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Genetic Modification (GM) of Mustard

Context:

As soon as the government took the decision to release India’s first genetically-modified (GM) food crop Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) for “environment release”, some activists approached the Supreme Court to ban it for various reasons. The Supreme Court has ordered the status quo to be maintained till the next hearing on the matter on November 17.

Relevance:

GS II: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What exactly is hybrid mustard?
  2. What are GM Crops?
  3. Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops

What exactly is hybrid mustard?

  • Hybridisation 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 hybridisation 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 — unlike in cotton, maize or tomato, where this can be done through simple emasculation or physical removal of anthers.

Genetic modification (GM) of Mustard:

  • Scientists at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) have developed the hybrid mustard DMH-11 containing 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.
  • 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 are GM Crops?

  • Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. More than 10% of the world’s crop lands are planted with GM crops.
  • In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species like resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, herbicides etc.
  • Genetic Modification is also done to increase nutritional value, bioremediation and for other purposes like production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels etc.

Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops

GEAC

  • The top biotech regulator in India is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The committee functions as a statutory body under the Environment Protection Act 1986 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
  • GEAC is responsible for granting permits to conduct experimental and large-scale open field trials and also grant approval for commercial release of biotech crops.
  • The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities for handling of various aspects of the rules:
    • The Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
    • Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
    • Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
    • State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
    • District Level Committee (DLC)

Cartagena Protocol

  • The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement on biosafety as a supplement to the Convention on Biological Diversity effective since 2003.
  • The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

-Source: The Hindu


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