Mitras Analysis of News : 13-05-2017

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1.A go ahead to GM mustard? (Indian express, Live Mint)

2.In the heart of the iron beast, INS Vikrant (The Hindu)

3.Drought resistant transgenic rice (Down to Earth) 

 

1.A go ahead to GM mustard?  (Indian express, Live Mint)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the introduction of GM mustard and its prospects for the agriculture. (GS paper II and III)

Overview

  • India is well on its way to use the controversial genetically modified (GM) mustard. It will be the first of its kind food item which will be cultivated commercially after it was cleared by the regulatory authority.

Recent development in GM mustard

  • The biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), cleared the commercial cultivation of DMH-11, a genetically modified (GM) hybrid mustard developed by scientists at Delhi University. The commercial cultivation of the GM seed can begin once the regulator’s clearance gets the nod from Union Environment Minister.
  • If approved by the environment ministry, GM mustard will be the first food crop to be allowed in India after BT cotton was commercially released 15 years ago.
  • The only GM plant to be grown in India is Bt cotton, since 2002. In its hearing last October, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to seek public opinion on GM mustard before going ahead. If the apex court does lift its stay, it could clear the way for the spread of Bt brinjal and other transgenic varieties.
  • Farmers and scientists would welcome the move for the improvements in yield, even as concerns over the health and environmental consequences of GM technology, perhaps a trifle overblown, refuse to die away.
  • According to the developers, the GM mustard uses a system of genes from soil bacterium that makes the plant better suited to hybridisation than current methods.
  • Other GM crops waiting in the pipeline include BT tomato containing an insect-resistant gene that can control crop damage due to the onslaught of fruit-borer insects.

Areas to look for

  • However, he same GEAC’s go-ahead for the commercial release of Bt brinjal was overturned in February 2010 by the then Environment Minister who assumed the role of regulator and ordered a moratorium on the transgenic vegetable’s cultivation.
  • An estimated 5.05 million hectares of land, in mostly in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat and Assam is used to cultivate mustard. Advocates of GM mustard claim the 5.07 million tonne annual production of the seed could drastically increase by the use of the modified seeds. But the GM mustard has its fare share of opponents too.
  • The ‘Sarson Satyagraha’, a broad platform of hundreds of NGOs representing farmers, consumers, scientists and others that have been at the forefront of resisting the approval of GM mustard in India’ too condemned the green signal to the herbicide tolerant GM Mustard.
  • Those against planting of GM mustard (and Bt brinjal earlier) have sought to invoke the precautionary principle, by claiming these to be “food crops”. This is as opposed to Bt cotton, now being grown by Indian farmers on some 11 million hectares. But the “food” versus “non-food” argument does not wash, simply because lint fibre is only one-third of the kapaas or raw un-ginned cotton harvested by farmers. The balance two-thirds comprises the seed that is crushed to extract oil.
  • Moreover, the so-called swadeshi opposition to GM mustard is all the more intriguing considering this is a product, unlike Monsanto’s Bt cotton, which has been indigenously developed and in the public sector. Moreover, India imports 15 million tonnes (mt) of edible oils worth almost $11 billion annually.

Way ahead

  • The fact that Europe has by and large shut its doors on GM foods, even as the US and Latin American countries have accepted them, only shows that public opinion remains divided and confused on this subject. All the more reason, then, to have an open regulatory regime that demystifies the technology and is transparent in its functioning.
  • GM foods promise a way out of a potential Malthusian trap, arguably with less pesticide use in the short run than existing varieties. After decades of heated debate, it would seem that the truth lies somewhere between the claims of the evangelists and the naysayers. In the case of GM mustard, where yields are expected to rise by up to 30 per cent, it is also worth looking at other ways to achieve a similar result. Above all, the right institutions are required to move ahead with an open mind.

Question: What should be the move regarding introduction of GM crops? Does it entail any threat to biodiversity? 

 

2.In the heart of the iron beast, INS Vikrant (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • India has launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, joining the elite club of nations with the capability of designing and building a warship of this size and capability. Other nations capable of designing and building a ship of equivalent size are the US, the UK, Russia and France.
  • INS Vikrant is in its final stage of construction at the Cochin Shipyard, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) due serious delays in the construction, the delivery of the carrier with completion of all activities is likely to be achieved only by 2023, however the Ministry and the Indian Navy continue to hold the timelines of final delivery of the ship as December 2018, its induction would mean for the Navy’s presence in the Indian Ocean.

INS VIKRANT

  • INS Vikrant was a Majestic-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. The ship was laid down as HMS Hercules for the British Royal Navy during World War II, but construction was put on hold when the war ended. India purchased the incomplete carrier in 1957 and construction was completed in 1961. Vikrant was commissioned as the first aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy and played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade of East Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
  • In 1989, India announced a plan to replace its ageing British-built aircraft carriers, Vikrant with an air defence ship (ADS), but due to 1991 economic crisis, the plans for construction of the vessels were put on hold indefinitely.
  • In 2001, Cochin Shipyard released a graphic illustration showing STOBAR (Short Take-Off but Arrested Recovery) design with a pronounced ski jump. In 2006 the then Chief of Naval Staff Admiral stated that the designation for the vessel had been changed from Air Defence Ship (ADS) to Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC).
  • INS Vikrant is designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy and the first warship to be built by Cochin Shipyard. Its construction involved participation of a large number of private and public firms for the Indian Navy.
  • The motto of the ship is “Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprdhah”, which is taken from Rig Veda means “I defeat those who fight against me”.

