Mitras Analysis of News : 25-05-2017

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1.Say no to GM mustard (The Hindu)

2.Climate change fuelling terrorism (Frontline)

3.Access denied (The Hindu) 

 

1.Say no to GM mustard (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of GM mustard, that has been recently approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) cleared the commercial cultivation of GM mustard that dragged a cliché controversy about allowing transgenic crops for commercial purpose.
  • The Union Ministry for Environment has to take the final decision. The Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, is expected to take a call on the crop soon, even as a case calling for a moratorium on the crop is pending in the Supreme Court. 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.
  • Clearance to GM crop regulator for the commercial use of the genetically modified mustard has been termed as “scientific sham” by environmentalists and food experts.

What is GM Mustard?

  • Mustard is one of India’s most important winter crops sown between mid-October and late November. It a self-pollinating crop difficult to hybridize naturally as it cross-pollinates. It is largest edible oil yielding crop of India.
  • DMH (Dhara Mustard Hybrid)-11, is a Genetically Modified (GM) is variety of mustard, developed by Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University. It was Government sponsored project. It is Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crop.

Issue

Opponents claim that transgenic seeds lead to increased use of chemicals without offering any yield gains. It is anti-farmer and pro-MNCs. According to this claim, farmers have nothing to gain from GM technology. They will lose control over genetic material, they only have to pay hefty premiums on GM seeds that require higher expense on herbicides, but do not offer better yields or better protection from pathogens.

Proponent’s view

  • India is heavily dependent on import of edible oils (over 60% of India’s domestic requirement is imported) and a large portion is already coming from Argentina and Brazil which allows GM technology (in soybean and canola).
  • It will yield 30% more than the traditional variety; it will also help to boost government-led scientific researches in Agriculture.
  • Example from the use of GM technology through BT cotton that has increased the country’s cotton production by more than 2½ times since it was first planted in 2002. There are no evidences to show the adverse impact on human and animal health. Cotton-seed yields not just fiber, but also oil and oilcake that are fed to animals. That makes it no less than a food crop.
    ‘No justification’ by Opponents
  • GM mustard is an herbicide-tolerant crop, which has become a point of concern for activists. Studies show that farmers tend to use only one kind of herbicides with such tolerant plants, potentially forcing farmers into buying the chemicals from a select few companies. Such crops would increase the use of chemicals and of which cultivation would affect a large number of farmers, farm workers and consumers.
  • According to FAO data, the highest yields in mustard come from the five countries, which do not grow GM mustard that are U.K., France, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic and not from the GM-growing U.S. or Canada.
  • If India is desirous to increase its mustard yield rapidly and safely, this can be done by adopting the practice of System of Mustard Intensification, successful trials have been done in Bihar through a World Bank project. Results showed higher yields and better income. All this without the spraying of any toxic herbicides, which is the undisclosed story of GM mustard.
  • The anti-GM activist groups have also received support from some prominent names in scientific circles, such as Sardhi and Pushpa Bharghav, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, who was also a member of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.
  • There is a risk to health, environment and agriculture that have not been evaluated even through those inadequate tests which were conducted at the time of Bt brinjal examination, though mustard is far more extensively grown and consumed than brinjal. Even though claims of toxicity from GM crops have been refuted by several scientific studies, activists continue to question the need for introducing a transgenic crop that could contaminate the non-GM lines of the crops in the long run. Especially, considering the negligible yield increase.
  • The GEAC had itself rejected a similar HT GM mustard proposal by Bayer in 2002. According to the studies at US, there is a strong correlation between growths of GM crops, the herbicides they promote i.e. Glyphosate that has been declared to be a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization.
  • The glufosinate-based herbicide to which the proposed GM mustard is tolerant will also have adverse impacts on health such as acute kidney injury, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and cancers. Seventeen of the 20 most developed countries including Japan, Russia, Israel and most of Europe have refuse to grow GM crops.
  • Allowing the cultivation of GM mustard would amount to a direct attack on women involved in the mustard crop ‘weeding.’ Our conservative estimates show that even 25% adoption of GM mustard in India would lead to the loss of over 4crore employment days, as GM mustard cultivation would not require weeding.
  • According to the United Nation’s Special Report on the Right to Food, “Recent mergers have resulted in just three powerful corporations: Monsanto and Bayer, Dow and Dupont, and Syngenta and ChemChina. They control more than 65 per cent of global pesticide sales; they also control almost 61 per cent of commercial seed sales. The pesticide industry’s efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms and paralyzed global pesticide restrictions globally.” Their business model ensures that no matter who produces a GM seed, they profit.

Way ahead

  • Amid the alleged advantage, there are formidable social, economic and environmental reasons which cry out against GM mustard. So there is need of full research information about its effects on environment and health as haste in pushing GM technology into food crops is unwise and harmful.
  • However, as there is considerable amount of uncertainty regarding the impact of GM food on the environment, insects and animals, the decision of allowing GM mustard has to be weighed carefully. There has to be clear evidence about the safety of GM foods in India.

Question What should be the government’s strategy with regard to approval for GM Mustard. What can be its implications for biodiversity?

 

2.Climate change fuelling terrorism (Frontline)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the linkages between climate change and terrorism. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • A report commissioned by the German foreign office has found that climate change will fuel acts of terrorism and strengthen recruiting efforts by terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram.

