[Answered] Examine the significance of genetic engineering for agriculture.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Write some the significance of genetic engineering for agriculture. Also write some associated concerns.Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Genetic Engineering is the process of modifying an organism through the artificial manipulation, reconfiguration, and replication of DNA or other molecules such as nucleic acids. India has approved commercial cultivation of only one GM crop– Bt cotton. Recently, the government cleared the GM Mustard Hybrid DMH 11 for commercial cultivation. It is a bid to pave the way for the introduction of gene-altered food crops, which can revolutionise Indian agriculture.

Significance of genetic engineering for agriculture:

  • Altering growth in Plants: genetic engineering modifies the genes of plants in such a way that the plant can grow faster and, allowing the plant to survive and produce more crop yield.
  • Pest Resistance: It can be used to change the genes of plants to make them more resistant to pesticides. E.g. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops contain bacterium crystal toxins that make them more resistant to other insects.
  • Crop Improvement: It can be used to increase crop yields, lower food costs, improve food quality, food security, and medicinal value. For example, Golden Rice.
  • Herbicide Resistance: The use of herbicide resistant plants provides additional benefits to framers by reducing and simplifying the use of herbicides.
    In today’s world, genetic engineering is also assisting scientists in the transfer of resistance to non-herbicide plants.
  • Frost Resistance: using genetic engineering, the seed plant can withstand negative temperatures, giving the plant the ability to withstand even harsh climatic conditions.

Concerns:

  • Impact on Health: Effects of GM crops on human health can be unpredictable. They might have a tendency to provoke any allergic reaction.
  • Environmental Concern: They can reduce species diversity. E.g. Insect-resistant plants might harm insects that are not their intended target. GM technology could also allow the transfer of herbicide tolerant genes from GM crop to weeds, creating “superweeds”, which will be immune to common control methods.
  • Economic Concerns: Introduction of a GM crop to market is a lengthy and costly process. Patenting these seeds increases the price of seeds and small farmers especially in developing countries cannot afford to buy GM seeds every year.

By resisting genetic engineering technologies, India risks falling behind the rest of the world. Transparent, science-based, and efficient biosafety laws and regulations can help India to encourage the industry to invest in development in plant varieties that are able to resist pest attacks and diseases.

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