What is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)?

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What is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)? Blog Image

Overview:

The Supreme Court recently questioned the Centre on why reports of the court-appointed Technical Experts Committee (TEC) on the biosafety of genetically modified (GM) crops were not looked into by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

About Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • It is the statutory committee constituted under the “Rules for the Manufacture, Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells (Rules, 1989)” framed under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). 
  • Functions:
    • It is responsible for the approval of activities involving large-scale use of hazardous living microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from an environmental perspective.
    • The committee is also responsible for the appraisal of proposals relating to the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment, including experimental field trials.
    • Clearance of GEAC is mandatory for the environmental release of GM crops. 
  • The committee or any person authorized by it has the power to take punitive action under the Environment Protection Act.
  • Composition:
    • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
    • Presently, it has 24 members and meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above.
    • The members comprise experts from other ministries as well as institutions such as the ICAR, ICMR, CCMB, and so on.

Q1) What is genetic modification (GM) of crops and how is it done?

GM is a technology that involves inserting DNA into the genome of an organism. To produce a GM plant, new DNA is transferred into plant cells. Usually, the cells are then grown in tissue culture where they develop into plants. The seeds produced by these plants will inherit the new DNA. 

Source: How GM mustard was developed, why the question of its approval has now reached Supreme Court