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India’s Bioeconomy Ambition and Biotechnology Funding Challenges


India targets a rise in the Bioeconomy’s GDP contribution from 2.6% to 5% by 2030, according to the ‘Bioeconomy Report 2022’ by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). However, biotechnology funding remains at 0.0001% of the GDP, with limited recovery post-Covid-19. The ‘Guidelines for Genetically Engineered Insects’ issued in April 2023 offer procedural roadmaps but face challenges.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Bioeconomy
  2. Key Highlights of the Bioeconomy Report 2022
  3. What are Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects?


  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines bioeconomy as the utilization of biological resources, knowledge, science, technology, and innovation to provide sustainable economic solutions.
  • Coined in the early 21st century, the term gained prominence through adoption by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • The EU and OECD have since implemented dedicated policies to promote biotechnology for the development of new products and markets within the bioeconomy framework.

Key Highlights of the Bioeconomy Report 2022

  • India’s bioeconomy is thriving, with a projected growth to USD 150 billion by 2025 and an ambitious target to surpass USD 300 billion by 2030.
  • The sector witnessed a substantial 14.1% increase, reaching USD 80 billion in 2021, up from USD 70.2 billion in 2020.
  • Daily, the bioeconomy contributes USD 219 million, showcasing its substantial economic impact on a regular basis.
  • In 2021, the sector saw the inception of three biotech startups per day, totaling 1,128 for the year.
  • With an investment exceeding USD 1 billion in research and development, the industry emphasizes a commitment to innovation.
  • Despite the global pandemic, India demonstrated resilience by administering 4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses daily and conducting 3 million tests.
  • Over the last decade, the number of biotech startups surged from 50 to over 5,300, with expectations of doubling by 2025.
  • The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) played a crucial role, establishing 74 bio-incubation centers across 21 states/UTs to nurture bio-entrepreneurs.
  • India holds the distinction of having the second-highest number of USFDA-approved manufacturing plants outside the US, affirming its global prominence in the biotech industry.

What are Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects?

  • GE insects are organisms whose genetic material undergoes alteration through genetic engineering techniques to introduce specific desired traits or characteristics.
  • This manipulation of the insect’s DNA is not naturally occurring and is done with the goal of conferring particular benefits or addressing specific issues.

The development and release of GE insects find applications in various fields, including:

  • Vector Management: Targeting human and livestock health by managing disease-carrying organisms.
  • Crop Insect Pest Management: Controlling major insect pests that affect crops.
  • Environmental Health: Contributing to human health and environmental well-being by reducing the need for chemical interventions.
  • Protein Production: Generating proteins for healthcare purposes.
  • Genetic Improvement: Enhancing beneficial insects like predators, parasitoids, pollinators (e.g., honey bees), or productive insects (e.g., silkworms, lac insects).

Challenges Related to Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects:

Ecological Impact:

  • Releasing genetically modified insects into the environment poses a potential risk of disrupting ecosystems, affecting non-target species, and altering population balances.

Unintended Consequences:

  • Genetic engineering is complex, and unintended consequences can arise, impacting the insect’s behavior, lifespan, or interactions with other organisms.

Gene Spread:

  • There’s a risk of modified genes spreading beyond the intended population, entering the wild gene pool through breeding with wild populations.

Ethical Concerns:

  • Morality concerns are raised about altering the genetics of living organisms, especially when released into the environment.

Regulatory Frameworks:

  • Developing regulatory frameworks for genetically engineered insects is challenging, requiring appropriate levels of testing, monitoring, and oversight.

Trait Stability:

  • Ensuring the stability of engineered traits over generations is crucial to maintaining effectiveness and preventing degradation or natural selection pressures.

Cost and Scalability:

  • Developing and implementing genetically engineered insect technologies can be expensive, requiring ongoing efforts for cost-effectiveness and scalability in large-scale applications like disease vector control.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024