Genetically modified crops

Genetically Modified Crops

(Contributed by Rashid)

  • Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques.
  • Main aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species like resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, herbicides etc.
  • Genetic Modification is also done to increase nutritional value, bioremediation and for other purposes like production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels etc.
  • More than 10% of the world’s crop lands is planted with GM crops.

Prelims tid bit

  • Genetic modification is associated with altering the DNA of the crops, and food fortification is a food processing technique. Both may add to the nutritional value of the food
  • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee gives  approval to the genetic modification for field trials and human usage

Why in news

  • The genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC), India’s biotechnology regulator has approved the environmental release and cultivation by farmers of DMH-11.
  • It is a genetically modified (GM) hybrid mustard developed by scientists at Delhi University.


  • Better Pest and Disease Resistance.
  • Greater tolerance of stress, such as drought, low temperatures or salt in the soil.
  • High yield and faster growth, they can be cultivated and harvested in areas with shorter growing seasons
  • More nutritious, and tastier.
  • May be possible produce medicines or even vaccines.
  • Can be made resistant to specific herbicides.


  • Can cause Unpredictable side effects.
  • Can cause ecological damage.
  • Lead to overuse of herbicides.
  • Not accessible to every poor farmers.
  • Problem with Intellectual property rights

Regulatory mechanism in india

  • GEAC is a statutory body under Environment protection act,1986, MoEFCC
  • GEAC is responsible for granting permits to conduct experimental and large-scale open field trials and also grant approval for commercial release of biotech crops.
  • The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities i.e.
    • Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
    • Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
    • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
    • State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC)
    • District Level Committee (DLC)
  • for handling of various aspects of the rule


History of GM in India

  • Currently, India has the world’s fourth largest GM crop acreage on the strength of Bt cotton, the only genetically modified crop allowed in the country.

1) Bt Cotton –  only genetically modified crop that is under cultivation in India is Bt cotton which is grown over 10.8 million hectares. Bt cotton was first used in India in 2002.

2) Bt Brinjal – The GEAC in 2007, recommended the commercial release of Bt Brinjal, which was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the Dharward University of Agricultural sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. But the initiative was blocked in 2010.

3) GM Mustard – GEAC has approved the environmental release and cultivation by farmers of DMH-11

World wide practise

  • Only 29 countries allow the cultivation of GM crops and a similar number allow the import
  • Around 98% of the GM cultivation falls under four main crops: soyabean, maize, cotton and canola.
  • most of the 170 million hectares under GM crops are in the USA, Brazil, Argentina, India and China

Way forward

GM technology introduction have enhanced the output and yield in india, but later was followed by severe protests

  • GM crops are subject to intense regulatory scrutiny and are not introduced unless they pass through multiple filters.
  • With over two decades of experience across the world, fears have proven unfounded. Unless India is open to the introduction of cutting edge agricultural technology, inadequate farm yields will be hard to improve.
  • It is also true that dependence on GM crops is a risky proposition. Hence, India needs to tap the potential of other technologies. As pointed out by a parliamentary committee India has better options for increasing productivity, like molecular breeding and integrated pest management, that can serve it in good stead for the time being.


  • There is no credible argument against scientific development in the field of agriculture with the goal of developing new varities (stress resistant and with higher yield)
  • The method of regulation needs to be transparent and devoid of ethical conflicts


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