Are Genetically Modified Crops the Answer to India’s Agrarian Crisis?

There is a long-standing and contentious debate on whether the benefits created by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) outweigh the costs. Currently, in India, the use of GM seeds that are not approved for commercial cultivation by the government carries a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. Yet, many farmers continue to plant these seeds. 

Meena Menon details the arguments put forward by farmer groups who are in support of planting illegal seeds and those that are against this practice. She calls for improved regulation against illegal seeds and, generally, more extensive independent research with the targeted goal of producing quality seeds that take into account the effects of climate change. She writes that opposition to GMOs cannot be equated to an opposition to technology and science as a whole. 

Ram Kaimdomya, who represents the Federation of Seed Industry of India, calls Menon’s analysis misleading. He argues that Bt cotton would not be used in 97% of the total area under cotton cultivation if it was not profitable to farmers. Meena Menon responds to Kaimdomya by stating that Kaimdomya does not refute any of the claims she makes in her article, but rather praises the benefits generated by the seed industry and Bt cotton. 

A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. Two Narratives about Bt Cotton: Technological Triumph or Abject Failure? EPW Engage 2017
  2. Bt Cotton Controversy, Arjunan Subramanian et al, 2005
  3. Bt Cotton and the Myth of Enhanced Yields, Kavitha Kuruganti, 2009
  4. Bt Cotton: Farmers' Reactions, G Shourie David and Y V S T Sai, 2002 
  5. Pesticide Usage by Cotton Farmers in India: Changes over a Decade, Thiagu Ranganathan, Sarthak Gaurav and Imdadul Islam Halder, 2018 
  6. Monsanto’s Loss of Patent Over Bt Cotton is a Victory for Farmers and Indian Seed Companies, Varnika Chawla, 2018
  7. Manipulating Technology for Surplus Extraction: The Case of Bt Cotton in India, Suresh, P Ramasundaram, Ramesh Chand, 2011

 

Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at edit@epw.in with the subject line—"Agriculture and Technology."

 

Curated by Abhishek Shah [abhishekshah@epw.in]

 

Image courtesy: Modified. Wikimedia Commons/Dominik Hundhammer/CC BY-SA 3.0

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