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Genetically Modified Crops – GM Mustard

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UPSC Current Affairs

Genetically Modified Crops – GM Mustard

Genetically Modified Crops, GM Crops, are plants that are genetically altered to form a new variety of species that cannot be found naturally. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) which functions under the Union Environment Ministry has cleared the proposal for the commercial cultivation of genetically modified GM mustard.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS:
  • According to WHO, genetically modified organisms are organisms in which genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur in natural recombination.
  • Genes are artificially inserted into a crop from another species, even unrelated, to give some desired properties.
  • The technology used is referred to as gene technology, genetic engineering, or recombinant DNA technology.
  • As of now, Bt cotton is the only genetically modified (GM) crop that has been approved for commercial cultivation in 2002 by the Government of India.
  • ‘Bt’ stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium found mainly in the soil that produces proteins toxic to some insects, especially the cotton bollworm.
GM MUSTARD:
  • Scientists at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) have developed the hybrid mustard Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11) containing two alien genes (barnase & barstar) isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens for hybrid seed production.
ADVANTAGES OF GM CROPS:
  • Improves production and raise farmers’ income by switching from the traditional process of seeding and cultivation.
  • Resistance to pests, thereby less relayed on chemical pesticides (pest-resistant crops).
  • Increases fertility of the soil with the efficiency of mineral usage and prevents early exhaustion of fertility of the soil.
  • Enhances the nutritional value of food, e.g., vitamin-A enriched rice (Golden rice), protein enriched vegetables like spinach, broccoli, etc.
  • It provides a higher yield than natural crops.
  • It can produce more in a small area of land.
  • It has a longer shelf life.
  • More tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses (hormones, nutrition and cold, drought, salt, heat).
DISADVANTAGES OF GM CROPS:
  • The production imposes high risks to the disruption of the ecosystem and biodiversity because the “better” traits produced from engineering genes can result in the favoring of one organism. Hence, it can eventually disrupt the natural process of gene flow.
  • It increases the cost of cultivation and more inclined towards marketization of farming that works on immoral profits.
  • Transgenic genes in GM crops endanger native species.
  • They may cause human health problems through altered genes.
  • It can lead to the development of new strains of bacteria with antibiotic resistance or other drug resistance.
GENETIC ENGINEERING APPRAISAL COMMITTEE (GEAC):
  • The genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has been set up in India under the Ministry for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.
  • It is a statutory body under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • The main function is to regulate the use, manufacture, storage, import, and export of hazardous organisms, genetically engineered organisms and cells in India.
  • In India, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body that allows for commercial release of GM crops.
  • Use of the unapproved GM variant can attract a jail term of 5 years and fine of 1 lakh under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
UPSC Prelims Model Question

Q. With reference to the Genetically Modified mustard (GM mustard) developed in India, consider the following statements:

  1. GM mustard has the genes of a soil bacterium that give the plant the property of pest-resistance to a wide variety of pests.
  2. GM mustard has the genes that allow the plant cross-pollination and hybridization.
  3. GM mustard has been developed jointly by the IARI and Punjab Agricultural university

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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