- A broad alliance of farmers, scientists and civil society – ‘Sarson Satyagraha’ – have urged the Centre not to go ahead with any open release and commercialisation of GM crops, especially mustard.
- They have pointed that productivity is not an issue at all, if farmer-friendly policies are put in place by the government.
- The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) was appointed by the Supreme Court on open air release of genetically modified organisms including field trials and cultivation. It had submitted two reports that highlighted certain regulatory gaps and suggestions for improving the bio-safety regulation in India.
- The Centre has not accepted the moratorium recommendations on the grounds that current regulations and protocols followed in biosafety assessment are as per international best practises and also that field trials are an integral part of biosafety assessment and trials are necessary to generate biosafety data.
- Further, the government has also said that any ban on GM crop field trials would stop all research activities in the country which may have long term implications on food security issues.
- A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology. For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination.
Why are GM foods produced
- GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both.
- One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.
How is a safety assessment of GM food conducted
- The safety assessment of GM foods generally focuses on: (a) direct health effects (toxicity), (b) potential to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity); (c) specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties; (d) the stability of the inserted gene; (e) nutritional effects associated with genetic modification; and (f) any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion.
Issues of concern for the environment
- Issues of concern include: the capability of the GMO to escape and potentially introduce the engineered genes into wild populations; the persistence of the gene after the GMO has been harvested; the susceptibility of non-target organisms (e.g. insects which are not pests) to the gene product; the stability of the gene; the reduction in the spectrum of other plants including loss of biodiversity; and increased use of chemicals in agriculture. The environmental safety aspects of GM crops vary considerably according to local conditions.