Home / Industry / Agriculture /  GM mustard sown in 6 field trial plots days before SC heard plea against it

ICAR's research centre DRMR has planted the genetically modified (GM) mustard hybrid DMH-11 in six field trial plots for evaluation of yields, days before a petition was filed in the top court challenging biotech regulator GEAC's decision to allow the DMH-11 for "environment release".

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a regulatory body of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, had recommended the environmental release of the DMH-11 seed for trials, demonstrations and seed productions under the supervision of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in a meeting on October 18.

Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11) is a hybrid seed variety -- developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at the Delhi University -- that has stirred a storm between scientists, farmers and activists over its environmental release. The anti-GM group has knocked the doors of the Supreme Court.

Speaking to PTI, Directorate of Rapeseed-Mustard Research (DRMR) P K Rai said: "We received the seeds on October 22 and a case was listed in the top court on November 3. The seeds were already planted in between this period in field trial plots for evaluating the yields."

DRMR had received two kilogram of DMH-11 seeds. The research body had planned use of 50 gram seeds each at eight field trials plots, but it could only plant at six places. It did not sow at other two places since the matter was listed for hearing on November 3, he said.

Besides for field trials, 600 grams of seeds were already sown in two demonstration plots, he added.

According to Rai, the planting of DMH-11 seeds was undertaken following a direction from the ICAR, headquartered in the national capital. "No further sowing has been undertaken from November 3 onwards," he added.

Explaining the purpose of field trials, Rai said till date, the developer has only undertaken the Biosafety Research Trial (BRL)-II of the DMH-11 hybrid seed in a protected environment in some locations in India.

The BRL-II trial was done in a controlled environment. Now with its environment release, it will be tested in open fields under supervision of the DRMR to ascertain the yield performance at multiple locations, he said.

Asked if the claims hold true that DHM-11 gives 25-30 per cent better yields than traditional varieties, Rai said: "DMH-11 has never been tested for its yield performance in India. It is difficult to say without completion of field trials whether this GM hybrid variety is better than the existing ones."

The yield evaluation is undertaken at three levels during three seasons. First level is 'Instant Hybrid Trial' (IHT), while the second and third one are Advance Hybrid Trial-1 (AHT-I) and Advance Hybrid Trial-II (AHT-II).

If the yield performance fails at IHT level and does not meet the set standards, next level of trials are not undertaken, he said, adding that the ICAR follows a strict prescribed norms for evaluating the yield performance.

If DHM-II clears all three trials, then the GM hybrid seed variety is ready for notification for commercial release which is done after proper scientific assessment, he added.

Rai said, the DRMR is more concerned about the technology than the yield performance of DMH-11.

"As a scientist and the Directorate of Rapeseed Mustard Research, I am looking at this as a technology which we can use for developing high yielding varieties," he said.

For instance, if an existing variety gives a yield of 28-29 quintal per hectare, then using this technology can be converted into high yielding hybrids, he added.

'Giriraj', 'Pioneer 45S46' and RBM-19 are leading mustard seed varieties and hybrids grown in the country.

Mustard is grown around 8-9 million hectares of land in the country. The technology would be helpful in developing high yielding varieties and boost the domestic mustard seed and oil production and reduce the country's dependence on imports, he added.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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