Is India is Prepared for Accepting GM Crops?
Author: Rahul Kumar

Indian population is increasing so fast that in coming few years it will surpass the population of China .To feed this large number of population we require huge amount of production. Where will the additional food come from? Availability of land is decreasing day by day and with stagnant grain production and rapid urbanization many scientists, in India and around the world, are looking to the potential of genetically engineered crops. A GM or transgenic crop is one which has a gene artificially inserted into it from another species, even unrelated to give it some desired properties. GM crops are either pest resistant or herbicide tolerant.GM crops have shown to dramatically increase yields because they are grown with fewer weeds and can be engineered to resist pests. Bt cotton seeds were introduced in India in 2002.Bollgard I ,which provided immunity against pink bollworm and developed by Monsanto given in 2002. Monsanto released Bollgard II in 2006. This reduced the use of toxic pesticides, as the cotton, which contains genes from the common soil bacterium, Bacilllus thuringiensis (Bt). These genes code for an insecticide that is toxic to many worms and pest but is not hazardous to human.

At present only GM cotton is allowed to be cultivated. The introduction of Bt cotton transformed the cotton industry with India’s cotton growing acreage by over 65% between 2002-03 to 2014-15. Bt cotton accounts for over 95% of the cotton acreage. There has been numerous successful field trials of other crops including, rice, corn, chickpea, pigeon pea (a legume), sugar cane, sorghum and potato. Bt Brinjal, a form of eggplant, was set for approval in 2010 but because of public concerns the government declined to allow it to be commercialized. Bt Brinjal is successfully being grown in Bangladesh. Bt mustard developed in Delhi university lab has also run into rough weather, GEAC ordering more tests last month, before giving its node to commercial release. But if we consider the increased production and quality of produce then India is ready for accepting GM crops. There are some political issues regarding the approval of GM crops but our eminent scientist already prove that GM crops are safe like other crops and our country can adopt GM crops without much concern regarding biosafety.

If we see worldwide then US, Argentina, China, Mexico, Canada and Australia were the first countries to plant GM crops in 1996.The area covered was 1.7 million hectares. In 2014, 28 countries cultivated GM crops on 181.5 Million hectares. US leads in GM adoption with area of 73.1 million hectares with more than 90% of its corn, cotton, soya and canola grown from GM seeds and about 70% of its processed food contain GM ingredients .If we talk about India then it has the fourth largest area under GM cultivation as well as good opportunity for making best use of this technology for producing qualitative and quantitative produce to eliminate the scarcity and to assure nutritional security. 29 crops have been approved for commercialization globally. 39 countries imported GM crops in 2014. Soybean has the largest adoption rate among the main transgenic crops followed by cotton, maize and canola. Developing countries are leading in GM area which is around 53% but not in value. After having great success of Bt cotton in India our scientist are eager to bring other genetically engineered crop which can assure the quality as well as quantity of produce.

Controversies related to GM Crops:

  • Anything which is done artificially and while going against the nature, it will have its harmful effect, and so will the GM Crop has certain health risk attached to it, like certain allergies may happen by combining 2 or more genes.
  • Since we discussed in the positive points, the GM Crops are pest resistant, this feature could harm the animals who feed on crops.
  • By growing, GM crops near to the other crops, it could lead to gene transfer as well as destroy the other plants.
  • An expensive affair – Genetically modified crops would be expensive and could not be afforded by each and every farmer.
  • Create superbugs and super weeds.
  • Harm biodiversity.
  • Harmful for pollinators.
  • After harvesting of seeds farmer cannot use same seed for sowing.
But most of the recent research shows that most of the above mentioned controversies are baseless for e.g. 88% of American scientist polled by Pew Research Centre in a survey released in 2015 said GM foods are safe. A 2013 studies by Italian Researchers (University of Gottingen) of 1783 studies published between 2002 to 2012 did not find any significant hazard to human health, biodiversity or the environment caused by GM crops.

If the first transgenic food crop is approved it would be a significant moment for India’s agricultural biotechnology industry, potentially paving the way for dozens of GM plants. The country currently permits only one GM crop, a variety of cotton that has transgenes toward off certain insects. In India — as in many nations — GM crops are a controversial technology. Researchers say the crops will help to feed the country’s growing population. But campaigners worry about safety and that multinational agro technology firms could take control of the country’s food supply.

In 2010, nationwide protests saw the government ban commercial planting India’s first GM food crop: an insect-resistant brinjal. It then gave states the power to veto GM-crop trials, effectively barring field tests. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, some field trials resumed. And the GM mustard seemed poised for approval by September 2016, when India’s environment ministry released a review that found no safety concerns. Pental says that the crop raises yields of mustard seed by 25–30%, allowing more mustard oil to be produced, which could reduce India’s dependence on other, imported food oils. But on 7 October, India’s Supreme Court agreed to hear a case brought by Aruna Rodrigues, an anti-GM campaigner who wants a moratorium on the crop’s approval until it undergoes an independent evaluation and by this way India is still waiting for the approval of its first GM food crop.


As it is said, that everything has a good and bad aspect attached to it. On one hand where GM Crops are advantageous in a number of ways to the farmers and they are really proving to be advantageous to the general public who are going to eat these crops. However, if things done very carefully keeping all areas in mind, it could be a success and help in a lot of ways without causing any harmful effects on the health and destroying the nature. Enjoying the great success of Bt cotton in India now it’s the time for GM food crop and if we refine the policies regarding GM then our country is definitely ready for accepting the GM crops and assuring both quantity and quality of produce.

About Author / Additional Info:
MSc. Scholar Genetics and Plant Breeding at IARI, New Delhi