SEARCH

Opinion » Lead

Updated: August 25, 2012 17:12 IST

GM crops are no way forward

Satyarat Chaturvedi
Comment (52)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Food security is not about production alone; it is also about bio-safety, and access to food for the poorest

We are predominantly an agricultural economy, with the agricultural sector providing employment and subsistence to almost 70 per cent of the workforce. There have been some remarkable contributions from the agriculture sector to food grain production in the last six decades, when from a meagre 50 million tonnes in the 1950s, the country has been able to produce a record 241 million tonnes in 2010-2011. Despite these achievements, the condition of the farming community is pitiable considering that 70 per cent of our farmers are small and marginal, and there is a complete absence of pro-farmer/pro-agriculture policies which has led us to an environment of very severe agrarian distress.

Pros and cons

In this situation, food security has been one of the main agendas of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and also one that the government has been struggling with. There is a strong opinion among policymakers that biotechnology holds a lot of promise in achieving food security and that transgenic crops, especially, are a sustainable way forward. But given the opposition and controversies surrounding Genetically Modified (GM) crops and the differences of opinion among stakeholders, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture decided to take on the mammoth task of an objective assessment of the pros and cons of introducing GM crops.

We expect the observations in our report to answer the big question on the role of GM crops in achieving food security. We hope the recommendations will be acted upon at the earliest. The committee felt this was all the more necessary in the light of the Prime Minister’s exhortation at the Indian Science Congress about the full utilisation of modern biotechnology for ensuring food security but without compromising on safety and regulatory aspects.

The lessons

In India, the only commercialised GM crop is Bt cotton. Industry and the Central government have painted a picture of success about it — saying it has led to an increase in production and that the costs of cultivation have gone down. But the ground reality is starkly different. This was evident during the extensive interactions of the committee with farmers in different cotton growing regions around the country during study visits in March 2012.

Besides analysing the facts and figures provided by government agencies and listening to eminent cotton scientists, the committee’s consultation with farmers in Vidharbha helped us conclude that the Bt cotton saga is not as rosy as made out to be. In Vidharbha, the per-acre investment in cultivating traditional varieties, or even pre-Bt hybrids, could be less than Rs. 10,000. That was certainly the case until the first half of the previous decade. But for Bt cotton, even the un-irrigated farmer is spending upwards of Rs. 15,000-18,000 or even more per acre. And irrigated farmers complain of input costs exceeding Rs. 45,000 per acre. While the investment and acreage rose dramatically, the per acre yield and income did not increase in equal measure and actually fell after initial years. Indeed, the Union Agriculture Minister spoke of Vidharbha’s dismal yields on December 19, 2011 in the Rajya Sabha.

It was clear that at least for the rain-fed cotton farmers of our country, the introduction of Bt cotton offered no socio-economic benefits. On the contrary, it being a capital intensive practice, the investment of farmers increased manifold thus exposing them to greater risks due to massive indebtedness. It needs to be remembered that rain-fed farmers constitute 85 per cent of all cotton growing farmers.

Added to this, there is desperation among farmers as introduction of Bt cotton has slowly led to the non-availability of traditional varieties of cotton. The cultivation of GM crops also leads to monoculture and the committee has witnessed its clear disadvantages. The decade of experience has shown that Bt cotton has benefited the seed industry hands down and not benefited the poorest of farmers. It has actually aggravated the agrarian distress and farmer suicides. This should be a clear message to policymakers on the impact of GM crops on farming and livelihoods associated with it.

The risks

From the various deliberations to which the committee was privy, it is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment, that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this. While there are many in this community who feel that the benefits outweigh the risks, others point to the irreversibility of this technology and uncontrollability of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) once introduced in the ecosystem. Hence, they advocate a precautionary approach towards any open release of GMOs.

One of the concerns raised strongly by those opposing GM crops in India is that many important crops like rice, brinjal, and mustard, among others, originated here, and introducing genetically modified versions of these crops could be a major threat to the vast number of domestic and wild varieties of these crops. In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centres of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive. Hence it will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.

