Poultry industry seeks extension of loans, import of GM soybean

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: The recent demand from the poultry industry to permit the import of crushed genetically modified (GM) soy seeds again stirred the issue of GM crops in India.

What is the News?

The poultry industry is demanding that the Central government to permit the import of crushed genetically modified (GM) soy seeds for captive consumption of farmers.

Note: The import of GM soya bean seeds has not been approved in India.

The main fear is that import of GM soya bean will affect the Indian soya bean industry by contaminating non-GM varieties.

What is a GM Crop?

  • Genetically Modified(GM) Crop involves the editing of genes of a crop in such a way that it incorporates beneficial traits from another crop or organism.
  • This could mean changing the way the plant grows, or making it resistant to a particular disease.
Read more: What are GM Crops?
GM Crops in India:
  • Bt cotton is the only GM crop that is allowed in India. It 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 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, developed by Deepak Pental and colleagues in the South Campus of the University of Delhi, genetic modification allows cross-pollination in a crop that self-pollinates in nature.
Legal Position on GM Crops in India:
  • In India, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body that allows for the commercial release of GM crops.
  • Use of the unapproved GM variant can attract a jail term of 5 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh under the Environmental Protection Act, 1989.
Read more: GM Crops in India: Issues and Challenges

Benefits of GM Crop:

  • Genetic engineering can improve crop protection. Crops with better resistance to pests and diseases can be created.
  • Farmers can achieve high yield and thereby get more income.
  • Nutritional content can be improved.
  • Shelf life of foods can be extended.
  • Food with better taste and texture can be achieved.
  • Crops can be engineered to withstand extreme weather.
Reasons for Opposition to GM Crops:
  • Some GM crops have been engineered to create their own toxins against pests. This may harm non-targets such as farm animals that ingest them.
  • GM crops are modified to include antibiotics to kill germs and pests. And when people eat them, these antibiotic markers will persist in human body and will render actual antibiotic medications less effective over a period of time, leading to superbug threats.
  • Concerns about multinational agribusiness companies taking over farming from the hands of small farmers. Farmers are also reluctant because they will have limited rights to retain and reuse seeds.
  • People in general are wary of GM crops as they are engineered in a lab and do not occur in Nature.
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