Archive for March 3rd, 2010


What is a GM crop?

As the name suggests, a genetically modified crop is produced by bringing about a change in the genetic structure of the plant. Essentially, the term refers to food sourced from plants (or animals) whose DNA has been engineered –artificially altered in a way that does not occur naturally. In conventional hybridisation, two or more varieties of the same crop are cross-bred, through cross-pollination or some other method, to develop a hybrid variety with some desired characteristic.



Where the world stands…


Planting of genetically modified crops fell in Europe in 2009, as countries elsewhere increased adoption, and in the most significant breakthrough China approved biotech food crops for the first time. In November 2009 there was a landmark decision when China issued bio-safety certificates for biotech insect-resistant rice and phytase maize. Germany discontinued its planting. Spain planted 80 per cent of all the Bt maize in the EU in 2009 and maintained its record adoption rate of 22 per cent from the previous year.


What are their advantages? 🙂

Ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is going to be a major challenge in the years to come. GM foods promise to meet this need in a number of ways:

  • Pest resistant: Crop losses from insect pests can be staggering; It is beneficial for the farmers to reduce their cost of production by avoiding using tons of chemical pesticides annually. There are also healt benefits for the consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards.

  • Disease resistance: There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases.

  • Cold tolerance: With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings.

  • Medicinal Use: Another potential use of GM foods is to create plants that are modified to contain vaccines against common diseases as an effective and easy means of immunization against these diseases, especially in third world countries.


Bt Brinjal experience in deep freeze

A US based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation had promoted GM crops in India through Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech. Bt cotton was the first transgenic crop to be released in India in the year 2002. Bt Brinjal is a trans-genic variety developed by inserting a gene (Cry 1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringenisis (Bt) into brinjal. There were many debates taking differing views on the matter. While a section supports it as it gives the plant resistance against insects like brinjal fruit and shoot borer, another section is opposed to it raising concern about the impact of a possible cross-pollination between Bt and ordinary brinjal and the consequences there upon. They also fear about the long-term impact on human health in the absence of long-term trials on the new variety.

The government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) cleared Bt brinjal for commercial release in October last claiming that it would result in lower usage of pesticides and higher yields. Finally, on February 9, 2010 the government of India officially announced that it needs some more time to release Bt brinjal.


Are GM foods safe?

Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that however, the lack of evidence of negative effects does not mean that new genetically modified foods are without risk. GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and have been judged safe to eat, and the methods used to test them have been deemed appropriate.


In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.



The government will continue to monitor the release of genetically modified (GM) crops, at least until 2012, said officials in the science ministry.

Stay Tuned for More updates :)


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