Long-term ecological, environmental effects of herbicide-tolerant crops haven’t been considered

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Source: The post is based on the article “Long-term ecological, environmental effects of herbicide-tolerant crops haven’t been considered” published in the Indian Express on 29th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Major crop-cropping patterns in various parts of the country.

Relevance: About concerns related to the DMH-11 hybrid.

News: The government recently approved the environmental release of genetically engineered (GE) mustard (“DMH-11 hybrid”) in India.

Must read: Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee approves commercial cultivation of genetically modified mustard yet again
What are the preconditions attached to the approval of the DMH-11 hybrid?

DMH-11 carries a gene for herbicide resistance (also termed herbicide tolerance or HT). The GEAC in its recommendation made on October 18 for environmental release of DMH-11 has accepted a) Usage of any formulation of herbicide is recommended only under controlled and specified conditions exclusively for hybrid seed production, b) Usage of any formulation of herbicide is not permitted for cultivation in the farmer’s field under any situation. c) Usage of herbicide would require the necessary permission as per procedures and protocols of safety assessment of insecticides/herbicides by CIB&RC (Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee).

What are the concerns related to the DMH-11 hybrid?

1) Long-term ecological and economic consequences are not analysed properly, 2) Details of the mandatory trials to ensure food and environmental safety which is a prerequisite before environmental release have not been made public, 3) A detailed long-term assessment of the potential social and economic benefits of using DMH-11 and its potential drawbacks are not made.

The other drawbacks include,

HT offers short-term benefits at the cost of long-term sustainability: HT crops imposes strong selective pressure for resistant weeds to emerge. Once that happens, still higher amounts of herbicide need to be used; the cycle continues progressively.

Can be a disaster for the normal crop: The deployment of herbicide-resistant or HT crops has been accompanied by deleterious outcomes in several places including the US, Australia, and Canada.

Usage of herbicides: There have been numerous recent reports highlighting the illegal use of unapproved herbicide-resistant crops.

Role of CIB&RC: Safety assessment by CIB&RC raises debate as it is not the competent body for recommending approval of GM crops.

Read more: GM Crops in India: Issues and challenges – Explained, pointwise
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