A GM Crop Decision that Cuts the Mustard 

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    Syllabus: GS3/ Agriculture, Bio-technology

    In News

    • The environmental release of DMH-11, a genetically modified hybrid variety of mustard, marks the beginning of a new era in self-reliance and sustainability in agriculture.

    Worldwide Adoption of GM Crops

    • According to a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2020, a total of 72 countries have adopted GM crops either as human food or animal feed, as well as for commercial cultivation 
      • 56% of the global GM crop area is in developing countries compared to 44% in industrial countries. 
    • GM crops have benefited more than 1.95 billion people in five countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and the United States) or 26% of the current world population of 7.6 billion. 
    • Bt cotton was commercialised as the first GM crop in India more than 20 years ago, and has been viewed globally as a great success story in terms of economic advantage to farmers and to the nation. 
    • Globally, genetic modification has expanded its reach, beyond the major four crops, maize, soybean, cotton and canola, to other economically important food crops for various traits such as insect and herbicide resistance, climate resilience and nutritional quality improvement.
    • GM food crops, since adoption in 1996 globally have been proven for their biosafety for the last 25 years and more.
    Genetically Modified Crops
    – A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is any living organism whose genetic material has been modified to include certain desirable techniques. 
    – Genetic modification has previously been used for the large-scale production of insulin, vaccines, and more.
    In crops, genetic modification involves the manipulation of DNA instead of using controlled pollination— the conventional method to improve crops— to alter certain characteristics of the crop.

    Advantages
    – It is useful in controlling the occurrence of certain diseases.
    – It grows faster than the foods that are grown traditionally. Probably because of this, the increased productivity provides the population with more food
    – At times, genetically engineered food crops can be grown at places with unfavourable climatic conditions too.
    – It is reported to be high in nutrients and contain more minerals and vitamins than those found in traditionally grown food.

    Disadvantages
    – It may have harmful effects on the human body. 
    – It is believed that consumption of these genetically engineered foods can cause the development of diseases which may be immune to antibiotics.
    – This cross-pollination method can cause damage to other organisms that thrive in the environment.
    – The technology could be carcinogenic
    1. It is a killer technology that kills soil, microbes, pollinators, almost all medicinal herbs and adversely affects crop diversity. It may also cause cancer in humans.

    Challenges of India’s Edible Oil Production

    • Low yield of Mustard: Mustard is one of the most important edible oil crops in India; however, its per hectare yield is very low when compared to the global average.
      • Thus, increasing the productivity of mustard in the country is vital for the economic well-being of farmers and self-sufficiency in edible oil production.
    • India’s edible oil deficit & imports: India faces a major deficit in edible oils, with 60% of its demand being met by imports.
      • The domestic consumption of edible oils is around 25 million tonnes, while the domestic production of mustard oil was approximately 8.5 million tonnes in the year 2020-21. 
      • India’s edible oil imports were approximately 13 million tonnes, which touched ₹1.17 lakh crore in value terms. 

    GM Mustard

    • Dhara Mustard Hybrid: Using genetic engineering, extensive research has been carried out at the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi South Campus, to create a GM Dhara Mustard Hybrid -11 (DMH-11) with higher vigour and yield — this will facilitate an increase in domestic production of edible oils as well as enhanced farm incomes.
    • Government’s approval: In October 2022, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, made a landmark decision of approving the release of DMH-11 and its parental line for cultivation. 
    • Significance:
      • This will help boost the vibrant genetic engineering research sector in the country and enable the generation of new crop varieties with improved traits.
      • This advancement will benefit farmers by increasing yield per hectare. 
      • Cultivation of these GM mustard hybrids developed indigenously could help enhance farmers’ income, reduce the oil-import burden and help achieve much-needed self-reliance in edible oil production.

    Way Ahead

    • The environmental release of DMH-11 marks the beginning of a new era in self-reliance and sustainability in agriculture.
      • More improved GM food crops are needed to boost the profitability of Indian farmers.
    • According to the global Food Security and Nutrition Report, 2019, it is difficult to achieve the ‘Zero Hunger’ target by 2030.
    • The adoption of science-based technologies for crop improvement such as genetic engineering for developing genetically modified (GM) crops as a supplement to conventional breeding methods has become an absolute necessity to address the challenge of achieving global food and nutritional security under the fast-changing climate. 
    Daily Mains Question
    [Q] What is the significance of Genetically Modified crops for self-reliance and sustainability in agriculture? Examine the challenges.