Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

Can GM Crops promise Food Security?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GM crop in India

Mains level: Are Non-GM Ecological Crops Also a Food Security Solution?

Why in the news?

A new “gene revolution” is being promoted as a solution to increasing global food demand and the impact of climate change on agriculture.

What does the World Economic Forum (WEF) say?

  • The WEF supports GM technology and believes it can help ensure food security for a global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
  • Research into new strains of rice, maize, wheat, potato, and cassava can help these staples survive extreme weather and new climate-induced diseases.
  • Latest bioengineering technologies can help plants and soils capture and store atmospheric carbon, potentially reducing planet-heating carbon.
  • Projects are optimizing photosynthesis in crops like maize and rice to improve yields and reduce atmospheric carbon.

Industrial-Scale GMOs Perpetuate Climate Change

  • Critics argue that GM crops sustain an “agro-industrial system” responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions. Current food systems contribute to around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • GMOs often involve large-scale monocultures requiring significant amounts of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.
  • This system is criticized for being energy-intensive and unsustainable, benefiting large agro-industrial companies that dominate the seed, food, pesticide, and fertilizer markets.

What is the Present Scenario?

  • Over half of harvested cropland in the US uses genetically modified seeds.
  • Despite the proliferation of GM crops, food insecurity remains widespread, with 250 million people in nearly 60 countries experiencing crisis-level food insecurity.
  • Successful campaigns, like in the Philippines, have led to production moratoriums on certain GM crops due to health and ecological concerns.

Are Non-GM Ecological Crops Also a Food Security Solution?

  • Resistance to GMOs persists, with scepticism about their safety and ecological impact.
  • Non-GM ecological approaches face challenges due to limited research support, as most funding comes from large agri-biotech companies.
  • Ecological, non-GM crops aim to produce toxic-free food and nurture biodiverse ecosystems that can resist and mitigate climate change.
  • There is ongoing development of ecological, non-GM seed, food, and nutrition systems to address food security in a warming world.

Way forward:

  • Enhanced Regulatory Oversight and Support for Ecological Practices: Strengthen regulations to ensure the safe development, testing, and deployment of GM crops while supporting research and development of non-GM ecological farming practices.
  • Public Awareness and Inclusive Research Funding: Launch comprehensive public education campaigns to inform communities about the benefits and risks of GM and non-GM crops, promoting informed decision-making.

Note:  India has approved the commercial cultivation of only one GM crop, Bt cotton. No GM food crop has been approved for commercial cultivation in the country.

Mains PYQ:

Q What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification? (UPSC IAS/2021)

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