The committee’s findings on the GEAC-led regulatory system for GM crops show that it has a pro-Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and pro-industry tilt. It has also come under the scanner due to its inefficiency at the time of Bt Brinjal approval and for behaving like a promoter of GM crops rather than a regulatory body mandated to protect human health and environment from the risks of biotechnology. The DBT, whose mandate is to promote GM crops and fund various transgenics research, has a nominee as the co-chair of the GEAC, who gives the final approval for environmental and commercial release of GM crops.

The current regulatory system is shameful and calls for a complete makeover. While the government has been toying recently with the idea of a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority, the committee dismisses this and instead recommends an all-encompassing Biosafety Authority. While the committee has also evaluated international regulatory systems on GM crops, it recommends the Norwegian Gene Technology Act whose primary focus is bio-safety and sustainable development without adverse effects on health and environment, as a piece of legislation in the right direction for regulating GM crops in India.

The committee strongly believes that the problem today is in no measure comparable to the ship-to-mouth situation of the early 1960s. Policy and decision-makers must note that the total food grain production rose from 197 million tonnes in 2000-2001 to 241 million tonnes in 2010-11. A major argument by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation before the committee in favour of GM crops was their potential to ensure the country’s food security. But the issue of food security is not about production alone; it also means access to food for the poorest. Moreover, there is no evidence as yet that GM crops can actually increase yields.

The committee, therefore, recommended the government come up with a fresh road map for ensuring food security in the coming years without jeopardising the vast biodiversity of the country and compromising with the safety of human and livestock health.

The committee unanimously feels that the government should take decisive action on the recommendations of this report and rethink its decision of introducing transgenics in agriculture as a sustainable way forward.

(Satyarat Chaturvedi is spokesperson, Indian National Congress, and member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture)

More In: Lead | Opinion

All said is correct but ARE we in a position to make choices??? With
uncontrolled population growth, expanding residential/commercial
infrastructure, shrinking resources how else do we want to
live/survive............

from:  Sarab
Posted on: Aug 26, 2012 at 10:52 IST

see, GM crops certainly provide some solutions. may be in future we
could have more developed varieties of crops which are less susceptible
to droughts n water stress, salinity etc. what is needed is the
prudence (which govt seems to lack in all spheres) and scientific
approach coupled with a pro poor, pro health approach(of people and
environment as well). who says, the rule of election applies here i.e
electing good as well as bad as a package deal. we can introduce such
crops where we need and allow domestic varieties where they are a
better option. "whatever we are today is the result of what we thought
one" Budha. policymakers should keep in mind whatever the do today is
going to have a long lasting consequence so a very high degree of
analysis, wisdom and prudence is required.

from:  Hemant Singla
Posted on: Aug 26, 2012 at 09:54 IST


LEAF Initiative is a citizens group concerned with providing correct
information on issues of Livelihood, Environment , Agriculture and
Food . We greatly appreciate the article by Shri Satyarat Chaturvedi
on GM Crops which is completely in conformity with our own research on
this subject. We compliment The Hindu for publishing this article
which transmits accurate information to its readers, rather than
promoting vested corporate interests – which is unfortunately
happening too often with the media

from:  Shaheen Contractor
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 15:29 IST

I have been a member of the High Level Expert committee on
Agriculture of the Govt of Maharashtra and a member of the Steering
Committee of the National Board for Wildlife. I have therefore been
interested in the role of Gentically Modified crops both in terms of
their impacts on farmers and on the environment. I compliment Shri
Satyarat Chaturvedi for an outstandingly accurate summarization of
the ground realities and of the excellent work that the Parilamentary
Standing Committee on Agriculture has done to place the truth before
the policy makers of India who were being systematically subjected to
false propaganda from biotechnology companies. It is noteworthy that
USA, which has the highest adoption of genetically modified crops,
has to provide to provide billions of dollars in subsidies to its
farmers.

from:  Mrs Dilnavaz Variava
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 15:28 IST

