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All about GM Mustard (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper III)

About GM Mustard (DMH-11)
Mustard, a self-pollinating crop, is difficult to hybridize, that is, cross-pollinate. Researchers at the Delhi University have genetically modified an Indian mustard (Varuna), and an East European mustard line in order to cross-pollinate them. 

They have sought permission to commercially release the resultant hybrid named DMH-11, and to use the two GM parental lines for developing new hybrids. 

Benefits of DMH -11
1.  Experts claim that by virtue of being a hybrid (rather than a GM crop), DMH-11 yields about 30 per cent more than a reference mustard variety. Given India’s huge import bill for edible oil, they argue, this effort to boost mustard yields must be welcomed. There are concerns that the yield advantage of GM mustard has been over-estimated by comparing it with dated mustard reference varieties.

2.  GM mustard is resistant to the herbicide glufosinate, and thus a herbicide-tolerant (HT) crop. 

What is glufocinate?
Glufosinate – ammonium is a highly effective herbicide used to control weeds in more than 100 crops in 82 countries around the world. It is effective against a broad range of weeds, eliminating the need to apply several herbicides to control different weeds on a given crop.

A farmer growing DMH-11 can potentially get rid of weeds with a blanket spray of glufosinate, which will kill all the plants except the mustard crop. 

Concerns
1.  The principal reasons were that herbicides adversely impact the vast constituency of manual laborers, for whom weeding provides livelihood.

2.  The GM Mustard crop herbicide resistant trait may transfer to local wild varieties leading to emergence of  herbicide-resistant or “super” weeds.
 
3.  Government has not shared complete details about the crop, its impact, etc. with the Public.

Denying citizens a voice in this matter is all the more serious considering that no labelling regime is in place in India. That is, if commercialised, citizens will not have the choice of opting out of GM sarson da saag, for instance.



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