IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


21st August, 2023 Science and Technology

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  • The development of low-pungent, pest and disease-resistant mustard using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing holds immense significance for India's agricultural sector and food security.
  • This breakthrough innovation addresses various challenges associated with traditional mustard varieties, particularly the presence of glucosinolates.


Challenges in Traditional Mustard Varieties

  • Pungency: Traditional mustard varieties contain high levels of glucosinolates, sulfur and nitrogen-containing compounds that contribute to the characteristic pungency of mustard oil and meal.
  • Palatability: High glucosinolate content limits the acceptability of mustard oil among consumers who prefer milder flavors and odors in cooking mediums.
  • Feed Quality: Rapeseed meal, the byproduct of oil extraction, is used in livestock and poultry feed. High glucosinolates make the meal unpalatable for certain animals and can lead to reduced feed intake, goiter, and organ abnormalities.

Advantages of Low-Pungent, Pest and Disease-Resistant Mustard

  • Improved Palatability: Lowering glucosinolate levels in the seeds results in mustard oil with milder flavor and odor, making it more acceptable to consumers.
  • Enhanced Feed Quality: Reduced glucosinolates in rapeseed meal make it more palatable and nutritious for livestock, poultry, and aqua feed, leading to increased feed intake and improved growth.
  • Pest and Disease Resistance: The developed mustard variety exhibits enhanced resistance against pests and diseases, contributing to higher crop yields and reduced need for chemical pesticides.

Genome Editing Approach

  • CRISPR/Cas9 Technology: The CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool is utilized to modify the glucosinolate transporter (GTR) genes in mustard plants.
  • Targeted Mutations: Ten out of the twelve GTR genes are edited in the high-yielding Indian mustard variety 'Varuna'.
  • Nucleotide Sequence Alteration: Using the Cas9 enzyme, specific nucleotide sequences are altered in the DNA, rendering the encoded proteins non-functional.
  • Role of Glucosinolates: Glucosinolates are synthesized in leaves and pod walls, and their accumulation in seeds depends on GTR genes' functionality.
  • Enhanced Resistance: The edited lines exhibit defense responses against fungal pathogens and insect pests similar to or better than the wild-type mustard.

Differentiating GM and GE Crops

  • Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: GM crops involve the insertion of foreign genes into an organism's genome, leading to transgenic plants. These genes may come from unrelated species.
  • Genome-Edited (GE) Crops: GE crops involve modifying existing genes within an organism's genome, typically without introducing foreign genes. These modifications mimic natural mutations.

Regulatory Environment for GE Crops in India

  • Stringent Regulations: GM crops face strict regulations in India, requiring approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for open field trials and commercial release.
  • Exemption for GE Crops: GE plants "free of exogenous introduced DNA" are exempt from GEAC approval for field trials leading to commercial release.
  • Approval Process: Institutional Bio-safety Committees (IBSCs) comprising scientists review GE crops' safety for field trials.

Contributing to India's Agricultural Goals

  • Reduced Import Dependence: India is a major importer of edible oils. Developing high-quality, low-pungent mustard contributes to reducing reliance on imported vegetable oils.
  • Enhanced Crop Yield: GE mustard's pest and disease resistance lead to increased crop yields, ensuring food security and domestic self-sufficiency.
  • Improved Livestock Nutrition: Lower glucosinolate content in rapeseed meal enhances its quality as livestock feed, resulting in improved animal health and productivity.


The development of low-pungent, pest and disease-resistant mustard through CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing marks a significant advancement in India's agriculture sector. This innovation addresses the challenges of glucosinolates in traditional mustard varieties, offering benefits such as improved palatability, enhanced feed quality, and increased crop yields. Moreover, the distinction between GM and GE crops and the evolving regulatory framework highlight the safe and sustainable nature of this scientific breakthrough.






Q. Discuss the significance of the development of low-pungent, pest and disease-resistant mustard using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Explain how this genome-edited mustard addresses the challenges posed by glucosinolates in traditional mustard varieties. (250 Words)