Letters: GM crops: The unsaid story

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 03, 2013 21:34 hrs

This refers to Surinder Suds column GM crops: India falls behind (Farm View, February 25). The writers interpretation of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAAs) annual report leaves a lot unsaid. Upfront, one needs to remember that this report is from a biotech industry group, and the discussion is based on its statistics, and not government or independent statistics. The pace of adopting genetically modified (GM) crops worldwide has decreased to six per cent in 2011-12 from eight per cent in 2010-11. Brazil alone contributed two-thirds of this rise. The number of countries growing GM crops has decreased from 29 to 28, and approvals in an additional 31 countries is the figure that has been bandied about in ISAAAs reports since 2009. In Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, most GM crops are grown in huge industrial farms owned by corporate entities, which has nothing to do with small farmers, food security or farm-livelihood stability. The 11 per cent year-on-year growth in developing countries hides the fact that eight per cent of this comes from Brazil alone. Hence, there are no signs of broad-based acceptance.

Besides, out of the 27 European Union member nations, only six grow GM crops. These countries have been growing GM crops for the past few years but the total area is only 130,000 acres. Europe primarily grows GM maize and the whole area under GM crops is a mere 0.12 per cent of the arable land in Europe, whereas four per cent of the land is under organic cultivation. Again, 88 per cent of the total GM crop area is in Spain. Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Romania together grow the rest 12 per cent. Most prominent European nations do not grow any GM crop. India should take special note of this. Globally, GM crops still occupy only 3.4 per cent of the farmland and are adopted by a minuscule minority of farmers (17.3 million out of the total 513 million farmers), assuming ISAAA figures are accurate and not exaggerated. Therefore, Indias approach to GM crops should be based on this precautionary principle, biosafety and food sovereignty. Capital flight, careers of a few biotechnologists or profits of a few transnationals cannot dictate Indias agricultural policy priorities.

Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty, Netherlands

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