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Scientists back GM mustard, say will help create better hybrids

DH News Service, New Delhi, Jun 6 2017, 0:43 IST

Agriculture scientists came out in the open on Monday, backing the indigenous genetically modified mustard, which they said would lead to the creation of better and high-yielding hybrids.

The National Academy of Agriculture Sciences (NAAS), with 625 members, adopted a resolution on the commercialisation of GM mustard, seeking immediate release of the crop in the field.

Last week, the academy also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, backing the indigenous GM crop.
Developed by researchers at the Delhi University, GM mustard had received a regulatory approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee — India’s highest regulator for biotechnology products — under the Union environment ministry last month.

The final decision, however, is pending with Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan.The modified variety, DMH-11, has 20-30% higher yield than the mustard hybrids approved by the government as the benchmark varieties (national and zonal checks).

“Even with a moderately high-yield, DMH-11 should be released commercially because it can be used by the breeders to generate far more heterotic (productive) hybrids,” said Trilochan Mohapatra, director general, Indian Council of Agriculture Research.

The scientists cited the examples of semi-dwarf wheat that came from Mexico to usher in the Green Revolution as well as Bt cotton, the only GM crop permitted for cultivation in India. The first few lines of Mexican wheat had a yield of about 3.5 tonnes per hectare, but years of plant breeding led to the current yield level of about 9 tonnes per hectare. It is the same story for Bt cotton. “We spent close to Rs 70,000 crore each year on the import of edible oil, which could be saved by the GM mustard,” said Mohapatra.

Naas scientists said that GM mustard would open up a new window in plant breeding.
DH News Service

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