For that reason the first pesticide would have never stood the kind of
scrutiny that the GMO crops are going through and if we had done such a
kind of scrutiny that we are doing now, we wouldnt have witnessed a
green revolution..So we need to stop being prejudice rather make room
for the technology develop..but may be more stringent rules with careful
monitoring ..and there by allowing the technology to develop untill it
is safe for wide scale application...

from:  Dinoop Ravindran Menon
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 15:21 IST

Now talking about Bio diversity, nobody is arguing here to allow a
farmer to use 100% GMO rather there should be regulation in the areas
alotted for GMO , hence farmers can maintain their natural varieties
on the side, which would also give diversity for the farming and
reduces the risk of dependency on just one crop. and this should be
clearly monitored and it is also important to label this crop yields
as GMO.
And if we are talking about failure of GMO crops in India. The first
point that I would like to note is that GMO is a develping technology
and unless you give it room to develop you cannot complaint about its
failure. IF every company that invest in developing a better variety
of crop is in the end doubtful about being able to market it, then
they are not going to invest proper resources towards developing
it..considering the risk factors..Hence I feel the article too biased
and is based on the authors feelings towards GMO and not facts.

from:  Dinoop Ravindran Menon
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 15:14 IST

Pieces like this and the full report of the Standing Committee on GM crops actually re-affirm our faith in our political system. It obviously requires a detailed inquiry which this Committee was willing to put itself through....Grateful to each member of the Standing Committee for putting the truth of GM crops in front of the nation and for their detailed recommendations. Now, the government HAS to implement the recommendations. Hope our smallholder rainfed farmers will not get pushed further into crisis, with the government acting decisively now, against toxic technologies.

from:  Kalpana
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 13:58 IST

Good to see such a sensible article written by a parliamentarian . We
could not debate about chemical pesticides like this before and hence
landed up in poisoning our soil, water and even womb . Farmers also
ended up in committing suicide . Let us all clean up this mess first
so that we will have good soil , water, biodiversity and healthy
people left in this country to produce food. We need more discussions
about food security . We need to expand our food basket and that is
possible .See the success of the progressive sustainable agriculture
models developing in different states .

from:  Usha Soolapani
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 13:08 IST

GM is against nature including man. Stop it effectively.Ensure that it is not grown in stealth.

from:  Ramaswami Kumar
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 11:48 IST

Very good analysis of GM Crop by Sh. Satyavrat Chaturvedi Ji. WE should not forget the better performance of GM crops during the Green Revolution in 1960s. Certainly we should simply ban the hazardous one, But at the same time the researchers should not be demorlised to such an extent that their interest will be hampered.

from:  Priya Ranjan
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 10:06 IST

In a crop like cotton where production has no direct bearing on the food security issue (and
food inflation) we can afford to draw such conclusions on whether there is actual socio-
economic benefit to growers (read farmers). There is no denying the fact that production of
cotton increased in our country as a result of Bt cotton introduction and also it is proven fact
that input use efficiencies are better in a high productivity intensive farming scenario when
compared to extensive low productivity farming. Stagnating productivity of food crops, (and
the resulting food inflation) input use inefficiencies and indiscriminate pesticide usage are
serious problems at hand which need to be dealt with and GM technology which is by far the most precise technological intervention available to us as of now seems to be the best option we can fall back on.

from:  Kalyan Chakravarthy
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 09:11 IST

I am a professor of biotechnology in a US university. I do not know what kind of sustainability that Indian policy makers are faking at. The majority of our country is highly polluted and loaded with insect pest load which is making very hard to grow any crop there without drenching with hazardous pesticides. Bt is just one gene. There are several thousands of genes using which you can improve whole plant system to cope up that kind of scenario. I hope some insightful people wake up and invite quick solution so that everyone will be convinced of this technology.

from:  Umesh
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 04:54 IST

Keep up the good work. We are with "The Hindu".

