Will Biotech Push Help Fulfill PM’s Dream?

Farm technology in India has traditionally followed a top-down approach despite farmers being the most important cog in the wheel.

Fear of switching over to biotechnology medium due to the widespread (pseudo) myths, along with lack of a proactive policy courtesy the government of India for Genetically Modified (GM) crops, is preventing many involved in agriculture to embrace GM.

In the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious dream of doubling farmer’s income by 2022, Channapatna S Prakash dean of College of Arts and Sciences Tuskegee University said, “Bacillus Thuringiensis popularly known as BT across the world has helped farmers grow 311.8 million tonnes more food in the last 15 years, besides offering opportunities to increase crop yields and plants, naturally protected from disease and insects. Back home in India, BT in 2002, under the approval of the then government at the centre, as much as 95 per cent of the cotton was produced from BT,” he said.

Agreeing with him is Surendra Bajaj executive director of Agri Innovation who said, “currently neighboring Bangladesh is successfully cultivating BT brinjal in large areas of its land. What stops the Indian government from approving BT brinjal?” The need of the hour is to streamline the process of obtaining ‘No Objection Certificate (NOC)’ from the respective state governments to be able conduct open field trials.

Additionally, as far as GM crops are concerned, the government needs to introduce environmental safety guidelines with a clearly defined process for public consultation. It is further recommended that approval is more science-oriented instead of being ‘politically-approved’.

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Farm technology in India has traditionally followed a top-down approach despite farmers being the most important cog in the wheel. Much of the debate around agri-technology has centered on agri-biotechnology.

The technology allows to develop crops with specific beneficial traits and helps in reducing undesirable traits, which benefit the environment by reducing the need for chemical pesticide use, he underscores.

Throwing light on advantages of agri-biotechnology, Prakash said, “the respective technology can ensure that crops are modified to withstand higher periods of heat, drought or deal with excessive water and other conditions that have been accelerated or brought on by climate change. This has enormous potential in India that has grappled with successive droughts across many states,” he points out.

Mr. Bajaj adds, “no technology has been tested for safety so elaborately as biotechnology. Over 25 years of independent research backed by over 2,000 documented studies has shown that there is absolutely no evidence of any harm caused by GM foods ever since they were introduced in the market.”


Written by Lakshmi L Lund in the Deccan Chronicle. See original article link here.