Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 31st October 2021

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UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: Is genetically modified rice grown in India?|

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Science and Technology

Sub Theme:   GM rice, export of GM rice and its implications| UPSC
Is genetically modified rice grown in India?

What is the controversy around export of the grain and will it impact farmers?

Context:

A French manufacturer of rice flour claimed it had found unauthorised genetically modified rice in a consignment from India. European Union does not permit any use of GM rice. Indian authorities said they were investigating the allegations, but added that any contamination was unlikely as India does not allow commercial cultivation of GM rice either.

What is GM rice?

GM foods are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified, usually by inserting genetic material from another organism, in order to give it a new property, such as increased yield, tolerance to a herbicide, resistance to disease or drought, or to improve its nutritional value.

Probably the best known variety of GM rice is golden rice, which involves the insertion of genes from a plant — both daffodils and maize have been used — and a soil bacterium to create a grain that is enriched with Vitamin A.

India has approved commercial cultivation of only one GM crop, Bt cotton. No GM food crop has ever been approved for commercial cultivation.

However, confined field trials have been allowed for at least 20 GM crops. That includes varieties of GM rice which would have improved resistance to insects and diseases, as well as hybrid seed production and nutritional enhancements such as golden rice.

Trials have been carried out by public universities and research institutions such as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, as well as private firms such as Bayer Bioscience and Mahyco.

Was GM rice exported from India?

The Commerce Ministry has said that as commercial cultivation of GM rice is banned, “there is no question of export of GM rice from India”. It said the EU was not sure of the exact source of contaminant, adding that contamination could have occurred during the processing of the rice flour in Europe. Despite the outrage, it initiated an investigation by APEDA (Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) which identified a Maharashtra-based trader as the source of the rice consignment, which had been given a non-GMO certification by a testing agency just before shipping. It also demanded that the EU provide details of specific genetic markers in the consignment. Farm and environmental activists allege that plants or seeds from the GM rice field trials could have contaminated non-GM crops, noting that illegal varieties of GM cotton and brinjal are freely circulating among sections of Indian farmers.

What are the implications for Indian farmers?

India is the world’s top rice exporter, earning ₹65,000 crore last year by selling 18 million tonnes of grain, about a quarter of which is premium basmati. Among the 75 countries which buy Indian rice, West Asian nations, the U.S. and the U.K. are the biggest importers of basmati, while the majority of non-basmati rice goes to African countries and Nepal and Bangladesh. For Indian farmers, the nightmare scenario could be what happened in the U.S. in 2006, when trace amounts of a GM rice variety being tested by Bayer were found in shipments ready for exports. Trading partners such as Japan, Russia and the EU suspended rice imports from the U.S, hitting farmers hard and forcing Bayer to pay $750 million in damages. Under pressure from the rice export lobby at the time, India drafted policies to ban GM rice trials in the basmati belt.

What lies ahead?

In the face of new advances in rice research, scientists and farmers say the regulatory regime needs to be strengthened for the sake of domestic and export consumers.

Additional information: 

Bt Cotton: it is pest resistance (Ballworm) crop. Ballworm is of three types: Pink, American, Spotted. It was developed to raise productivity by Mosanto Matyco Biotech Limited. It was introduced in India in 2002. Bt Cotton has Bacillus thuringiensis that produces a toxin known as Crystal Protein which kill the pest.

Crystal protein produced by the Bt gene is transfer to the gene of cotton plant using a vector (carrier). This technique is also known as Recombinant DNA technology. Same bacteria were earlier used as pesticide. However, in 2016 Bt Cotton had upto 75% failure in Punjab. More than 95% of cotton area in India has been under Bt Cotton cultivation.

Technical expert committee recommended to not allow edible GM crops for next 10 years.

Global standards: GM labelling on products having gm crops ingredients and mandatory processing i.e. removing harmful content.

Ministry of Corporate Affairs in 2013 notified that there should be mandatory labelling for GM crops.

WHO has reported that 87% of milk used in India is adulterated or contaminated.

Varieties of Bt Cotton also known as Bollguard. It has three varieties. Variety 1 and 2 have 1 and 2 genes have gene respectively. Both these are allowed in India. Third variety has three genes and is not allowed in India. This third variety has herbicide tolerance qualities (also known as Ht Bt cotton). Third variety is also known as RRF or round up ready flex and is tolerant to glyphosate herbicide.

Recombinant DNA technology: when genes of two or more different species are combined to achieve a desired result.

UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: Why is India facing bouts of extreme weather?|

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper I- Geography | GS Paper III – Environment & Climate Change

Sub Theme:  Torrential rain in Kerala | Global warming | UPSC
Context: 

  • Over the last few years, there have been variations in the pattern and intensity of rainfall in both these States and others.

What explains the torrential rain in Kerala and Uttarakhand?

  • The monsoon cycle is prone to large variations, and every year, regional factors get accentuated which then lead to extreme climate events.

There are different factors at play in Kerala and Uttarakhand.

