GM mustard not getting cleared may disappoint agricultural scientists but will not affect the country's research on non-GM high-yield varieties
EXCERPT: Expansion of irrigation coverage too helped in increasing production but it was supported by the development of a number of drought and water-logging resistant varieties of seeds in the country's public research institutions like ICAR, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and state/central agriculture universities.
Non-GM seeds helped up production 5-fold in 60 years
The Times of India, Oct 10, 2016
The debate around genetically modified crops and a recent PIL in the Supreme Court may force the government to delay its final decision on GM mustard. With the transgenic variety of mustard unlikely to be released for the coming Rabi (winter crop) season, the focus will be on non-GM varieties to help increase production.
Transgenic mustard not getting cleared in the near future may disappoint agriculture scientists but it will not affect the country's research in public institutions on non-GM high-yielding hybrid and non-hybrid seed varieties.
After all, the efforts of Indian agriculture scientists saw the nation record a five fold increase in foodgrain production in six decades -- from 50.8 million tonnes (MT) in 1950-51 to 252.22 MT in 2015-16.
Although net sown area also increased during the period (from 119 million hectares to over 141 million hectares), high-yielding seed varieties played a key role in increasing production.
Expansion of irrigation coverage too helped in increasing production but it was supported by the development of a number of drought and water-logging resistant varieties of seeds in the country's public research institutions like ICAR, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and state\central agriculture universities.
These institutions, over the years, developed more than 2,000 seed varieties of cereals, including rice, wheat, maize and millet and over 700 varieties of oilseeds, which led to the phenomenal growth in foodgrain production.
"Conventional plant breeding has given India very good sustainable agricultural production in major food crops like wheat and rice. Good varieties, which have better adaptation and yield, are quickly adopted by farmers," K V Prabhu, IARI's joint director of research, told TOI.
Prabhu, the chief breeder of high-yielding wheat varieties like HD-2967 and HD-3086, said, "Such varieties will continue to meet our needs provided pests like `Karnal Bunt' and `spot blotch' in wheat or `brown plant hopper' or `aphid' in mustard do not assume epidemic proportions as it can under vulnerable climate."
However, he emphasised that GM technology was "the most viable option" if India wanted to continue its self dependence in foodgrains in the scenario where crops face various kinds of stresses.
Allaying concerns over release of transgenic seeds, Prabhu said, "Our bio-safety and environmental safety regulations have evolved as dependable systems to facilitate research, product delivery and commercial spread, integrating conventional research with complementary support of GM technologies for food security."
He noted that the other avenues of increasing production may work, provided crops are insulated from biotic and abiotic stresses and it can be done through intervention of GM technology.
At present, farmers have to depend on heavy use of chemical pesticides to save their standing crops from biotic stresses like pests and insects.
Indian public research institutions have over the years come out with high-yielding varieties which are developed to resist different kinds of stresses -- drought, high temperature, salinity and water logging -- and increase productivity.
The varieties which played key roles in making India self-sufficient in cereals include HD-2967, HD-3086 and WH-1105 among others of wheat and Pusa Basmati 1121, Pusa 1509 and many others of Rice. These varieties made India not only self-sufficient in foodgrain production but also substantially increased its export potential.
All conventional seed varieties are not in the active seed production chain. Every year new varieties replace the older ones in different agro-climatic zones. The ongoing research helps the country getting new varieties every year.