GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using techniques of genetic generally known as recombinant DNA technology.
Recombinant DNA technology is the ability to combine DNA molecules from different sources into the one molecule in a test tube. Thus, the abilities of the phenotype of the organism , or the proteins it producers, can be altered through the modification of its genes.
Currently, only GM crop permitted for cultivation in India is Bt Cotton. But several cases of cultivation of illegal GM crops(Brinjal, Soyabean etc) have been reported from across states in the last few months.
There is a well established regulatory framework for approval of GM Crops as per “Rules for the Manufacture/Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The term generally does not cover organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered by conventional cross breeding or by ‘mutagenesis’ breeding as, these methods predate the discovery of the recombinant DNA technique. Technically speaking , however, such techniques are, by definition, genetic modification.
Countries in Asia, Africa and elsewhere are grappling with how to continue feeding a growing population. They are also trying to benefit more from their existing resources. Biotechnology holds the key to increasing the yield of staple crops by allowing farmers to reap bigger harvests from currently cultivated land, while preserving the land’s ability to support continued farming.
Genetically Modified Organisms -(GM) Food(Benefits )
- 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
- Increase resistance, productivity, hardiness, 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
- More efficient processing
- Increased food security for growing population.
- Potential to refine the lives of millions in the developing regions
Concerns Related to GMO’S:
- Potential Human Health Impact: allergens, transfer of antibiotics resistance markers, unknown effects Potential environment impact: unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauns biodiversity.
Access and Intellectual Property
- Domination of world food production by a few companies.
- Increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries
- Biopiracy and foreign exploitation of natural resources.
- Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values.
- Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species.
- Objections to consuming animal genes in plants and vice versa.
- Stress for animal.
- Not mandatory in some countries (e.g., the United States)
- Mixing GM crops with non-Gm confounds labelling attempts
- New advances may be skewed to interests of rich countries.
Challenges facing Genetically Modified Food
- Genetically engineered crops and foods are controversial. Debate commonly focuses on the long-term health effects for those who consume GM foods, environmental safety, labelling and consumer choice, intellectual property rights, ethics, food security, poverty, reduction, environmental conservation and potential disruptions or even possible destruction of food chain. Proponents claims the technology to be a boon for the human race, while critics believe it to be a potential or actual health or ecological disaster.
- Bacillus thruringiensis (BT) is a spare farming (flash animation) bacterium that produces crystals protein (cry proteins) which are toxic to many species of insects.
- Giving into intense opposition from NGOs and several states, the government in February 2010, put on hold commercial cultivation of G.M Brinjal citing lack of clear consensus within the scientific community.
About Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
- GEAC established under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the apex body for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- The GEAC is also responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.