A push for GM mustard disregarding science, the law – on the issue of GM/HT Crops in India | 19 July 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the ongoing case on allowing the cultivation of GM Mustard crops in India in the Supreme Court of India.


  • GS3: Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country;
  • GS3: Awareness in the fields of Bio-technology;
  • GS3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Prelims


  • Last year, the Union Government allowed the environmental release of the transgenic hybrid mustard (Genetically Modified – GM) DMH-11 in India.
  • Fearing the negative consequences for the environment, some environmentalists approached the SC. Now this case is being heard by the SC.

What is DMH-11?

  • Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 is a genetically modified hybrid variety of the mustard species Brassica juncea.
  • It was developed by Scientists at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), with the aim of reducing India's demand for edible oil imports.
  • DMH – 11 was created through transgenic technology, primarily involving the Bar, Barnase and Barstar gene system.
  • It contains two alien genes isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens.
  • The Barnase gene confers male sterility, while the Barstar gene restores DMH – 11's ability to produce fertile seeds.
  • The insertion of the third gene Bar, enables DMH – 11 to produce phosphinothricin-N- acetyl-transferase, the enzyme responsible for Glufosinate resistance.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC):

  • It functions in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
  • As per Rules, 1989, it is responsible for appraisal of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle.
  • The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.


  • There has been a robust debate on GM crops in India, with concerns raised about the safety, efficacy, and necessity of GM food.
  • Environmentalists argue that this variety of mustard is an herbicide-tolerant (HT) GM crop.
    • GM mustard has been altered to withstand the broad-spectrum plant-killer or herbicide glufosinate. This makes it easier to develop hybrid mustard seeds for higher yields. And farmers growing GM mustard can spray the herbicide to kill all plants except the mustard.
    • In recent hearings in the Supreme Court, to get around the growing evidence of long-term ecological and health risks of HT crops, the government has argued that GM mustard should not be considered HT at all — since the objective for developing it was to improve yields.
    • The government's argument that GM mustard should not be considered HT is misleading, as it is designed to withstand herbicides.
  • The experience with Bt cotton, the only approved GM crop in India, has shown fleeting benefits for farmers but increased costs and risks.
  • Two Standing Committees of the Parliament and a Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court have highlighted weaknesses in the regulatory system and called for caution before releasing GM food.
  • There is a convergence among scientists and elected representatives in recognizing the risks of HT crops, including GM mustard, and the need for comprehensive regulation.
  • The government is pushing ahead with GM mustard without adequate transparency and response to criticisms, potentially paving the way for the release of other HT crops.
  • The government's disregard for science-based concerns and opposition to GM mustard is concerning, and the Supreme Court's decision on GM mustard could impact the future of farming and India's food culture.

Way Forward:

  • GM crops have the potential to solve a slew of problems in Indian agriculture. They can also contribute to food security. But at the same time, a thorough study needs to be done to assess their environmental and socioeconomic consequences in the Indian context.

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