GM mustard will be ready for cultivation in three crop seasons: IARI Director

“Indian Council of Agriculture Research will test the hybrid seed”

Published - October 27, 2022 10:06 pm IST - NEW DELHI

With the GEAC approval, the ICAR will now test the hybrid for its yield before commercial cultivation.

With the GEAC approval, the ICAR will now test the hybrid for its yield before commercial cultivation. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Welcoming the decision of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to provide environmental clearance for genetically-modified mustard, the Indian Agriculture Research Institute director Ashok Kumar Singh said it would lead to find a science-based solution for a major challenge, the edible oil import. Dr. Singh said the clearance would also allow the development of more high yielding hybrids in the sector.

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Singh said the environmental release of GM mustard would provide an opportunity for mustard breeders to develop diverse and high-yielding hybrids of mustards. He added that there was no need to go for clearance by the Environment Ministry as the hybrid was environmentally released by the GEAC. “In BT Cotton too, a similar process was followed. Now the responsibility is on the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) for testing the hybrid. Now, the hybrid can be commercially cultivated after producing large quantity of seeds of the hybrid. In this season, as there are not much seeds available, the available male line and female line of the hybrid have to be multiplied. Then in the second season, we have to go for large quantity of hybrid seed production by crossing female with male. Then in the third season, it will be available for commercial cultivation,” Dr. Singh said.

The ICAR has an established system to coordinate research projects, known as the All India Coordinated Research Project, in which scientists test the hybrid and varieties developed by different institutions. “Now, the GEAC has given environmental clearance for Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11). Therefore, this hybrid can now be tested in the all India coordinated trial of AICRP for its yield advantage. If it is found for higher yielding, then it will be released for commercial cultivation” Dr. Singh said explaining the next process.

The applicant, the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), can also approach the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA). The developers of the technology can also register the hybrid with PPVFRA and can obtain plant breeders’ right and with that right they can go for commercialising the hybrid through companies or other institutions.

Most important aspect

The most important aspect of the technology, Dr. Singh said, was that it had used barnase and bar genes system for creating diverse parent and the chances of yield enhancement was more. The Environment Ministry had earlier sought studies on the impact of the genes on soil microbes. “This data was there in the application and the GEAC accepted the data,” Dr. Singh said.

The second question was regarding the effect of GE mustard on honey bees and other pollinators. Dr. Singh said that internationally-available data was looked into this and in Canada, between 2012 and 2020 a similar system was used and there was a significant increase in the number of bee colonies. “Barnase and bar genes are protein and honey is basically sugar without any protein content. So the question of honey being affected by this does not arise. These genes are safe,” Dr. Singh added.

“Barnase and bar genes are protein and honey is basically sugar without any protein content”Ashok Kumar SinghIndian Agriculture Research Institute director

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