Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

GEAC gives its nod for commercial cultivation of GM mustard yet again

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GM Mustard

Mains level : GM crops for cultivation

mustard

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has yet again cleared the proposal for commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard.

What exactly is GM (Hybridized) Mustard?

  • Hybridization involves crossing two genetically dissimilar plant varieties that can even be from the same species.
  • The first-generation (F1) offspring from such crosses tend to have higher yields than what either parent can individually give.
  • Such hybridization isn’t easy in mustard, as its flowers have both female (pistil) and male (stamen) reproductive organs, making the plants largely self-pollinating.
  • Since the eggs of one plant cannot be fertilised by the pollen grains from another, it limits the scope for developing hybrids.

How has hybridisation been achieved in mustard?

  • This has been done by genetic modification (GM).
  • Scientists at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) have developed the hybrid mustard DMH-11.
  • It contains two alien genes isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens.
  • The first gene (‘barnase’) codes for a protein that impairs pollen production and renders the plant into which it is incorporated male-sterile.
  • This plant is then crossed with a fertile parental line containing, in turn, the second ‘barstar’ gene that blocks the action of the barnase gene.
  • The resultant F1 progeny is both high-yielding and also capable of producing seed/ grain, thanks to the barstar gene in the second fertile line.

How did researchers achieve this?

  • The CGMCP scientists have deployed the barnase-barstar GM technology to create what they say is a robust and viable hybridisation system in mustard.
  • This system was used to develop DMH-11 by crossing a popular Indian mustard variety ‘Varuna’ (the barnase line) with an East European ‘Early Heera-2’ mutant (barstar).
  • DMH-11 is claimed to have shown an average 28% yield increase over Varuna in contained field trials carried out by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

What has GEAC now done?

  • GEAC has recommended the environmental release of DMH-11 for its seed production and testing prior to commercial release.
  • In other words, it has given the green signal for commercial cultivation by farmers, with production of seed material being the first step.
  • This move was earlier vetoed in 2016 by Environment Ministry.

Why did it take so long for GEAC to clear?

  • There has been opposition to GM crops in general, from assorted green groups.
  • Major concern is the presence of a third ‘bar’ gene, which makes GM mustard plants tolerant to the spraying of glufosinate ammonium, a chemical used for killing weeds.
  • This, the opponents allege will cause displacement of manual labour engaged in weeding by promoting use of chemical herbicides.
  • Another concern is over GM mustard threatening or undermining the population of honey bees.
  • Mustard flowers are a source of nectar for honey bees and many other pollinator insects.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to the Genetically Modified mustard (GM mustard) developed in India, consider the following statements:

  1. GM mustard has the genes of a soil bacterium that give the plant the property of pest-resistance to a wide variety of pests.
  2. GM mustard has the genes that allow the plant cross-pollination and hybridization.
  3. GM mustard has been developed jointly by the IARI and Punjab Agricultural University.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

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Back2Basics: Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • The GEAC is a statutory body notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It was formed as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee and was renamed to its current name in 2010.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.
  • The body regulates the use, manufacture, storage, import, and export of hazardous microorganisms or genetically-engineered organisms and cells in India.

 

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