Jan 19, 2011

Killer technologies will not increase our food production

Genetically modified (GM) crops are once again in the eye of a storm. With the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPM] taking a complete U-turn in its stated policy approach and now publicly supporting GM crops, the debate is heating up. National president of the All India Kisan Sabha, the farmers’ wing of the CPM, SR Pillai, has recently called those who oppose GM crops as being ‘superstitious’.

At the recently concluded 98th Indian Science Congress, industry lobbyists had made a strong pitch for GM crops. Ironically, while the Indian Science Congress has always refrained from discussing farmer suicides, it offered a platform to the biotech industry for promoting a risky and unstable technology.

This, however, doesn’t come as a surprise. In Europe, as the BBC reports, the GM controversy is back on the political radar. Politically incorrect efforts have been on for quite some time to re-energise the debate. Wikileaks tells us how the US embassy in Paris had, in 2007, urged Washington to start a military-style trade war against EU for opposing GM crops.

A year later, in 2008, the US and Spain had plotted to raise food prices in Europe to justify the need for introducing GM foods. With Europe still not accepting GM crops, India remains the prime target. Wikileaks informs that even India’s National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, talked about the possibility of opening up to GM crops.

After Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had imposed a moratorium on the commercialisation of Bt brinjal in early 2010, diplomatic and political pressure from the US has been increasing relentlessly. The multinational seed industry moved fast, first by taking a large number of journalists on an ‘educational’ trip to the US, and also within India, thereby shifting some of the media’s opinion in favour of GM crops.

At the same time, American multinational giants began the exercise to sway political opinion in favour of GM crops. The turnaround by CPM seems to be an outcome of one such approach. Nevertheless, it is important to explain some of the hotly debated aspects, which is lost in the hype being generated to push GM crops.

The first and foremost argument is that GM crops are important for a country that has more than 1 billion people to feed. It will ensure food security. The fact is there is no GM crop in the world that increases productivity. In fact, most of the GM crops under cultivation actually reduce productivity. The US Department of Agriculture admits that the productivity of GM corn and GM soya is less than that of normal varieties, and that makes me wonder how our politicians are suggesting GM crops for ensuring food security.

Furthermore, there is no shortage of food in the world. We have 6.5 billion people on Earth, and we produce food for 11.5 billion people. If more than 1 billion people go to bed hungry globally, it is because of the faulty distribution process rather than the unavailability of food. The same holds true for India, where one-third of the population cannot afford to buy food, but huge quantities of food is allowed to rot.

Almost all the GM crops that have been developed so far are for killing insects. Bt cotton, for instance, is supposed to kill sucking pests like pink bollworm, thereby reducing pesticides consumption. This, however, does not hold true for long. In China, cotton farmers growing Bt cotton are now reported to be spraying 10% more pesticides and thereby incurring losses.

In India too, as far as pesticides consumption on Bt cotton is concerned, its cultivation has, in reality, increased the application of pesticides. The Central Cotton Research Institute estimates that in 2006, pesticides worth Rs640 crore were sprayed on cotton. In 2008, it had increased to over Rs800 crore. Even in the US, where GM crops are widely cultivated, the usage of herbicides has increased by $300 million.

GM crops also create super weeds, which cannot be controlled by any chemicals so far. In the US, almost 15 million acres have become infested with super weeds. Georgia, for instance, has been turned into a wasteland due to infestation of super weeds. So far, at least 30 super weeds have been indentified in North America.

Numerous experiments all over the world have shown that GM crops pose tremendous health risks. Even Monsanto’s own studies on rats in Europe have demonstrated that the animals have problems with their body organs, and use of GM crops can also result in serious diseases and allergies. Some studies in Austria have shown that GM crops also lead to infertility.

Interestingly, all the scientists who dared to question the human safety aspect were hounded out of their jobs.

Already farmers are committing suicide because of the faulty technologies imposed on them. How many more farmers do we want killed before we stop using such killer technologies?

Source: Daily News & Views, Mumbai/Bangalore/Ahmedabad/Pune/Jaipur


Nowhere Man said...

It is ironic. On one hand, you have Lifebuoy (HUL) asking people to celebrate "Global Hand-Washing Day" because, you know, germs are bad! I wonder what HUL have to say about GM crops.

If all these studies on potential risks to health are true, detailed scientific studies have to be made before passing them. For now, those who are concerned with food security could ask for better grain storage facilities.

Ramesh Dubey said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी जो वामपंथी अमेरिका व उसकी शोषणकारी नीतियों को पानी पी पी कर कोसते फिरते हैं उसी पार्टी के एक वरिष्‍ठ नेता का जीएम फसलों के पक्ष में बयान देना दाल में कुछ काला लगता है । दरअसल आज दुनिया में साढ़े ग्‍यारह लोगों को भरपेट खाने का अनाज मौजूद है उसके बावजूद 92 करोड़ लोग भूखे सोने को अभिशप्‍त हैं तो इसका कारण यही है कि अनाज बाजार अब किसानों, स्‍थानीय साहूकारों-महाजनों के हाथ से निकलकर वैश्‍विक साहूकारों-महाजनों के हाथों में पहुंच गया है । इनका लक्ष्‍य अकूत मुनाफा कमाना है । उदाहरण के लिए 2007-08 की वैश्‍विक आर्थिक मंदी में जब अन्‍य सभी क्षेत्रों की कंपनियों भारी घाटे में चली गईं थी उस समय एग्रीबिजनेस कंपनियों ने भरपूर मुनाफा कमाया । ये कंपनियां एक बार फिर अपनी तिजोरी भरने के लिए दुनिया भर में खाद्यान्‍न संकट का हौवा खड़ा कर रही हैं ताकि दुनिया जीएम तकनीक को हाथो-हाथ ले ले और उनका मुनाफा दिन दूनी रात चौगुनी गति से बढ़े ।
रमेश दुबे

Surender Dalal . said...

Respected Dr Sharma,
As you know these GM crops are equiped with cry1... a,b,c and on genes meant for production of toxins in every cell of plant and to kill the insects mainly vegetarians.But it is also true that all the herbivorous insects are not harmful to crops. Farmers including women in Nidana village observed that at every moment there are nonveg insects for controlling the harmfuls.So i consider that insect literacy is right answer to GM crops.