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A cautious opening is called for

It has been proved that GM mustard increases yields by up to 30% and reduces farming costs
Last Updated : 31 October 2022, 01:14 IST
Last Updated : 31 October 2022, 01:14 IST

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The debate over Genetically Modified (GM) crops has gone on for a long time in the country and there have been differences over their scientific and technical validity and impact on agriculture, environment and economy. But the recommendation by GM crops regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for the “environmental release” of the transgenic hybrid mustard DMH-11 for seed production and commercial cultivation is likely to be accepted by the government and GM mustard is likely to enter the farms soon. It will be the first-ever GM food crop to be used by Indian farmers. Permission for the commercial release of Bt brinjal was refused in 2010. The hybrid mustard DMH-11 was developed in 2002 and the GEAC had cleared it in 2017. A parliamentary committee and the government had wanted more studies on it. With the GEAC approving it and recommending it again after more studies, the government could well conclude that there is no good reason to delay commercialising it.

In 2020, the government had told the Lok Sabha that long-term studies conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on the impact of Bt cotton had not shown “any adverse effect on soil, microflora and animal health”. There may be less reason for any concern over GM mustard. It was indigenously developed by scientists at Delhi University and there is no scope for the apprehension that farmers will be at the mercy of multinationals. The DU team which developed it under its former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental will share their GM parent lines with others who can breed mustard hybrids, giving higher yields than DMH-11, or possessing other traits such as better oil quality and disease resistance. All the necessary data has also been placed in the public realm for scrutiny.

It has been proved that GM mustard increases yields by up to 30 per cent and reduces farming costs. Mustard is an important oilseed and increased production can go a long way to reduce the country’s dependence on imports. India imports about 60 per cent of its edible oil requirements worth about $20 billion. GM cotton helped the country to turn an exporter from an importer. Climate change is certain to have an adverse impact on agriculture, and production of all crops will be hit in various ways. It is necessary to harness science and technology to minimise the harmful impact. There is still a lot of opposition to GM technology within the country. The government should take a wise and informed decision on it. As a matter of caution, it can give permission for GM mustard cultivation for a limited period, review the results, and then proceed accordingly.

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Published 30 October 2022, 17:56 IST

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