The Times of India / via AgBioView
Editorial – Times View
July 16, 2009
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

The government plans to introduce genetically modified (GM) foods, particularly tomatoes, brinjals and cauliflower, to help meet food production targets in three years’ time. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Department of Biotechnology has approved the three transgenic crops that are in various stages of tests and development in institutes across the country. This decision is bound to be controversial, as this is the first time that India will experiment with GM crops in food. To date, India has only allowed the use of GM cotton, a non-food crop.

For the past few years global food consumption has outstripped production, causing world food prices to spike last year. The global recession has seen many people, particularly in developing countries, fall below the poverty line once again.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation says there are now a billion people who do not have enough to eat (defined as less than 1,800 calories per day), 100 million more than last year. During the food crisis last year, there were food riots in many countries. In Haiti it even led to a coup. Is that the future we want? India faces a mammoth task in feeding its billion-strong population. Biotechnology offers the best promise of producing enough food for everybody. Are we going to let the fear of hypothetical risks shut down an area of science that promises to solve this problem and save millions from hunger?

India cannot, in good conscience, abandon yield-boosting modern technology. The food crisis is real and more immediate than we might like. With climate change, and dwindling water resources, it is imperative that this country explores all available options to increase food production. GM food items can and should be labelled as such so that consumers have a choice. But we must remember that while GM foods have not killed anybody, starvation is another matter.