Scientists associated with the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) and the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS) welcomed the recent approval by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for environmental release of genetically modified (GM) mustard hybrid for cultivation. Terming the decision landmark, the scientists said it would break a long logjam on the release of GM food crops.
“The GM technology for hybrid seed production developed by the University of Delhi will play an important role in reducing the edible oil import burden and in moving towards self-sufficiency in edible oil production. The decision to release GM mustard will encourage more research and innovations to reduce the environmental footprints of agriculture, develop climate resilient crops, and thereby assure food and nutritional security of the country,” scientists Trilochan Mohapatra, R.S. Paroda and K.C. Bansal said addressing a press conference at the NAAS here on Monday.
They said that at present India had a deficit production of edible oils by almost 55-60% of the total consumption. “In the financial year 2020-21, around 13.35 million tonnes of edible oils were imported at a total cost of around ₹ 117,000 crore in foreign exchange. India desperately requires an increase in the productivity of oilseed crops grown in the country. The average mustard yield in India is 1.0-1.3 tonnes/hectare. This is stagnant for almost two decades. Globally, yields of rapeseed have considerably increased with the introduction of hybrids. More than 90% of the rapeseed crop in Canada, grown in around 8.7 million hector, is under hybrids. Most of the rapeseed grown in China and Europe is also hybrids,” they reasoned.
They said hybrid varieties had helped the country and added that GM Mustard could be grown in the fields safely. They added that trials conducted over three years at eight locations under the supervision of Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Directorate Of Rapeseed Mustard Research showed that the variety had a yield advantage of 28% over the mega variety Varuna and 37% over the zonal checks. “With the availability of a robust pollination control system in mustard, the way is clear for developing even higher yielding and canola quality hybrids,” they said.