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Daily Quiz: UPSC Prelims Marathon: May 29


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Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

GM Mustard debate

GS3 – Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

GS3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Context

  • The manner in which the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) recently cleared the proposal for genetically modified (GM) mustard is extraordinary to say the least.
  • It makes a mockery of the commitment in the Bharatiya Janata Party manifesto that “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers”.
  • The Prime Minister had delighted consumers by lending his weight to the promotion of organic food.
  • On the other hand, GM and organic are completely incompatible.

What is GM Mustard?

  • Hybrid variety of a crop is obtained by crossing of two genetically diverse plants of same species and it can give higher yields than their parents.
  • But mustard cannot be naturally hybridised because it is a self-pollinating plant having both male and female reproductive parts in a single flower.
  • Hence there is no natural hybridization system in mustard, unlike in, say, cotton, maize or tomato.
  • The GM hybridised mustard, as it is claimed, gives up to 30% more yield than the best varieties such as ‘Varuna’ currently grown in the country.  Researchers have used “barnase / barstar” technology for genetic modification.
  • A barnase gene is isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. The gene can code for a protein that impairs the pollen production in a plant making it male-sterile.
  • This male-sterile variety is crossed with a parent variety having a gene called ‘barstar’ to block the action of barnase gene. The resulting variety, having both foreign genes, is a fertile plant and it can increase yield of the crop.
  • Scientists showed that this problem could be addressed by crossing Indian mustard cultivars with juncea lines of East European origin like ‘Early Heera’ and ‘Donskaja’. The combination of the 2 divergent gene pools enhanced the crossing options; the resultant F1 progeny were found to exhibit significant heterosis.

Why a hybridised mustard variety is required?

  • Researchers and promoters of GM Mustard argue that India imports Rs.60,000 crore worth of edible oils every year. There is an urgent need to reduce dependence on imports and raise domestic crop yields of mustard, which in turn raises production of edible oils domestically.
  • To improve yields, hybridisation is a potential technique as it is successfully demonstrated with many other crops.

Why there is an objection for its introduction?

  • The main reason for its objection is in use of GM technology for hybridisation involving use of alien genes.
  • Though GM technology is already commercialised in India through Bt cotton, it is argued that cotton is not a food crop whereas mustard is largest edible oil yielding crop of India. Its introduction may adversely affect human and animal health.
  • It is also argued that the reason for increased imports of edible oils is because of reduction in import duties and that in turn discouraged domestic production by companies. It resulted in reduction of cultivation of the crop by farmers.
  • There was similar opposition to introduction of Btbrinjal, another GM crop approved by the GEAC in 2009.
  • When sustainable farming and low-input agriculture are becoming the buzzwords, crop varieties that will end up doing more harm to the environment and crop fields is not understable. GM mustard will require almost double the quantity of fertiliser and water.
  • Other Health concerns of GM Hybrid Mazie include: allergenicity; gene transfer, especially of antibiotic-resistant genes, from GM foods to cells or bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; and `out crossing’, or the movement of genes from GM plants to conventional crops, posing indirect threats to food safety and security.
  • GM mustard can affect honeybees directly and indirectly through effecting flowering and pollen production. Protease inhibitors have proved detrimental to the longevity and behaviour of bees.
  • Regulatory weakness-The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which is responsible for approving large-scale releases and commercialisation of GMOs, functions under the Ministry of Environment and Forests and is not entirely independent.
  • The case of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation that supervises and clears research activities and also small-scale field trials is even starker. It is part of the Department of Biotechnology, whose primary task is to promote biotechnology. DBT therefore is the promoter as well as the regulator. On several occasions, developers of transgenic crops have also been members of regulatory committees

Arguments in favour

  • The use of GM technology through Bt cotton has increased the country’s cotton production by more than 2½ times since it was first planted in 2002. There are no evidences to show the adverse impact on human and animal health.
  • Cotton-seed yields not just fibre but also oil and oilcake that are fed to animals. That makes it no less than a food crop.
  • And also India imports soyabean oil and rapeseed oil that are mainly GM varieties.

Arguments against

  • The alluring promises of higher yield and lower pesticide usage which induced many to welcome Bt cotton have now been belied.
  • Despite increased fertilisers and irrigation, the expectations of enhanced cotton yield have not been realised.
  • Most of the countries that have higher cotton yields than India do not grow GM cotton. The package of promises sold to us did not reveal all of this.
  • It would now be foolish in accepting the yield promises of the GM variety of mustard, a crop which is an integral part of every Indian’s food.
  • Ab initio the yield claims on which GM mustard has been cleared are not even remotely reliable — being based on comparisons with 30-year-old cultivars, and not on more recent high-yielding hybrids.
  • The highest yields in mustard are from the five countries which do not grow GM mustard — U.K., France, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic — and not from the GM-growing U.S. or Canada.
  • If India is desirous to increase its mustard yield rapidly and safely, this can be done by adopting the practice of System of Mustard Intensification, for which successful trials have been done in Bihar through a World Bank project.
  • Results showed higher yields and better income. All this without the spraying of any toxic herbicides, which is the undisclosed story of GM mustard.
  • GM mustard’s yield increase claims have been successfully challenged now, prompting the crop developers and regulators to retract on that front — it is another matter that many reports continue to claim that GM mustard will increase yields.

