Jul 2, 2020


A genetically modified (GM) crop is a plant used for agricultural purposes into which one or several genes coding for desirable traits have been inserted through the process of genetic engineering. These genes may stem not only from the same or other plant species, but also from organisms totally unrelated to the recipient crop. The basic techniques of plant genetic engineering were developed in the early 1980s, and the first GM crops became commercially available in the mid-1990s. Since then, GM crop adoption has increased rapidly.In 2008, GM crops were being grown on 9% of the global arable land. The crop traits targeted through genetic engineering are not completely different from those pursued by conventional breeding. However, because genetic engineering allows for the direct gene transfer across species boundaries, some traits that were previously difficult or impossible to breed can now be developed with relative ease. [1]


Over the past decade GM crops have been a contentious issue resulting in protests from farmers as well as environmentalists. The protests range over a wide set of issues namely:

1.    GM crops pose a potential threat on human health such as an increase in birth defects and childhood cancers. Herbicides promote diseases such as acute kidney injuries, diabetes, autism and Alzheimer’s. GM Mustard consists of Bayer’s glufosinate, which is a herbicide and acknowledged neuro-toxin.  

2.    The GM crops reduce species diversity, for example, insect resistant plants that are not their intended target, yet are being destroyed. GM crops could also create super-weeds that are immune to the normal control measures.

3.    Viral genes may be transferred to viral pathogens resulting in more virulent virus strains.

4.    GM seeds are expensive and introduction of a GM crop is a time-consuming procedure. GM seeds do not promise a high-degree of yield.

5.    Patent laws give developers a dangerous degree of control over food-supply, leading to the domination of agro-based market in the hands of a few men.



The GM crops grown in India are BT Brinjal (blocked in 2010 by the GOI) ; HT Mustard (the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee- GEAC, recommended its commercial approval.) ; BT Cotton (approved by GEAC in 2002, became the first transgenic crop to be cultivated in India; In March 2018, pink bollworm infestation plagued cotton farmers, whereby the pest grows resistant to thetoxins produced by this trait, resulting in farmers having to spend more on pesticides to control infestation).

Some farmers in India are rooting for GM cotton crops and BT Brinjal crops on the ground that the high cost of weeding and the cost of production is drastically reduced  if they grow HT BT cotton while using glyphosate against weeds and by cutting down on the use of pesticides,while cultivating Brinjal.

GEACis the apex body under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change(MoEFCC) which regulates the manufacture, use, import, export and storage of genetically engineered organisms and cells in the country. It also provides technical approval of proposals relating to release of GMOs and products including experimental field trials. According to the guidelines framed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),safety assessment to test whether the crop consists of a hazard or any other safety concern. A policy of case-by-case approval of transgenic crops has to be followed.

The SC has directed increasing the isolation distance between the GM planted fields and the regular fields to at least 200 metres from the prior 20 metres.Further, a scientist would be designated who will ensure that pre-conditions and precautions will be adopted during field trials of GM seeds.



Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ organization was founded by Sharad Anantrao Joshi in the year 1935,aims at freedom of access to markets and technology and remunerative agricultural prices for the Indian farmers. The Shetkari Sanghatana Movement in 1973 was a response to the hindrance in the economic growth process of small farmers and agricultural workers, whereby a handful of rich farmers were privatizing the benefits of development, resulting in the increased socio economic inequalities in the society. It’s motives were to suppress the so called rising capitalism and extremism in India and promote socialism. The movement was against the policy of liberalization which left farmers helpless due to its capitalistic policies. Furthermore, it led to formation of new agricultural policies in India; increased the status of farmers in the society; contributed to eradicate poverty, thereby increasing the contribution of agriculture sector to the economy.[2]

It recently announced plans for the use of genetically modified seeds of HT BT Cotton, Soya bean and Brinjal across Maharashtra, despite its disapproval. The president of the union, Anil Ghanwat, has stated that this action of undertaking mass production of GM crops will attract attention to the necessity of introduction of latest technology in the fields, and that this move intending to be undertaken is final, implying that the farmers will not be deterred by any repressive measures taken by the government or any other statutory body. [3]