Environment Ministry Current Affairs
Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) will soon convene special meeting of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to decide on field-trial approvals for transgenic mustard DMH-11 developed by University of Delhi’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP).
CGMCP had earlier applied to grow transgenic mustard (DMH-11) in plots in Delhi and Punjab to test plant’s effects on honeybees after GEAC had initially cleared GM crop for commercial cultivation. But later GEAC had backtracked and demanded more tests of transgenic mustard and asked for additional data on honeybees and other pollinators and on soil microbial diversity after some members objected to use of unapproved pesticides/herbicides including banned Endosulfan in project proposal. Some members also had voiced objections over lack of time to examine field safety protocol which specifies what measures can be undertaken in case of pest attack.
GM Mustard DMH-11
DMH (Dhara Mustard Hybrid)-11 is genetically modified variety of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) mustard. It was developed by team of scientists from Delhi University’s CGMCP led by former Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental under Government sponsored project. It was created by using “barnase/barstar” technology for genetic modification by adding genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard self-pollinating plant. It contains three genes viz. Bar gene, Barnase and Barstar sourced from soil bacterium. The bar gene had made plant resistant to herbicide named Basta.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)
GEAC is apex body under Environment Ministry for regulating manufacturing, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms or genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and cells in the country. It is also responsible for giving technical approval of proposals relating to release of GMOs and products including experimental field trials.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF’s) has given environmental clearance to India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project to be set up in Bodi West hills in Tamil Nadu. The approval was given by MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) after taking up INO project issue as special case.
The project proponents during meeting with EAC have clarified that studies showed there will be no impact of blasting on any habitation in the vicinity due to INO project. It was informed also that there was no scope for radioactivity and leaching of water and these have been explained to courts. EAC also stipulated specific conditions after granting clearance of which two are key for project to take off. One is consent to establish and operate to be obtained from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
India-Based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project
The project aims at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 meter. Its mandate is to conduct basic research on elementary particle called neutrino. It is jointly supported by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST), with DAE acting as the nodal agency.
The observatory will be located underground in order to provide adequate shielding to the neutrino detector from cosmic background radiation. It will comprise complex of caverns which will house detector which is 130 metres long, 26 metres wide and 30 metre high.
Along with main cavern, there will be two smaller caverns that will be used for setting up experiments for neutrino double detector and dark matters. The non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics underground research complex will be approached by a 2-kms long tunnel.
The project also envisages construction of 50,000 tonne magnetised iron calorimeter detector (ICAL). It will study the properties of the neutrino, in particular the mass hierarchy among different types of neutrino.