Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment

Vol 2, Issue 2,2004
Online ISSN: 1459-0263
Print ISSN: 1459-0255

Are Indian foods from genetically modified crops safe?


R. T. Gahukar

Recieved Date: 2003-12-15, Accepted Date: 2004-03-27


Agriculture is a base for Indian economy and rural development as 60% of the population is engaged, directly or indirectly, in various agricultural activities, and contributes about 60% to the national economy and 30% to the export. Therefore, improvement of farm produce in both quality and productivity and postharvest technologies have been a priority in research and development activities. Biotechnology through tissue culture, biopesticides, bioagents, biofertilizers etc. played an important role in agricultural development. Thus, in the late sixties, crop production has increased to at least 4-folds due to adoption of intensive cultivation practices. However, modern agriculture still loses 42% of crop production to the attack of pests, diseases and weeds. Crop productivity (e.g., production/ha) remains stagnant because of fragmented land holdings, non-availability of water resources, poor and infertile soils, biotic and abiotic stresses, and vagaries of weather. Considering an increase of 2.1% per annum in human and animal population, food and fodder production has to be increased at least 5-10 million tons a year to feed about 155 crore people in 2020. Population below poverty line (BPL) is also increasing fast from its present level of 30%. Similarly, incidence of pests and diseases, pest resistance to synthetic pesticides, frequent crop failures due to natural calamities, the pollution hazards and environmental degradation are major problems that are to be solved urgently. Gene revolution through genetically modified crops (GMC) may be one of the solutions in near future, at least to enhance and stabilize the food production. GMC contain useful genes that have been obtained from beyond their normal sexually hybridising barriers and this technique includes identification and isolation of DNA, its purification, cloning vector construction, multriplication in stable host, transfer to target species, expression of target genes, and stabilization of gene products in GMC. These crops are now grown in about 40 million hectares in 15 countries. In India, some multi-national companies (MNC), universities and public organizations have developed cultivars of GMC but debate is continuing amongst scientists, social activists, farmers and consumers. This situation may change in a few years due to World Trade Organization (WTO) policies of globalization, privatization and free market access to which India is one of the signatories. At present, GMC are being commercialized worldwide for particular traits of herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and improvement in food quality. MNC are ready to supply different types of cry proteins. Likewise the National Plant Genome Centre, Delhi, has been able to map some of the major crops and technology is being developed for >10 crops by major public and private institutions to clone genes and promoters in food crops including oilseeds. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, foods from GMC are safe as food preparations caused no harm to human in the tests undertaken during the last five years. Therefore, Indian Government formulated several projects in biotechnology to ensure food security and super foodcrops are being developed.

Journal: Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment
Year: 2004
Volume: 2
Issue: 2
Category: Commentary
Pages: 11-13

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