Hunger is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Despite considerable progress over the last 20 years, there has been a surge in global hunger, with figures from 2016 showing that more than 800 million people worldwide are malnourished. Children under five years of age represent 150 million of those affected, and for roughly three million of these children every year, the struggle ends in death. When faced with such staggering statistics, it is natural to wish for one simple solution to prevent these deaths and rid the world of hunger. Genetic Modification is being put forward as a viable solution.
What is Genetic Modification?
Genetic modification is a special set of gene technology that alters the genetic machinery of such living organisms as animals, plants or microorganisms. Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology and the resulting organism is said to be ‘Genetically modified (GM)’, ‘Genetically engineered’ or ‘Transgenic’.
Genetic modification is the process of modifying an organism's genetic composition. This has been done indirectly for thousands of years by controlled, or selective, breeding of plants and animals. Modern biotechnology has made it simpler and quicker to target a particular gene for more precise genetic engineering of an organism.
The terms "modified" and "engineered" are often used interchangeably in the context of labelling genetically modified, or "GMO," foods.
GMO crops generate greater yields, have a longer shelf life, are resistant to pests and diseases, and even taste better. These advantages help both farmers and consumers. For instance, larger yields and a longer shelf life may result in reduced pricing for customers, while pest-resistant crops reduce the amount of pesticides that farmers must purchase and employ to cultivate high-quality crops. Thus, GMO crops may be more environmentally friendly than traditionally cultivated crops.
Increased Herbicide Usage,The widespread cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops that are herbicide-tolerant has increased the use of herbicides like glyphosate. Sales of herbicides increased by 19% in Canada between 1994 and 2016.
"Superweeds" are weeds that have evolved and spread as a result of the usage of certain pesticides alongside genetically modified (GM) crops that are herbicide-tolerant. Various weed species have evolved resistance to the pesticide glyphosate during the last 20 years.
"Superpests", A few insects have become immune to the toxins present in GM crops that are resistant to insects. In May 2019, Canada's first case was reported.
Contamination from GM plants is has serious ecological, economic and social impacts. Gene flow from GM crops poses a threat to wild and weedy crop relatives, non-GM crops and foods, and organic farming.
Biodiversity Loss,The usage of certain GM crops may have detrimental effects on creatures that are not intended targets as well as on soil and water ecosystems.
Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India
In India, approval of genetically engineered products is the responsibility of the Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee, which falls under the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In January 2003, India ratified the Cartagena Protocol which protects biodiversity from potential risks of genetically modified organisms, the products of modern biotechnology. As per the Cartagena Protocol, India needs to set up a Regulatory Body.
BRAI’s aims at providing a single-window platform for the scientific risk assessment of all biotech products including agriculture, health, environment and industrial sector.
It would also help India stay up with the fast technological advancements in biotechnology and maintain the safety of human and animal health as well as the environment.
The authority will oversee and regulate field trials of genetically modified crops, as well as the research, transport, import, production, and use of organisms and products of contemporary biotechnology within the country.
GMOs will certainly continue to play a significant part in biomedical research in the future. GMO foods may provide better nutrition and perhaps even be engineered to contain medicinal compounds to enhance human health. Consumer aversion to GMOs will probably lessen if it can be shown that they are both safe and healthy.
Faced with such new developments, the regulatory framework must be tightened for the interests of both domestic and international consumers.
Technology approvals must be streamlined and science-based decisions implemented. Monitoring must be rigorous to ensure that safety measures are carefully adhered to, and enforcement must be taken seriously to prevent the spread of unlawful genetically modified (GM) crops.