In GMO, genetic material (DNA) is altered or artificially introduced using genetic engineering techniques.
Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes.
Inserted genes usually come from a different organism (e.g. In Bt cotton, Bt genes from bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis are induced).
Genetic modification is done to induce a desirable new trait which does not occur naturally in the species.
GM techniques are used in:
Biological and medical research,
Production of pharmaceutical drugs,
Experimental medicine (e.g. gene therapy),
Agriculture (e.g. golden rice, Bt cotton etc.),
Genetically modified bacteria to produce the protein insulin,
To produce biofuels from some GM bacteria, etc.
Genetically modified crops (GM Crops or Biotech Crops)
They are the plants used in agriculture, whose DNA has been modified to induce a desired new trait.
A New trait might help in
Controlling certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions,
reduction of spoilage,
inducing resistance to chemical treatments (e.g. resistance to an herbicide),
improving the nutrient profile of the crop,
atmospheric nitrogen fixation by cereal crops,
inducing tolerance to high salt soils and to flooding in crops,
inducing drought resistance in crops,
prolonging shelf life and commercial value of fruits and vegetables.
Major GM Crops
Bt cotton is insect-resistant cotton variety.
Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce different Bt toxins.
Bt toxins are insecticidal to the larvae of moths, bollworms, etc. but are harmless to other forms of life.
In 2002, a joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced Bt cotton to India.
Increases yield of cotton due to effective control of three types of bollworms.
Reduction in insecticide use in the cultivation of Bt cotton in which bollworms are major pests.
Potential reduction in the cost of cultivation (depending on seed cost versus insecticide costs).
Problems with Bt Cotton
High cost of Bt cotton seeds as compared to non Bt cotton seeds.
Ineffective against sucking pests like whitefly.
Whitefly attack has become rampant in Punjab, Haryana and elsewhere.
The costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rain-fed settings.
Brinjal is India’s second most consumed vegetable after potatoes.
Bt brinjal is created by inserting a crystal protein gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
Mahyco has developed the Bt brinjal variety.
Insecticide requirement for Bt brinjal is far less than its non-Bt counterpart for the control of FSB.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared Bt brinjal for commercialization in 2009.
Following concerns raised by some scientists and anti-GMO activists, the GOI has imposed a moratorium on its commercial use (not a permanent ban).
Mahyco’s Bt brinjal is commercially grown in Bangladesh.
Golden rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.
It is mostly consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.
Benefits of GMO
Enhanced taste and quality.
Reduced maturation time.
Increased nutrients, yields, and stress tolerance.
Improved resistance to disease, pests, and herbicides.
New products and growing techniques.
Increased resistance, productivity, hardness, and feed efficiency.
Better yields of meat, eggs, and milk.
Improved animal health and diagnostic methods.
“Friendly” bioherbicides and bioinsecticides.
Conservation of soil, water and energy.
Bioprocessing for forestry products.
Better natural waste management.
Increased food security for growing population.