Features

  • INS Vikrant has the capacity to carry 36 fighter planes. The flight deck of IAC will have the capacity to hold 19 aircraft and the hangar inside will have room for 17 fighters.
  • It features a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR configuration with a ski-jump, its time interval between the take-offs of two fighters from the ship can be as low as three minutes and can be reduced to less than two minutes.
  • The AB/A grade steel which was supposed to be supplied from Russia faced problems in delivery. To resolve this, the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) created facilities to manufacture the steel in India.
  • Vikrant, is the mother of all platforms, has 2,300 compartments designed to user specifications for crew, systems, piping, fluids, ventilations, cabling, nearly 1,500 km of cabling, almost the distance from Kochi to Mumbai, criss-cross in its innards.
  • Vikrant will be capable of operating an aircraft mix of the Russian MiG-29K and LCA (Navy) fighters being developed indigenously by HAL. Its helicopter component will include the Kamov 31 and the indigenously developed ALH helicopters.
  • The yard carried out detailed designing, developing 3D models and creating mock-ups on the old-school ‘mould loft floor’ for critical parts like anchor pocket and hosepipe arrangement besides using virtual reality to simulate extremely critical parts.
  • Vikrant is going to sport a gender-sensitive living environment and infrastructure, with provision to accommodate eight women officers. The ship will then accommodate 1,645 personnel in all, including 196 officers.
  • Its dominance will be over a large area, it will control the vast expanses of the ocean and all aspects of maritime strength.

More teeth to Navy power

  • There is an undeclared carrier race unfolding in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) between India, China and Japan. By inducting Vikrant, the Indian Navy will have lead over China as it will have two aircraft carriers with INS Vikramaditya.
  • India has its force structure planned around three aircraft Carrier Battle Groups (CBG). While one would be deployed on each coast in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, the third would be in maintenance and repairs ensuring the availability of two ships at any point of time.
  • Each of carriers has grown in size, capability and sophistication than its precedent, adding more teeth to Navy’s power projection. The new Vikrant will displace 40,000tonnes.

Way ahead

  • There are several factors that are pushing India towards a more comprehensive maritime policy. China’s special emphasis towards Indian Ocean (through its Silk Road project and growing cooperation with the littoral nations) has stirred the latter to strengthen its maritime capability in the Indian Ocean, considered to be its strategic backyard.
  • As India occupies a central and strategic location in the Indian Ocean area. Its national and economic interests are inseparably linked up with Indian Ocean. Hence to keep the Indian Ocean as a zone of Peace free from superpower rivalry and increasing cooperation among littoral countries in the region (as being prime in India’s foreign Policy), a strong hold of Indian Navy will definitely boost Indian maritime supremacy.

Question How INS Vikrant along with nuclear triad of India, can ensure the regional leadership of India? What can be some roadblocks in this regard?

 

3.Drought resistant transgenic rice (Down to Earth)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on evolution of new hardy crops by scientists which can have great outcomes for India’s food security.(GS paper III)

Overview

  • Observing the ill-defined patterns in climate owing to phenomena of climate change, something more needs to be done rather than just conventional methods of farming.
  • In such a response, entire new variety of rice has been grown to fight the extreme events such as drought. It can be a great respite to India’s food security.

Transgenic rice

  • A group of Indian, Chinese, and Canadian scientists have developed transgenic rice that gives high yields even under severe water deficit.
  • The new rice variety has been developed by transferring a gene from a common plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, into a variety of Indian rice called samba mahsuri.
  • This gene is known to be involved in pathways controlling growth and development. Arabidopsis thaliana is a flowering plant widely used for research purposes but it has no agronomic value as such.
  • A group of Indian, Chinese, and Canadian scientists have developed transgenic rice that gives high yields even under severe water deficit.
  • The new rice variety has been developed by transferring a gene from a common plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, into a variety of Indian rice called samba mahsuri. This gene is known to be involved in pathways controlling growth and development.

 Arabidopsis thaliana is a flowering plant widely used for research purposes but it has no agronomic value as such.

  • The content of chlorophyll which is required for plants to grow reduces under stress conditions like drought, which in turn hits the yield. The transgenic rice maintained high chlorophyll content even under water-deficit and therefore performed better.

Way ahead

  • The need of extensive irrigation is a major constraint in rice production. Overexpressing TOR gene plays a major role in improving plant development, biomass, and yield potential under limited water conditions. Transgenic plants would be expected to have higher yields and better plant performance. Also, saved water, the most important ingredient in cultivation, could be utilized in the cultivation of other crops that need water and are deprived of it.

Question What are the prospects for drought resistant and fortified crops in the backdrop of climate change?

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