India Allows Release of GM Mustard, India’s first GM Food Crop

Prof. Deepak Pental with GM mustard hybrids at Delhi University South Campus. Photo by Vivian Fernandes

The stage is set for farmers to cultivate genetically-modified mustard, reports Vivian Fernandes.

The apex regulator for genetically-modified (GM) crops, GEAC, has recommended the environmental release of a GM mustard hybrid developed by a team of Delhi University scientists led by Deepak Pental. Government approval is not needed Dr. Pental said as the government has approved the minutes of the meeting recommending the release.

The mustard hybrid, Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH)-11, is India’s first GM food crop to get approval for cultivation. It sets the stage for the cultivation of other GM food crops. The only GM crop India has approved is Bt cotton, in 2002.

Dr. Pental said his team at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) will give the parental lines to seed companies so they can produce their own hybrids. His team will also use whatever is left of this sowing season to multiply the parental lines and produce seed. Dr. Pental said the seed will be available for cultivation in the 2024 winter sowing season.

The hybrid is tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium. GEAC said the herbicide can be sprayed only on crops for seed production. The herbicide which sells under the brand name Basta does not have a label claim on mustard. Dr. Pental says his team will work to obtain approval from the Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee for the herbicide to be used on mustard.

GEAC had recommended the release of DMH-11 in May 2017. But then environment minister Harsh Vardhan had not accepted the advice. He wanted an impact study to be conducted on honeybees and pollinators first. GEAC said that study will be conducted post-release. Dr. Pental says such studies are best conducted in open fields where the foraging behaviour of bees can be best captured.

(Photo of Prof. Deepak Pental with GM mustard hybrid palnts at Delhi University’s South Campus by Vivian Fernandes)


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