GM Mustard

Hybrid variety of a crop is obtained by crossing of two genetically diverse plants of same species and it can give higher yields than their parents. But mustard cannot be naturally hybridised because it is a self-pollinating plant having both male and female reproductive parts in a single flower. But researchers have created hybridised mustard using GM technology. The GM hybridised mustard, as it is claimed, gives up to 30% more yield than the present best varieties.

Researchers have used “barnase / barstar” technology for genetic modification. A barnase gene is isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. The gene can code for a protein that impairs the pollen production in a plant making it male-sterile. This male-sterile variety is crossed with a parent variety having a gene called ‘barstar’ to block the action of barnase gene. The resulting variety, having both foreign genes, is a fertile plant and it can increase yield of the crop.

The main reason for its objection is in use of GM technology for hybridisation involving use of alien genes. Though GM technology is already commercialised in India through Bt cotton, it is argued that cotton is not a food crop whereas mustard is largest edible oil yielding crop of India. Its introduction may adversely affect human and animal health. They also argue that the reason for increased imports of edible oils is because of reduction in import duties and that in turn discouraged domestic production by companies. It resulted in reduction of cultivation of the crop by farmers. There was similar opposition to introduction of Btbrinjal, another GM crop approved by the GEAC in 2009.

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