from:  khan
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 02:06 IST

Can Gm crops increase food yields? Is it profitable for marginal and
small land holders to produce Gm crops in developing countries like
India? These are the few questions which must be taken into account
while supporting farming of Gm crops. This is very well written article
and highlight these issues which must be taken by our government and not
just taking into account the interest of Commercial organizations.

from:  Madhulika
Posted on: Aug 25, 2012 at 01:00 IST

Thank god there is some wisdom among our politicians about not introducing GM food and
saving our rich biodiversity. Hope these parliamentarians safe guard our farmers and
biodiversity from the assault of powerful seed companies.

from:  Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 23:18 IST

This is such a well articulated and beyond that, well argued article.
The effort of the PSC (Parliamentary Standing Committee)to get to the
bottom of things and elicit the truth deserves our highest praises. I
must in all truth add that it is also somewhat unexpected even unique,
that the author is also a Member of Parliament. We have grown cynical
of our leaders because public policy is no longer based on principles
of justice and an intrinsic ethic.
It is a great relief to us that the deep corruption of the regulatory
agencies, through of a pernicious conflict of interest that has
fostered the approval process of GM crops in India, has been exposed
so thoroughly by the PSC. Equally so, is the realisation that this PSC
has been solely occupied by just one objective, which is the
paramount interest of the nation and our farming community. we shout
our congratulations.
Jai Hind

from:  Aruna Rodrigues
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 23:02 IST

Growing GM crops also carry the added risk of cross pollination of
indigenous crop varieties. If there is one field of GM crop surrounded
by many fields of indigenous variety crops, soon the indigenous
varieties will become genetically modified due to cross-pollination.
Not even a limited use of GM crops should be allowed. We need to say a
firm NO to genetically modified crops. Not now, and never again should
we allow them on our soil.
Are we really wise in playing with our food and that of our cattle?
Wiser than nature, even? We need to save our food and our farmers. If
the profits of certain unscrupulous MNCs suffer in the process, so be
it.

from:  Anurag
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 22:35 IST

There is something non-spiritual about modern farming. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers have depleted the soil of its "life force". Chemical inputs have had to be increased annually to keep up the output. As a result the top soil has hardened, micro-nutrients and helpful earthworms have been wiped out, ground water is poisoned, desertification is on the rise, and new forests have to be cleared for cultivation. GMOs worsen this by impacting bio-diversity and requiring farmers to buy patented seeds every season. Also they introduce genes from other species - bacteria, worms, fish etc. into food crops ! Modern industrial farming is not a science, it is a sham(e). Traditional organic farming with crop rotation and respect for soil and water need to be emphasized and made cool again.

from:  Ashish
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 22:19 IST

Best way for companies like Monsanto to break into India with Bt seeds is to endear one of the politicians of India with an "attractive" offer and he would discreetly make decisions like Raja, Maran or Praful Patel made so far and our PM will keep watching helplessly. I am sure that such techniques are already being tried at scientist level but the key is the politician who can overule the officers or scientists with his "broad vision' for the country.

from:  MVJRao
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 21:58 IST

It is known for a long time world over that GM is not a solution to achieve food security. This article highlights this well using the report by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture. The experiences of Bt cotton have not been what the Industry is harping about and the increase in yield is due to hybrids in the case of cotton. So what is the need of GM especially considering the risks it comes with. I think we need more leaders like this to talk about these issues openly.

from:  Neha Saigal
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 19:44 IST

While its a well-written article, what the author fails to realize is the notion of "irreversibility of technology" has occured eras ago, perhaps when existence of humanity became dependent on vaccines. The idea of being "natural" is a hypocritical argument in itself in the modern world. It is true that GM regulation needs scrupulous attention but unlike most western countries India is in a more desperate conditions to meet food security. The issue gets more nuanced as most trials conducted in the West are conjectured to replicate in India, which evidently has not happened. The need for the hour is to conduct more trials suited for Indian agriculture and introduce GM foods as earlier as possible instead of harping on pros and cons. People and politician have to realize pragmatism over puritanism.

from:  Abhishek D
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 19:23 IST

