What are GM crops? I confess I myself did not understand much about it and was oblivious to the hoopla surrounding it. The topic has been of intense debate in India since the introduction of BT cotton in 2002. The Government is showing queer interest in passing the BRAI(Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) Bill which would allow easy entry of GM crops in India. Scientists, organizations and general public have accused the Government of ignoring the key after-effects of growing GM crops.
Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are crops which have had their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally. Individual genes which promote durability or nutritional value are transferred from one organism to another to create biologically robust plants.
1. Some of the health effects for using GM crops include allergic reactions and transfer of antibiotic resistant genes from the crops into the human system. Further, there have been no long-term studies for acute or chronic health risks in humans. We do not know what effects will these crops have on us in the long run, whether they will be as healthy as the organic crops, or could lead to some abnormality. Whatever it is, we need more state-funded, non-industry research before accepting GM food into our diets.
2. Chemical companies that create GM seeds such as Monsanto, the sole owner of BTÂ cotton – the only GM crop currently being commercially cultivated in India, patent their seeds so farmers have to buy new seeds each year. This would essentially lead to chemical companies controlling our food supply!
3. To top it, they also indulge in malpractices, as was evident in Maharashtra last year when farmers complained against Monsanto for deliberately selling low quality seeds. In a primarily agrarian economy such as ours, this capitalist control over our farmers is the last thing we need.
4. Say we allow the introduction of GM food crops in India .This would lead to further modification of other crops. Where does it stop then? These multi-national companies pay no heed to the social and ethnic responsibilities in their quest for profit. The idea for introduction of genes from animals into plants is not entirely new. Yeah, imagine that!
5. Also, the scientists believe that the continuous use of GM crops would almost certainly lead to BT-resistant insects. That is one of the main reasons cited for using GM crops and it will, in some time, stand void. We would be back to square one.
6. Some other concerns cited in using GM crops include cross-breeding with the surrounding vegetation, the non-GM crops or even weeds, transferring undesired characteristics.
When on one hand India faces the problem of storing the food it produces, with massive amounts rotting in the under-equipped storage houses, the Government’s unusual keenness to introduce GM food crops for ensuring ‘food security’ smells fishy.
In August 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report recommended that “for the time being, all research and development activities on transgenic crops should be carried out only in containment and the ongoing field trials in all states should be discontinued forthwith.” The Government, ignoring the Standing Committee recommendations tabled the highly condemned BRAI Bill in April this year. Now, owing to increasing public pressure, the bill has again been transferred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
The committee through an advertisement is seeking views and suggestions on the proposed law.
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