Genetically Modified Mustard coming soon in India

India’s central biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), cleared the genetically modified (GM) Mustard for commercial cultivation and recommended its approval to the environment ministry.

The mustard hybrid was developed with transgenic technologies by a team led by Deepak Pental, professor of Genetics at Delhi University.

Only the second food crop to get clearance from the central regulator

All eyes on Environment minister Anil Madhav Dave

Mustard flower

GM crops in India:

Currently India has only one approved GM crop,  Bt  Cotton was approved in 2002. It is a hit with farmers and  it covers 93 per cent of area under cotton. In 2010, then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh imposed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of transgenic Brinjal

Journey of GM Mustard

The mustard hybrid was developed with transgenic technologies by a team led by Deepak Pental, professor of Genetics at Delhi University.

Dr Deepak Pental

His team used two decade old innovation called Barnase/Barstar-based male sterility/ fertility restoration system developed in Belgium to grow transgenic mustard. A protein obtained from a bacterium Bacillus amyloliquefacien  is used to induce male sterility in one parental line by inhibiting the production of pollen and prevent self-pollination. Another protein obtained from the same bacterium is introduced into another parental line to produce an inhibitor that counteracts the sterility causing enzyme. The transgenes are expressed in the male part of the flower only in a layer of cells that feed developing pollen. The hybrid plant obtained by crossing the two lines is fertile and produces seed which farmers can harvest. Also first level studies support the claim that the GM mustard could yield 20-30 percent more than conventional mustard and could plug India’s cooking oil deficit to a large extent.

What anti-GM Mustard supporters say:

Say NO to this GM Mustard : image

  • Regulators have hidden data from the public and the independent scientific community, which is against constitutional provisions and the orders of the Supreme Court
  • Regulatory authorities have exaggerated the benefits of transgenic mustard, so that it gets approved
  • Results are not there to show how yield of transgenic variety stands against high yielding wild variety.
  • Herbicide-tolerant trait would eventually lead to farmers spraying high dose of herbicide, which could result in more herbicides getting into human cycle
  • DNA from transgenic mustard might contaminate nearby plants
  • Transgenic crop that can cross with local varieties could endanger wild variety, and thus hurt biodiversity
  • Glufosinate (Basta), a herbicide used for seed production of DMH-11 is very harmful for environment. Its use will increase if this technology is commercialized. It is more harmful than the commonly used glyphosate which has been declared a cancer causing agent by the leading International Cancer Institute (IARC) of the WHO.

The fate of this GM oil-seed now rests in the hands of the Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave who may either accept it, reject it.

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