GM crops – on apporval to GM Mustard

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Source– The post is based on the article “That it has taken so long for India’s farmers to plant a genetically modified food crop shows an approach that is neither scientific nor swadeshi” published in The Indian Express and “Keen as mustard: GM crops need quick regulatory okays, Indian farming & Indian science will hugely benefit” in The Times of India on 28th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Science and Technology

Relevance– Application of biotechnology

News- The article explains the need for commercial cultivation and seed production of GM mustard.

What are some facts about GM mustard?

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee has recommended the “environmental release” of the transgenic hybrid mustard DMH-11 for seed production and commercial cultivation.

It contains three alien bacterial genes that enable hybridisation.

It would also be the first GM food crop after its original version that contains a single insect pest-resistant gene, released in 2002 and an improved double-gene product in 2006.

Why is there a need to approve GM Mustard for commercial cultivation?

Multi-location field trials of DMH-11 have shown that its average grain yield is 2.4-3 tonnes per hectare. While the yield for the present best grain variety Varuna is 1.9-2.2 tonnes and the all-India average yield is 1.2-1.3 tonnes.

GEAC has approved not just the product but also the hybridisation platform. GM parent lines can be shared with others, including private seed companies. They can breed mustard hybrids giving higher yields than DMH-11 or possessing other traits such as better oil quality and disease resistance.

India imports about 60% of its edible oil. It was valued at $19 billion last financial year. This level of import dependency undermines food security. For years, Indians have also been consuming imported GM soybean oil. Given these factors, GM mustard can be a better alternative.

What has been the experience of GM crops till now?

Bt cotton has increased the yields. It has turned India from an importer to the world’s second largest exporter. ICAR study on the impact of Bt-cotton in Maharashtra has found that the average seed cotton yield increased after the adoption of GM technology.  Also, no adverse outcomes have been reported from the consumption of its oil and seed cake fed to cattle over the last 20 years.

There’s no scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of any GM crop like maize, soyabean or mustard’s cousin canola on human and animal health and environment.

GoI representatives told a parliamentary committee in 2017 that Indian regulators had assessed Bt-cotton, Bt-brinjal and GM mustard, and found them to be safe as feed to animals.

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