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

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GMOs Needed

Apropos your editorial, “Modi andModified Crops” (EPW, 26 July 2014), the debate over genetically-modified (GM) organisms has now moved from the balanced perspective of compromise and conciliation towards entrenched opinions, as much in favour as against. The benefits of GM food and crops may not be as great as proponents would make us to believe, and the risks are also not nearly as intractable and harmful as the opponents maintain. Indeed, the genetic modification of plants and animals is hardly new. Humans have tossed the genetic dice for better or worse over many millennia with crops, judging and mixing genomes since the beginning of agriculture. As Norman Borlaug put, “Neolithic women accelerated genetic modifications in plants in the process of domesticating our food crops species”.

The total area devoted to GM crops has increased 100-fold from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 170.3 million hectares in 2012 in as many as 28 countries – 20 developing countries and eight developed countries. Bangladesh is the first country in South Asia to allow commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal, following fierce debate. China is home to approximately 4% of the total global area under GM crops. Despite considerable opposition from various pressure groups, GM crops are slowly advancing in Europe. European tourists visiting the US and Latin America every year are happily consuming GM crops there with no adverse health effects. GM crops are now so widely spread that many people have been consuming their residues no matter where they live. Most of us would have also already consumed them, especially through consuming vegetable oils.

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