GM Mustard in India
This is a guest blog. The author is inclined to stay anonymous.
A government panel has cleared commercial use of what would be India’s first genetically modified (GM) mustard as India’s first food crop, but politicians have yet to give the final approval amid widespread public opposition. In this blog the subject of “GM Mustard in India” has been analyzed.
Need for GM Mustard in India
India spends around $12 billion annually on vegetable oil imports. India annually imports 3 million tons of soya-bean oil and another 0.4 million tons of mustard oil, called as rapeseed oil. We have no proof that the imported oil is not from GM seeds.
Domestic edible oil production is below 7.5 million tons per year, of which mustard’s share is roughly a quarter, the need to raise domestic crop yields and cut dependence on imports is obvious.
Development of GM Mustard
GM mustard has been developed by Deepak Pental, a geneticist at the Delhi University, with support from the National Dairy Development Board and the Department of Biotechnology. It is also called as Dhara Hybrid Mustard 11 (DMH-11).
Field Trial Report of GM Mustard in India
- GM mustard, is claimed to give up to 30% more yield than the present best varieties.
- There is no evidence of adverse impact on human and animal health.
- The oil is low in saturated fats and high in oleic fraction like olive oil but retains heart health-protecting omega-3 fatty acid content of mustard.
- This oil is superior to olive and canola oils, the two premium edible oils available in the global market.
Concerns about GM Mustard
- Hybrids varieties are generally known to produce greater yields but they necessitate farmers to keep going to seed companies every year to buy fresh seed.
- A safety document — detailing the findings and the results of all the prescribed tests, including allergenicity, pollen flow, bee visits, insect attacks and yield levels, as well as the data perused in assessing DMH-11, is yet to be made public.
- On the related issues of gene flow, contamination and the growth of super weeds, the response so far has been unscientific.
- The Ayush ministry has been promoting organic and medicinal plants. Mustard is used widely in ‘Ayurvedic’ medicine. Its leaves too are eaten.The impact of the GM crop on the medicinal properties of mustard has not been adequately studied.
Future of GM Mustard in India
The production and distribution of GM Mustard needs to be taken up in a scientific manner. It will be an important step on the path of self-sufficiency in oil-seeds production in India.
All concerns need to be set to rest in through scientific analysis in a transparent manner at the earliest.
The urgency is not only from the perspective of gaining self-sufficiency in food production, saving foreign exchange but also due to the fact that the oil being imported by India to supplement our shortfall is likely to be obtained from GM sources and we have no assurance that it would be safe for human consumption.