This fear of GM

Farmers welcome the stand of the government of India on the outright rejection of the recommendations of the technical expert committee to the Supreme Court, which suggested that a moratorium be imposed on field trials of GM crops. The SC shot down the proposal of an interim moratorium that would have strangled technology and innovation in the country. The moratorium would have also prevented Indian scientists and companies from focusing on emerging technologies, allowing other countries and companies that already have a head start on Indian research institutions to remain ahead of us. India would be forced to remain dependent on others for technology and food.

A crisis-ridden India was once saved by a frugal prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who helped the country become self-sufficient in food by importing and sowing the seeds of the green revolution. Four years later, our farmers increased production by a higher quantity than ever before.

Public opinion continues to be swayed by the fear of the unknown. When the Bhakra dam was completed, members of the opposition in erstwhile joint Punjab reportedly told the electorate that after the electricity is extracted from water, the water for irrigation wouldn't be able to to grow crops and even won elections. The advent of computer technology had the then opposition forecasting that it would be the nemesis of the job-seeker. Fortunately, these progressive technologies were not leashed by the government and we galloped ahead to the green and IT revolutions.

The lingering challenge here is the question of how hunger and poverty can be ended. We easily perceive the mirage of plenty, for we constantly see images of rotting food grains. In fact, the problem of food security in India is far more critical than in the rest of the world. India has 4 per cent of the water, 2 per cent of the land and 16 per cent of the world's population. The consequences of climate change will be devastating for tropical regions like India. Dependence on expensive imported oil, potash and phosphorus fertilisers will throttle growth prospects. An amalgamation of these impediments will lead to a decrease in current agriculture production, while we hope to double production to meet the needs of a growing population. As incomes increase, the demand for meat and dairy will lead to more wastage of plant calories allocated as animal feed. Food used as biofuel will further strain food supply. Imported food is not a solution we can afford.

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