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Challenges Faced by India’s bioeconomy

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Biotechnology

 Source: TH

 Context: India’s bioeconomy growth is not in sync with desired funding and policy support.

Bioeconomy: It is the economic activity involving the use of biotechnology and biomass in the production of goods, services, or energy.

 

India’s bioeconomy:

  • According to the DBT’s ‘Bioeconomy Report 2022’ report, India’s bioeconomy contributes 2.6% to the GDP and by 2030 it will be ~5% of the GDP.
  • This ambitious leap of $220 billion in eight years will require aggressive investment and policy support.

 

Concerns:

  • Neither funding for the DBT nor its recent policies reflect any serious intention to uplift this sector.
  • For example,
    • The current Budgetary allocation to the DBT is only 0.0001% of India’s GDP.
    • Also, policies that enable risk-taking appetite within Indian scientists to create an ecosystem of innovation and industrial action, are missing.
    • Also, the alignment between biotechnology policies and economic goals is missing.

 

Case study – Problems in the Guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) Insects:

  • Uncertainty of purpose
    • The guidelines emphasise that GE insects offer applications in various fields (such as human and livestock health; crop management; etc) uplifting the standard of living by
      • Reducing disease burden,
      • Enabling food security and
      • Conserving the environment.
    • However, the guidelines don’t specify the purposes for which GE insects may be approved in India.
    • The guidelines only provide regulatory procedures for R&D on insects with some beneficial applications.
  • Uncertainty for researchers:
    • The guidelines are applicable only to research and not to confined trials or deployment.
    • Once the insects are ‘made’ and tested in the laboratory, researchers can conduct trials with them on the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the MoEFCC.
    • Once deployed, GE insects can’t be recalled and unlike GM foods they are not amenable to individual consumer choice.
  • Uncertainty of ambit:
    • The guidelines offer standard operating procedures for GE mosquitoes, crop pests, and beneficial insects – but what ‘beneficial’ means, in the context of GE insects, is not clear.
    • The lack of clarity will impede funders and scientists from investing in this research.

 

Way ahead:

  • Further efforts are needed to attract private funding for biotechnology R&D.
  • Policies need to be significantly revised if biotechnology is to be of any serious consequence to the economy.
  • Both of the above are essential considering the importance of biotechnology to any pandemic preparedness efforts.

 

Insta Links:

India’s Biotech Sector

 

Mains Links:

How can biotechnology help to improve the living standards of farmers? (UPSC 2019)