Current Affairs October 25, 2021

Is genetically modified rice grown in India?

  • GM foods are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified, usually by inserting genetic material from another organism, in order to give it a new property, such as increased yield, tolerance to a herbicide, resistance to disease or drought, or to improve its nutritional value.
  • Probably the best known variety of GM rice is golden rice, which involves the insertion of genes from a plant — both daffodils and maize have been used — and a soil bacterium to create a grain that is enriched with Vitamin A.
  • India has approved commercial cultivation of only one GM crop, Bt cotton.
  • No GM food crop has ever been approved for commercial cultivation.
  • However, confined field trials have been allowed for at least 20 GM crops.
  • That includes varieties of GM rice which would have improved resistance to insects and diseases, as well as hybrid seed production and nutritional enhancements such as golden rice.
  • Trials have been carried out by public universities and research institutions such as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, as well as private firms such as Bayer Bioscience and Mahyco.
  • India is the world’s top rice exporter, earning ₹65,000 crore last year by selling 18 million tonnes of grain, about a quarter of which is premium basmati.
  • Among the 75 countries which buy Indian rice, West Asian nations, the U.S. and the U.K. are the biggest importers of basmati, while the majority of non-basmati rice goes to African countries and Nepal and Bangladesh.
  • For Indian farmers, the nightmare scenario could be what happened in the U.S. in 2006, when trace amounts of a GM rice variety being tested by Bayer were found in shipments ready for exports.
  • Trading partners such as Japan, Russia and the EU suspended rice imports from the U.S., hitting farmers hard and forcing Bayer to pay $750 million in damages. Under pressure from the rice export lobby at the time, India drafted policies to ban GM rice trials in the basmati belt.
  • In the face of new advances in rice research, scientists and farmers say the regulatory regime needs to be strengthened for the sake of domestic and export consumers.


Why is India facing  bouts of extreme weather?


  • According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the Kerala and Mahe region received 124% excess rainfall from October 14 to October 20. Against the normal 72.1 mm rainfall for the period, the region had received 161.2 mm. Lakshadweep received 15% excess rainfall.
  • From October 1 to October 22, Kerala recorded 121% excess rainfall, with all districts, except Alappuzha, recording above 70% excess rainfall. Alappuzha recorded 52% excess for the period.
  • The latest fortnightly forecast from the agency says “above normal” rainfall is expected over the next fortnight.
  • Uttarakhand recorded 192.6 mm against the usual 35.3 mm from October 1 to October 20

Why such increase?

  • There are different factors at play in Kerala and Uttarakhand. There have been two rain-bearing ‘low pressure systems’ that are active in the Arabian Sea as well as the Bay of Bengal since the past week.
  • The low pressure system in the Arabian Sea contributed to the heavy rain in Kerala, whereas western disturbances, which are periodic influxes of moisture-laden clouds from the Mediterranean, and common during winter, are what caused the rain in northern India.
  • The Bay of Bengal is still warm and strong winds from there are reaching as far as Uttarakhand and will contribute to rainfall in several parts of north-eastern India.
  • October is the month when the southwest monsoon entirely retreats from India and the northeast monsoon sets in, bringing rain over Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
  • Both low pressures as well as western disturbances are tangentially connected to the larger pattern of global warming.
  • The Bay of Bengal is historically the warmer ocean that seeds low pressures and cyclones that bring rain to India. In recent years however, the Arabian Sea, too, has been warmer than normal, and leading to significant cyclonic activity.
  • Overall elevated temperatures are also contributing to warmer waters in the Arctic Ocean and drawing colder air from the poles with greater intensity.
  • This added to the increased moisture, thereby seeding more intense western disturbance activity over north India
  • When the atmosphere and the ocean is considered as a whole, rain everywhere is the result of moisture rushing up to fill differences in temperature between oceans and the land and while there is a broad agreement that warming oceans are contributing to intense spells of rainfall in pockets followed by long rainless spells, specific instances — such as what is being seen in Kerala and Uttarakhand — aren’t unprecedented.
  • The monsoon cycle is prone to large variations, and every year regional factors get accentuated — it’s hard to predict which in advance — that then lead to extreme climate events.


Conscious possession


  • Section 35 of the Act recognises the ‘presumption of culpable mental state’. Possession need not be physical and could be ‘constructive’.
  • The Supreme Court defines the word ‘conscious’ as “awareness of a particular fact” — a state of mind which is deliberate or intended.
  • That is, a person can still have power and control over the article in question, while another to whom physical possession is given holds it, subject to that power or control.
  • An illustration of ‘conscious possession’ is if a person keeps his gun in his mother’s flat, which is safer than his own home, he must be considered to be in possession of the firearm.
  • The liability is on the accused to dispel the court’s presumption of his culpable mental state. Section 54 also allows for a similar presumption in the possession of illicit articles
  • One of the Directive Principles in the Constitution (Article 47) directs the state to act against narcotic activities injurious to health.
  • The NDPS Act mandates the formation of a central authority to exercise its powers and functions under the statute.
  • The government constituted the NCB on March 17, 1986, to coordinate with other departments and ministries to fight illicit traffic in drugs and drug abuse.



