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Gene Modified Mustard Gets Environmental Approval

GM Mustards gets a green check from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under Environment Ministry.

Sonali Behera
Environmental release of the transgenic hybrid mustard DMH-11 for seed production.
Environmental release of the transgenic hybrid mustard DMH-11 for seed production.

The "environmental release" of the transgenic hybrid mustard DMH-11 for seed production and the execution of field demonstration studies concerning its effects, if any, on honeybees and other pollinating insects was approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) that comes under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change.

The GEAC is the agency in charge of evaluating requests for the "release" of GM organisms and products (often regarded as harmful) into the environment. In this instance, it has advised against DMH-11 being released into the environment before the commercial distribution for its seed production and testing. In other words, it has approved farmer commercial cultivation, with seed production serving as the initial phase.

The environmental release of the parental lines from DMH-11 (containing the genes for barnase and barstar gene system) so that they can be utilized to create new hybrids has also been advised by GEAC. Such hybrids might produce yields that are even higher than DHM-11.

Indian mustard cultivars have a limited genetic background. The barnase-barstar gene system makes it possible to breed hybrids from a larger variety of mustard species, including those with East European ancestry, such "Heera" and "Donskaja."

Several green organizations have opposed GM crops in general. There have also been two specific worries raised regarding GM mustard.

The first is the existence of a third "bar" gene, which makes GM mustard plants resistant to the application of the weed-killing chemical glufosinate-ammonium. The argument made by the opponents is that encouraging the use of chemical herbicides will result in the displacement of physical labour used for weeding.

However, the DMH-11 creators assert that the bar is merely a marker gene. It is used to identify the genetically modified plants required for mass seed production because non-GM plants cannot tolerate herbicide application.

The threat or devastation of GM mustard on honeybee populations is the second issue of concern. Honeybees and a variety of other pollinating insects can find nectar in mustard flowering plants.

However, the GEAC has cited the report that this GM mustard crop doesn’t possess any adverse effects on honeybees and other insect pollinators.

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