While pointing out the increase in expenditures of the farmers post employment of BT, it would have been better had the writer had considered the general price rise and employed any normalization process to explain the difference between with BT and without BT expenses.
Apart from that, a very pertinent article in the times we live in, where people are affected by carcinogenic and other parasitical agents for their only crime of having food.

from:  Vishwa
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 19:20 IST

this is an amazing article. i totally agree with the author on
implemaentation of norweigian way of Act. india is rich in bio
diversity. and it is always good to eat natural foods rather than
any BT. we should protect our bio diversity and should not go for
BT crops. BT cotton has done noe good to our farmers

from:  varnika
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 18:44 IST

The standing committee report on GM food crops proves to some extent that all is not lost with our parliamentarians. The report does great justice to the country and our scietific community by separating chaff from grain. It thankfully made the clear distinction between transgenics(GMO)s and other biotechnogies.Unfortunately in our country,as it is in other parts of the world,opposition to GM crops is painted as opposition to biotechnology and then extened to opposition to all technologies and development itself. It is to be remembered that GM crops is based on an outdated understanding of genetics and the promotion of it a great disservice to science. Hats off to M.Ps like Satyavrat Chaturvedi who has the wisdom to identify that and state that loud and clear. He also needs to be appreciated for candid observation on how such technofixes won't solve our hunger and poverty and what is required is ecologically and socially sustainable farming.

from:  Rajesh Krishnan
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 18:20 IST

nice article. Our policy is focused on the production of foodgrains. But on the other hand the foodgrain wastage because lack of storing capacity is being ignored.

from:  swapnil
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 17:17 IST

with increasing population and with limited available land for
agriculture government should take measure to increase production by
using more new ways of farming and conducting research in concerned
areas..as recently it was done in mp...

from:  rahul singh rajput
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 17:02 IST

Can co-operatives be a solution to the problems faced by farmers? The
combined-strength that it can give to farmers can help them obtain
loans, insurance, technology, govt grants, combined storage facilities
etc and even weather inputs to help them carry on a healthy farming
system that does not bank on costly & unhealthy methods that are being
promoted by GM crops.

from:  Joe Kidd
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 16:55 IST

Proper management of the yield produced by the farmmers is major concern.Foodgrains produced in million tones is not only based on the variety which you use it also depends on natural conditions such as amount of rainfall,time of its arrival.Author has pointed out some issues about BT cotton that are worthfull.Rather we should focus on ecofriendly practices which will benifit both poorest farmmer and poorest consumer.Ensuring food security thinking only every one should get food without considering interests of producer of the food(i.e paying proper prices for surplus what has being produced.)

from:  HarishKumar.K.D
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 16:06 IST

super article

from:  Shreedevi
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 15:18 IST

Very clear and concise. Today's science and technology are related to market. Organizations need to show figures in quarterly reviews. Who on Earth foresaw that using fossil fuels would pollute the planet to dangerous levels? Who on Earth foresaw that abattoir industry would contribute 25% of GHG's? Market can never think in terms of sustainability, although they can talk about it. It is the democratically elected governments that need to stand on the side of sustainability and regulate the industry with the farsightedness that is required in these kind of matters. In my opinion GM foods must be lab-researched for the next 100 years before we bring to the table the question of field trials.

from:  Krishna Kumar
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 15:09 IST

a well written crisp article..
the reality of GM as a technology to address agrarian crisis is exposed - now even more by the parliamentary committee report.
Voicing the same by this cong MP is an additional reiteration..
Industrialisation of food and agri has to be carefully dealt and nipped at the bud else this shall haunt us for years to come..
this technology as we have seen in BT cotton, leaves us with no option to retrieve our good old ways/seeds..
good look in to it after correcting the regulation mechanism and ofcourse taking all other safety concerns is very important..
food security is not met with such corporate greed but with simple considerate steps on the ground.
Its nice to know that politicians across parties ahve realised this thru the report..
Now hope the govt responds positively..once in favour of people, reallY!

from:  ananthoo
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 14:30 IST

India needs food security but not at the cost of lives of more farmers, not at the cost of destroying ecological balance and creating chaos in the only place which is in balance now- Our Nature.
As author mentioned that there is no proof yet that GM technology can increase the yield of crops. The effects/imbalance which introduction of GM Bt.Cotton into our agricultural system has caused, is irreversible and has caused manifold DEBTS to our poor farmers.
Govt should decipher a plan which is new/innovative and can give some profits to our farmers, who are in serious problems. They should also think of recommendations given by comittee and should also keep in mind that maintaining balance in ecosystem is utmost important for a better life of all of us...

