GEAC approves Genetically Modified mustards for field trials

Tags: Environment National

GEAC approves Genetically

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has recommended “environmental release (larger field trials)” of a transgenic mustard hybrid. 

The regulator has given approval for field trials of GM mustard for four years and is renewable for two years at a time based on compliance reports.  However the final decision will be taken by the ministry of environment and forests and climate change.

Who has developed the GM mustard seed?

The GM mustard seed DMH 11 was developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plant (CGMCP) of Delhi University.

Patent on indigenously developed GM mustard is jointly held by National Dairy Development Board and the University of Delhi under Deepak Pental.

If the trial is successful then it will be the first genetically modified food crop to be cultivated in India. 

Genetic Crops in India 

The first transgenic crop to be approved in India was Bt.Cotton in 2002, which has led to a massive jump in the production of cotton in India. India is now the largest producer of cotton in the world.

The second crop which was approved for field trial was Bt. Brinjal in 2009. However, the decision was later stayed by the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh on grounds of “insufficient scientific evidence about safety”.

What is a transgenic crop?

A transgenic crop is a genetically modified organism (GMO).Here transgenic means that one or more genes of a different unrelated plant or from different species is inserted artificially in a crop using recombinant DNA technology. This is done to introduce desired quality in the crop and improve its productivity.

Benefits of GM Crops 

Improve crop protection and production

  • One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection. It can be used to modify the genes of the crops so as to increase the resistance of plants to specific insects and diseases, thus increasing the production. For example Resistance against insects is achieved by incorporating into the food plant the gene for toxin production from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • This helps in reducing the consumption of the insecticides and herbicides saving money for the farmers.
  • It can help in creating plants which are more tolerant to cold, frost, or drought. It will make crops grow in harsh climatic conditions and will be extremely helpful in in a constantly changing environment.
  • It also helps in increasing the production of crops as they grow faster than the traditional crops and also taste better. This will in turn lower the prices of the crop produced.
  • Genetically engineered foods are reported to be high in nutrients and contain more minerals and vitamins than those found in traditionally grown foods.
  • Genetically engineered foods have an increased shelf life and hence there is less fear of foods getting spoiled quickly.

Problems with Transgenic crops 

Fear of adverse effect on Human health

The consumption of transgenic foods is believed to have a harmful effect on the human body as it can cause the development of diseases which are immune to antibiotics. 

The long term effect of these foods on human beings is not known.

Fear of MNC controlling food production

The process to develop such transgenic crops needs resources, qualified personnel and technology which is mainly with large multinational corporations. The seeds of the transgenic crops can be used only once. Hence the farmers have to buy the seed again and again from the company which holds the patent of the crop. This makes the farmers and developing countries dependent on the company which can be a serious threat to the food system and economy of the developing countries.

Religious and cultural reasons 

 Many religious and cultural communities are against such foods because they see it as an unnatural way of producing foods. Many people are also not comfortable with the idea of transferring animal genes into plants and vice versa. 

Unknown impact on Ecosystem 

The introduction of a new crop in the ecosystem having foreign genes can have unpredictable consequences for the ecosystem. An ecosystem develops symbiotic relationships amongst its organism over a long period of time. Introduction of a new species with foreign genes can disrupt the ecosystem with unpredictable consequences.

Union Minister for Environment ,Forest and Climate Change : Bhupendra Yadav 

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