[Answered] What is Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11? Why there has been opposition to its commercial release? Are hybrid mustard varieties better than local ones?

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Introduction: Explain Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11).
Body: Write some reasons of opposition to its commercial release. Also explain how hybrid mustard varieties better than local ones.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

DMH-11 is a transgenic crop because it uses foreign genes from a different species. DMH-11 is a hybrid variant of mustard developed by researchers at The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, at the University of Delhi. It is a result of a cross between two varieties: Varuna and Early Heera-2. The soil bacterium Barnase in Varuna induces a temporary sterility because of which it can’t naturally self-pollinate and Barstar in Heera blocks the effect of barnase allowing seeds to be produced. The result is DMH-11 that not only has better yield but is also fertile.

Reasons of opposition to its commercial release:

  • Activist groups allege that the GM mustard has not been evaluated as a herbicide (glufosinate-ammonium) tolerant crop posing potential risks.
  • GM mustard plants may dissuade bees and other pollinators from pollinating the plant and this could have knock-off environmental catastrophes.
  • Some groups argued that GM mustard poses a health hazard and could cause cancer as HT (Herbicide Tolerant) technology was mostly carcinogenic.

Comparison of hybrid mustard varieties to local ones:

  • Trials conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) suggest that DMH-11 has 28% higher yields than its parent Varuna and was 37% better than zonal checks, or local varieties that are considered the best in different agro-climatic zones.
  • These trials lasted three years and took place in eight different locations. DMH-11, rather than being an end in itself, indicates the success of the barnase-barstar system, which can be used as a platform technology to develop newer hybrids.

There should not be any unnecessary delay in the approval of GM crops as an early decision will allow seed multiplication for farmers to be able to plant in the 2023-24 crop season. DMH-11 alone may not resolve India’s edible oil crisis, thus rather seed companies should invest and develop their own hybrids.

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