Canola-quality Mustard

The introduction of Canola Quality Mustard, featuring specific quality traits in rapeseed-mustard lines, holds immense significance for India’s agricultural and economic landscape. This breakthrough, achieved by Indian scientists, addresses the critical need to reduce imports, boost domestic oilseed production, and achieve improved quality.

This topic of “Canola-quality Mustard” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Unveiling Canola Quality Mustard

Canola Quality Mustard refers to rapeseed-mustard lines cultivated to possess distinct quality traits. These lines possess significantly lower levels of glucosinolates, compounds responsible for the pungency found in mustard seeds. While conventional mustard seeds contain around 120-130 ppm of glucosinolates, Canola seeds have successfully achieved sub-30 ppm levels.

The Significance of Canola Quality Mustard

The emergence of Canola Quality Mustard holds several key implications:

  • Reducing Imports: India’s dependency on oilseed imports can be mitigated through improved domestic production, leading to foreign exchange savings.
  • Boosting Domestic Oilseed Production: Canola Quality Mustard embodies advancements in yield, pest resistance, and overall quality, contributing to self-sufficiency in oilseed production.
  • Indian Scientific Breakthrough: Indian scientists have made substantial strides, including developments in genetically modified (GM) mustard and genetically edited (GE) low-seed high-leaf glucosinolate lines.

The Science Behind Canola Quality Mustard

Achieving Canola Quality Mustard involves reducing glucosinolate content. This has both benefits and drawbacks:

  • Benefits: Lower glucosinolate content enhances oil and meal quality, enhancing overall usability.
  • Drawbacks: Decreased glucosinolate levels can render the plant more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Glucosinolates play a role in protecting plants against pests and diseases. To achieve lower seed glucosinolate and higher leaf glucosinolate content, scientists employed gene-editing techniques, including CRISPR/Cas9, to target specific genes. This resulted in a transformation of the glucosinolate profile.

The Pioneering Institution

The National Institute of Plant Genome Research, based in Delhi, spearheaded the development of Canola Quality Mustard.

Unraveling Genetic Engineering vs. Genetic Modification

Distinguishing between genetic engineering (GE) and genetic modification (GM) is crucial:

  • Genetic Engineering (GE): The new mustard variety is a GE plant that does not possess any foreign genes. This contrasts with GM plants, which incorporate genes from other organisms, such as Bacillus thuringiensis in cotton.

Regulatory Insights

Regulations regarding genetically modified crops (GM) are pivotal:

  • GM crops necessitate approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for cultivation and trials.
  • An exemption for GE plants for open field trials was established on March 30, 2022.

Mustard’s Role in India

Mustard is a major domestically-grown oilseed, accounting for 42.6% of India’s vegetable oil production. India’s significant imports of edible oils, valued at $20.84 billion, underscore the importance of boosting domestic production. Mustard, along with soybean, plays a crucial role in this endeavor.

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