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India and GM-Mustard

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May 13, 2017

Why in news?

  • The genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC), India’s biotechnology regulator has approved the environmental release and cultivation by farmers of DMH-11.
  • It is a genetically modified (GM) hybrid mustard developed by scientists at Delhi University.

What are genetically modified crops?

  • Genetically modified crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques.
  • The aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.
  • In food crops include resistance to certain pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, and improving the nutrient profile of the crop.
  • In non-food crops include production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels, and other industrially useful goods, as well as for bioremediation.
  • More than 10% of world’s crop lands has been planted with GM crops.

What are the benefits of GM crops?

  • Better Pest and Disease Resistance.
  • Greater tolerance of stress, such as drought, low temperatures or salt in the soil.
  • High yield and faster growth, they can be cultivated and harvested in areas with shorter growing seasons.
  • More nutritious, and tastier.
  • May be possible produce medicines or even vaccines.
  • Can be made resistant to specific herbicides.

What are the drawbacks with GM crops?

  • Can cause Unpredictable side effects.
  • Can cause ecological damage.
  • Lead to over use of herbicides.
  • Not accessible to every poor farmers.
  • Problem with Intellectual property rights.

What is the status of GM varieties in India?

  • The country has yet to approve commercial cultivation of a GM food crop.
  • BT Cotton: BT cotton was first used in India in 2002.
  • The only genetically modified cash crop under commercial cultivation in India is cotton.
  • Now it’s being grown by Indian farmers on some 11 million hectares.
  • Only 1/3rd of the kapaas or raw un-ginned cotton harvested by farmers.
  • Remaining 2/3rd comprises the seed that is crushed to extract oil.
  • Cotton-seed oil is, indeed, India’s second largest indigenously produced oil today after mustard.
  • The de-oiled cake or meal remaining after oil extraction is, likewise, fed to milch animals.
  • During its introduction it was found to be promising for many farmers but after few years it created distress among the farmers.
  • It failed to fulfil its promises such has high yield, pest resistance, drought resistance.
  • The seed prices are determined by corporates which is highly expensive for the farmers.
  • Many hectares of the land has been spoiled by this seeds.
  • BT Brinjal: The GEAC in 2007, recommended the commercial release of Bt Brinjal.
  • It was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the Dharward University of Agricultural sciences and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.
  • BT brinjal was overturned in February 2010 by the then Environment Minister who assumed the role of regulator and ordered a suspension on the transgenic vegetable’s cultivation.

What are the benefits of GM Mustard?

  • GEAC has recently given a green signal for taking a decision on commercialization.
  • Indigenously developed seeds, the patent remains with government unlike with cotton it remains with corporates.
  • India Plans for food fortification to achieve SDG, this will help to achieving its goal.
  • Yields are expected to rise by up to 30 per cent.
  • India imports 15 million tonnes (Mt) of edible oils worth almost $11 billion annually, Mustard oil production from this variety of crop will save a lot on Foreign exchange exchequer.

What is the way forward?

  • Environment ministry is the final conclusive authority in this regard.
  • If the Minister’s consent is obtained, GM mustard would be the first transgenic food crop to be allowed for commercial cultivation in Indian fields and would be a gateway for several genetically-modified food crops in India.
  • Many of the GM crops in world today are cultivated for animal feed, the effects of GM crops on Humans are yet undiscovered.
  • It is to be noted that many Developed countries closed their doors for GM foods.
  • The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.
  • GM varieties should be promoted in a responsible way, and lot of awareness need to be created among the stake holders.
  • Other than bio-safety concerns, transgenic technology is necessary for India to be scientifically relevant as well as have better seeds to address threats from climate change.

 

Source: The Hindu & The Indian Express

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