Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Research Center of DRMR Supreme Court I had sown DMH-11 a few days before the petition challenging the GEAC decision was filed. The special thing is that mustard hybrid DMH-11 has been sown in six plots for field trial for the purpose of yield evaluation. Actually, GEAC had given permission to release DMH-11 for environmental testing which has been challenged in the court.
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), a regulatory body of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in its meeting on 18 October, recommended the release of DMH-11 seed for environmental testing for testing, demonstration and seed production under the supervision of ICAR. It was Dhara hybrid mustard (DMH-11) is a hybrid seed variety developed by the Center for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University. The decision to release it for environmental testing has caused a lot of resentment among scientists, farmers and activists. The anti-GM group has approached the apex court.
600 grams of seeds have already been sown
Speaking on this, PK Rai, director of the Directorate of Rapeseed-Mustard Research (DRMR), said, “We received the seeds on October 22 and a case was listed in the apex court on November 3.” These seeds were already sown for evaluation of yield between this period. DRMR got two kg of DMH-11 seeds. The research body had planned to use 50 grams of seed in each of the eight field trial plots, but could only plant it in six locations. He said that since the matter was listed for hearing on November 3, it was not sown at the other two places. He said that 600 grams of seeds have already been sown in two demonstration plots in addition to field trials.
According to Rai, the planting of DMH-11 seeds was done following a directive from the ICAR headquartered in the national capital. No more sowing has been done since November 3, he said. Explaining the objective of the field trial, Rai said that till date seed growers have only done Biosafety Research Trial (BRL)-II of DMH-11 hybrid seed in protected environment at few places in India.
GM hybrid variety is better than existing varieties
BRL-II was tested in a controlled environment. Now with it being released for environmental testing, it will be tested in open fields under the supervision of DRMR to ascertain the performance of the produce at multiple locations. Asked whether the claim that DHM-11 gives 25-30 per cent better yield than conventional varieties is true, Rai said, DMH-11 has never been tested for yield performance in India. Without completing the field trials, it is difficult to say whether this GM hybrid variety is better than the existing varieties.
Yield is assessed at three levels during three seasons. The first level is ‘Instant Hybrid Trial’ (IHT), while the second and third are Advanced Hybrid Trial-I (AHT-I) and Advanced Hybrid Trial-II (AHT-II). He said that if the yield performance fails at the IHT level and does not meet the prescribed standards, then the next level tests are not conducted. He said that ICAR follows strict prescribed norms for evaluation of yield performance.
To develop high yielding varieties we can
He said that if DHM-II clears all the three tests, the GM hybrid seed variety is ready for notification for commercial release. This decision is taken after proper scientific evaluation. Rai said that the DRMR is more concerned about the technology than the performance in terms of yield of DMH-11. He said, as a scientist and the Directorate of Rapeseed Mustard Research, I see this as a technology that we can use to develop high-yielding varieties.
Mustard is cultivated on about 80-90 lakh hectares of land in the country.
He said that for example, if an existing variety gives a yield of 28-29 quintals per hectare, it can be converted into high-yielding hybrids using this technology. ‘Giriraj’, ‘Pioneer 45S46’ and RBM-19 are the major mustard varieties and hybrids grown in the country. Mustard is cultivated on about 80-90 lakh hectares of land in the country.
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