A team of Indian scientists has completed the final field trials of a genetically-modified variety of mustard and will submit a report on its yields and safety to the union government within a month.
Tested in Rajasthan and Punjab and at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi, the GM mustard’s yield is 20 to 30 percent more than the best varieties available currently, said Delhi University’s Deepak Pental, who heads the research on the transgenic mustard.
"It was tested in Rajasthan at three places for two years; at two places in Punjab for one year; and in Delhi in IARI. Results reveal that it yields 20 to 30 percent more crop than the best varieties … no mean achievement by global standards," Pental, a professor at DU’s department of genetics, told IANS on Tuesday.
This could substantially bring down India’s edible oil imports, he observed.
The report would be handed over to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), housed in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
Though there is stiff opposition from a section of farmers and other sectors, Pental said, positive results could help these technologies succeed.
"The government has to take a call. If it allows one or two transgenics and people see the positive results like Bt Cotton, then only these technologies will succeed," he said.
Pental said biosafety studies (most conducted at National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad) did not show any "untoward effects" in terms of allergenic reactions, toxicity and environmental impacts.
He said the genes used in the process have been deregulated (allowing GM seeds to be commercially sold) in many countries and the safety of these genes is "beyond doubt".
"The three genes we used have been deregulated in rape seed, a sister crop of mustard that is extensively grown in Europe, Canada, the US, China and Australia. These genes have been deregulated in Canada since 1996. Today, 50 percent of their area is under these transgenics containing these three genes that we used," Pental said.
"End products which humans consume will not have any proteins – either the plants’ own proteins or the transgenic proteins," he added.
Currently, Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial production in India.