Environment & Ecology
In News: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has issued guidelines easing norms for research into genetically modified (GM) crops and circumventing challenges of using foreign genes to change crops profile.
Guidelines for Safety Assessment of Genome Edited Plants, 2022
- It exempts researchers who use gene-editing technology to modify the genome of the plant from seeking approvals from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
- The final call however is taken by the Environment Minister as well as States where such plants could be cultivated.
- The DBT said guidelines is a road map for the development and sustainable use of genome editing technologies in India, specifying the biosafety and/or environmental safety concerns, and describing the regulatory pathways to be adopted while undertaking the genome editing of plants.
- The guidelines say that all requirements that researchers must adhere to develop transgenic seeds will apply to gene-edited seeds except clauses that require permission from the GEAC.
- Environmentalist groups have opposed this exception for gene-edited crops arguing that gene editing is included in genetic engineering. Therefore, there is no question of giving exemptions to particular kinds of genome edited plants from the regulatory purview
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
- The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a statutory body constituted under the ‘Rules for the Manufacture, Use /Import /Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineering Organisms or Cells, 1989’ notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- It functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.
- The body regulates the use, manufacture, storage, import and export of hazardous microorganisms or genetically-engineered organisms and cells in India.
- It is responsible for the appraisal of activities that involve the large scale use of hazardous microbes and recombinants in research and industrial production from the point of view of the environment.
- The GEAC also assesses proposals regarding the release of genetically engineered products and organisms into the environment, and this includes experimental field trials as well.
- The body also looks into proposals regarding the use of living modified organism that comes in the risk category III and above in the import/manufacture of recombinant pharma products, or where the end-product of the recombinant pharma product is a modified living organism.
- The Committee has the power to take punitive action against people/body under the Environment (Protection) Act.
- The approval of the GEAC is mandatory before genetically modified organisms and products derived from them can be used commercially.
- The Committee is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, GOI. A representative of the Department of Biotechnology is a co-chair
- There are many other members who meet every month to review the applications in the Committee’s domain. The members include experts from other ministries as well as institutions such as the ICAR, ICMR, CCMB, etc.
Previous Year Questions (PYQs)
Q.1) The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is constituted under the (2015)
- Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
- Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999
- Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
Source: The Hindu
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