From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : GM Mustard
Mains level : GM crops for cultivation
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:
- GM mustard has the genes of a soil bacterium that give the plant the property of pest-resistance to a wide variety of pests.
- GM mustard has the genes that allow the plant cross-pollination and hybridization.
- 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
Post your answers here.
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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