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What’s the hurry for GM mustard?

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Awareness in the fields of Biotechnology

 

Source: IE

 Direction: Like a coin, GM technology has 2 sides (pros and cons). The article highlights the concerns regarding GM mustard in India and the precautions needed before it is rolled out for commercial production.

 Context: Experts express concern regarding the recent recommendation of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for approval for the environmental release of genetically engineered (GE) mustard (DMH-11 hybrid) in India.

Background:

  • India’s rising import bill for edible oil: In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, the country produced just 8.5-9 million tonnes (mt) of edible oil while importing 14-14.5 mt, resulting in a record foreign exchange outflow of $18.99 billion.
  • DMH-11 hybrid: It was developed by genetic modification (GM) by the DU’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) by the process of hybridisation of two alien genes (barnase + barstar) isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens.
    • Hybridisation involves crossing two genetically dissimilar plant varieties that can even be from the same species to have higher yields than what either parent can individually give.
    • DMH-11 is claimed to have shown an average 28% yield increase over the Indian mustard variety ‘Varuna’ in field trials carried out by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
  • GEAC: It is a body responsible for the appraisal of proposals relating to the “release” of GM organisms and products (ordinarily considered hazardous) into the environment.
    • In the case of the DMH-11 hybrid, it has recommended the environmental release of DMH-11 for its seed production and testing prior to commercial release.

Concern raised by experts:

  • The potentially harmful long-term ecological and economic consequences of releasing DMH-11.
  • Details of the mandatory trials to ensure food-environmental safety – a prerequisite before environmental release have not been made public.
  • A detailed long-term assessment of the potential social and economic benefits of using DMH-11 remains to be made.
  • Will cause displacement of manual labour engaged in weeding as the GM mustard is weed tolerant.
  • The new system may threaten the population of honey bees as mustard flowers are a source of nectar for honey bees.
  • Disastrous effect of the spread of a herbicide resistance (HT) gene on the normal crop.

 

Way ahead:

The following requirements for environmental release have been proposed by GEAC –

  • Usage of any formulation of herbicide is recommended only under controlled and specified conditions.
  • Usage of any formulation of herbicide is not permitted for cultivation in the farmer’s field.
  • The applicant (CGMCP) should conduct field demonstration studies with respect to the effect of [GM mustard] on honey bees.

 

Conclusion: A great deal of time, effort and resources have gone into the development and testing of DMH-11 mustard. However, the existing investment should not discourage us from doing a thorough examination of the risks posed by GM mustard.

 

Insta Links:

GM Mustard

 

Mains Links:

Q. The decision to remove the unscientific ban on Genetically Modified (GM) crops reflects the determination of the government to move towards Atmanirbhar Bharat. It also meets the aspirations of our scientific community and farmers can derive the benefits of innovative technology. Critically analyse. (250 words)

 

Prelims Links:

Consider the following statements:

    1. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is the apex regulator of GM crops in India.
    2. India does not permit the commercial cultivation of GM rice.
    3. GM seed companies must mandatorily obtain permission from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee for conducting field trials of GM crops in India.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 2 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) 2 and 3 only

 

Ans: (b)

 Explanation:

  • India does not permit the commercial cultivation of GM rice, but research groups are testing varieties of such rice in trial plots.
  • Though the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is the apex regulator of GM crops, it is mandated that trials of GM crops obtain permission from States.

Refer: https://www.insightsonindia.com/2022/10/27/gm-mustard/