Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has said the use of genetically modified (GM) technology for seeds is important for improving agricultural productivity and food security.
- He said 18 field trials, testing various kinds of GM seeds, were under way but the government would take a considered view on releasing genetically modified mustard.
GM mustard, likely to be the first food-related transgenic crop and developed as part of a research collaboration involving scientists at Delhi University, sits at an inflexion point with critics alleging that such technologies are unfit for human consumption and proponents arguing that such technology is critical for India’s future.
The Environment Ministry had also constituted a Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee comprising biotechnologists, ecologists and sociologists to take a call on GM mustard.
What is a GM crop?
A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
- For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination.
- The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.
Potential benefits of GM plants:
- Higher crop yields.
- Reduced farm costs.
- Increased farm profit.
- Improvement in health and the environment.
- The danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.
- The likelihood of transgenes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives.
- The potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops.
- The risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms.