Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3
Science and Technology? developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology
Continuous improvement in technology is a vital need for today’s field of operations in any sector. But technology should meet ground realities of safety and security norms globally prescribed. GM foods need more transparency and scientifically sound decision making.
Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism.
Currently available GM foods stem mostly from plants, but in the future foods derived from GM microorganisms or GM animals are likely to be introduced on the market.
Most existing genetically modified crops have been developed to improve yield, through the introduction of resistance to plant diseases or of increased tolerance of herbicides.
In the future, genetic modification could be aimed at altering the nutrient content of food, reducing its allergenic potential, or improving the efficiency of food production systems.
All GM foods should be assessed before being allowed on the market. FAO/WHO Codex guidelines exist for risk analysis of GM food.
With the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, an Environment Ministry body that evaluates genetically modified crops, approving transgenic mustard for environmental release, a key hurdle remains before farmers can cultivate it.
Environment Minister has to approve it, under a procedure set down by the UPA government.
In 2009 the GEAC approved Bt brinjal, developed by Mahyco and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, for commercial release.
As Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh then overruled the GEAC clearance in 2010 and changed its status from an approval committee to an ‘appraisal’ committee.
The issue before the environment minister now is this: go by the expert findings of the GEAC and decide the issue on scientific merits, or opt for a replay of the Bt brinjal case.
Broadly, the then government’s exceptionalism on Bt brinjal was framed along these lines:
it was an edible substance unlike Bt cotton;
long-term studies may be required to check its safety and environmental impact;
it involved technology developed by the multinational Monsanto (which had an indirect stake in Mahyco).
On the other hand, GM mustard (DMH-11) was developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University led by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental under a government-funded project.
Conclusion:In essence, it uses three genes from soil bacterium that makes self-pollinating plants such as mustard amenable to hybridisation.
This means local crop developers have the equivalent of a platform technology to more easily develop versions of mustard with custom traits such as higher oil content and pest resistance.
It has also gone through safety and toxicity tests (on mice) prescribed by the regulator, but this is unlikely to convince opponents of GM technology.
Many of them are opposed to the commercial release of any form of transgenic plants; they fear that introducing genes from soil bacterium or other forms of animal life into plants will amount to playing with the natural order of plant life.
Proponents of GM crops say plants and animals are constantly swapping bacterial genes with air, soil and water, and also that the only way of determining if a gene can produce proteins toxic to humans is to subject it to a systematic testing process.
Years of field tests on transgenic corn, soyabean and brinjal in other countries have shown no health risks that vary with their non-GM versions.
The concern that DMH-11 employs a gene that will compel farmers to use specific herbicides and be dependent on one or two companies deserves serious attention.
However, these are matters for the government, regulators, labour markets and the courts to decide.
Farmers need technology, new knowledge and governmental support to get the best out of their seeds. Without a clear legislation like National Biotechnology Regulatory Bill, 2008 that would enable a biotechnology regulator to take shape, issues to be decided on the basis of science will be at the mercy of political masters.
Connecting the dots:
Elaborate on the boon and bane of GM food technology for India today.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
India and its neighborhood? relations
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Important International institutions, agencies and fora their structure, mandate
China – Belt and Road Initiative
Rise of China is phenomenon of the 21st century dubbed as Asia’s century. Belt and Road Initiative is a bold and global initiative with far reaching implications. India has taken careful view in being part of the same and hence has held back.
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
The Belt and Road initiative provides a visionary blueprint for global economic development in the new world order.
Taking reference from the historic Silk Road, which transformed the nature of international trade links in ancient times, the Belt and Road Initiative offers a modern-day solution that fosters inclusive growth and development in the 21st century.
The Belt and Road refers to the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the seagoing “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”.
The routes cover more than 60 countries and regions from Asia to Europe via Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the Middle East, currently accounting for some 30 per cent of global GDP and more than 35 per cent of the world’s merchandise trade.
By 2050, the Belt and Road region aims to contribute 80 per cent of global GDP growth, and advance three billion more people into the middle class.
The BRI may have been launched as a 21st century Chinese iteration of the ancient Silk Road on which Marco Polo travelled, but under Xi’s mentorship, its ambition has grown to rival that of Han or Tang dynasty emperors.
With an exclusive $40 billion budget, allocated after $100 billion was already promised by the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, 50 Chinese state-owned corporations have been involved in building 1,700 projects — ports, roads, railway lines and industrial parks — along the BRI route.
One major artery unfurls across the heart of Central Asia and, cutting through Pakistan, will join up with the Maritime Silk Route on the Indian Ocean and into Africa;
Another route will traverse the Mediterranean and end up in Europe. Annual trade is expected to cross $2.5 trillion and enrich more than a billion people. The scale of the project is staggering.
India is apprehensive about the challenge — the fact that one element of the BRI, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, has certainly served to refocus Delhi’s mind not only on the sovereignty question but also on the differential in power with the dragon next door.
Certainly, the Chinese economy is five times the size of India, which makes the act of cutting a cheque much easier; especially in the poor economies in India’s neighbourhood, the yuan goes a long way.
The question is about how India wants to deal with its “bitter neighbour in the north,” as erstwhile National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra described China after India’s 1998 nuclear tests.
Confucius and Xi – a comparison:
Confucius, the Chinese thinker, philosopher and strategist, lived about 2,500 years ago, but President Xi Jinping, like the rest of his countrymen and women, seems deeply influenced by him.
So when representatives of the unrepentant West, like journalists and diplomats, questioned the motives behind Xi’s mega economic project called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s official news agency, Xinhua, quoted Confucius: He who wants success should enable others to succeed.
The fact that Xinhua is quoting an ancient thinker is emblematic of how far the Chinese Communist Party has come in its pursuit of influence worldwide.
If India wants to learn out of Confucius’ philosophy and attempt a reset, some of the mutual antagonism could be contained.
After all, he who wants success should enable others to succeed
It is a reality that good neighbours with peaceful borders are critical for core development of a nation especially in a neighborhood India survives in. Hence while sovereignty should be at the core of the strategy India should also be realistic and grounded to geopolitical interests.
Connecting the dots:
Critically analyse the significance of Belt and Road Initiative. Analyse India’s response in regard to the same.