Genetically modified crops (GM crops) in India

Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering methods.

Genetic modification (GM) is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism.

Genetic modification of plants involves adding a specific stretch of DNA into the plant's genome, giving it new or different characteristics. This could include changing the way the plant grows, or making it resistant to a particular disease.

The new DNA becomes part of the GM plant's genome which the seeds produced by these plants will contain.

A genome is all genetic material of an organism consisting of DNA (or RNA in RNA viruses). The genome includes both the genes (the coding regions) and the noncoding DNA, as well as mitochondrial DNA and chloroplast DNA.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

In India, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), functioning under MoEFFCC, is the apex body that allows for commercial release of GM crops.

It 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.

GEAC's role in this field was diluted with the enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and FSSAI was asked to take over approvals of imported goods.

In 2002, the GEAC had allowed the commercial release of Bt cotton. More than 95% of the country's cotton area has since then come under Bt cotton.

GM Crops in India

Bt cotton

Bt cotton is the only Genetically Modified (GM) crop that is allowed in India (2002). It has alien genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that allows the crop to develop a protein toxic to the common pest pink bollworm.

Ht Bt cotton

Herbicide Tolerant Bt (Ht Bt) cotton, on the other hand is derived with the insertion of an additional gene, from another soil bacterium, which allows the plant to resist the common herbicide glyphosate.

It is not yet approved by regulators, fears include glyphosate having a carcinogenic effect, as well as the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance to nearby plants through pollination, creating a variety of superweeds.

Bt brinjal

In Bt brinjal, a gene allows the plant to resist attacks of fruit and shoot borers.

DMH-11 mustard

In DMH-11 mustard, genetic modification allows cross-pollination in a crop that self-pollinates in nature.

Genetically modified (GM) Soybean

The poultry industry is demanding that the Central government permit the import of crushed genetically modified (GM) soy seeds for captive consumption of farmers.

A GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination.

India allows the import of GM soybean and canola oil.

Import of GM soya bean seeds has not been approved in India. The main fear is that import of GM soya bean will affect the Indian soya bean industry by contaminating non-GM varieties.