Kerala  Uttarakhand
There have been two rain-bearing ‘low pressure systems’ that are active in the Arabian Sea as well as the Bay of Bengal.

The low pressure system in the Arabian Sea contributed to the heavy rain in Kerala.

Whereas western disturbances are what caused the rain in northern India.

Western disturbances are periodic influxes of moisture-laden clouds from the Mediterranean that are common during winter.

The Bay of Bengal is still warm and strong winds from there are reaching as far as Uttarakhand and will contribute to rainfall in several parts of north-eastern India.

How is this related to global warming?

    • Normally, October is the month when the southwest monsoon entirely retreats from India and the northeast monsoon sets in, bringing rain over Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

 

  • Global warming leading to warming Arabian Sea 🡪 Low Pressures 

 

    • The Bay of Bengal is historically the warmer ocean that seeds low pressures and cyclones that bring rain to India.
    • In recent years, however, the Arabian Sea, too, has been warmer than normal, leading to significant cyclonic activity.
  • Global Warming leading to warmer Arctic 🡪 Increased Western Disturbances 
    • Overall elevated temperatures are also contributing to warmer waters in the Arctic Ocean and drawing colder air from the poles with greater intensity.
    • This has added to the increased moisture, thereby seeding more intense western disturbance activity over north India.

How are society’s environmental choices leading to disasters?

  • Kerala and Uttarakhand have large tracts of hilly terrain that are prone to landslips.
  • But construction has continued unabated even on land unsuited for human habitation.
  • Several ecologists and environmentalists have for years warned of the consequences of unplanned development.
  • In the context of an increasingly erratic climate, it is only logical that more inhabitants of these regions will be exposed to greater climate risk.

In the context of an increasingly erratic climate, the inhabitants of these regions are now exposed to greater climate risk.

UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: The agenda for Glasgow |

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations | GS Paper III – Environment

Sub Theme: COP | Climate finance | | UPSC

COP 26 – GLASGOW SUMMIT

Key facts:
Host – UK
COP 26 –Under United Nation climate change conference.
Venue- Scottish event campus

Relevance of this particular summit – The conference comes months after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its assessment report on Earth’s climate, highlighting heat waves, droughts, extreme rainfall and sea-level rise in the coming decades.

Historical context of COPs-

Conference of Parties comes under the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was formed in 1994.

  • The supreme decision-making body of the Convention. COP members have been meeting every year since 1995
  • It laid out a list of responsibilities for the member states which included:
    1. Formulating measures to mitigate climate change
    2. Cooperating in preparing for adaptation to the impact of climate change
    3. Promoting education, training and public awareness related to climate change
  • The COP meets in Bonn, the seat of the secretariat, unless a Party offers to host the session.
  • A key task for the COP is to review the national commitments and emission inventories submitted by Parties.
  • COP Presidency rotates among the five recognized UN regions – Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe and Others.

Important COPs:

  • COP 1: Berlin 1995
  • COP 3: Kyoto 1997, here the famous Kyoto Protocol was adopted. It commits the member states to pursue limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • COP 8: India hosted this COP in 2002 in New Delhi. It laid out seven measures including, strengthening of technology transfer, the promotion of technological advances through research and development and the strengthening of institutions for sustainable development.
  • COP 21: Paris 2015. Here member countries agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre- industrial levels.

Agendas for COP 26 summit-

1) Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach:

The UK has already committed to bringing 78% emission reductions by 2035 and is on the road to net-zero by 2050. India has also taken important steps with its 450 GW renewables target and national hydrogen mission.

  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

Countries will have to work together to protect and restore ecosystems and build warning systems and resilient infrastructure to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.

  • Mobilise finance

To deliver on these first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.

  • Work together to deliver

Another important task at the COP26 is to ‘finalise the Paris Rulebook’. Leaders will work together to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS: Karnataka gambling law|

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper IV –Ethics|

Sub Theme:  Landsat | NASA Space Mission | UPSC

Context:
An FIR was registered on October 7 under the amended law against the creators of the online fantasy sports platform Dream 11 for running a gaming house as defined in the new law.

Karnataka legislature passed a legislation to amend the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, making all forms of gambling, including online, a cognisable and non-bailable offence. Similar laws introduced in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana having faced legal challenges for broadening the scope of gambling beyond what has been defined by law.

Since the new law came into effect, several online gaming firms have geo-locked their apps and sites in Karnataka to prevent attracting police action if customers access the sites.

Gaming companies have argued — successfully in Tamil Nadu and Kerala — that as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court in as 1957 (Chamarbaugwala cases) — competitive games of skill are business activities protected under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.

Gambling through ethical lenses:

  • It is based on Hedonism and consequentialism.
  • It is based on the desire and greed.
  • It is based on the individualistic nature.
  • It is moral relative but ethical absolute.
  • It promotes risk taking attitude.
  • It is most controversial leisure activity in the world.
  • It promotes passive behavior on human effort.
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