By Shweta Dandekar:
It is no secret that millions go hungry each year — 925 million people in 2010 to be precise. India accounts for 214 million of the total. To eradicate this problem, our government started the green revolution where traditional farming took the backseat and newer methods were used to cultivate more crops. Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, etc were fed to the soil which worked for only a few years. The problem of hunger rose again, and this is when genetically modified (GM) crops were looked at.
Monsanto, the largest GM seeds manufacturer, claims that their products will resolve the hunger problem across the globe. While this multi-national company continued painting a rosy picture of the miracle seeds, Bt Cotton failed terribly in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh in 2002. The effect of the crops was exactly opposite to what Monsanto had promised. The yield was erratic and the crops failed under adverse conditions. Instead of resisting pests, the pests adapted themselves to the new seeds causing rise in pest incidences, new diseases started affecting the crops, soil fertility was compromised and numerous cattle died on grazing on or near Bt Cotton fields. Cases like these have not only emerged in India, but also in countries all over the world.
Yet, why is the Indian government so adamant on continuing the use of GM crops? For starters, the world produces more than enough food to feed every mouth. Despite the 70% population increase in the past 30 years, world agriculture has produced 17% more calories per person. The problem then does not lie in low production of crops, but in poverty and rising prices of food all over the world. Perhaps, our government is trying to find an easy way out of this problem ignoring the adverse effects.
Imagine a situation such as this – according to the government of India, there are around 2,00,000 varieties of rice in India of which only around 4,000 are cultivated. In the name of eradicating world hunger, the government turns to MNCs like Monsanto. Monsanto provides us with much lesser varieties of genetically modified rice, hence cutting down the diversity of the plant. These miracle varieties are always patented which will result in farmers paying more for the high-end seeds. There is a good possibility that the farmers end up in heavy debts as the pests become resistant to the pest-resistant crops and soil-fertility goes for a toss due to overuse of pesticides. Also, if an extreme case is taken into consideration, it is possible that one day rice grown in India will be completely monopolized by Monsanto (a company with its headquarters in USA). The rest is not difficult to imagine.
Despite numerous protests from farmers, environmentalists and social activists against GM food, the Indian government continues to hint towards using genetically modified crops. Under the garb of solving world hunger, the interests of multinational companies are being promoted.
Img:Â Animesh Singh (flickr)
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