ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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GM Crops: No Panacea

The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (PSCA) has recently tabled a report on the crucial subject of genetically modified (GM) crops which has significantly questioned the need for transgenics in agriculture. It has called for an immediate ban on all field trials of GM crops. While it must be congratul­ated for sounding a timely warning against the headlong drive towards GM crops, their need, benefits and hazards need to be carefully assessed. GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996 and, over the last 15 years, GE cotton, soya, and corn account for 94%, 93% and 88% of the total crop respectively.

Looking at significant differences in agricultural practices, population, landholding, subsidies, as well as varying ­political, social and economic aspects, it is necessary to question the relevance of an agricultural model centred on genetic engineering and its impact on Indian ­agriculture. The American economy’s reliance on agriculture has decreased over the years, the service and retail ­industries having accounted for a large share of job growth in rural America over the past few decades. India still ­relies heavily upon agriculture, with more than 70% of its farmers being small and marginal, for whom agriculture is not a commercial venture but a way of life. It is interesting to note that in America, the agricultural population totals 5.1 million with a 1.7% share in the total population. In sharp contrast, in India, 592.3 million (48.4% of the ­total population) continue to depend on farming with an overwhelming majority living off landholdings that are less than one hectare.

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