GM crops are created by altering their DNA through genetic engineering techniques to impart specific traits, such as resistance to pests, tolerance to herbicides, or improved nutritional content. These crops have played a significant role in the quest for global food and nutritional security.
What is the significance of GM crops in food & nutrition security?
- High Crop Yield: GM crops often have higher yields due to traits like pest resistance and drought tolerance. This increased productivity helps meet the growing demand for food in a world with a rising population.
- Enhanced nutrition value: Genetic modification can be used to enhance the nutritional content of crops. For example, biofortified GM crops like Golden Rice are engineered to contain higher levels of essential nutrients, addressing malnutrition in many developing countries.
- More crops under GM: The pool of GM crops has been widened by the addition of new crops like potato, and sugarbeet in addition to maize, soybean, cotton, and canola which has improved traits such as insect and herbicide resistance, climate resilience, and nutritional quality improvement in crops.
What are the challenges associated with GM crops?
- Environment: GMO breeding with the other crops in the natural ecosystem can result in genetic contamination. GM technology could also allow the transfer of genes from one crop to another, creating “superweeds”, which might be immune to common control methods.
- Corporate control: A few large biotech companies dominate the GM seed market, through the use of IPR which raises concerns about corporate control of agriculture & food supply.
- Health issues: Some critics argue that GM crops could have long-term health effects, through the use of chemicals & antibiotics rendering antibiotic medications less effective over some time, leading to superbug threats.
What are the benefits associated with GM crops?
- Farmers’ income: GM crops can save farmers’ income, reduce pesticide load on the environment, and provide pesticide- and insect-free crops to consumers while also boosting soil conservation efforts.
- Sustainability: Drought-tolerant and disease-resistant GM crops can promote sustainable agriculture by reducing water consumption and minimizing the environmental impact of farming.
- Nutritional Enhancement: Biofortified GM crops can combat micronutrient deficiencies, improving public health and nutrition. Crops can even be engineered to be more nutritious, providing critical vitamins to populations that struggle to get specific nutrients needed for healthy living.
India could meet its edible oil demand through the use of GM Mustard after the release of DMH 11 for cultivation. Cultivation of these GM mustard hybrids developed indigenously could help enhance farmers’ income, reduce the oil-import burden, and help achieve much-needed self-reliance in edible oil production. This will help boost the vibrant genetic engineering research sector in the country and enable the generation of new crop varieties with improved traits.