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Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11: India’s first Genetically Modified Food Crop

Nov 03, 2022

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Enhance your UPSC CSE preparation with our daily dose of Current Affairs wherein we discuss topics that make news at National and International level. In today's edition of our Current Affairs, we will discuss Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11: India’s first Genetically Modified Food Crop. The topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus is mentioned below.

For Prelims: Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11), genetically modified (GM) food crop, Hybrid variety, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

For Mains: Development of DMH-11, Significance of DMH-11, Need for a hybrid variety, Usage of Hybrid Variety, About Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

Context

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex regulator and an arm of the Environment Ministry has recently cleared DMH-11 or Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 for environmental release.

Probable Question

After years of being in limbo, there is a surge of optimism around DMH-11, or Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11, a variety developed using genetic engineering techniques. Comment

About Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11)

  • DMH-11 is a hybrid variety of mustard.
  • Development of DMH-11:
    • The variety is developed using genetic engineering techniques by Indian scientists and public funds.
    • DMH-11 employs genes from a soil bacterium that makes mustard, a self-pollinating plant, amenable to being crossed with other varieties and producing hybrid varieties.
  • Significance of DMH-11:
    • Hybrid varieties are generally more vigorous and, like mustard, an oil seed, will produce more oil.
    • DMH- will be the first-ever genetically modified (GM) food crop that Indian farmers would plant, once approved.
    • Multi-location field trials of DMH-11 over three seasons (2010-11, 2011-12 and 2014-15) showed its average seed/grain yields at 2.4-3 tonnes per hectare, as against 1.9-2.2 tonnes for the best national “check” variety Varuna.

About Hybrid Variety

  • Need for a hybrid variety:
    • Poor Yields: India has various types of mustard, but still it continues to be a net oil importer due to poor yields. 
    • Food crisis: The situation of oil globally is also worsening, due to the Ukraine war
  • Usage of Hybrid Variety:
    • Bt cotton, whose original version (containing a single insect pest-resistant gene) was released in 2002 and an improved double-gene product in 2006.
    • DMH-11 would also be the first GM crop after BT cotton.
    • BT Brinjal, a transgenic food crop, is still on a trial since 2009.
  • Criticism: Indian farmers believe genetic modification technology to be dangerous, thus despite decades-long trials, mustard hybrids have not made it to Indian farmers.
  • Significance:
    • High Yield: Bt cotton boosted India’s yields and turned India from an importer to the world’s second-largest exporter. 
    • No adverse Impact: There is no adverse outcomes have been reported from the consumption of its oil and seed cake fed to cattle over the last 20 years. 
    • No scientific evidence: There’s also no scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of any GM crop.

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About Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • It functions in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). 
  • Aims as per Rules, 1989: 
    • Appraisal of large-scale use of hazardous microorganisms.
    • Appraisal of recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. 
    • Appraisal of proposals relating to the release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
  • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). 
  • Presently, it has 24 members and meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above.

Way Forward

  • There should not be any unnecessary delay in the approval of GM crops as an early decision will allow seed multiplication for farmers to be able to plant in the 2023-24 crop season.
  • DMH-11 alone may not resolve India’s edible oil crisis, thus rather seed companies should invest and develop their own hybrids. 

News Source: The Hindu & The Indian Express

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/farmers-to-plant-genetically-modified-food-crop-approach-scientific-swadeshi-8234079/

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