Implications of climate change

  • Terrorist groups are increasingly using natural resources – such as water – as a weapon of war, controlling access to it, and further compounding, and exacerbating resource scarcities.
  • As climate change affects food security and the availability of water and land, affected people will become more vulnerable not only to negative climate impacts but also to recruitment by terrorist groups offering alternative livelihoods and economic incentives.
  • Terrorist groups will exploit the natural disasters and water and food shortages expected to result from climate change and allow them to recruit more easily, operate more freely and control civilian populations.
  • The scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them, especially in regions where people are particularly reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods.

Impacts in Africa and Asia

  • The Adelphi report cites several examples where the impacts of climate change are already spurring or exacerbating terrorism.
  • In Syria, the now six-year civil war and rise of Isis was, not caused, but exacerbated by one of the worst and widest droughts in the country’s history, which drove hundreds of thousands from the land, and sent millions into extreme poverty and food insecurity.
  • In 2015, Islamic State closed the gates of the Ramadi dam to more easily attack regime forces further downstream. Weaponisation of water can also take the form of using it as a source of funding by taxing it, as Isis did in Raqqa.
  • In other instances, Isis did not cut the supply, but rather used water to flood land in order to expel people from their homes.
  • In the drought-ravaged region around Lake Chad in central Africa, food and water shortages, near-economic collapse, and weak governments are providing a ripe recruiting ground for Islamist fundamentalist group Boko Haram. In north-eastern Nigeria, the region closest to Lake Chad and where Boko Haram is strongest, 71.5% of the population live in poverty and more than 50% are malnourished
  • In Afghanistan, a country riven by internecine conflicts and acutely vulnerable to climate change, more than half of local conflicts are over land and water. Diminishing rainfall and advancing desertification are likely to spark further violent clashes between nomads and pastoralists over access to pastures and water and food.
  • This kind of economic deprivation provides an ideal breeding ground for recruitment.

Way ahead

  • Climate is a threat multiplier because it aggravates others tensions and conflicts that already exist. Militaries around the world, across the Americas, UK, Europe, and the Asia Pacific, have highlighted the “threat multiplier” impact of climate change and extreme weather events.
  • Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today. It is appropriate for the combatant commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.

Question What are the implications of climate change on the Maoist activities prevailing in Central India. 

 

3.Access denied (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of encrypted devices and the danger they pose to national security.(GS paper II)

Overview

  • Over time and again the debate of privacy versus national security erupts to be settled. However, no concrete solution has been found as what amounts to be more imperative.
  • Recently, National Investigation Agency (NIA) has recovered an iphone from the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s commanders in Kashmir. However, the odds that the agency is able to break into the device are bleak due to the encryption of device and information.

Encryption

  • Encryption is the conversion of electronic data into another form, called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties.
  • The primary purpose of encryption is to protect the confidentiality of digital data stored on computer systems or transmitted via the Internet or other computer networks. Modern encryption algorithms play a vital role in the security assurance of IT systems and communications as they can provide not only confidentiality, but also the following key elements of security:
  • Authentication: the origin of a message can be verified.
  • Integrity: proof that the contents of a message have not been changed since it was sent.
  • Non-repudiation: the sender of a message cannot deny sending the message.

govt

  • Device belonging to militant could be a valuable source of information for the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The government has sent the iPhone to the U.S., seeking assistance from its federal agencies.
  • The government’s strategy of shipping it abroad to decipher its contents is unsustainable. But for some political agreements signed after the 26/11 attacks, there is no legal obligation on the U.S. to provide any assistance in this matter to India, even though the company that manufactured the device is American.
  • Moreover, U.S. security agencies have themselves struggled to extract information from devices like the iPhone, in the face of resolute opposition from companies to decrypt their own products.

Means of encryption so far

  • NIA officials themselves rue that the online chatter they intercept is increasingly encrypted. Thus far, Indian intelligence agencies have relied on ‘zero days’ vulnerabilities that exist in the original design of a software to break into encrypted devices, but Internet companies now promptly patch their flaws, diminishing the utility of such tools.
  • While dealing with secure devices, law enforcement agencies usually have two options to unlock them. The first is to “brute force” the user’s password or PIN into the phone repeatedly, until it finally cracks open. But iPhones limit the number of false entries, killing the phone altogether after several failed attempts. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI was probably able to trick the iPhone an older version, the iPhone 5c into believing the limit was never reached.
  • With newer models from Apple, this has become altogether impossible, because an isolated processor within the phone keeps a running count of all consecutive false attempts. The second option is to modify the ‘Touch’ sensor in phones that use fingerprints-recognition technology, so that a third party is grafted in as the legitimate user. Last year, however, Apple issued a software update that disables all iPhones where the Touch button had been “unofficially” modified. The company later allowed users to restore dead devices, but only after confirming their identity on other Apple platforms like iTunes.

Implications due to such hard encryption

  • A lot of online content is today out of the reach of law enforcement officials. Platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram are ‘end-to-end’ encrypted, making it difficult for police at the State and local level who don’t have access to zero days to register cases based on information contained in them.
  • The distinct trend towards greater adoption of encryption poses a dilemma for Indian policymakers. Strong encryption protocols increase consumer confidence in the digital economy, but the Indian government fears a scenario where criminals or terrorists can easily “go dark” behind secure channels.

Way ahead

  • The current process of information-sharing through the India-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty suffers from almost irreparable hurdles, ranging from bureaucratic delays on both sides to inconsistencies in domestic legal standards.
  • Perhaps the solution lies in a bilateral data-sharing agreement to help the Indian government engage with Internet companies directly, rather than routing requests through the U.S. government.

Question: What should be the move on the part of government to deal with end to end encryption at the events which may compromise National security?

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