Viewpoint: To support farmers, India should promote consumer acceptance of GMO crops

plnting seeds
Farmers plant illegal GMO seeds in protest of India's regulations in the summer of 2019. Image: Cornell Alliance for Science

With Prakash Javadekar taking charge of the environment ministry from the inert Harsh Vardhan, and hopes kindling of genetically-engineered brinjal and mustard being approved for cultivation, one wishes the government had a specialized communication agency for advocacy and outreach to create public opinion favorable for agri-biotechnology.

Although India approved Bt cotton, genetically-engineered to be toxic to the American bollworm, in 2002, and permitted another variant in 2006 (both of which farmers have embraced enthusiastically), those opposing these have been so successful in demonizing the technology that no other crop—Bt brinjal, herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton, or GM mustard—have got the nod for cultivation.

In May, a farmer in Haryana was forced to destroy his illegal Bt brinjal crop, which he found profitable because it required very few sprays against the fruit and shoot borer. On June 10, the Shetkari Sanghatana, founded by the pro-market and pro-technology Sharad Joshi, defied the law and planted illegal HT cotton and Bt brinjal near Akola in Maharashtra, demanding time-bound approvals and certainty in access to agri-biotechnology.

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The government could learn from the Philippines, which set up a Biotech Program Office in 2000 to promote the responsible use of agri-biotechnology to sustain food security ….

Read full, original article: Dispelling falsehoods about GM crops

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