It is a global problem to meet the need for food, feed, fiber, and energy as the world’s population grows. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global population will reach 9 billion by 2050, up from an estimated 7.8 billion today.
The world faces difficulties such as food insecurity, empowerment of underprivileged populations, climate change adaptation, and environmental sustainability. As a result, contemporary farming is concerned with boosting agricultural productivity while lowering environmental impact.
Genetic engineering (GE) has the ability to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Genetic modification techniques such as recombinant-DNA technology, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), embryo technology (ET), and CRISPR-Cas9 technology were developed by agricultural experts. GMOs are one of the most contentious issues in recent years.
A GMO is a plant, animal, microbe, or other organism whose genetic makeup has been altered in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. Furthermore, the GMO process involves transferring genes directly between species and potentially editing the genome itself.
As a result, GMOs are created by combining plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that never occur naturally or through standard crossbreeding procedures.
Following the discovery of GMO technology, the world was able to solve a number of problems, including feeding an ever-increasing population, combating climate change, and reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint. GMO technology allows agriculture to enhance its capabilities while potentially lowering its financial and environmental expenses.
The GMO process has a number of advantages, one of which is that it decreases the time it takes to generate a particular feature or variety. Furthermore, GMOs enhance yields, lower costs, and minimize agriculture’s land and environmental imprint.
Innovators, farmers, and consumers all get the benefits of modern technology. GMOs benefit developing countries and disadvantaged farmers significantly.
At the same time, GMOs in agriculture have been met with fierce opposition from various ideological groups, powerful corporations, and governments: the European Commission implemented a mandatory GMO label on food products; many of its members, including France and Germany, have outright banned the cultivation of GMOs; India, while allowing the cultivation of GE cotton, has refused to allow the cultivation of GE rice varieties; and Nepal has enacted legislation regulating GMOs.
On GMOs, we hear a wide range of viewpoints. Some people believe that these plants and animals have significant advantages in terms of food production and environmental protection.
Others say they pose a risk and should be avoided at all costs. Despite worldwide issues, GMOs have been used in several nations for many years. As a result, the usage of GMOs has sparked a lot of public debate, questions, and interest in the technology.
Applications of genetic engineering are commonly classified into three “generations.” The majority of first-generation characteristics are used for pest control, either through pest resistance (arthropods or fungus) or herbicide tolerance.
Crops having characteristics that improve their attributes (e.g., longer shelf life, increased nutritional value) or their ability to survive abiotic challenges are included in the second generation (e.g., drought or flood tolerance).
Plants’ biosynthesis of valuable compounds is encoded through third-generation characteristics.
Plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMPs), which include proteins, reagents, and antibodies, and plant-made industrial goods (PMIPs), which include silk protein, elastin and collagen, bio-degradable plastic precursors, and fossil fuel alternatives, are two subgroups of these items.
GMOs in their early stages can help plants or animals develop more effectively, resulting in more food being produced with fewer natural resources. Insecticides and toxic herbicides can also be reduced by using GMOs.
As a result, several scientists advocate for farmers to use GMOs. GMOs, on the other hand, have drawbacks.
Because of the modification process and the introduction of genetic material that is not native to the original organism, many environmental activists believe that food produced through GMOs is less natural.
Some people are concerned about societal and ethical issues related to the possibility of genes from transformed plants or animals transferring to other creatures. Farmers’ reliance on particular types of GMOs has also been cited as a potential harm to biodiversity.
When a study published in Nature magazine on May 20, 1999, revealed that pollen from genetically altered maize plants is hazardous to monarch butterflies, the environmental implications of GMOs became a hot topic.
Monarch butterflies are powerful and beloved insects that prefer to stay in milkweed (Asclepias spp.) plants and are icons of resilience in urban contexts.
The maize was genetically modified to contain a toxin produced by the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium (Bt). Pollen from maize plants coats the foliage of plants growing near maize fields in large amounts.
According to the Nature study, about half of the monarch caterpillars who ate Bt-maize pollen-dusted milkweed leaves died. In comparison to larvae that eat on leaves coated with pollen from non-engineered maize, monarch larvae who survived were roughly half the size of caterpillars.
The subject of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has recently piqued the interest of the media, environmentalists, and social activists.
Nepal is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which governs the safety of GMO technology as well as the consequences of GMO products on human health, biodiversity, and the environment.
As a result, Nepal has developed policies to govern the import, export, and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The National Agriculture Policy (2061) focuses on encouraging the usage of hybrid seeds while also maintaining frequent GMO monitoring. Similarly, the National Seed Policy (2056) requests GMO, transgenic plants, and tissue culture research and study.
Based on a risk analysis research, the Seed Act of 2045 emphasizes seed movement restrictions that have negative consequences on agriculture and other habitats.
The National Agrobiodiversity Policy (2063) has provided for GMO research studies, and the government can limit the import of GMOs based on the research studies, reducing the possible damage to biodiversity. GMOs are addressed in numerous ways in existing policies.
However, various impediments exist in the policy, including institutional mechanisms to regulate/control GMOs, improving the technical and physical capacity of GMOs laboratories in the country, and collaborating on a GMO research project.
As a result, enhancing national legal, administrative, and technical expertise in seed, plant, food, feed, and animal research and testing with GMOs is critical.
(Author is an undergraduate student at Institute of Agriculture & Animal Sciences, IAAS)