For thousands of years, human beings have modified nature's organisms for usage in agriculture. New technology has furthered this trend: recombinant DNA technology allows biotechnology firms to insert DNAs into plant genomes, thereby creating plants that express the desired traits. Use of such genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has prompted controversy, especially for its role in ensuring food security. As such, the use of transgenics merits a serious discussion regarding its relevance to food security.
This piece discusses the purported benefits and costs of utilizing GMOs, as well as the benefits they have brought – saving land, reducing pesticide use, and promising to alleviate third world hunger. Then we provide an in-depth analysis of the health, ecological, and socio-economic impact of transgenic organisms. Our ultimate stance on this issue is to wait for greater availability of biotech organisms unassociated with large agricultural corporations, and for additional scientific data. Any reference to genetically modified (GM) organisms in this piece are exclusively pointed at transgenic organisms. We will also be examining in depth the two most widespread types of transgenic organisms: herbicide-tolerant crops and insecticide-producing plants.
Other technologies available have fewer scientific unknowns, less possibility of forming cycles of farmer debt, and have led to equally significant reductions in hunger. Integrated pest management, organic farming, and other improved farming practices may increase yields just as effectively as would introducing transgenic organisms. As such, we will not promote their widespread use until more research has been done on long term health effects, GMO seeds are available outside of corporate agriculture control, the biological effects of gene insertion are better understood, and research confirms that the presence of GMOs will not harm the native species in an ecosystem.
Q1.Will GM food reduce hunger in developing countries like India ? ANS.If hunger could be addressed by techno-logy, green revolution would have done it long ago. The fact is that hunger has grown in India in absolute terms - some 320 million people go to bed hungry every night. Two years back, India had a record foodgrain surplus of 65 million tonnes. If 65 million tonnes surplus could not feed the 320 million hungry, how will GM food remove hunger? In reality, GM food diverts precious financial resources to an irrelevant research, comes with stronger intellectual property rights, and is aimed at strengthening corporate control over agriculture.
Q2.But what about malnutrition? Crops like golden rice can help remove blindness.?? ANS:This again is the result of misplaced thinking. There are 12 million people in India who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. These people primarily live in food deficit areas or are marginalised. These are people who cannot buy their normal requirement of food, including rice. If they were adequately fed, there would be no malnutrition. If the poor in Kalahandi, for instance, can't buy rice that lies rotting in front of their eyes, how will they buy golden rice?
Q3:Then why is the Indian government experimenting with GM crops and foods? ANS: For two reasons: First, India is under tremendous pressure from the biotechnology industry to allow GM crops. These companies have the financial resources to mobilise scientific opinion as well as political support. Second, agricultural scientists are using biotechnology as a Trojan horse. With nothing to show by way of scientific breakthrough in the past three decades, GM research will ensure livelihood security for the scientists.
Q4:What GM crops and food items is India experimenting with? ANS:Besides cotton, genetic engineering experiments are being conducted on maize, mustard, sugarcane, sorghum,...