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September 20, 2021

Comment: Whether Gene Editing Of Crops Should Be Allowed In India?

Author: Intern - Siddhesh Birajdar

Genome editing technologies (GET) have the potential to revolutionize biological research since they are precise, relatively affordable, and simple to apply. Also, new methods of gene editing like CRISPR-Cas9 allow scientists to add, remove, or change genetic material to add a positive characteristic or remove a detrimental one, which is regarded as safe since, in most situations, no foreign genes are utilized to change the plant genome. The author opines that the use of such GET is required for transgene-free better crop plants with features such as disease resistance, nutritional enhancement, tolerance to diverse abiotic stresses, and increased yield, for which the Government of India should approve genome editing sooner.

Although there are numerous concerns and debates about rising population rates, weather extremes, limited agricultural land availability, and rising abiotic and biotic stresses, all of which are significant constraints for food production and farming, the ability of gene-edited plants to address such key policy issues by developing pest-resistant or high-yield crops might hasten the adoption of GET. Further, India’s food security problems are much too serious to dismiss emerging technologies like gene editing, which might assist boost agricultural output, on principle.

Furthermore, gene-editing methods like CRISPR-Cas9 have opened up a new universe of possibilities for creating desirable variations in agricultural plants and microorganisms. Expansion of this technology will not only aid in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but will also provide nutrition, greater yields, and environmental security. This might also be a crucial strategy for acquiring ‘suitably modified’ plants that would assist in the attainment of the zero hunger goal objective and the long-term feeding of the nation’s growing population. Even according to recent research by NAAS, the genome editing business is a billion-dollar sector, and there has to be a clear strategy in place to benefit economically from such advancements.

As some countries, notably Japan, the United States, and Australia, have exempted such new crop varieties developed using advanced gene editing methods from regulations since they do not include foreign genetic material. On the same line, India’s approach to gene-editing technology must strike a balance between our national objectives and the potential of reaping economic benefits by solving critical challenges. For this reason, regulatory agencies should be proactive in promoting and establishing clear regulatory frameworks for the advancement of modern plant breeding technologies through an inclusive regulatory approach and public awareness campaigns.

Disclaimer: Views, opinions, interpretations are solely those of the author, not of the firm (ALG India Law Offices LLP) nor reflective thereof. Author submissions are not checked for plagiarism or any other aspect before being posted.

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