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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 21 October 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Accelerating green innovation through EVs
  2. GM Crops need more research in India

Accelerating Green Innovation Through EVs


Context:

As innovation progresses, electric vehicles (EVs) are not just propelling us forward but also guiding us towards a more environmentally sustainable future. Given the urgent global climate crisis, there is a growing demand for creative solutions to address environmental challenges.

Relevance:

GS3- Environment

Mains Question:

As innovation progresses, electric vehicles (EVs) are not just propelling us into the future but also guiding us towards a more environmentally sustainable path. Comment critically.

India and Electric Vehicles:

Thriving Startup Scene:

  • India’s startup ecosystem has evolved significantly over the past decade, establishing itself as a fertile ground for innovation.
  • Within this ecosystem, the electric vehicle sector has emerged as a dynamic force, harnessing technology and environmentally conscious initiatives to redefine mobility and tackle environmental issues.
  • According to a recent report by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), India’s EV industry could reach an astonishing market value of $206 billion by 2030, with startups playing a crucial role in this growth.

Environmental Imperative:

  • As India strives for sustainable development amid growing pollution and climate change concerns, electric vehicles offer a practical solution to reduce carbon emissions and decrease dependence on fossil fuels.
  • With the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, which aims to achieve 40% of energy generation from renewables by 2030, the role of EV companies becomes pivotal in achieving this objective.
  • By transitioning from traditional internal combustion engines to electric propulsion, India can significantly decrease its carbon footprint and pave the way for a cleaner, greener future.

Job Creation:

  • The surge in EV startups isn’t just an environmental effort; it also has significant economic implications.
  • A report from the World Economic Forum highlights that the electric vehicle value chain could potentially create up to 10 million jobs worldwide by 2030.

Government Initiatives to promote EVs:

The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) program, in conjunction with tax benefits and financial support, is designed to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and the production of these vehicles within the country.

Conclusion:

With strategic government support, robust private sector innovation, and increased public awareness, India’s EV startups can guide the nation towards a sustainable, eco-friendly, and economically prosperous future. India’s efforts to nurture a green startup ecosystem go beyond its borders. The success of its EV startups can serve as a global inspiration, demonstrating how technological innovation can be harnessed to address urgent environmental challenges.


GM Crops Need More Research in India


Context:

The conditional approval of Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11) caused quite a stir in the country. Although the Government of India granted approval last year, the extension of field trials was blocked by the Supreme Court in August this year. The Supreme Court rejected the argument in favor of allowing the cultivation of DMH-11 during the current sowing season, emphasizing the need to assess the ecological and environmental impacts of such crops first.

Relevance:

GS3- Biotechnology

Mains Question:

Critically analyse the advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified (GM) crops. What factors should India take into account before introducing GM food crops within the nation?

About GM crops:

  • Genetically modified (GM) crops are created by modifying the DNA of existing crop plants, either by altering or inserting a gene fragment from another species into the crop’s genome.
  • This results in a genetically modified organism (GMO) with a modified, deleted, or new gene fragment that can either deactivate or introduce a new characteristic or ability not present in the original plant.
  • While the terms GMO and transgenic are often used interchangeably, “transgenic” specifically refers to organisms with a gene fragment from another species in their genome.
  • A GMO encompasses any organism with an altered genome, achieved through gene addition or deletion within its own genome or the introduction of a gene fragment from another species.

Evolution of GM Crops:

  • The Flavr Savr tomato was the first GM food crop approved for commercial planting and consumption in the US. This modified tomato contained an artificial gene designed to slow down the ripening process, extending its shelf life.
  • While the addition of this artificial gene prolonged the firmness of the GM tomatoes and allowed them to be sold at greater distances from their production site, the production of Flavr Savr tomatoes was discontinued in 1997, only three years after approval.
  • Investigations into the failure of the Flavr Savr tomato offer two interesting insights. First, the company behind the product, Calgene, focused more on genetic manipulation and less on the transport and sale of tomatoes.
  • Second, increasing awareness of GMOs led to more discussions regarding public health and safety, as well as the ecological implications of this technology. Many of these concerns, which are still relevant today, remain unanswered.

Risks posed by GM Crops:

Ecological Risks:

Herbicide-tolerant GM crops like DMH-11 are engineered to withstand specific chemical herbicides, which can lead to agro-ecological risks, such as herbicide-resistant weeds or crops becoming weedy and invasive.

Herbicide Tolerance:

Cross-pollination between GM crops and wild varieties can also result in wild varieties acquiring herbicide tolerance with uncertain long-term consequences.

Insect Resistance:

Developing GM crops to resist pests can lead to resistance in target insect populations. Future insect populations may no longer be affected by this genetic modification, and other adverse ecological impacts, such as cross-pollination between GM crops and related plant species, continue to pose risks.

Socio-Economic Impact:

  • One significant social concern with GMOs is that they can transfer control of the food supply from farmers to corporations.
  • Companies producing GMOs can introduce a “terminator gene” into seeds, arguing that this prevents cross-pollination with wild relatives.
  • Plants with a terminator gene are unable to reproduce, which prevents farmers from saving seeds for the next season.

Way Forward:

  • Continuous, long-term studies on the toxicity, allergic responses, and nutritional composition of GM crops before, during, and after their environmental release are needed.
  • Simultaneously, ongoing research into public perceptions of GMOs is necessary to prevent the unnecessary introduction of GM crops into the market.
  • The development and use of potentially risky technologies or products should be driven by genuine need or demand, not just by what can be achieved in the laboratory.

Conclusion:

Addressing issues related to private sector monopoly over GM seeds, the decline of traditional seed varieties, and the loss of seed preservation methods requires interdisciplinary collaboration across fields like agronomy, agro-ecology, bioethics, sociology, economics, law, and public policy. Scientific investigations in this direction must continue, but the environmental and commercial release of GM crops must undergo the most rigorous scrutiny.


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