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 14:24 IST

On the whole, the Committee's recommendations are very sensible. However, there should be no sweeping statements about the dangers of GM technology for crop improvement. Each case has to be considered on its own facts and theoretical predictions, at the same time eschewing, at least for the present, potentially dangerous stuff like the Bt-gene. I feel crop biotechnology research should concentrate on areas like drought resistance, crops for poor soils (e.g., alkaline sodic soils), and increasing the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Genetic Engineering efforts for increasing trace nutrients (iron, vitamin A) are not worthwhile, because such trace nutrients can always be provided much more simply as food supplements.

from:  witan
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 13:45 IST

It was shock to know the stark differce between what is said about btCotton in popular media and what groud reality is.
One might easily suspect huge lobbying by companies producing transgenic seeds as they are the biggest beneficieries.

from:  Sanjay Agarwal
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 12:56 IST

It is very well written articulated article, congrates to the writer. If we look at the present scenario of political governance, they are interested only to benefit themselves and the industries. They are in favor of crony capitalism and not bothered to the plight of farmers and feeling any concern to the health of people /nation. Therefore, there is a need to raise the issue among the masses to make the governments aware not to force the poor farmers to face the music of governments adamancy.

from:  P.S.Thakur
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 12:48 IST

we are missing woods for the the trees...increase in production is a
want not a need.what is needed at this time is drastic changes in PDS.as
a fact 33% of food in world gets wasted while 13% die of hunger.

from:  swagat
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 12:10 IST


This committee has reaffirmed my faith in some parliamentary bodies. What I like about the report is how the committee has looked at the issue holistically and listened to all stakeholders and arrived at their considered decision that GM crops is not the solution for food security or agrarian distress - in fact it is part of the problem! It is a distraction from adopting real solutions to hunger and sustainable farmer livelihoods. As the author rightly points out the govt should come up with a fresh road map for food security, which surely should not be driven by quick-fix technologies, but grounded in Indian agrarian realities.

US has GM commodity crops but they have not helped to address hunger or food security - US food insecurity and farmer distress increased to an all time high.The no of food insecure has touched 50 million ,one in 7 people is food insecure, GM crops has not made US food secure or its farmers prosperous , but has benefitted large biotech corporation

from:  Devi
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 11:57 IST

We are not lab rat. please stop these GM to Indian food chain. otherwise
our nation will depend upon GM companies .We are very confused that
what is Health department is doing. Lots of Food wasted every year in
Punjab due to improper storage. Please first think what we want for food
security. Do not mislead the helpless farmer. Please

from:  Pavanpreet Singh
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 11:52 IST

Good human arguments by Congress Spokesperson.Hope this is official
congress DECISION although the cost of this new agruement has been
suicide of atleast 2,50,000/- BT. cotton farmers.Bt.Cotton seed export
from India under (MFN Package as pointed by htbusiness dated
Friday,November 04,2011, article : MFN to help India export Power.) to
Pakistan reminds me as about an Indian village tradition. In the
village a crop grower in one field prayers that the crop of his
neighbor should be safe and should not carry any disease. Why ? Any
problem or threat in the neighborhood invites future problems in your
own crops. We in India find 2,50,000/- farmers suicides while
analyzing the effects of infertile `Bt Cotton pushed` silently in
India. Farmers were forced to become dependent on the American seed
sellers of Bt Cotton and new pesticide companies.