Problems at policy formulation level

  • There have been numerous severe deficiencies in the evaluation process of GM mustard.
  • The risks to health, environment and agriculture have not been evaluated even through those inadequate tests which were conducted at the time of Bt brinjal examination, though mustard is far more extensively grown and consumed than brinjal.
  • HT (herbicide tolerant) GM crops have been condemned by a number of medical professionals and other scientists for increasing chemical herbicide use, leading to serious health conditions — at all stages, but most worryingly at the foetal stage.
  • A scientific report from Argentina found a fourfold increase in birth defects and a threefold increase in childhood cancers in HT soya areas.
  • Shockingly, the GEAC has conveniently omitted to have any herbicide-related studies. A small committee was constituted to “examine” the safety dossier — the tests that were done and the deliberations of GEAC were shrouded in secrecy.
  • After a scathing order from the Central Information Commission, the GEAC made a sham of public consultations, through an opaque and perfunctory eyewash process.

 

Examples worldwide

  • The U.S. is a prime example of a country which has galloped into the GM mode of agriculture.
  • Studies have shown a strong correlation between growth of GM crops, the herbicides they promote, and diseases such as acute kidney injury, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and cancers in the past 20 years in the U.S. Seventeen of the 20 most developed countries — including Japan, Russia, Israel and most of Europe — refuse to grow GM crops.
  • An unacceptable marketing trick, that of promotion of a “swadeshi” GM, is being used to break down resistance to GM crops in India’s vast market, ignoring that safety concerns are the same — swadeshi GM or not.

Health effects

  • The GEAC had itself rejected a HT GM mustard proposal by Bayer in 2002. The same reasons apply now.
  • A herbicide-tolerant crop promotes constant exposure to a single herbicide — which eventually results in weeds becoming resistant.
  • Over 20 species of weeds in the U.S. are now resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide. As desperate farmers tried to control these “superweeds”, there was a tenfold increase in use of glyphosate in 16 years.
  • Glyphosate has been declared to be a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organisation. The glufosinate-based herbicide to which the proposed GM mustard is tolerant will also have adverse impacts on health.
  • Every Indian who consumes mustard in any form, as s/he will also consume the herbicide residues on it; the millions of poor women who depend on weeding to support their family who will be displaced; the bee keepers whose honey will be contaminated; farmers whose yields will fall eventually as bees die out; and the Indian nation, which will find that it has lost its seed diversity and the international competitive advantage of its non-GM mustard and honey.
  • A recent report, not by activists but by the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, sums up the end game when it says: “Recent mergers have resulted in just three powerful corporations: Monsanto and Bayer, Dow and Dupont, and Syngenta and ChemChina. They control more than 65 per cent of global pesticide sales. Serious conflicts of interest issues arise, as they also control almost 61 per cent of commercial seed sales. The pesticide industry’s efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions globally.” Their business model ensures that no matter who produces a GM seed, they profit.

 

Should India Ban GM Crops?

  • GM technology has already been commercialized in India through Bt cotton, which is also based on incorporation of foreign genes derived from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis.country’s cotton production has gone up more than 2½ times since Bt hybrids were first planted in 2002. Nor has any evidence emerged really of Bt cotton causing any adverse human or animal health effects.
  • While the likes of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam are adopting GM technology to improve crop yields and reduce input costs, we are still questioning its potential not on the basis of scientific evidence, but using emotional arguments.
  • Bangladesh was the 1st country to approve the commercial planting of Bt brinjal in late-2013, after being disallowed by India. Bt brinjal has been harvested over 2 seasons, with farmers deriving better marketable yields and incomes from its successful commercialization.
  • The main advantage trotted out in favour of GM mustard is increased yield — there is sufficient evidence that this claim is a myth.
  • As against this alleged advantage, there are formidable social, economic and environmental reasons which cry out against GM mustard — examination of these has been hardly done by the GEAC.
  • As the PR agencies work overtime to push for GM mustard, one can only hope that the Environment Minister, the Prime Minister and the Supreme Court will act in concert to protect Indian consumers, and farmers from the potentially irreversible destruction of an important Indian crop.

