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The Presence of GM Crops in Indian Agriculture: An Overview

Biotechnology in Indian agriculture has revolutionized the industry through the development of genetically modified (GM) crops like Bt cotton and potential crops like Bt Brinjal and Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11. While the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) regulates the release and trials of biotech crops, concerns about the control of seeds, farmer debt, and irreversible environmental damage remain contentious issues surrounding GM crops.

Eashani Chettri
Presence of GM Crops is changing the scene
Presence of GM Crops is changing the scene

Biotechnology plays a significant role in Indian agriculture, offering various benefits and opportunities for farmers, food production, and the overall agricultural sector. Let’s understand the role of biotechnology in Indian agriculture:

 

Biotechnology has enabled the development of genetically modified (GM) crops with desirable traits such as resistance to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses. Bt cotton, which incorporates a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis for insect resistance, is one notable example that has transformed India’s cotton industry.

Genetically modified crops are those whose genes have been altered or modified by the insertion of a gene from another organism; by giving it new properties such as an increase in yield, tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and also to bring about an improvement in the nutritional value of the crop. In India, there is only one genetically modified crop that has been approved for cultivation and that is Bt Cotton. While field trials have been allowed for at least 20 different crops.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), formerly known as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, is India’s leading biotech regulatory body. Under the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) Environment Protection Act of 1986, the committee performs its duties as a statutory body.

 

According to the EPA’s 1986 “Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export, and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells,” the GEAC is in charge of approving the commercial release of biotech crops as well as experimental and extensive open field trials.

Bt Brinjal, which was produced by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in partnership with the Dharward University of Agricultural Sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, was recommended for commercial release by the GEAC in 2007. But in 2010, the initiative was rejected.

Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants created the mustard variety known as Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 or DMH-11. Using “barnase / barstar” method for genetic alteration. Delhi University researchers developed the hybridized mustard DMH-11. This crop is herbicide-tolerant (HT). This will be the country’s first transgenic food crop and the second GM crop after Bt cotton if the Centre grants its approval.

Another GM Crop, Golden Rice combines the gene from a daffodil plant or maize plant along with a soil bacterium to produce a grain that is rich in Vitamin A.

 

This comprises GM rice cultivars with enhanced resistance to pests and illnesses, hybrid seed production, and nutritional improvements like golden rice. Due to their changed DNA, GM foods have the potential to enhance antibiotic resistance as well as trigger allergic reactions in some people.

GM crops, according to groups like Greenpeace, don’t produce superior outcomes; instead, they put farmers in debt. As they are compelled to purchase GM seeds and technologies from foreign firms, they forfeit their sovereign control over seeds. In a nation like India, the rising suicide rates among farmers growing Bt cotton are used as an illustration of the dangers of GM crops. In addition to questioning the benefits of GM crops, opponents assert that once they have been introduced into the ecosystem long back, and, hence, the damage is irreversible.

 

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