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Import of GM soybean

Context:

After facing crushing losses due to the pandemic, the poultry industry is demanding that the Central government permit the import of crushed genetically modified (GM) soy seeds.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Biotechnology), GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The need for importing GM soy seeds
  2. About GM soybean
  3. What are GM Crops?
  4. Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops

The need for importing GM soy seeds

  • With the poultry sector bedevilled by increasing production costs, misinformation on Covid/avian flu and poultry, lockdown restrictions and natural calamities etc., – prices of raw materials like soybean (which constitutes 25% of poultry feed) and maize (which constitutes 60%) is one part of the problem that can be solved by importing.
  • The most important non-fiscal requirement is for the government to allow import of crushed GM soy seeds for captive consumption of poultry farmers. [Captive Consumption means the consumption of goods manufactured by one division of a particular organization (in this case – farmers) and used by the same organization (farmers themselves use goods instead of selling) for manufacturing of another product (here poultry)].
  • Import of crushed GM seed at least for the particular time frame will stabilise raw material market and help deal with the ratcheting prices of soybean.
  • Chicken and eggs are the only cheapest non-vegetarian protein sources available in the market. But, owing to the increased raw material prices, retail chicken prices are rising.

About GM soybean

  • GM soybean is one of the most widely planted genetically modified plants in the world today. The GM soybean, otherwise called as the Roundup Ready (RR) soybean, was developed by the biotech giant Monsanto and made it commercially available to farmers in 1996.
  • It was developed to make the plant survive being sprayed on with the non-selective herbicide, Roundup, which can kill conventional soybean plants.
  • GM Soybean was developed by introducing a copy of a gene from the Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4.
  • Conventional soybean has a similar gene in its DNA but is sensitive to glyphosate, the active ingredient of the herbicide Roundup.
  • With the insertion of the CP4 version of the gene, the GM soybean was able to develop resistance to the Roundup herbicide.

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.

Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops

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 for handling of various aspects of the rules:
    • 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)

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: The Hindu

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September 2022
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