Hot jupiters

  • Hot Jupiters are gas giant planets closely bound to their stars.
  • A paper published in Nature Astronomy can serve as a ‘field guide’ to hot Jupiters and also offer insights into planet formation
  • Hot Jupiters are a class of gas giant exoplanets that are inferred to be physically similar to Jupiter but that have very short orbital periods (P < 10 days). The close proximity to their stars and high surface-atmosphere temperatures resulted in the moniker “hot Jupiters”.
  • Hot Jupiters are the easiest extrasolar planets
  • One of the best-known hot Jupiters is 51 Pegasi b. Discovered in 1995, it was the first extrasolar planet found orbiting a Sun-like star. 51 Pegasi b has an orbital period of about 4 days.


Age segregation

  • Fossils unearthed in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region is the oldest-known evidence that some dinosaurs thrived in a complex, well organised herd structure, with adults caring for the young and sharing a communal nesting ground.
  • The fossils include more than100 dinosaur eggs and the bones of about 80 juveniles and adults of a Jurassic Period plant-eating species called Mussaurus patagonicus.
  • The animals experienced a mass-death event, probably caused by a drought, and their bodies were subsequently buried by wind-blown dust.
  • The animals were found to have been grouped by age at the time of their deaths. This phenomenon, called “age segregation,” signals a complex social structure


Great oxidation event

  • The Great Oxidation Event (GOE), also called the Great Oxygenation Event, was a time period when the Earth’s atmosphere and the shallow ocean first experienced a rise in oxygen, approximately 2.4–2.0 Ga (billion years ago) during the Paleoproterozoic era.
  • Geological, isotopic, and chemical evidence suggests that biologically-produced molecular oxygen (dioxygen, O2) started to accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere and changed it from a weakly reducing atmosphere practically free of oxygen into an oxidizing atmosphere containing abundant oxygen, causing many existing anaerobic species on Earth to die out.
  • The event is inferred to have been caused by cyanobacteria producing the oxygen, which stored enough chemical energy[5] to enable the subsequent development of multicellular life forms.


Insulin and tissues


  • Insulin is a hormone secreted by the b cells of the pancreas.
  • It is commonly associated with an ability to regulate glucose metabolism.
  • However, later studies (from around 1949 until recently) have shown it plays a larger role and helps in growth and maintenance of tissues.
  • Despite years of study, fundamental details as to how differential amounts of insulin impact cells are unknown.
  • An important mechanism in the cell is insulin signalling, which is a series of biochemical reactions that convey information about availability of insulin and the necessity to regulate the glucose in the blood.
  • There are two main pathways for insulin signalling, named AKT and ERK, which together balance metabolism and growth.
  • These specifically control storage of glucose in the liver and also stimulate glucose transport in skeletal muscle and fat.
  • Abnormalities in insulin signalling thus impact health and survival itself of organisms and the study addresses an important piece of the puzzle.


Misinformation in FB


  • Internal documents at Facebook show “a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence” in India, the company’s biggest market, with researchers at the social media giant pointing out that there are groups and pages “replete with inflammatory and misleading anti-Muslim content” on its platform, U.S. media reports have said. In a report published on Saturday, The New York Times said that in February 2019,
  • Internal documents show a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence in the country, the company’s biggest market.


India central Asia outreach


  • In Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Jaishankar extended a credit line of $200 million for the support of development projects and signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) on High-Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP).
  • His next stop was the Kazakhstan capital, Nur Sultan, where he attended the 6th Foreign Ministers’ Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
  • At CICA, Mr. Jaishankar targeted China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Admonishing China’s methods in promoting the BRI, he said while greater connectivity was essential for the promotion of regional stability, it must not be pursued for parochial interests.
  • He also confronted Pakistan for its support towards cross-border terrorism
  • Jaishankar has become the first Indian External Affairs Minister to visit Armenia.
  • During the visit, Mr. Jaishankar also supported efforts for a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk group.
  • The Taliban re-establishing its supremacy over Afghanistan has also exposed the weaknesses of coalitions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), created in response to the threats of terrorism that sprang from Afghanistan.
  • However, the SCO has been used by most member countries for their own regional geostrategic and security interests, increasing the trust-deficit and divergence within the forum.
  • As the SCO failed to collectively respond to the Afghan crisis, the Central Asian leaders met in Turkmenistan in August to voice their concerns over the Afghan situation, and also discussed the presence of Central Asian terror groups within Afghanistan and along their borders.
  • After the breakup of the Soviet Union and the formation of the independent republics in Central Asia, India reset its ties with the strategically critical region. India provided financial aid to the region and established diplomatic relations.
  • New Delhi signed the Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPA) with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to stimulate defence cooperation and deepen trade relations.
  • In 2012, New Delhi’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy aimed at furthering India’s political, economic, historical and cultural connections with the region.
  • However, India’s efforts were stonewalled by Pakistan’s lack of willingness to allow India passage through its territory. China took advantage of the situation and unveiled the much-hyped BRI in Kazakhstan.
  • The growing geostrategic and security concerns regarding the BRI’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its violation of India’s sovereignty forced
  • Most of the Central Asian leaders view India’s Chabahar port as an opportunity to diversify their export markets and control China’s ambitions.
  • China’s assertive approach led to rising social discontent on the ill-treatment of their ethnic brethren in neighbouring Xinjiang.
  • Central Asian countries have been keen to have India as a partner as they have sought to diversify their strategic ties.
  • They have admitted New Delhi into the Ashgabat Agreement, allowing India access to connectivity networks to facilitate trade and commercial interactions with both Central Asia and Eurasia, and also access the natural resources of the region.
  • Rising anti-Chinese sentiments within the region and security threats from the Taliban allow New Delhi and Central Asia to reimagine their engagement.
  • India cannot afford to lose any time in recalibrating its regional engagements.