News / Asia

Genetically Modified Food Crops Suffers Setback in India

Multimedia

Audio

India has put on hold the commercial cultivation of genetically modified food crops.  The decision is seen as a setback by advocates who believe such crops could help boost food supplies in the country.

The eggplant is a popular vegetable in India, but it seldom appears in news headlines.

Now, it is in the spotlight after the government indefinitely deferred plans to let farmers grow a genetically modified version of the vegetable, known as Bt brinjal, earlier this week.       

And other genetically modified food crops could meet a similar fate.

So far, cotton is the only genetically modified crop grown in India, and many call it a success story. Since its cultivation in 2002, cotton yield has nearly doubled, and India has become a leading exporter.

But Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh says the government wants to wait for more scientific data on the safety of genetically modified food crops for human consumption.  

"Bt cotton I can live with, but Bt brinjal I am a little worried about, because it is a food crop…. And there is no tearing hurry to introduce BT brinjal in our country," says Ramesh.

The decision disappointed many who had hoped that genetically modified technology could play a central role in the country's efforts to raise production of staple foods.

BT brinjal, for example, was expected to raise yields by up to 50 percent and cut farming costs by reducing dependence on pesticides.

Economists and agricultural scientists say boosting farm yields is a priority for India. They say a growing population and diminishing farmlands leads to food shortages and rising food prices.

India has been conducting field trials on genetically modified versions of crops such as rice, mustard, cauliflower and peas for nearly a decade.

D.H. Pai Panandiker is an economist and chairman of the Indian subsidiary of the Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute. He says the country's food security will be threatened unless it adopts new technologies to boost yields.   

"There is tremendous scope for introducing biotechnology in normal crops like rice and wheat. One has to go by scientific evidence as already available and adopt it as fast as possible," said Panandiker.

However, detractors insist the technology is a health hazard, and is being pushed ahead by multinational companies such as U-S based Monsanto, a leader in biotech crop biotechnology. An Indian seed company, Mahyco, in which Monsanto has a stake, had helped develop Bt brinjal.

Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist who has led a long battle against genetically modified crops, says she is relieved that cultivation of the BT brinjal has been blocked. She says there is no room for genetically modified food in Indian homes.

"Neither BT brinjal, nor BT eggplant, nor Bt potato nor Bt tomato will go through if there is an honest assessment. It is a crude technology at this stage. We need the science to evolve, we need more sophisticated modification systems," she said.   

Some scientists are concerned the decision on BT Brinjal will slow down further research on genetically modified food crops in the country. They say with controversy swirling around the new technology, the government will continue to adopt a cautious approach.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid