Do transgenic crops (Genetically Modified) pose an unacceptable threat to the environment and the maintenance of biodiversity or are they a necessary response to meeting the twin challenges of climate change and sustainability?
The population of the world is predicted to reach 19.9 billion by 2025 (United Nations Population Information Network, 2011). According to Purchase (2005), this increase in population will bring along with it the problem of food security. The priority for the world right now is to develop an agricultural strategy which is sustainable, environment friendly, protects the biodiversity and enhances human well being. Policymakers around the world are considering the option of transgenic or genetically modified (GM) crops to solve this problem. GM crops contain a gene or genes which have not been inserted into them through pollination but artificially. The gene which is inserted may come from the same species or different species and are resistant to insects and diseases (Bhat et al, 2005). But the debate on the potential worth of genetically modified crops to achieve world’s food security goals is increasing. The policymakers around the world have to understand how this technology works and what are the opportunities and challenges associated with this technology (Otsuka, 2003). Let us look at some statistics associated with GM crops.
According to Fish et al (2004), corn, cotton, soybeans and canola together make up around 99 percent of the total commercialized GM crops. Other GM crops are also being researched into and many of them are at trial stage. Some of them are as follows: wheat, tomato, peanut in China and eggplant, rapeseed and cauliflower in India. The six major GM crops producing nations are United States of America, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China and South Africa. Raney (2006), points out, in spite of the debate associated with GM crops, their plantation has increased at a double digit rate since their inception in 1996. Also it is estimated that adoption rates of GM crops will continue to increase in coming years, with around 10 million farmers in about 25 countries adopting this new technology. Let us now look at some of the research and development in the field of GM crops.
Most of the research and development in the field of GM crops has been done by large pharmaceutical and chemical multinational enterprises. These private firms have been carrying out research in this field from the late 1970s. Although these large firms have helped in accelerating the development of this technology, it has also lead to some negative impacts. Firstly, it has reduced research and development activities in the small firms. Secondly, since these companies are very large and have economies of scale, they have not allowed any new players to enter the market. Lastly, it has lead to creation of a monopolistic market with prices of GM crops being higher than the competitive market price (Otsuka, 2003). The essay will now look at some of the advantages associated with GM crops.
There are many advantages of GM crops. According to Holley et al (2002), firstly, GM crops are resistant to pest. This in turn will lead to increase in the production of crops, as losses from pests and insects will decrease. It is estimated that GM crops can save around 2.6 billion American dollars, which is spent on insecticides and pesticides annually all over the world. Secondly, GM crops are more resolute than the normal crops and can withstand the forces of nature in a better way. Many GM crops can grow in weather conditions which are hostile. Thirdly, according to Fish et al (2004), GM crops can be used to decrease the malnutrition, which is a big problem in some of the developing countries. In India, for example, research is going on to produce genetically modified potato with a higher content of protein. Fourthly, GM crops lead to better management of crops. In areas where the transportation and...
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