Current Affairs

Demand to import GM soyabean

  • Posted By
  • Categories
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    4th Aug, 2021
  • Context

    The poultry industry is demanding the Government to allow the import of crushed genetically modified soy seeds for captive consumption of poultry farmers.

  • Background

    • In the past one and half years, the poultry industry is facing losses and several challenges on the increased cost of production, a misinformed reality about outbreaks of bird flu, Covid-19 restrictions and natural calamities.
      • A similar situation occurred in 2006 when there was a first outbreak of avian influenza in the country.
    • In addition to this, the prices of soybean, which is used as feed in the poultry industry, has skyrocketed and experts suggest that the import for the particular time frame will stabilise the raw material market.

    The snapshot

    • India allows the import of GM soybean and canola oil.
    • The only crops approved for cultivation are (bt) cotton.
    • In 1994, Calgene’s delayed-ripening tomato (Flavr-Savr™) became the first genetically modified food crop to be produced and consumed in an industrialized country.
  • Analysis

    What is GMO?

    • A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology.
    • This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) defines GMOs as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination.

  • How GM crops are made (the process)?

    • GM crops are made through a process known as genetic engineering.
    • Genes of commercial interest are transferred from one organism to another.
    • Two primary methods currently exist for introducing transgenes into plant genomes.
    • Gene gun: The first involves a device called a ‘gene gun’. The DNA to be introduced into the plant cells is coated onto tiny particles of gold or tungsten. These particles are then physically shot onto plant cells and incorporated into the genomic DNA of the recipient plant.
    • Bacterium: The second method uses a bacterium to introduce the gene(s) of interest into the plant DNA.

    Legal position of GMO

    • In India, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body that allows for commercial release of GM crops.
    • In 2002, the GEAC had allowed the commercial release of Bt cotton.
      • More than 95 per cent of the country’s cotton area has since then come under Bt cotton.
    • Penalty: Use of the unapproved GM variant can attract a jail term of 5 years and fine of Rs 1 lakh under the Environmental Protection Act, 1989.
  • How GMO is different from Biofortification?

    • The main aim in GMO is to introduce new trait to the plant which do not occur naturally in the species.
    • In biofortification crops, the focus is on making plant foods more nutritious as the plants are growing, rather than having nutrients added to the foods when they are being processed.
    • Food fortification is the process whereby nutrients are added to food to maintain or improve the quality of the diet of a group, community, or population. 
    • In 2016, FSSAI operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016 for fortifying staples namely-
      • Wheat Flour and Rice (with Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid)
      • Milk and Edible Oil (with Vitamins A and D)
      • Double Fortified Salt (with Iodine and Iron)
    • The ‘+F’ logo has been notified to identify fortified foods.
    • Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2018 were also notified
  • What are the potential benefits of GMO?

    • Higher crop yields
    • Reduced farm costs
    • Increased farm profit
    • Safer environment
    • More nutritious food 
  • What are the critics against GMOs?

    • Toll on agricultural sector: GMOs have the potential to crumple the agricultural sector of developing countries.
    • Trouble for small farmers: Small scale farmers can suffer with the entry of genetically modified (GM) crops into the market.
    • Costly affair: GM seeds are expensive and unaffordable for small farmers. As a result, there can be increased debt and financial strain on farmers.
    • Legal complications: Moreover, according to them, multinational GM seed companies will have patented GM crops. Patent infringement, by small farmers, is likely as their crops can easily get comingled with patented GM crops.
    • Other issues include-
      • danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutritional factors in foods
      • likelihood of trans genes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives
      • potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops
      • risk of these toxins affecting non-target organisms.
  • Conclusion

    The rise in the soybean prices has already led to the skyrocketing of prices of eggs and chicken products. Thus, only its import for the particular time frame can stabilize the raw material market.