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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 29 August 2020


  1. Kerala barn owls in Lakshadweep Islands
  2. Bt brinjal variety Approval slammed
  3. HC: Why permit Ethephon usage?
  4. Police, Central cadre under J&K Lieutenant Governor


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The barn owls shipped to the Lakshadweep Islands from Kerala in 2019 have proven to be such skilful slayers of pesky rats which have been ravaging the coconut plantations in the Union Territory.


  • The Lakshadweep Administration had embarked on the ‘Pilot project on Biological Control of Rodents (Rats) by Using Barn Owls (Tyto alba) in Kavaratti Island’ after studies revealed the shocking extent of damage caused by rats to the island’s coconut yield and economy.
  • The administration is hoping that Kerala can provide more owls, and it also plans to extend the project to other islands in the archipelago.
  • The islands have no other natural predators of rodents.
  • Using chemical agents to control rats is impossible since Lakshadweep practices organic agriculture.
  • Moreover, coconut trees on the islands are so closely planted that their fronds overlap, allowing rats to practically live atop the trees, which is the primary reason why the administration hit upon the idea of barn owls.

Biological pest control

  • Biological control or biocontrol is a method of controlling pests such as insects, mites, weeds and plant diseases using other organisms.
  • It relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms, but typically also involves an active human management role.

There are three basic strategies for biological pest control:

  1. Classical (importation), where a natural enemy of a pest is introduced in the hope of achieving control;
  2. Inductive (augmentation), in which a large population of natural enemies are administered for quick pest control;
  3. Inoculative (conservation), in which measures are taken to maintain natural enemies through regular reestablishment.

Natural enemies of insect pests, also known as biological control agents, include predators, parasitoids, pathogens, and competitors.

  • Biological control agents of plant diseases are most often referred to as antagonists.
  • Biological control agents of weeds include seed predators, herbivores and plant pathogens.
  • Biological control can have side-effects on biodiversity through attacks on non-target species by any of the same mechanisms, especially when a species is introduced without thorough understanding of the possible consequences.

Biological control agents

  1. Predators: Predators are mainly free-living species that directly consume a large number of prey during their whole lifetime. Given that many major crop pests are insects, many of the predators used in biological control are insectivorous species.
  2. Parasitoids: Parasitoids lay their eggs on or in the body of an insect host, which is then used as a food for developing larvae. The host is ultimately killed. Most insect parasitoids are wasps or flies, and many have a very narrow host range.
  3. Pathogens: Pathogenic micro-organisms include bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They kill or debilitate their host and are relatively host-specific.
  4. Competitors: The species used as the competitor suppresses the targeted pest species population by out-competing them.
  5. Combined use of parasitoids and pathogens: In cases of massive and severe infection of invasive pests, techniques of pest control are often used in combination.
Which of the following microbes can be used as an insecticide

1. Bacteria
2. Fungi 
3. Virus   

Select the correct answer using the code given below.  

A. 1 only
B. 1 and 3 only
C. 1, 2 and 3
D. 3 only  

Ans. C  
All of the above can be used in as an insecticide.  

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Experts have slammed a recent move of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) — a government-appointed committee responsible for appraisal of proposals of genetically engineered organisms — giving its greenlight for biosafety research-level-II (BRL-II) field trials for a new variety of genetically modified brinjal (Bt brinjal).

The experts have alleged regulatory lapses over giving such an approval.

Bt Brinjal

  • The genetically modified brinjal is a suite of transgenic brinjals created by inserting a crystal protein gene (Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the genome of various brinjal cultivars.
  • The Bt brinjal has been developed to give resistance against lepidopteron insects.
  • An Indian seed company based in Jalna, Maharashtra, has developed the Bt brinjal.

What are GM Crops?

  • Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. More than 10% of the world’s crop lands are planted with GM crops.
  • In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species like resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, herbicides etc.
  • Genetic Modification is also done to increase nutritional value, bioremediation and for other purposes like production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels etc.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • The top biotech regulator in India is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The committee functions as a statutory body under the Environment Protection Act 1986 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
  • GEAC is responsible for granting permits to conduct experimental and large-scale open field trials and also grant approval for commercial release of biotech crops.

The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities i.e.,

  1. The Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
  2. Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
  3. Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
  4. State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
  5. District Level Committee (DLC)

for handling of various aspects of the rules.

Cartagena Protocol

  • The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement on biosafety as a supplement to the Convention on Biological Diversity effective since 2003.
  • The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

-Source: Down to Earth


Focus: Prelims, GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Telangana High Court asked the Central government to explain how it had allowed usage of Ethephon, which has traces of insecticide and other chemicals, for artificial ripening of fruits.


  • Hearing a batch of PIL pleas and writ petitions on usage of chemicals for ripening fruits, the HC said long term usage of Ethephon was likely to cause cancer in human beings.
  • In 2015, the then Hyderabad High Court for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State suo motu took up newspaper reports on usage of calcium carbide for artificial ripening of mangoes and other fruits as a PIL petition.
  • Meanwhile, the traders contended that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India permitted sale of Ethephon.


  • Ethephon is a plant growth regulator.
  • In the recent years, ethephon, 2-chloroethylphosphonic acid, is the most widely used plant growth regulator as it promotes fruit coloration, leaf, flower, or fruit abscission, fruit ripening, fruit yield, germination, and flower induction.
  • The color of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits often remains green when they are ripe, but consumers do not buy them because of their external green appearance. The application of ethylene to these green citrus fruit results in the development of desirable citrus color.
  • Ethephon is also widely being used throughout the world as an insecticide.
  • It is an organophosphorus compound, and in experimental animals, it has been reported to get rapidly absorbed in the gut.
  • Scientists have reported that regular consumption of artificial-ripened fruits may cause dizziness, weakness, skin ulcer, and heart- and liver-related diseases.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notified new rules for administration in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that specify the functions of the Lieutenant Governor (LG) and the Council of Ministers.


  • According to the transaction of business rules, “police, public order, All India Services and anti-corruption,” will fall under the executive functions of the LG, implying that the Chief Minister or the Council of Ministers will have no say in their functioning.
  • The rules notified by Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla say that proposals or matters which affect or are likely to affect the peace and tranquility of the UT or the interest of any minority community, the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Classes “shall essentially be submitted to the Lieutenant Governor through the Chief Secretary, under intimation to the Chief Minister, before issuing any orders.”
  • The Council of Ministers, led by the Chief Minister will decide service matters of non-All India Services officers, proposal to impose new tax, land revenue, sale grant or lease of government property, reconstituting departments or offices and draft legislations.

Difference of opinion

  • However, in case of difference of opinion between the LG and a Minister when no agreement could be reached even after a month, the “decision of the Lieutenant Governor shall be deemed to have been accepted by the Council of Ministers,” the rules note.
  • As per the rules, there will be 39 departments in the UT such as school education, agriculture,higher education, horticulture, election, general administration, home, mining, power, Public Works Department, tribal affairs and transport.
  • The rules say all communications received from the Centre, including those from the Prime Minister and other Ministers, other than those of a routine or unimportant character, shall, as soon as possible after their receipt, be submitted by the secretary to the Chief Secretary, the Minister in charge, the Chief Minister and the LG for information.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024