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Genetically Modified (GM) Crops

Focus: GS-3 Science and Technology

Why in News?

Clearance of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is mandatory for the environmental release of Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

Key Points:
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the statutory committee constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • As per the ‘’Rules 1989’’, State/UT Biotechnology Coordination Committees and District Level Committees are responsible for monitoring instances of illegal cultivation of GM crops and taking appropriate action under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The Chief Secretary of State/UT is the Chairperson for the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC). Any complaints that come to the notice of GEAC secretariat are sent to the Chief Secretary.
  • For the consideration of any application related to confined field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops by GEAC, NOC from the State/UT Government is required

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:
  • 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.,
  • The Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
  • Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
  • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
  • State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
  • District Level Committee (DLC)

for handling of various aspects of the rules.

December 2023