The genetically-modified (GM) crops are a danger to the country’s food and nutrition security and claims of GM lobbyists of a yield advantage for GM organisms were unfounded, said international scientists and experts.
Crusaders for the cause of conventional crops and cropping patterns in Hyderabad on Thursday preferred statistics that showed that GM seed promoted by five multi-national companies were not the panacea for the population and for farmers.
GM crops were not a solution but a distraction from other conventional options, they said, adding that farmers were increasingly bearing the brunt of increased inputs and energy costs. Other challenges include climate change, increased losses from pests, exploding population and scarce water.
They pointed out that even in a country such as the USA that was seen as a success story with the longest history of GM use, engineered genes in crops such as Bt and herbicide tolerant corn had led to only a three to four per cent increase in yield and genetic engineering contributed to only 14 per cent of the yield increases in maize crop between 1996 and 2008.
The scientists included Hans Herren, member of the United States National Academy of Sciences from Millennium Institute, Washington, Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, Walter Goldstein from Biodynamic Association of North America and Jack Heinemann, professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, School of Biological Sciences, Centre for Integrated Research in Bio-safety, University of Canterbury Christchurch, New Zealand.
Mr. Hans Herren said there was no evidence to show that India’s food security needs would be met by transgenic crops. The need of the hour was more diverse and resilient cropping systems that addressed the country’s agricultural challenges such as water scarcity, recurring droughts and soil degradation, he said.
Mr. Jack Heinemann said bio-technology choices should allow for food security and nutritious crops that helped the burgeoning population and struggling small farmers. “GM crops were in use only in about a half-a-dozen countries and it is not a technology that is everywhere but only an experiment,” he stated.
Dozens of experts participated in the International Scientific Conference on the theme ‘Can GM Crops Meet India’s Food Security and Export Markets?’ in New Delhi on September 24 and 25 and here on Thursday.