News came in this week that India has halted plans for commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal (or eggplant). The debate centers around the familiar issues relating to health and environmental issues and loss of biodiversity. Almost at the same time, though, there are reports of plans to grow GM potatoes in the United Kingdom. China is already growing transgenic cotton with plans for other crops such as rice, maize, soybeans etc. According to World Bank estimates, by 2006 , 8% of the global crop area was already planted with GM seeds.
The case for GM crops is made by emphasising their higher yield, reduced use of pesticides and herbicides and their role in curbing world hunger. World population is expected to reach 9 bn by mid-century and public policy needs to tackle the question of expanding food production to meet the increased demand. The shortfalls are going to be exacerbated by the impact of climate change and widespread famine is possible. GM crops represent an important breakthrough in increasing agricultural productivity yet there is stiff resistance to their adoption. In the future though, this may be the best of producing food in a sustainable way. There is a lot of misinformation about GM or “Frankenfood”. No, so far there is no evidence that adopting the cultivation of GM crops for food or feed will make breed pigs with wings or flying potatoes. Actually, rice enhanced with vitamin A , known as Golden Rice or tomatoes enhanced with lycopene could help boost health outcomes in areas of need.
In fact, such is the commotion over this issue that even the Vatican has taken a stand on it! Watch this blog for more updates.