from:  Rakesh Manchanda
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 11:49 IST

a nice opinion! coming as it is from a cong man, it is good to note that there is some change of heart while visiting this unsafe technology in our food.any growth has to be sustainable..if that reaches out to our politicians then there shall be rational behind many of their policies and moves..
hope this dawns a good new direction in this GM front from the centre!
thanks to Hindu for bringing this up and also covering the parl committee report in detail!. That also sets a new functioning style in our Indian democracy.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 11:48 IST

Nice article highlighting the perils of industrialising food production. Hope our politicians don't put money in front of the welfare of the farmers and environment.

from:  Rangaram
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 11:05 IST

We are aware of the fact that the need of agriculture products increasing day by day;but we need the sustainable growth.it is not about a decade or two we need to plan this for future generations too.As GM crops increases yield sometimes but additionally they also create a natural imbalance.and we are not in a position to afford this.As the authors introducing the facts that with mare increases in the yield per acre investment is more as compare to conventional system,and also it has a long term bad effect on the biodiversity of the area.So i think introducing GM techniques are not problematic if done in sustainable way and too after considering the long term effects (Economic,Natural,social)on the end users &consumers.

from:  Mayank Kanga
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 11:03 IST

absolutely said, the government of today is running a biased and
shameful show, this has to be modified , food security doesn't only
mean the abundance of availability but also safety and accessibility
even by the poorest , who cant afford !!
technology should be meant for the luxury and comfort of humans and
not at the par of risking lives, plus policies should be framed as
such where the mere poor farmer gets benefited for his efforts , and
not led to a situation of regretting terms.
At the end our government must work in a standard as for the people which like most of the developed nations are doing where-in they take charge of a common citizen's requirement, and not against the people just like ours where a common person is nowhere reflected in scene and for any distressful consequences blaming others and policies...,
so please at least now arise and awake , else in no-where time our precious country will be looted again and lost !! do we need this??

from:  shakti
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 10:12 IST

Farmers always prefer to get maximum profit from the farm and they
don't care whether growing GM crop is risky or not.I believe
promoting GM technology for major commercial crops(non edible) is
profitable for farming community. I personally believe GM
technology is the way to deal with major issues such as climate
change and pest epidemics.

from:  Raghu
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 10:03 IST

A very well thought out and well written article. The author's thorough knowledge of the subject is easy to perceive. There is a collusion between the scientists working on GM crops and the industry promoting or wanting to promote GM products or crops. The author has also stressed this. The GEAC-led regulartory system acts as an agent of GM-based industry and scientists working on GM technology. There is really no regulation but only promotion that this regulatory authority is doing.

One important point is the need to ensure that the GM products are labelled as such so that the consumer has the choice to choose what he wants. Thus GM products should be clearly labelled as GM products.
Scientists have got a new toy wherein they insert gene slices inside existing DNA without realising its long term or even short term consequences. A toy with a mind that is immature often leads to messy and dangerous products such as GM products. Considerble and deeper deliberation is essential.

from:  Vishwanath
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 09:22 IST

Sir, thank you for highlighting such a serious issue. Also, it is more admirable that, the spokes-person of INC has raised these recommendations. But, the point that you has recommended, that we should look for Transgenic rather than GM one. There is very minute difference between these two, because in Bt cotton the genes of bacteria ,Bacillus thuringiensis, was transferred in the cotton's gene.
Shall we look for any other option like cross-breeding?

from:  narsingh
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 08:14 IST

Indian Science Academies(INSA,NAAS,NASI,IASc) have failed to convince peoples
representatives on biosafty of GM crops.In fact there are no accredited laboratories in India as in USA to conduct independant research ,verification and certification on biosafty of GM plants and products.Genes of animal origin when incorporated on edible and cultivated crops,status of food as vegetarian or non vegetarian is to be clarified.Allergens of GM products on an alien environment like India need medical study.Transfer of high iron content gene from amaranth to rice or transfer of salt tolerance from Pokkali rice to cultivated rice using transgenic technology is not at all in dispute.What is disputed is the transfer of animal genes to plants where India has sizable diversity.There are brinjal varieties resistant to fruit and shoot borer.Why not make use of it?.Monopoly on seeds by a
few multinational and their Indian collaborators,high cost of seeds and above all hegemony are matters of concern.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 07:43 IST

