GM Mustard is Expected to Increase Mustard Productivity

GM Mustard (Genetically Modified Mustard) developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi, has recently been cleared for commercial cultivation by Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s central biotech regulator; after many years of deliberation and debates on agricultural technologies. GEAC has recommended its approval to the environment ministry. Decision of the GEAC is being opposed by environmentalists, anti-GM groups and even the RSS-linked economic policy think-tank Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM).

GEAC had last, way back in March 2002, granted approval of three Bt-cotton hybrids (Bacillus thuringiensis cotton), developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Limited, for commercial cultivation and that was India’s entry into commercial agricultural biotechnology. Introduction of Bt-cotton has brought a great deal of hope, curiosity and expectations as it was designed to control bollworms: that caused estimated annual losses at about US$ 300 million despite repeated spraying of insecticides. The economic importance of bollworms is reflected in the fact that insecticides with estimated value of $700 million are used on all crops annually in India of which about 50% is sprayed on cotton crop alone, especially to control bollworms.

GEAC had approved Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation in 2009 but that decision was overruled by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who put a moratorium on Bt brinjal commercialization in 2010.

GM mustard DMH 11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11) developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, the University of Delhi, led by former Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental & his team; with support from the Department of Biotechnology and the National Dairy Development Board is expected to increase mustard productivity which has been stagnant for several years. As the developers claim higher yield that will increase production and will lead to an improvement in farmers’ incomes and standard of living.

  • Mustard is a self-pollinated crop and its flower contains both male and female parts. Hence, it is difficult to pollinate from the male part of another parental line until one creates a female only by inducing male sterility in a parental line.
  • Under the technology created by the team Pental, the male part of the flowers of one of the parental line is made sterile, enabling pollination from another parental line.
  • This helps achieve the vigour of hybridization and improving yield.
  • This technology is expected to bring better hybrids using the same platform to improve the mustard crop yield significantly.
  • GM mustard will hopefully address India’s shortage of edible oil and minimize the gap between demand and supply over the years and reduce imports.
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