India’s bio-tech regulator has given environmental clearance for genetically modified (GM) mustard seed production and testing. This is a step before its commercial use. Although it will take at least two years for farmers to start GM mustard cultivation, yet this decision of the Genetically Engineering Appraisal Committee is considered important for two reasons.
- The indigenously developed Transgenic Hybrid Mustard (DMH-11) is expected to increase the yield of oil seed.
- It also paves the way for environmental clearance for parental lines of GM mustard, which will help in the development of new generation of transgenic hybrids and boost gene technology research in the farm sector.
DMH-11 was developed in 2002 at the Center for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants by a team of scientists led by Deepak Pental, Professor of Genetics and Vice Chancellor of Delhi University. It was developed by crossing the popular Indian mustard variety ‘Varuna’ with European mustard. The project was funded by the Department of Biotechnology and the National Dairy Development Board.
Plot-level trials conducted under the supervision of ICAR showed that its yield is 28 per cent higher than Varun. But there are many other reasons to consider it better.
- Its developers say that the transgenic variety of mustard does not require additional water, fertilizers or pesticides. This means that farmers will start getting better crops at less cost.
- This also creates a possibility that farmers will be motivated to increase the area under mustard cultivation. This will help in achieving the target of reducing the expenditure on import of edible oils in the country.
- In the last financial year, India had to import edible oil worth about $ 19 billion.
On the basis of several health studies, the regulator has said that the use of GM mustard is as safe as the consumption of other varieties of mustard grown traditionally in India. To address the concerns of citizens regarding the use of transgenic mustard, the Environment Ministry has also issued FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions and Their Answers) citing various safety trials conducted in top scientific institutions of the public sector.
- It describes how regulatory authorities, after closely assessing dossier provided by gene developers and taking into account all available safety data on resistance to poisons and allergens in humans and animals, found that these proteins There is no toxicity in it.
- It also stressed that there is no evidence that such food can lead to transgene transfer to humans or animals.
At present, Bt cotton is the only transgenic crop that is being commercially cultivated in India.
- Although it is a non-edible crop, the government has stated that there is no evidence on the basis of which it can be assumed that the cultivation of this species for the last two decades has any kind of effect on the land or the entire biodiversity of that area. has had a negative impact.
Why is there opposition
In such a situation, the question arises as to why there is so much opposition from various stakeholders. There are many aspects to this protest.
- Not only is the impact on people’s health in place, there is also a big concern that what will happen if the transgenic plants somehow escape and through them the engineered gene reaches the wider population.
- There is also the issue of sensitivity to gene products of non-target organisms (such as insects that are not pests).
- The loss of biodiversity is also a cause of concern for many. There is also the question of increasing use of chemicals in agriculture.
left, right one
These issues have united groups on both the left and the right against the decision to allow GM mustard in cultivation. Groups like Swadeshi Jagran Manch affiliated to RSS are also opposing the decision.
- The reason for their opposition is economic. They argue that since India has not yet allowed GM in food crops, the non-GM label on exports from the country is helpful in taking orders from European countries as there is a transgenic food ban.
- Transgenic rapeseed (white mustard, which is a variety of mustard) has been grown in Canada since 1996, the US since 2002, and Australia since 2007. It is also being exported from Canada to many countries.
- In countries where they have been approved, no harmful effects have been seen on the health of the people.
check out different
Since different genes are introduced into different GM organisms, the safety of each GM food should be tested separately, on a case-by-case basis, and not just about all GM foods in general. One conclusion must be accepted. However, in its FAQ, the government has said that all the GM foods that are currently available in the international market have gone through safety checks and have not been found to be harmful in any way to the health of the people.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.