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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : A push for GM mustard disregarding science, the law

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance, GM crops, DMH-11, Bt cotton, GEAC etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Science and technology- development and applications in everyday life, Biotechnology and issues related to it.

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • According to the global Food Security and Nutrition Report, 2019, it is difficult to achieve the ‘Zero Hunger’ target by
  • Government has decided to release India’s first genetically-modified (GM) food crop — Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) for environmental release.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

GM Crops:

  • GM foods are derived from plants whose genes are artificially modified.
  • 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
    • Improve its nutritional value.
  • GM rice(golden rice): Golden rice 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.
  • Bt cotton: India has approved commercial cultivation of only one GM crop, Bt cotton.
  • Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC): All GM crops in India require approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for use in commercial production.

 

Benefits of GM-crops:

 

Risks associated with GM crops:

Global stand on GM crops:

  • According to a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2020: A total of 72 countries have adopted GM crops either as human food or animal feed
    • As well as for commercial cultivation (56% of the global GM crop area is in developing countries compared to 44% in industrial countries).
  • GM crops have benefited people in five countries
    • Argentina
    • Brazil
    • Canada
    • India
    • United States
  • Bt cotton was commercialized as the first GM crop in India
    • It has been viewed globally as a great success story in terms of economic advantage to farmers and to the nation.
  • Globally, genetic modification has expanded its reach, beyond the major four crops, maize, soybean, cotton and canola, to other economically important food crops
    • For various traits such as insect and herbicide resistance, climate resilience and nutritional quality improvement.
  • Global economic gains contributed by GM crops (1996-2018) have amounted to $225 billion in economic benefits to more than 16 million farmers
    • 95% are from developing countries.
  • GM food crops, since adoption in 1996 globally have been proven for their biosafety for the last 25 years and more.

 

India and importance of Mustard:

  • India faces a major deficit in edible oils: 60% of its demand is met by imports.
  • Mustard is one of the most important edible oil crops in India
    • However, its per hectare yield is very low when compared to the global average.
  • Increasing the productivity of mustard in the country is vital for the economic well-being of farmers and self-sufficiency in edible oil production.
  • Center for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi: It created a GM mustard hybrid, DMH-11 with higher vigor and yield.
    • It will facilitate an increase in domestic production of edible oils as well as enhanced farm incomes.

 

The GM mustard hybrid:

  • It is based on the barnase/barstar system, which works on the principle of removing male fertility in one parent and restoring it in the offspring.
  • The herbicide tolerance gene has been deployed as a selection marker for developing the GM mustard.
  • Use of herbicides in herbicide tolerant (HT) crops: Saving soil moisture and nutrients, besides effective weed control
  • The herbicide tolerance gene in GM mustard is primarily used for selecting genetically transformed lines, and for hybrid seed production.

 

Way Forward

  • The emphasis needs to be on accelerating the pace of improving crops genetically.
  • In order to increase food production and become self-reliant, we require superior crop varieties and hybrids that provide enhanced yields and wide adaptability across environments, and require fewer inputs of natural resources.
  • New biotech/GM crops with improved traits are a must in order to mitigate climate change and produce nutrient-dense food.
  • Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approved the release of DMH-11 and its parental line for cultivation.
    • This will help boost the vibrant genetic engineering research sector in the country
    • It will enable the generation of new crop varieties with improved traits.
  • As the mustard varieties in India have a very narrow genetic base, the decision by GEAC to allow barnase-barstar-based hybrid production in mustard paves the way for the breeding of mustard hybrids not only for higher yields but also to ensure resistance to diseases and improve oil quality.
  • This advancement will benefit farmers by increasing yield per hectare, also leading to an increase in their incomes.
  • Cultivation of these GM mustard hybrids developed indigenously could help enhance farmers’ income, reduce the oil-import burden and help achieve much-needed self-reliance in edible oil production.
  • The environmental release of DMH-11 marks the beginning of a new era in self-reliance and sustainability in agriculture.
  • More improved GM food crops are needed to boost the profitability of Indian farmers.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification ?(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)