By Ruma Dubey
Sometimes, you cannot but help question the senses or the intellectual abilities of these decision makers in the Govt.
The European Union is firmly against it, so is Vladimir Putin and even the newly elected French President Macron has said that he will not allow it in his country and here, we have India giving the go ahead.
Did you know that the Govt has granted regulatory approval to GM mustard? This means a small crack has opened up and soon India will become a dustbin for this unproven and risky technology. The variety of crop which has been approved does even have a high yield – we already have three non-GM varieties which give a much higher yield. The logic being given for this GM mustard – it will increase the yield by 30% and as mustard is used to make edible oil, our edible oil import bill will come down. Seriously!!
Genetically Modified food crops or GM crops. There was the Bt Brinjal controversy, a GM crop during the UPA regime, which banned it all. The BJP allowed field trials of GM food crops and now the first crop is granted approval.
Environmentalists, farmers, government – all are skeptic when it comes to GM food crops. Yes, it will mean bountiful harvests and could potentially end hunger in India but the fear is the effect these GM crops will have on health. There is also the fear of what harm it could cause to the environment and more importantly, it will only push farmers further into debt if they are forced to but these high priced GM food crops. Those supporting GM food crops say that all these fears are unfounded and baseless as the US Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization and European Commission have concluded GMOs are safe to eat.
If it is safe then why is it that over 50% of the countries in the European Union (EU) have banned GM cultivation. China does use GM food crops but is not moving to increase the use to more food crops. Why go so far? In USA itself, there is a growing voice of discontent – many firms are working towards removing GM food from their products, this includes Ben & Jerry, General Mills- a subsidiary of Unilever which started selling its original flavor Cheerios without GM products. Post Holdings Inc. took the GMs out of Grape-Nuts. Chipotle Mexican Grill is switching to non-GM corn tortillas.
If GM food crops are harmless why can’t we produce it ourselves? And seriously, we do not have a problem of shortage; what we have is a problem of plenty. India has one of the world's highest food grain reserves but what we do not have is a proper logistics infrastructure. Pictures of rotting grains, fruits and vegetables are still so vivid in all our minds. If one part of the country has a windfall harvest, the other part has malnutrition and drought. The problem is not of food grain production again, it is of lack of transport and cold storage. Erratic electric supply also adds on to the woes.
GM food is not an alternative. We need to modernize and innovate our ways of cultivation and not succumb to an easy way out. Let’s take the path less trodden and show the rest of the world how to grow food crops…..without GM.