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13 Apr 2024, Edition - 3196, Saturday

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Are Doom-and-Gloom Naysayers of GM, Disarming India in Its Fight to Conserve Scarce Water Resources Asks the Food Industry

by businesswireindia.com

Business Wire India
Where agriculture accounts for 90% of all water consumption in India and due to India’s geographical structure about 53 percent of agriculture is rain fed. Most worryingly, several large agricultural states, such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Jharkhand, which have been ranked lowest in their water resource management, are home to half of India’s population with the majority of its agriculture produce.
Transforming agriculture is central to India’s development prospects – climate change, surging population, rapid urbanization presents a new challenge in meeting the food as well as nutritional security. Biotechnology can help us in meeting food security along with complementary benefits. In particular, Genetic Modification (GM) enables plant breeders to increase the potential of crops and reduce the timescales involved. Unsurprisingly, public support for GM is negative and consumers are forced to see only downsides in promoting the technology. This fear of unknown being created by Chicken Little can easily mature into pseudo facts in consumer’s minds if the real facts are not divulged in time.
  1. Checks food inflations;
  2. Boosts farm income e.g. cotton farmers income increased three times since introduction of Bt cotton;
  3. Prevents distress migration and problem of farmer suicide thereby mitigating shortage of labor in agriculture;
  4. Counters issues like mal-nourishment and hunger.
  1. Absence of adequate standards;
  2. Strong resistance from civil societies;
  3. Non-technical apprehensions regarding use of GM crops for food purpose; and
  4. Not yet proven scientific hazards.  
Before we die thirsty we need to get more confident about the established global technological practices. India is in dire need to have remunerative agriculture, which is water friendly, and also, high yielding. GM crop technology has been widely used for over 20 years in a number of countries and has no proven record of environmental hazards in fact, Peter Barefoot and Graham Brookes, specialists in assessing the impact (economic and environmental) of new technology with considerable experience in understanding of farm economics & competitiveness, policy/regulation and trade issues have recently published a paper stating, “It is widely accepted that increases in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are detrimental to the global environment (see, for example, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Assessment Reports (2006)). Therefore, if the adoption of crop biotechnology contributes to a reduction in the level of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, this represents a positive development for the world.”
What is stopping us from moving forward hundreds of studies have been done so far to demonstrate GMO is safe to grow – crops grow the same as non-GM varieties, crops exhibit expected characteristics (e.g. drought resistant), they have same nutrients as non-GM crops, and have no dietary allergens. More than 30 government bodies globally review to approve GMOs, it takes an average 13 years and US$ 130 million of R&D before products are actually introduced in the market. Farmers in India are committing suicide due to low yield, high cost of inputs, lack of direct irrigation, and non-remunerative prices in a situation like this it is crime to keep farmers away from technological advancement. An all-inclusive approach that integrates biological, chemical, mechanical, and physical methodology should be used to help improve livelihoods of farmers thus helping in achieving the dream of doubling their incomes.
As the arguments plunge in favour, the allied fraternity should be trained and educated so as they accept the GM trend with open arms. As quoted by Michael Specter, “All the food we eat, has been modified by mankind. Genetic engineering is only one particularly powerful way to do what we have been doing for eleven thousand years.”
Source: Businesswire