GMOs in India: Refusing to Learn from Past Mistakes

GMOs in India: Refusing to Learn from Past Mistakes

By Bharat Dogra

The massive losses of cotton crops in Punjab have been caused by whitefly. Most of these farmers had grown Bt cotton. Large-scale damage to cotton crops has also been reported in parts of Haryana and Rajasthan.

Genetically modified crops such as Bt cotton were supposed to offer protection against pests. Where is the crop protection in these huge areas that are being destroyed? From the farmers' point of view it is not relevant whether the wormball, the whitefly or some other pest destroys the crops. The farmer's concern is that pest damage should not be too high. He was promised that GM crops would give him this protection. So he agreed to pay a high price for it. He borrowed at high interest rates for this. But now what you see is that the damage caused by pests is higher than before.

The farmer was told that this particular GM crop comes with built-in protection against certain pests. Thus he reasoned that his cost in expensive pesticides would be reduced. What he has actually experienced is that he had to spray more and more, over and over again and yet the damage from the pests also increased. So the farmer feels very cheated.

But is this experience confined only to recent damage to Bt cotton crops? In Gujarat it is supposed to be the biggest Bt cotton success story, but when this writer spoke some time ago with several Gujarati farmers who had grown Bt cotton for several years they said that although production was good in the early days years, in the end this crop ruined them, since they had to spray pesticides on innumerable occasions without being able to get rid of new pests. Earlier in Vidarbha (as now in Punjab) losses associated with BT cotton crops along with much higher expenses had been linked to mass distress and suicides among farmers.

But this is not just the experience of a few regions in India. After examining all the evidence from various parts of the world on GM crops this is what a group of eminent scientists from various countries that make up the Independent Science Group said: “GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are presented growing problems on farms. GM contamination is now widely recognized as unavoidable, and therefore there can be no coexistence of GMs and non-GM agriculture. Most important of all, GM crops have not been proven safe. Rather, enough evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, which if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be vigorously rejected. "

In addition to this review, he said, “The consistent finding from independent and on-farm research since 1999 is that genetically modified (GM) crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields or reducing herbicides and pesticides. The instability of transgenic lines has plagued the industry from the beginning, and this may be responsible for a number of failures in major crops. "

More recently 17 distinguished scientists from Europe, the US, Canada and New Zealand, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to him, warning him against "the unique risks (of GM crops) to food security, growing systems and impacts on biosecurity that are ultimately irreversible. " The letter added: “The transformation process of genetic modification is highly mutagenic leading to disruptions to organize the genetic structure and function of plants, which in turn leads to alterations in the biochemistry of plants. This can lead to a new toxin and allergen production, as well as a reduction / alteration of the quality of nutrition ”.

This widely quoted letter added: “… The basic problem is that GMOs as used in agriculture are conceptually wrong, rude, imprecise and it is poorly controlled technology, which is unable to generate plants that contain the necessary multiplicity that coordinately regulates genes that work in an integrated way to respond to environmental challenges….

“… GMOs have not increased performance potential. The yields of genetically modified crops to date have not been better and in the case of GM soybeans it has been consistently lower.

"... GM crops have led to large increases in pesticide use, they did not decrease it and therefore they cannot claim that they reduced agricultural pollution."

In April 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a report “Yield Failure” confirming that “after 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, GM crops had failed to increase yields. yields ”and that“ traditional cultivation far exceeds genetic engineering ”.

So there are enough studies to confirm the experience around the world on the poor performance in general and the new risks of GM crops. Ignoring all this, at the time when news of severe damage to Bt cotton in Punjab broke, high-level efforts were launched in New Delhi to get approval for a variety of GM mustard. This attempt to advance transgenic technology in food crops is even more dangerous due to the elevated health risks.

In his widely acclaimed book 'Genetic Roulette' Jeffrey M. Smith has summarized the results of much research on the health risks of GM foods / crops. "Tests in laboratory animals with GM foods were delayed in their growth, impaired immune systems, stomach bleeding, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, development of altered blood cells, deformed cell structures in the liver , pancreas and testes, altered genes and cellular metabolism lesions, liver and kidney, liver partially atrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed brains and testes, enlarged livers, pancreas and intestines, reduced digestive enzymes, increased blood sugar , inflamed lung tissue, increased mortality rates and higher mortality in the offspring ”.

Even though a great deal of scientific evidence on GM food crops was collected at the time of the great Bt brinjal debate recently, sadly all of these lessons are being unlearned and the government seems to be moving ahead with many trials of GM crops. , with special emphasis on GM mustard crops. This is becoming one of the biggest threats to agriculture, the environment and health.

The Statesman

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