Genetically modified crops are plants, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques, to resist pests and agents causing harm to plants and to improve the growth of these plants to assist in farmers’ efficiency. The introduction of GM crops into the Indian agricultural has resulted in many changes to the sector. Such crops and seeds are genetically engineered to make them sterile and unusable for replanting, resulting in farmers having to buy new seeds from a central supplier each year. The GM crops were observed to be harmful to health and the government imposed temporary ban on some of the types of GM crops. The agricultural scientists should focus on biodiversity and come out with models so as to bring diversity in farming and reduce the risk of dependency on GM crops. Introduction
The agriculture sector has enhanced food grain production in the past six decades; from 50 million tonnes in the 1950s to 241 million tonnes in 2010-2011. Despite these achievements, the condition of the farming community is declining, where 70 per cent of our farmers are small and marginal. However, for almost a decade, there have been different views expressed by agricultural scientists, NGOs, the government and also Members of Parliament. In recent years, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) have come up with very different views and recommendations. The PSC undertook a study on all aspects related to the opposition and controversies surrounding GM crops and the differences of opinion among stakeholders with clear objectives of assessing the pros and cons of introducing GM crops. In India, the only commercialised GM crop is Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) cotton. Besides health safety issues, critics point out that BT cotton is a highly-pollinating variety and its pollen can easily travel and contaminate adjoining crops using normal seeds, inhibit their seed germination and even make farmers with contaminated crops liable to patent infringement. The sharecroppers and small-scale farmers increasingly rely on expensive pesticides and fertilisers, the majority of them still uses seeds from preceding harvests or borrows seeds from other farmers, instead of purchasing expensive seed varieties.
Genetic Modification and BT-cotton
India’s relationship with modern agricultural methods has enjoyed success with genetic engineering, or genetic modification applied to agriculture. But its relationship with this critical technology is in disarray. This state of affairs seems only to be getting worse. During the late 1990s, government regulators forced scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) New Delhi to destroy their small field trial of a variety of brinjal, a food staple in India, which had been genetically improved to be resistant to insect pests. The investigators had only failed to comply fully with all the paperwork required before testing a genetically engineered plant. The revolutionary BT cotton crop in India has started losing steam steadily due to lack of innovation and diversified pest attacks emerging from frequent changes in climatic conditions. Farmers have witnessed a sustained decline in yield from a peak level of 554.39 kg per hectare (ha) in the cotton year 2006-07 (October – September) to an estimated 488.89 kg per ha in 2012-13. (Business Standard, February 7, 2013) Genetic Engineering, mainly of cotton, has made great strides in India. In 2011, cultivation of pest-resistant BT cotton, which contains a protein toxic to insects, reached 10.6 million hectares, 88% of the country’s cotton crop, increased from 9.4 million hectares the previous year. BT cotton boosted India’s economy by $9.4 billion from 2002 to 2010 and $2.5 billion in 2010 alone. Dispute of genetic engineering
In spite of this unqualified success, anti-biotech groups continue to differ as part of a relentless war on...