WHY GENETICALLY MODIFIED RICE IS IN THE NEWS?
Recently, Genetically Modified (GM) rice has accelerated upheaval in numerous European Union regions. This matter occurred during a check by the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. European Union law considered growing Genetically Modified crops are dangerous for human health. India exports Generically Modified-free rice worth Rs. 63,000 core annually.
However, India does not authorize commercial cultivation of (GM) Genetically Modified rice, but state agriculture universities and farmers associations are continuously examining variations of such rice in trial plots.
Earlier, it was believed that the (GM) Genetically Modified rice may have trickled from these experiment plots into the exported product or it may have had emerged in Europe to reduce expenses.
But all these claims turned out to be false when the central administration has recognized a Maharashtra’s based exporting firm selling (GM) Genetically Modified rice and was given non-GMO certification by an independent agency.
WHAT ARE (GM) GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS?
A crop that has a gene artificially inserted into it from another species, even unrelated, to give it some desired properties. It does not occur naturally in the species. (GM) Genetically Modified crops are mostly either pest-resistant or herbicide-tolerant.
By the mid-1990’s they were widely grown in the United States, Canada, and Argentina. But the biosafety policies have resisted planting GM in European Union countries, India and Brazil.
ADVANTAGES OF (GM) GENETICALLY
Genetically modified crops constitute more than 10% of the world’s cropland and it has been asserted by scientists that GM crops can solve the world’s hunger problem.
It is anticipated that the scope of GM crops will increase in the coming years especially in developing countries. Even we have seen that in the last few years, the global area of commercially grown, genetically modified (GM) crops has heightened more than 30‐fold to over 52 million hectares.
- GM crops have the potential to eliminate hunger and starvation because GM crops can produce large amounts of food and are more nutritious.
- With the help of GM crops large quantities are produced because they are more resistant to pests attacks and drought.
- GM crops influence the farmer’s income.
- GM crops may have longer shelf lives.
- Improve food supply and carbon footprints (less need for land clearing and pesticides usage).
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH (GM) GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
Still, it is not demonstrated by scientists that GM crops are exclusively prudent for human consumption.
- It is believed that new traits of GM crops could cause adverse health reactions toxicity and allergenicity.
- Patents prohibit agriculturists from affirming GM crops.
- Cross-pollination of GM crops with weeds could arise in superweeds.
- Impacts on biodiversity and the regional environment.
- It results in additional costs in labeling and processing.
Do we have no regulatory body to monitor the GM crops in India?
Yes, we have an apex body to regulate GM crops in India as well as we have international conventions on GM crops. Let’s have a brief look at the apex body.
GENETIC ENGINEERING APPRAISAL COMMITTEE (GEAC)
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee functions under the Ministry of Environmental, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFandCC). GEAC is a statutory body constituted under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Use of the unapproved GM variant can attract a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs.1 lakh under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. GEAC allows for the commercial release of GM crops. TThe GEAC had authorized the commercial release of Bt cotton in 2002.
THE CARTAGENA PROTOCOL ON BIOSAFETY
The Cartagena protocol was adopted in 2000 is a legally binding protocol. As of now, the protocol has 173 parties.
The Cartagena Protocol is a transnational treaty that regulates the transfer, handling, and use of genetically modified organisms. It ensures that the countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of Living Modified Organisms.
Nagoya Protocol was adopted in 2000 in Nagoya, Japan. It entered into force in October 2014. The protocol is a supplementary agreement to the (UN) United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
It ensures the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
India signed the Nagoya Protocol in 2011 ait and ratified it in 2011 at the 11th conference of Parties (COP) to the CBD in Hyderabad.
Consumers have no way of knowing what foods are genetically engineered because the administration does not require labeling of these products.
The government should promote organic farming with environmental impact assessment of the GM crops which should be accomplished by independent environmentalists, as farmers cannot examine the long-term effect of GM crops on ecology and health. GEAC must ascertain that an unapproved mixture of GM seeds is not accessible in markets.