Prelims level : Biodiversity and its threat Mains level : GS3 - Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
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Why in News:

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has sought a detailed report on the sowing of unapproved genetically modified (GM) cotton and brinjal in Maharashtra.


  • 1,000 farmers had publicly sown unapproved transgenic cotton and brinjal in Akoli Jahangir village of Akot taluka in Akola district.
  • The farmer’s union organised the gathering aimed at demanding introduction of Herbicide Tolerant (Ht) Bt cotton and Bt brinjal, which reduces the cost of production.
  • In India, introduction of GM seeds requires approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a body under the MoEF.
  • Till date, commercial release is granted for Bt cotton, but similar approvals for Bt mustard and Bt brinjal are awaited.

GM Crops in India

  • India has the world’s 5th largest GM crop acreage. The world order is – USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India.
  • If that’s not interesting enough, then let me add another fact on this – this rank is largely on the strength of Bt cotton, the only genetically modified crop allowed in the country.
  • At present, 96% of India’s cotton cultivation area is under Bt cotton crops.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) was constituted under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) as the apex body under the ‘Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989’ in accordance with the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • It is the organization engaged in the appraisal of activities that involve the large-scale usage of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in industrial production as well as research from an environmental point of view.
  • Its mandate is to ensure that only safe and environmentally harmless activities are done.
  • The organization also appraises proposals related to the release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment, including experimental field trials.
  • The ministry’s Special Secretary/Additional Secretary is the Chairman of the GEAC.
  • It is co-chaired by a representative of the Department of Biotechnology.
  • Currently, the GEAC has twenty-four members and meets once every month to carry out its prescribed activities.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee Functions:

The following are the core functions of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee:

  • To appraise activities involving the large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
  • To appraise proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
    The committee or any persons authorized by it has powers to take punitive action under the Environment Protection Act.
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