3. India has one of the strongest regulatory protocols for field trials of GM crops

Way forward

  1. GM technology is not a magic bullet. It needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis
  2. There is definitely scope for improvement in terms of technology and regulatory protocols
  3. But it is time to deregulate the Bt gene and lift the embargo on Bt brinjal
Dec, 08, 2018

M.S. Swaminathan calls GM crops a failure

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Biotechnology

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level:  BT Cotton

Mains Level: Limitations of GM crops


News

  • A research paper co-authored by leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, which describes Bt cotton as a ‘failure,’ was criticised by India’s Principal Scientific Adviser as ‘deeply flawed’.

BT crops: A big Failure

  1. The article ‘Modern Technologies for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security’ was recently published.
  2. It is authored by P.C. Kesavan and Prof. Swaminathan, senior functionaries of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

  1. The article is a review of crop development in India and transgenic crops — particularly Bt cotton, the stalled Bt brinjal as well as DMH-11, a transgenic mustard hybrid.
  2. The latter two have been cleared by scientific regulators but not by the Centre.
  3. It states that the precautionary principle (PP) has been done away with and no science-based and rigorous biosafety protocols and evaluation of GM crops are in place.
  4. BT crops have failed as a sustainable agriculture technology and have, therefore, also failed to provide livelihood security for cotton farmers who are mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.

Why opt GM?

  1. Conventional GE technology uses genes from soil bacterium to either protect them from specific pests or— as in the case of GE mustard — facilitate hybridization.
  2. This means making the plant more amenable to developing higher-yielding varieties.
  3. Swaminathan, credited with leading India’s Green Revolution, has said the government should only use genetic engineering as a last resort.
  4. He has emphasized that genetic engineering is supplementary and must be need based.
  5. Only in very rare circumstance (less than 1%) may there arise a need for the use of this technology.

GM for Abiotic stresses

  1. Abiotic stresses refer to environmental factors that could meddle with plant yield, as opposed to ‘biotic’ stressors such as insects.
  2. GE may be deployed to manage against Abiotic stresses.

Back2Basics

BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis)

  1. BT is a soil dwelling bacterium generally used in biopesticide.
  2. Bt cotton was created through the addition of genes encoding toxin crystals in the Cry group of endotoxin.
  3. When insects attack and eat the cotton plant the Cry toxins are dissolved due to the high pH level of the insect’s stomach.
  4. In 2002, a joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced Bt cotton to India.
  5. Genetic Engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) is the central agency to allow field trials of BT/GM crops.
Nov, 26, 2018

Researchers develop transgenic rice with reduced arsenic accumulation

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:  WaarsM Gene

Mains Level: Benefits of transgenic rice for controlling arsenic accumulation


News

Background

  1. Arsenic accumulation in rice grains is one of the serious agricultural issues in India.
  2. To address this, researchers at Lucknow-based CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute have developed transgenic rice by inserting a novel fungal gene, which results in reduced arsenic accumulation in rice grain.

WaarsM Gene

  1. Researchers have cloned Arsenic methyltransferase (WaarsM) gene from a soil fungus, Westerdykellaaurantiaca.
  2. They inserted the same into the rice genome with the help of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a soil bacterium which has natural ability to alter the plant’s genetic makeup.
  3. The newly developed transgenic rice along with normal rice was then treated with arsenic.
  4. Researchers found that the resulting transgenic plant acquired the potential for methylating inorganic arsenic to a variety of harmless organic species, including volatile arsenicals.
  5. This could be potential strategy for developing transgenic rice capable of low arsenic accumulation not only in grain but also in straw and feed which are used for livestock.

Benefits of this GM

  1. The genetic modification of rice grain can be applied to develop practices to decrease accumulation of arsenic by molecular breeding, gene editing or transgenic approaches.
  2. As large numbers of people are affected by arsenic toxicity, it is imperative to develop rice with lesser arsenic content and high yield.

Other significant Researches

  1. In the past, it has shown a transgenic approach in which phytochelatin synthase from Ceratophyllumdemersum (an aquatic plant) was expressed in rice.
  2. Transgenic lines showed enhanced accumulation of arsenic in roots and shoot but less in grains.
  3. They also described that over expression of OsGrx_C7 (protein found in rice) enhanced tolerance to arsenite and reduced arsenite accumulation in seeds and shoots of rice.
  4. Recently, they have showed that OsPRX38 transgenics accumulate less arsenic due to high lignification in root which acts as a barrier for arsenic entry in transgenic plants.
  5. In this background, biotechnological methods such as modulating the expression of Arsenic metabolism-related genes in rice will be a fruitful and practical approach to decrease arsenic accumulation.
Sep, 07, 2018

GM mustard trials may get nod soon

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:  DMH 11

Mains Level: Controversy over use of GM Mustard


News

Nearing approval after several trials

  1. The environment ministry is set to convene a special meeting of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to decide on field-trial approvals for the controversial transgenic mustard
  2. It was developed by the University of Delhi’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP).
  3. The CGMCP had earlier applied to grow transgenic mustard (DMH-11) in plots in Delhi and Punjab to test the plant’s effects on honeybees.
  4. The GEAC had initially cleared the GM crop for commercial cultivation but backtracked and demanded more tests and additional data on honeybees and other pollinators and on soil microbial diversity.

In the chorus of Objections

  1. The GEAC, the apex regulator of transgenic products had put a decision on the proposed field trials on hold after some members objected to the use of unapproved pesticides/herbicides.
  2. The CGMCP team had proposed to use endosulfan; a banned pesticide as part of their experiment, hence some members had voiced objections.
  3. The field safety protocol specifies what measures can be undertaken in case there’s a pest attack on the mustard being tested.
  4. The GEAC had sought more tests for GM mustard in the wake of a several objections to the transgenic crop.
  5. Once cleared it would be the first transgenic food crop to be allowed in India.

Threats posed by GM Mustard

  1. Environmentalists, farmer groups and some scientists argue that transgenic mustard poses several environmental and health risks.
  2. It contains a foreign gene from another species and tests so far have failed to show any appreciable gains in yield over traditional varieties.
  3. The GM mustard is dependent on glyphosate, a weedicide that has been linked to cancer.
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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