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Tags Current Affairs

GM seeds

Date: 12 June 2020 Tags: Biotechnology

Issue

Last week, Shetkari Sanghatana — the farmers’ union, has announced fresh plans in its agitation for use of genetically modified seeds.

 

Background

The protest involves mass sowing of GM seeds for maize, soyabean, mustard brinjal and herbicide tolerant (Ht) cotton, although these are not approved. Farmers had carried out a similar movement last year.

 

Details

  • Conventional plant breeding involves crossing species of the same genus to provide the offspring with the desired traits of both parents.

  • Genetic engineering aims to transcend the genus barrier by introducing an alien gene in the seeds to get the desired effects. The alien gene could be from a plant, an animal or even a soil bacterium.

  • Bt cotton, the only GM crop that is allowed in India, has two alien genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that allows the crop to develop a protein toxic to the common pest pink bollworm.

  • Ht Bt, on the other, cotton is derived with the insertion of an additional gene, from another soil bacterium, which allows the plant to resist the common herbicide glyphosate.

  • In Bt brinjal, a gene allows the plant to resist attacks of fruit and shoot borer. In DMH-11 mustard, genetic modification allows cross-pollination in a crop that self-pollinates in nature.

  • 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 Rs 1 lakh under the Environmental Protection Act , 1989.

  • In the case of cotton, farmers cite the high cost of weeding, which goes down considerably if they grow Ht Bt cotton and use glyphosate against weeds. Brinjal growers in Haryana have rooted for Bt brinjal as it reduces the cost of production by cutting down on the use of pesticides.

  • Environmentalists argue that the long-lasting effect of GM crops is yet to be studied and thus they should not be released commercially. Genetic modification, they say, brings about changes that can be harmful to humans in the long run.

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