India recently said it was important for the country to adopt farming technologies like genetically modified (GM) crops to ensure food security and cut a reliance on imports as it tries to boost the output of edible oils for its huge population.
The environment ministry in October granted environmental clearance for indigenously developed GM mustard seeds, potentially paving the way for a commercial release of the country's first food crop in about two years.
More than 60% of India's total edible oil demand is met through imports from countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as the Black Sea region. "Strengthening of plant breeding programs including the use of new genetic technologies such as GE technology is important for meeting emerging challenges in Indian agriculture and ensuring food security while reducing foreign dependency," minister of state in the environment ministry, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, told parliament, referring to genetically engineered, which is another term for GM.
India spent a record $19 billion importing vegetable oils last fiscal year that ended on March 31. Russia's invasion of Ukraine also disrupted imports and raised prices before supplies improved. Activists have said GM mustard would require widespread use of herbicides and pose a threat to honey bees. India's Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the decision to allow an environmental release of mustard hybrid "DMH-11" for seed production and other tests before commercial release.
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