Mustard comes closer to becoming India’s first genetically modified food crop

Mustard, a crop whose seeds and oil are traditionally used in everyday cooking in India, is coming closer to being the country’s first transgenic food crop. India’s top biotechnology regulator earlier this month approved the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard. However, before the seeds are released for sowing, India’s environment minister will have to approve the 11 May recommendation of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, the government body that evaluates GM crops. The University of Delhi’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants developed the GM mustard. The goal is to allow plant breeders to develop higher-yielding hybrids of the largely self-pollinating crop. One strain of the bioengineered mustard contains genes from a soil bacterium that cause male flowers to be sterile. Breeders can then pollinate these plants with a strain genetically modified to restore fertility in the resultant hybrids. India’s Supreme Court is hearing a case seeking a moratorium on commercial release of the mustard. The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has stated it will abide by the court’s decision. If accepted, the mustard will be the second GM crop to be approved for cultivation and the first GM food crop. India approved the cultivation of transgenic cotton in 2002. Currently, India depends heavily on imports to meet its enormous demand for edible oils, including mustard oil.

Chemical & Engineering News, 25 May 2017 ;http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news ;