ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hybrid Mustard and Biotechnology

Pathways for Doubling Farmers’ Incomes and Nutritional Security

The government’s decision to move ahead on the much-delayed genetically modified mustard developed by the University of Delhi signifies a turnaround and bodes well for the country’s food system. Numerous tests over the last 20 years prove its safety for food, feed, and the environment in the Indian context. The resultant hybrid DMH-11 gives a yield advantage of 37% with the same level of inputs. Our analysis shows that the farming community will get 99% of the additional monetary gains, leaving only 1% to the seed companies. Establishing a hybrid seed production system through this approval is a breakthrough, and several new hybrids with higher yields and desirable characteristics might follow in the next few years that can lead to a turnaround in mustard production.

The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewer for useful comments that helped in improving the draft and presentation.

Rapid discoveries in biotechnology provide new technological options to increase production and make food systems more sustainable (Qaim 2020; FAO 2022). This is particularly relevant for India, which feeds the largest population that is likely to reach 171 crore by 2048 (Nuthalapati 2020). Huge gains from biotech cotton commercialised two decades back notwithstanding, policymaking came to a standstill in terms of approving new biotech applications in agriculture, which negatively affects research, product releases, and productivity growth. The logjam in the issuance of regulatory approvals causes huge financial losses through foregone yield gains, ameliorating poverty, malnutrition and hidden hunger (Wesseler and Zilberman 2014; Wesseler et al 2017; Biden et al 2018).

The conditional approval for the environmental release, of genetically modified (GM) mustard called Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH)-11 and its parental events bn3.6 and modbs2.99, given by the government in October 2022 signifies a shift in the policy stance adopted for more than a decade after a moratorium was imposed on GM crops in 2009 (Baksi 2022). GM mustard could become the second biotech crop to be released in India after Bt cotton and the first food crop to enter farmers’ fields, if the additional hurdles of seed multiplication, post-release monitoring tests, and the ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court of India can be passed successfully.

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Updated On : 9th Nov, 2023
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