Genetically Modified Trees

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    In News

    • Genetically modified trees have been planted in the United States for the first time in a low-lying tract of southern Georgia’s pine belt.

    About

    • The poplars have been genetically engineered to grow wood faster while absorbing more carbon dioxide from the air.
    • Living Carbon, the San Francisco-based biotechnology company is behind the modified trees, which attempts to help fight climate change.
    • Critics have however expressed concern that opening the door to commercial plantings still requires in-depth research on repercussions and long-term impacts on native ecosystems.
    • At present, the commercial cultivation of GM trees is not allowed in India.

    What are Genetically Modified Trees?

    • Genetically modified trees, also known as GM trees, are trees that have been genetically modified using biotechnology.
    • These are done to enhance their desired traits, such as faster growth, disease resistance, or ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
    • These trees are created by introducing foreign genes into their DNA through techniques like gene editing or gene gun method.

    Importance

    • GM trees have the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change by absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
    • They can also be used for commercial purposes, such as producing timber or pulp more efficiently.

    Challenges

    • The long-term effects of GM trees on the environment and ecosystems are not yet fully understood.
    • There are concerns about the potential risks of cross-pollination with wild or non-GM trees, which could lead to unintended consequences.
    • Critics argue that GM trees could harm biodiversity and increase the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides.
    • Government has strict regulations on GM crops before they can be approved for commercial use which often kills the research incentives for developing new crops.

    Government schemes: Promoting the R&D of genetically modified (GM) crops

    • National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP): This scheme is implemented by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and provides funding for research and development in the field of agriculture, including the development of GM crops.
    • National Food Security Mission (NFSM): It is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and aims to increase food grain production and productivity in India with research on GM crops to achieve the mission’s objectives.
    • Biotechnology Industry Partnership Program (BIPP): It is implemented by the Department of Biotechnology and provides funding for public-private partnerships in the field of biotechnology and GM crops.
    • National Biotechnology Development Strategy (NBDS): This is a long-term strategy implemented by the Department of Biotechnology to promote biotechnology research and development in India.
    • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY): This scheme is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and aims to promote the development of agriculture and allied sectors.

    Government rules on GM in India

    • In India, the use of GM trees is regulated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and the Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export, and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989
    • While the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is responsible for granting approval for the field trials of GM trees in India. 
    • The GEAC considers various factors, such as the potential risks to the environment and human health, before granting approval for field trials. 

    GM crops that are allowed in India:

    • Bt Cotton: It is genetically modified to produce a toxin that kills the bollworm, a common pest that damages cotton crops.
    • Bt Brinjal: It is genetically modified to produce a toxin that kills the fruit and shoots borer, a common pest that damages eggplant crops.
    • Herbicide-tolerant crops: These are genetically modified to tolerate specific herbicides that can be sprayed to kill weeds without harming the crop.
    • GM Mustard: It is genetically modified to produce a hybrid seed that has high yield and is resistant to pests and diseases.

     

     

    Source: TH