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

[op-ed snap] Don’t believe the anti-GMO campaign


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GM technology

Mains level: Various research related to GM crops and how GM technology can help Indian farmers


GM crops debate

  1. A review article, “Modern technologies for sustainable food and nutrition security” authored by geneticist P.C. Kesavan and leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan describes Bt cotton as a “failure”
  2. In 2016, 107 Nobel laureates signed a letter challenging Greenpeace to drop its anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) technology stance
  3. They stated that the anti-GMO campaign is scientifically baseless and potentially harmful to poor people in the developing world

GM crops effectiveness

  1. Genetic modification is the technology of choice for solving abiotic problems like drought flood, salinity, etc
  2. It may not be equally effective in the case of biotic stresses since new strains of pests and diseases arise all the time

Usefulness of GM crops

  1. Data from a large number of peer-reviewed publications have shown that, on average, GM technology adoption has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yield by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%
  2. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops
  3. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries
  4. Data from a billion animals fed on GM corn have not indicated any health hazards

GM crops not a failure in India

  1. Bt cotton is not a failure in India
  2. The yields hovering around 300 kg/ha at the time of introduction of Bt cotton (2002) have increased to an average of over 500 kg/ha, converting India from a cotton-importing country to the largest exporter of raw cotton
  3. India has one of the strongest regulatory protocols for field trials of GM crops

Way forward

  1. GM technology is not a magic bullet. It needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis
  2. There is definitely scope for improvement in terms of technology and regulatory protocols
  3. But it is time to deregulate the Bt gene and lift the embargo on Bt brinjal
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