Genetically Modified Organisms
- Genetically modified organisms (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 or by natural recombination.
- The technology is often called modern biotechnology or gene technology, recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering.
- 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.
Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering methods to achieve a desired trait.
- Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes.
Advantages of GM Crops
Higher crop yields
Reduced farm costs
Increased farm profit
- Resistance by Pest
- Less labour-intensive
- Drought Resistant
- i) With regard to Human Health
- Risk of toxicity, due to the nature of the product or the changes in the metabolism and the composition of the organisms resulting from gene transfer.
- Newer proteins in transgenic crops from the organisms, which have not been consumed as foods, sometimes have the risk of these proteins becoming allergens.
- ii) Ecological concerns
- Gene flow due to cross pollination for the traits involving resistance can result in development of tolerant or resistant weeds that are difficult to eradicate.
- GM crops could lead to erosion of biodiversity and pollute gene pools of endangered plant species.
- Genetic erosion has occurred as the farmers have replaced the use of traditional varieties with monocultures.
iii) Environmental concerns
- Gene escape into the environment- accidental cross breeding GMO plants and traditional varieties through pollen transfer can contaminate the traditional local varieties with GMO genes resulting in the loss of traditional varieties of the farmers.
- There is a well established regulatory framework for approval of GM Crops as per “Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 in India.
- Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) established under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is the apex body for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- The GEAC is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
GM Crops grown in India
- Bt cotton is the only genetically modified crop that has been approved for commercial cultivation in 2002 by the Government of India.
- Bt Brinjal was approved by GEAC in 2009 but due to a 10 years moratorium imposed on GM crops by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India, no further action on commercialization has been taken.
- Recently, GEAC has again allowed biosafety research field trials of two new transgenic varieties of indigenously developed Bt Brinjal in eight states during 2020-23.
- GM mustard Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11 (DMH 11) developed by Delhi University is pending for commercial release as GEAC has advised to generate complete safety assessment data on environmental biosafety, especially effects on beneficial insect species.
Why in News ?
- The Union government decided to allow the import of crushed genetically modified soybean, which is a major ingredient of poultry feed.
- Poultry feed makes up 65% of the cost of production for the farmer. Soy meal [which is left over after oil is extracted from the bean] is the main protein ingredient in the feed, especially for broilers.
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