PMF IAS Test Series for UPSC Prelims Banner Ad
PMF IAS Test Series for UPSC Prelims Banner Ad

Genetically Modified Crops (GM Crops): Benefits & Controversies

Subscribe to Never Miss an Important Update! Assured Discounts on New Products!

Must Join Our Telegram Channel

Must Have Books For UPSC CSE

Genetically Modified Organism (Transgenic Organism)

  • In GMO, genetic material (DNA) is altered or artificially introduced using genetic engineering techniques.
  • Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes.
  • Inserted genes usually come from a different organism (e.g. In Bt cotton, Bt genes from bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis are induced).
  • Genetic modification is done to induce a desirable new trait which does not occur naturally in the species.
GM techniques are used in:
  • Biological and medical research,
  • Production of pharmaceutical drugs,
  • Experimental medicine (e.g. gene therapy),
  • Agriculture (e.g. golden rice, Bt cotton etc.),
  • Genetically modified bacteria to produce the protein insulin,
  • To produce biofuels from some GM bacteria, etc.

Genetically modified crops (GM Crops or Biotech Crops)

  • They are the plants used in agriculture, whose DNA has been modified to induce a desired new trait.
  • A New trait might help in
  • Controlling certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions,
  • reduction of spoilage,
  • inducing resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to an herbicide),
  • improving the nutrient profile of the crop,
  • atmospheric nitrogen fixation by cereal crops,
  • inducing tolerance to high salt soils and to flooding in crops,
  • inducing drought resistance in crops,
  • prolonging shelf life and commercial value of fruits and vegetables.

Biotechnology – Genetically Modified Crops

Major GM Crops

Bt Cotton

  • Bt cotton is insect-resistant cotton variety.
  • Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce different Bt toxins.
  • Bt toxins are insecticidal to the larvae of moths, bollworms, etc. but are harmless to other forms of life.
  • In 2002, a joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced Bt cotton to India.
  • Increases yield of cotton due to effective control of three types of bollworms.
  • Reduction in insecticide use in the cultivation of Bt cotton in which bollworms are major pests.
  • Potential reduction in the cost of cultivation (depending on seed cost versus insecticide costs).
Problems with Bt Cotton
  • High cost of Bt cotton seeds as compared to non Bt cotton seeds.
  • Ineffective against sucking pests like whitefly.
  • Whitefly attack has become rampant in Punjab, Haryana and elsewhere.
  • The costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rain-fed settings.

Bt Brinjal

  • Brinjal is India’s second most consumed vegetable after potatoes.
  • Bt brinjal is created by inserting a crystal protein gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • The Bt brinjal has been developed to give resistance to the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB).
  • Mahyco has developed the Bt brinjal variety.
  • Insecticide requirement for Bt brinjal is far less than its non-Bt counterpart for the control of FSB.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared Bt brinjal for commercialization in 2009.
  • Following concerns raised by some scientists and anti-GMO activists, the GOI has imposed a moratorium on its commercial use (not a permanent ban).
  • Mahyco’s Bt brinjal is commercially grown in Bangladesh.

Golden rice

  • Golden rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.
  • It is mostly consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.

Benefits of GMO

  • Enhanced taste and quality.
  • Reduced maturation time.
  • Increased nutrients, yields, and stress tolerance.
  • Improved resistance to disease, pests, and herbicides.
  • New products and growing techniques.
  • Increased resistance, productivity, hardness, and feed efficiency.
  • Better yields of meat, eggs, and milk.
  • Improved animal health and diagnostic methods.
  • “Friendly” bioherbicides and bioinsecticides.
  • Conservation of soil, water and energy.
  • Bioprocessing for forestry products.
  • Better natural waste management.
  • Increased food security for growing population.

Issues Surrounding GMO

Genetically Modified Crops

  • The adverse impacts of genetically modified food are not evident immediately.
  • Potential human health impact: allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unknown effects.
  • Potential environmental impact: unintended transfer of transgenes through crosspollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes) and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity.
  • Criticism against Anti-GM lobby: Instead of evaluating the risks, costs and benefits of hybrids on a case-by-case basis, they propose a blanket ban on genetic modification.
Access and intellectual property
  • Domination of world food production by a few companies.
  • Increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries.
  • Biopiracy — foreign exploitation of natural resources.
  • Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values.
  • Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species.
  • Objections to transferring animal genes in plants and vice versa.
  • Not mandatory in some countries (e.g. United States).
  • Mixing GM crops with non-GM confounds labelling attempts.
  • The objectivity and authenticity of scientific research and publication.
  • The ineffectiveness of BT cotton against whitefly attack in Punjab and Haryana has raised more questions.
Issues with banning GM crops
  • The ban on GM crops is also promoting an illegal market to flourish in India.
  • Bangladesh is reaping the benefits of Bt Brinjal while its cultivation is banned in India.
GMO have already entered the food chain
  • Cotton seed oil extracted from Bt cotton plants is being consumed in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  • Soybean oil is extracted from imported seeds, which are produced from GM crops abroad.
Illegal cultivation (Farmer’s rights vs. Government Regulation)
  • A farmers’ group in Maharashtra, marked its protest against the government ban on genetically modified (GM) crops by planting Bt brinjal and HT cotton.
  • There is a grave danger of illegal genetically modified brinjal cultivation proliferating.
Sharing is Caring !!

Newsletter Updates

Subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an important update!

Assured Discounts on our New Products!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Never miss an important update!