Skewing the mustard field: The Yellow Revolution’s revival needed

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“Skewing the mustard field: The Yellow Revolution’s revival needed” published in the Business Standard on 14th November 2022.

“A welcome shift” published in the Business Standard on 14th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS – 3 – Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country.

Relevance: About the benefits and concerns associated with DMH-11.

News: Recently, the Ministry of Environment has allowed the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard.

About GM Mustard
Must read: Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee approves commercial cultivation of genetically modified mustard yet again

The DMH-11, developed by Delhi University’s biotechnology centre, reportedly gives about a 28% higher yield than the popular mustard variety Varuna.

What are the other gene-altered food crops allowed for field-testing by GEAC?
Read here: Gene-altered food crops: Enhancing mustard yields 
What are the major benefits of GM Mustard?

Reduce oil imports: India is the fifth-largest producer and also the seventh-largest importer of edible oils in the world. GM Mustard will help in reducing these imports. Globally also, the rapeseed-mustard yields have gone up with the introduction of GM hybrids.

Spun technology-driven green revolution: The perceived positive government approach to GM crops can increase the introduction of genetically superior variants of food and commercial crops and might usher the technology-driven green revolution.

Read more: GM crops – on apporval to GM Mustard
What are the concerns associated with the approval of GM Mustard?

Low yield: ICAR-All India Crop Research Project’s 2006-07 field trial data for GM mustard has shown that GM mustard had a much lower yield that year across locations.

Health implications not studied properly: The Supreme Court’s Technical Expert Committee highlighted the negative health implications and risks of Bt cotton and Bt brinjal on cows and rats, respectively.

Despite such impacts, multi-generational trials and many such tests were not done at all for GM mustard.

No need for Genetic Modification: Mustard does not exhibit high hybrid intensity for seed yields like maize, pearl millet, sorghum, sunflower and castor. Further, there is a natural, efficient, proven and safer way exist to prepare male sterile lines using cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS). This questions the need for Genetic modification for creating DMH-11.

Increase herbicide usage: Seed production of DMH 11 rests on the usage of a highly problematic herbicide glufosinate. This herbicide has not been approved for use in mustard crops. Further, the DMH-11 was never tested as a herbicide-tolerant crop.

Against organic and natural farming: Ministry of Agriculture is promoting organic and natural farming to reduce agrochemical usage. The Ministry has also recently issued directions to curb the usage of glyphosate.

On the contrary, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC)  is incentivising glufosinate, which is even more problematic than glyphosate.

Read more: GM Crops in India: Issues and challenges – Explained, pointwise
How to increase India’s mustard yields?

The yield potential of Indian mustard has been realised up to 4 tonne/ha at experimental fields. But many farmers are harvesting 3 tonne/ha to 3.5 tonne/ha in states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This can be bridged by

Harness genetic gains in oilseed mustard: This can be realised by promoting high-quality seeds with good oil content from high-yielding released varieties/ non-GM hybrids and ensuring functional seed systems and input services.

For example, farmers in Rajasthan are growing Giriraj mustard. It was produced through natural hybridisation, which is giving 3-3.5 tonne/ha yield and also has high oil content (up to 42%).

Promote effective agronomic practices: a) India should horizontally expand of the area of mustard cultivation by using rice fallow, inter-cropping or diversifying crops, b) Utilise technological options like the right placement of seedlings through efficient fertiliser-cum-seed drill, proper plant geometry, conservation agriculture, mustard transplanting, etc.

Revive the Yellow Revolution: The “Yellow Revolution” to protect India from subsidised edible oil was unfortunately discontinued in the 1990s. It is time for India to revive that.

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