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BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

  • It is anticipated that the world’s population in 2050 will be approximately 8.7 billion persons. The world’s population is growing, but its surface area is not.
  • Compounding the effects of population growth is the fact that most of the earth’s ideal farming land is already being utilized.
  • To avoid damaging environmentally sensitive areas, such as rain forests, we need to increase crop yields for land currently in use.
  • By increasing crop yields, through the use of biotechnology the constant need to clear more land for growing food is reduced.
  • Countries in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere are grappling with how to continue feeding a growing population. They are also trying to benefit more from their existing resources.
  • Biotechnology holds the key to increasing the yield of staple crops by allowing farmers to reap bigger harvests from currently cultivated land, while preserving the land’s ability to support continued farming.
  • Malnutrition in underdeveloped countries is also being combated with biotechnology. The Rockefeller Foundation is sponsoring research on “golden rice”, a crop designed to improve nutrition in the developing world.  BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
  • Rice breeders are using biotechnology to build Vitamin A into the rice. Vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in poor countries.
  • A second phase of the project will increase the iron content in rice to combat anaemia, which is widespread problem among women and children in underdeveloped countries.
  • Golden rice, expected to be for sale in Asia in less than five years, will offer dramatic improvements in nutrition and health for millions of people, with little additional costs to consumers.
  • Similar initiatives using genetic manipulation are aimed at making crops more productive by reducing their dependence on pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation, or by increasing their resistance to plant diseases.
  • Increased crop yield, greater flexibility in growing environments, less use of chemical pesticides and improved nutritional content make agricultural biotechnology, quite literally, the future of the world’s food supply.

BIOTECHNOLOGY REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF INDIA BILL 2013 IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

  • The Bill sets up an independent authority, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI), to regulate organisms and products of modern biotechnology.
  • BRAI will regulate the research, transport, import, containment, environmental release, manufacture, and use of biotechnology products.
  • Regulatory approval by BRAI will be granted through a multi-level process of assessment undertaken by scientific experts. BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
  • BRAI will certify that the product developed is safe for its intended use. All other laws governing the product will continue to apply.
  • A Biotechnology Regulatory Appellate Tribunal will hear civil cases that involve a substantial question relating to modern biotechnology and hear appeals on the decisions and orders of BRAI.
  • Penalties are specified for providing false information to BRAI, conducting unapproved field trials, obstructing or impersonating an officer of BRAI and for contravening any other provisions of the Bill.

KEY ISSUES AND ANALYSIS [BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY]

  • The Tribunal has jurisdiction over a ‘substantial question relating to modern biotechnology’. However, the Bill does not define this term. Leaving a term undefined could allow for flexibility but could also increase ambiguity.
  • The Tribunal will consist of one judicial member and five technical members. This is not in conformity with a Supreme Court decision that the number of technical members on a bench of a Tribunal cannot exceed the number of judicial members.
  • The Tribunal’s technical members shall be eminent scientists or government officials with experience in the field. It is unclear whether the technical expertise of the latter can be equated with the former.
  • The Bill does not specify any liability for damage caused by a product of biotechnology. Therefore, it will remain open to the courts to determine liability arising out of any adverse impact of modern biotechnology.
  • Various committees have recommended that an autonomous statutory regulator having members with expertise in biotechnology be set up. BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

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