Friday, May 03, 2013

My way of thinking on GM crops

Developing countries are adopting the Biotech crops at faster rate, Genetically Modified (GM) crops have been cultivated more than 1. billion hectares worldwide, 10 % of the world crop lands were planted by GM crops in 2010, 17.3 million farmers grew GM crops in 2012. India cultivated 9.4 million hectares of GM crops in 2010. Major scientific academies and regulatory bodies of the world from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Russia, Australia and  New Zealand  have completely  endorsed the safety and efficacy of the science and technology of GM crops. Most of the developed nations experience with Biotechnology crops are  reliable, alternatives to traditional pests, reduced input costs, quality in crop yields and finally income benefits to farmers.

Achieving food and nutritional security is tough task, we need to try all possible options like GM and conventional. Malnourishment still exists in India, India ranked 65 among 79 nations in global hunger Index. ( High ranked = Most vulnerable).Everyone concurs that sustainable agriculture plays a critical role for future food needs and better environment. The first green revolution achieved by applying the chemistry and petroleum, but now the Biotechnology, information technology and renewable energies are crux  for the next green revolution. It's something modern way of thinking for food security, economic development and environment. Now the most of farming community has been dependent of information, communication and technology, they are adopting modern growing techniques of precision farming  like  System of Rice Intensification Method  in paddy cultivation, modern farm implements, organic farming and also cultivating the transgenic commercial crops like BT cotton.

Applying Biological solutions instead of Chemical applications has been growing in agriculture. In India, lot of hurdles to integrate the biotechnology into agriculture research I.e technical, political, environmental, intellectual property, biosafety and trade related issues. Based on the demand, it is suggested to implement Biotechnology applications in strategic areas where the agriculture get more gains. As we know that, parliamentary standing committee and a Supreme Court of India jointly appointed the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) to perceive the pros and cons on GM Crops, TEC has recommended a ban on field testing of GM crops which are under development in both public and private labs for a decade, but it was dismissed by the courts and now the Environment and Forests Ministry has allowed the field trials on 20 GM crops such as cotton, rice, tomato, groundnut, potato, corn, sorghum, okra, brinjal, mustard, wheat, watermelon, papaya, sugarcane, rubber, castor, banana, pigeonpea and chickpea. Out of 20 crops, field trials were initiated for only three crops ( Cotton, Corn, Mustard) upon obtaining the no objection certificates from the state governments. 

All these actions indicate that India has positive approach towards transgenic crops, the real challenge is that how the scientific regulatory bodies monitor the process of trials and research. The regulatory precautions should be implemented very meticulous and ultimately those crops must not negatively affect on human health and  environment or animals and other crops. In India lot of apprehensions on GM crops which are related to safety aspects of human health and environment, let us wait and watch.. how the scientists and policy makers are going to address the public apprehensions on the GM crops which are now in field trials  Everything should be transparent in the field trial process and the research data, nothing should be hide, farmers and consumers must be better informed.

GM seeds are expensive and the technology is protected with stringent intellectual property laws and patented. Some of the international seed companies are monopolizing the business by merging the small seed companies and they are pushing their GM seeds in place of conventional. To break the monopoly of big biotech companies, government should encourage the extensive research and field trials through private companies and universities, so that  the enhanced competition will help the small and marginal farmers to afford the GM seeds. Nonprofit organizations and public sector scientific agencies should focus on safe and effective application of biotechnology to the extremely important crops for the benefit of small and poor farmers.