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Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

Why is it in the news?

  • The adoption of science-based technologies for crop improvement such as genetic engineering for developing genetically modified (GM) crops as a supplement to conventional breeding methods has become an absolute necessity to address the burgeoning and complex challenge of achieving global food and nutritional security under the fast-changing climate.
  • According to the global Food Security and Nutrition Report, 2019, it is difficult to achieve the ‘Zero Hunger’ target by 2030.

More about the news

  • The Green Revolution significantly enhanced food production, but new biotech/GM crops are needed to combat climate change and produce nutrient-dense food.
  • GM crop adoption is widespread globally, benefiting over 1.95 billion people in 72 countries, especially in developing nations.
  • GM crops have contributed $224.9 billion in economic benefits to more than 16 million farmers, with a focus on economic advantage for developing countries.
  • GM crops have been proven safe for biosafety over the past 25 years.
  • India faces a major edible oil deficit, with 60% of demand met by imports, making mustard crop productivity crucial for self-sufficiency.
    • Genetic engineering efforts have created a GM mustard hybrid (DMH-11) with higher yield and vigour, addressing edible oil production needs.
      • DMH-11 uses the barnase/barstar system to enhance male fertility and herbicide tolerance for better selection of genetically transformed lines.
    • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approved the release of DMH-11 and its parental line for cultivation, boosting genetic engineering research and mustard hybrid development in India.
    • Cultivation of GM mustard hybrids can increase yield per hectare, raise farmer incomes, reduce edible oil import burden, and promote self-reliance in edible oil production.
    • The environmental release of DMH-11 signifies a new era in self-reliance and sustainability in Indian agriculture, emphasizing the need for more improved GM food crops to benefit Indian farmers.
GM Crops in India
  • GM crops are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified, usually by inserting genetic material from another organism, in order to give it new properties, such as increased yield, tolerance to herbicide, resistance to disease or drought, or improved nutritional value.
  • Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for cultivation in India.
    • Bt cotton contains genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produce a protein toxic to the pink bollworm pest and allow the plant to resist glyphosate herbicide.
  • Bt brinjal has genes that provide resistance against fruit and shoot borer attacks.
  • Recently, the Government has approved the environmental release of Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard hybrid DMH-11.
    • DMH-11 mustard allows cross-pollination in a crop that naturally self-pollinates.
  • Globally, GM variants of maize, canola, and soybean are also available.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a statutory body constituted under the ‘Rules for the Manufacture, Use /Import /Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineering Organisms or Cells, 1989’ notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • GEAC operates under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • Its primary role is to appraise activities involving the large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production with an environmental perspective.
  • GEAC is also responsible for evaluating proposals regarding the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment, including experimental field trials.
  • The committee is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

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