In News: Illegal variety occupies about a fifth of GM cotton seed market
- A flourishing illegal trade in a new unapproved herbicide-tolerant variety has come to occupy nearly a fifth of the genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds market in India.
- Farmers’ organizations say since the unapproved seeds help them in weed management and cut costs, they would continue to use it.
- The illegal seed manufacturers claim the presence of herbicide trait (HTBt) in the seeds they sell are capable of controlling pink bollworm.
- Bayer-Mahyco has submitted the application for the approval for HTBt cotton last year, the regulator (GEAC) is yet to take a call.
- Since its introduction two decades ago, Bt cotton has led to a dramatic rise in India’s cotton yield and thereby, production but over the last two-three years, the yield has come down marginally.
- Since the introduction of Bollgard-I, which was the country’s first GM crop approved for commercialisation in 2002, followed by Bollgard II, a pest-resistant variety which protects the crop from bollworm, in 2006, the GEAC has not approved any new varieties.
- HTBt plants allow farmers to spray herbicides to get rid of weeds without harming the plants
- Cotton production in the 2021-22 crop years (July-June) declined 5% to 34 million bales (MB) from its peak of 35.9 MB in 2013-14.
What should be done?
- Since the illegal seeds contain unknown and unapproved traits, these could contaminate regular seeds, thereby putting legitimate seed growers at risk
- The government should facilitate faster approval of newly-developed seeds so that farmers get access to quality seeds and thereby, reduce the labour cost
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee
- GEAC is India’s top biotech regulatory agency and a statutory organization under the Environment Protection Act, 1986
- It functions under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
- It is responsible for appraisal of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
- The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
- GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF & CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
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: Financial Express