Way forward

  • In a current environment where climatic change would have negative effects on yield of many major crops which could seriously undermine food security, GM crops are the way forward.
  • However at the same time to convince the opponents of GM crops to allow commercialization of GM crops we need a strong regulatory framework.
  • What is therefore needed is an independent biotechnology regulatory authority, a single organization that will replace the multiple committees – at least six – that are part of the current regulatory structure. This authority would deal with the use of all GMOs in agriculture, pharmaceutical and biodiversity sector
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Weekly Important Article

Weekly Important Articles : May week 2


We have come up with Weekly Important Articles for May 2nd week.


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More About the Initiative: 


  • Weekly Important Articles is an Initiative started by ForumIAS to cover important issues relevant to UPSC Civil services preparation.
  • Weekly Compilation of Important Articles will cover key current Affairs issues. It will analyze the important current affairs topics and issues of the week. We will try to keep all issues meaningful and relevant to the examination.
  • Our Editorial team would try to make preparation easier for you by presenting the analysis of important issues in a concise form. This will help you save time and identify the useful articles

Frequency: Once a week.


We recommend you to go through one newspaper daily.

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Newspaper

Must Read News Articles – May 22


National


Green energy target tough, say officials – Rooftop solar programme making poor progress as it is not cost-effective.

Animal sightings rise as water dries up – Forest officials across Odisha are keeping their fingers crossed for the early arrival of monsoon as water scarcity in jungles has reached a critical stage, forcing wild animals to stray into human habitations more frequently.

Maharashtra releases Koyna water to crisis-hit Karnataka – Officials say 0.5 TMC water to be discharged over a 10-day period.

Editorials

Addressing the court within – India must use this initial victory at The Hague to appeal to our own inest sense of conscience.

Coal comeuppance – The coal block allocation case may become a benchmark for other ongoing prosecutions.

An opportunity being drained away – Sound policies on wastewater treatment and use are vital to sustainable development

Cool down the rhetoric – U.S. President Donald Trump’s accusation against India concerning the Paris Accord


Economy


Defence deals await private firms – The Union government will unveil mega defence deals estimated at over ₹1.5 lakh crore involving the private sector under the strategic partnership model to build a domestic defence manufacturing base in key areas such as submarines and fighter aircraft

Explain Gorshkov cost: CIC – Navy asked to disclose reasons for accepting price escalation by Russia

 

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Mains Marathon

UPSC Current Affairs Questions and Answer Writing – Mains Marathon – May 22

Read the following questions and answer them by clicking on the links in not more than 200 words

Time: 30 Minutes

Kindly review each others answers.


1. Examine the problems in the implementation of GST regime. Also, discuss the reasons why CAG can’t audit GSTN. (GS 3)

जीएसटी शासन के कार्यान्वयन में समस्याओं की जांच करें। साथ ही, सीएजी क्यों जीएसटीएन का ऑडिट नहीं कर सकती है?

The Hindu | TOI


2. How does a Recall Election work? Discuss the reasons to have a right to recall in India. (GS 2)

रिकॉल चुनाव कैसे काम करती है? भारत में रिकॉल चुनाव रखने के कारणों पर चर्चा करें।

The Hindu | Link


3. Mention a few characteristics of Universal Basic Income. What are the issues in the implementation of Universal Basic Income in India? (GS 2)

यूनिवर्सल बेसिक आय की कुछ विशेषताओं का उल्लेख करें। भारत में यूनिवर्सल बेसिक आय के कार्यान्वयन में क्या समस्याएं हैं?

Indian Express | Economist | WSJ

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PIB

Download: PIB April Week 3 Compilation

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About PIB:

  • The Press Information Bureau (PIB) is the nodal agency of the Government of India to disseminate information to the print and electronic media on government policies, programmes, initiatives and achievements.
  • It functions as an interface between the Government and the media and also serves to provide feedback to the Government.
  • PIB disseminates information through different modes of communication viz. press releases, press notes, feature articles, backgrounders, photographs, database available.
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Weekly Important Article

Weekly Important Articles : April Week 4

We have come up with Weekly Important Articles for April 4th Week.


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Did you like the Compilation? Do give us suggestions/feedback to improve the same 🙂


More About the Initiative: 


  • Weekly Important Articles is an Initiative started by ForumIAS to cover important issues relevant to UPSC Civil services preparation.
  • Weekly Compilation of Important Articles will cover key current Affairs issues. It will analyze the important current affairs topics and issues of the week. We will try to keep all issues meaningful and relevant to the examination.
  • Our Editorial team would try to make preparation easier for you by presenting the analysis of important issues in a concise form. This will help you save time and identify the useful articles

Frequency: Once a week.


We recommend you to go through one newspaper daily.

