The issue of the environmental release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard variety, DMH 11, was raised in Parliament on Thursday as some memthe bers wanted to know various aspects including its herbicide tolerant (HT) trait. The government maintained that the use of herbicide will be limited to only the seed production stage by the seed-producing company/institute and not during commercial cultivation by farmers.

“GM hybrid mustard DMH-11 has not been approved for HT trait, but for a GM technology for hybrid seed production. The HT characteristic/trait present in the GM mustard hybrid seed is essential for eliminating fertile plants that are not transgenic in the hybrid seed production plots to maintain the purity of hybrid seed,” said Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, he said the use of herbicide will be limited to the seed production stage by the seed-producing company/institute. Further, the use of herbicide will be allowed only after obtaining a label claim and approval from the Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee (CIB&RC), he said.

Higher yield

In a separate reply to a question posed by BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi, Minister of Science and Technology Jitendra Singh said DMH-11 has been tested for three years — 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2014-15 — against national check Varuna and zonal check RL1359 during confined field trials at multiple locations. As per the reports, DMH-11 showed approximately 28 per cent higher yield than the national check and 37 per cent more than the zonal checks.

Singh also said extensive studies carried out during field trials on toxicity (both acute and sub-chronic), allergenicity and compositional analysis have provided evidence that DMH-11 is safe for cultivation and for food and feed use. He said visitation of bees to the transgenic lines is similar to the non-transgenic counterparts as per the data recorded during the BRL-I and BRI-II trials conducted conforming to protocols approved by Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) and GEAC.

In reply to a query by Modi on whether there is any evidence of declining honey production associated with the cultivation of GM cotton during the last 10 years, the minister replied in negative. “No such evidence has been reported. On the other hand, studies conducted during 2018-19 and 2019-20 indicated that there is no negative impact of Bt transgenic cotton cultivars on bees, brood rearing, pollen and nectar hoarding of Apis mellifera colonies as compared to non-transgenic cotton cultivars,” Singh said.