Genetically Modified Foods – an Indian prespective

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Seeing as this will be a topic again for debate after the loss of crops due to unseasonal rains and in certain areas even hail, I’ve decided to pen a few thoughts and views on the same. My view comes from talking to my brother who is a horticulturist.

Our respected Prime Minister has given us a slogan of “More Crop per Drop” as a broad view towards increasing produce while efficiently using resources. Various statistics are available telling us how Israel using drip irrigation with mulch film has actually cultivated the desert. There are also stats telling us of the amount of milk a swiss cow gives vis a vis an Indian cow. Taking the example of Cotton where Monsanto introduced its Bt Cotton that increased yield and made it more robust, ensured that the farmer couldn’t go back to the normal crop. However the seeds were rendered useless after harvest so sales of Monsanto grew YoY. Replace Cotton with Corn and you have the situation in US of A.

Discussing the two sides of the argument is the talk between messing with genes of a produce could be disastrous for the consumer vs better, hybrid, less prone to insects/pests varieties of produce.

However, I wish to take a view from the point of the government and in this particular case the Indian government. The research of GMO foods is majorly away from India, which puts us in a precarious position. The debate is largely away from the various govt institutions, which are actively working for and closely with the farmer. This gives rise to a situation where the government is relying on data produced at foreign locations with restricted access to those making a decision either way.  This is why the recent decision to conduct field trials for GMO is a good and strong step without considering it a blanket approval to GMO foods.

Further more recent developments in GMO foods have seen destructive genes being perfected. Imagine a scenario where a high yield variety of a staple like wheat is infused with a destructive gene. The seeds are rendered useless after one harvest. This tilts the balance of power from the farmer to the seed provider who while charging higher prices can also manipulate for strategic depletion of reserves of target country. While this may seem a little far-fetched idea its closer to the truth than some might imagine. And sadly our country lags behind in this.

In this view I’m pleased with the idea of research on GMO foods. It is a tool for use. It can find use as an alternative power different to the so far being projected soft power of a nation and it can be used to further optimize the utility of scarce resources. Whichever way the debate rages I’d be far happier if our government develops the know how and builds the knowledge bank than rely on others. The partnership with Israel and the improving ties are a good sign for cooperation in agriculture research and defense. It is like the earlier arms race, just different.

An army needs ration more than the bullets in the Gun.

Disclaimer:

The author is an entrepreneur involved with packaging. He has no contact with any of the companies involved in GMO foods.

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