Categories
PIB

Download: PIB April Week 2 Compilation


Download PIB Compilation of April Week 2 (Important for UPSC Prelims and Mains Preparation) below:

Click Here to Download April Week 2 Compilation 


About PIB:

  • The Press Information Bureau (PIB) is the nodal agency of the Government of India to disseminate information to the print and electronic media on government policies, programmes, initiatives and achievements.
  • It functions as an interface between the Government and the media and also serves to provide feedback to the Government.
  • PIB disseminates information through different modes of communication viz. press releases, press notes, feature articles, backgrounders, photographs, database available.
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Daily Editorials for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation

Economics of South Asia

Context

  • The World Bank’s South Asia Economic Focus is released recently.
  • Titled “Globalization Backlash”, the report examines whether South Asia stands to lose from the protectionist tendencies currently on the rise.
  • It concludes, optimistically, that the region does not have much to lose from the turn away from globalization.

Background

  • South Asia has for some years been the fastest growing region in the world. At an impressive 6.7% year-on-year growth in GDP (gross domestic product) in 2016, it outstripped East Asia, which notched up 6.3%.
  • Notwithstanding subregional variation, most countries have registered growth, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India being the fastest growing economies.
  • There has been a sharp reduction in inflation. The regional consumer price index has come down from 5% in June 2016 to just over 3% recently—but again, there is variation within the region.
  • Despite real exchange rate appreciation, current accounts are mostly balanced.
  • Remittance flows have rebounded from the lows touched in the previous years, though in absolute terms they remain well below the levels prior to the oil price slump.
  • FDI (foreign direct investment) and portfolio inflows have remained stable and international reserves have grown.
  • The areas of concern are fiscal balances and public debt to GDP ratio (at 60%, the second highest in the world after the Middle East and North Africa).
  • But the overall macroeconomic picture is quite positive.

What is the likely impact of the wider protectionist turn on South Asia?

  • Exports currently constitute only around 10% of South Asia’s GDP. This is the lowest of all regions barring sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the contribution of exports to GDP has come down across the region in recent years.
  • Against this backdrop, and given the prospect of a rise in protectionism, it could be held that South Asia should not focus on exports to fuel its growth. This argument has lately been made in the context of India. The report, however, disagrees with this bout of export pessimism.
  • In the first place, it underscores the benefits flowing to the region from the collapse of mega-regional trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
  • Had the TPP—with zero-tariff access to US markets—gone through, countries like Nepal and Bangladesh would have lost out on textile exports to Vietnam.
  • The imposition of new standards under the TPP would have thrown up a range of non-tariff barriers too.
  • The folding up of the TPP is good news for South Asian exports, though we could argue about the magnitude of the benefits.
  • The report assesses the trade diversion scenario in the event of an imposition by the US of a 10% tariff on imports from Mexico and China. Based on a computable general equilibrium model, the report claims that exports to US from Mexico and China would slump by 25% and 35%, respectively.
  • It goes on to argue: “South Asian countries would be able to scale up their exports to the US as a result.” The magnitude of trade diversion for South Asian countries is expected to range between 10-15%.

 What are the challenges?

  • South Asia currently does not export most of the products that Mexico and China are selling in the US market. Indeed, “if South Asia only expands its market share in products it is already exporting its [expected] gains are rather small”.
  • The gains will be large only if South Asia starts exporting new products—a fact that underlines an altogether different set of challenges.
  • The report does not seem to recognize the importance of integrated value chains, especially in the context of a country like Mexico. Much of the US-Mexico trade happens via these value chains and it will be extremely difficult for South Asian countries to step into any opening.
  • However the absence of trade within South Asia is a challenge. It is well known that intra-regional trade in South Asia is much smaller compared to that in East Asia.
  • In fact, the high contribution of trade to GDP in East Asia is reliant on the integrated supply chains in the region. Lack of economic integration in South Asia sharply limits the contribution of trade to regional growth.
  • The only bright spot is India’s deepening relationship with Bangladesh. If the government manages to push through all that it has planned and promised, then we can hope for a measure of subregional integration around Bangladesh, Bhutan and North-East India. These countries also happen to be economic bright spots in the region. It is important that New Delhi pushes ahead on this front—before the political tide turns in Bangladesh.

Way forward

  • As always, the problems are not economic but political and geopolitical.
  • The drive for regional integration can only come from India.
  • The present government’s regional policy began on a strong and positive note, but has since dissolved into inconsistency and incoherence.
  • Political volatility in the other countries has further dimmed the prospects of economic integration.

 Questions

  • How can South Asia capitalise on its favourable demographic dividend for the economic prosperity? What issues confront the goal?
  • Examine the linkage between economic and trade relations with the politics of the subcontinent. Why have the historically cohesive region remained fragmented in the post colonial era?