All living beings evolve by one mechanism or the other. The process is
slow and the present day genetic engineering technology has only
taught us how to hasten this process. If we dont accept this, then we
have to wait till another hunger famine comes. Were the farmers not told
by our so called 'experts" not to grow urea responsive, short, wheat and
rice ? Had our farmers not cared a hoot to this advice, today there
would have been no green revolution and the country would have been
still begging for food.

from:  P.Tauro
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 07:17 IST

is a truly remarkable article; and heartening, coming as it is from a spokesperson of the government. The arguments made therein have been furthered by a number of food rights activists across the country. While agreeing with the analysis presented here, i would like to point out that an equally concerning issue is the unwillingness of the government and the scientific community to engage with the farmers--who are by far the most important stakeholders in the BT debate--and ask them what they think about the technology. This unwillingness to come forward and debate the pros and cons of Bt in an open forum is not only a threat to food and farming of India; it is also a serious challenge to the democratic principles on which our country is founded.

from:  k sandeep, Deccan Development Society
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 06:42 IST

Government Should try to introduce Pharmpod technology to produce food
grains.
FusionPharm Inc in united states is following the same procedure --
PharmPlex cultivation it is a simple concept , yet revolutionary to
grow and harvest vegetables and fruits in a faster amount of time,
then distribute them over a shorter distance, as compared to
traditional farming methods. In this way , the food may be access to
the poorest with the lowest cost people have ever got.
Government should concentrate on developing such procedures and make
accessible for the farmers and young citizen farmers to cultivate in
this way and be profitable.
Pharmplex cultivation ensures no use of pesticides or additives, and
using less than 20% of the water used for similar-size traditional
farming methods,to keep things natural and poised to be best in class
with this approach.
Circle Fresh Farms is the largest producer of organic tomatoes,
cucumbers and leafy green vegetables for Whole Foods in Colorado.

from:  Phani Pendurthi
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 06:03 IST

Big statements have been made without proof or accessible references. Here are some of them:
"While the investment and acreage rose dramatically, the per acre yield and income did not increase in equal measure and actually fell after initial years. ": where is the input-output correlation. Did farmers who spent more money AND implemented correct procedure actually face a drop in output?
"The cultivation of GM crops also leads to monoculture and the committee has witnessed its clear disadvantages. ": How exactly does this happen? Is the GM crop to blame or are other specific human farming practices to blame? For eg. banana, all over the world, is a monoculture. This predates the introduction of GM seeds/agriculture.
"Moreover, there is no evidence as yet that GM crops can actually increase yields.": hard to believe considering much of Australia, South America and US is doing GM agriculture. I dont know the exact numbers but it seems the writer also doesnt know.

from:  ashok
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 05:42 IST

There is a complete absence of pro-farmer/pro-agriculture policies which has led us to an environment of very severe agrarian distress – Agree completely
It will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.- Yes certainly.
There is no evidence as yet that GM crops can actually increase yields. Wrong, perhaps completely.
Scientists who feel that the benefits outweigh the risks.- Correct; but whose technology is any way. What is the Indian contribution ?
Our Scientists are not up to the mark. Multinationals can easily “purchase” them as well as our corrupt politicians. We need people with integrity at all levels. The poorest of the poor should be the focus. />

from:  Gopinathan Krishnan, retired CSIR Scientist.
Posted on: Aug 24, 2012 at 05:26 IST
Show all comments
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor


O
P
E
N

close

Recent Article in Lead

Neither warmongers nor wimps

The debate over Europe’s economic, political and military readiness to retaliate against Russia shows in a nutshell what is currently at stake in Ukraine: the future of European foreign policy. But every crisis carries with it the seed of a chance, and this one is pushing the EU in the right direction »