Genetically Modified Crops: Tussle between Economy and Environment in India

Oct 8, 2020


Genetically modified (GM) crops have been developed for 18 years in the country, initially adopted. Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in cultivation in which genetic modification techniques have changed the DNA. Some figures put the economic benefits into the tens of billions of dollars a year. GM crops face a daunting future while recording certain economic and environmental benefits. This article states the tussle between economy and environment due to GM crops.

Genetically Modified Crops in India

"It is better to die eating GM food instead of dying of hunger,"

-Nobel Laureate.

In India, cotton is predominantly grown on average by smallholder farmers with farm sizes of less than 15 acres, and 3–4-acre cotton holdings. In 2002 the first Bt cotton hybrids were launched commercially in India. By 2011, Bt had been adopted by 7 million farmers on 26 million acres, about 90% of India's overall cotton field. Initially, in 2002 when the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee sanctioned GM crops, it failed due to lack of technology as well as knowledge. After a couple of seasons of planting the gm crop, the soil cannot host any other conventional crop. If farmers decide to move back to traditional crops, restoration of the soil could take a whole season. Whose economic implications are distinctly negative? There's also the extra nutrient and fertilizer costs required to restore the land. The most serious factor, though, is that it might be difficult to return to the planting of any traditional crop after several seasons. That the soil may be infertile by then.It is commonly agreed that the regulations on safety, including the Mandatory buffer zone or shelter around BT cotton fields, were not needed to be continued.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest, however, abstained from criminalization of seed business. Nor did Mahyco-Monsantowho who worked on the GM corps and did not take responsibility for failure, was directed to compensate for the crop losses incurred by the farmers during the very first year of Bt cotton planting in 2002--03. In a parliamentary committee report, it was also stressed that the crop had failed to produce the expected results. All this impacted the economy at its worst as well as damaged the fertile soil.

Development of GM Crops

After this, the government revealed specifics of a six-year initiative to grow new genetically modified crops for improved nutrition on January 5, 2004. Government scientists say a study of this sort is desperately needed to boost developed world health. At the Indian Science Congress the "Plant Genome Research Road-Map," as it's named, was revealed. After this, around a 24% increase was seen in 2004 despite the year 2002-03 were a disaster, and many farmers had committed suicide because of the failure faced. As years passed, there was substantial growth in the economy and technology that by 2014, Bt cotton covered almost 96 % of the cotton field. Now, India has been the fourth largest GM crop grower per acreage and the second-largest producer of cotton. Though GM crops reduce the use of pesticides which is good for the environment, organizations like Greenpeace still contend that GM crops are not producing better outcomes, instead of driving the farmers into debt. They forfeit their territorial right over crops, as they are coerced by multinational companies to purchase GM seeds and technology. The occurrence of suicide by Bt cotton farmers is cited as an indication of the perils of GM crops in the country. Apart from the dubious qualities of GM crops, what the opponents often claim is that it is permanent until they are introduced into the area. In a study, it was said that crops only because they are GM do not harm the environment. Some farming activities have been found to affect the ecosystem, such as the overuse of herbicides that result in unnecessary eradication of native plants from the farmland. The major potential impact of the environment is the soil impact (including changes in the use of land), water contamination, air impact (CO2 emissions and carbon sequestration), pest resistance to pesticides, impact on soil organisms and biodiversity, use of resources and fuel consumption etc.


It can be concluded that though it is economically beneficial and gives a sense of food security, for the betterment of the environment it is important to choose the appropriate area for cultivation with the right technology and method for the same. However, there is a need for a more significant and proper set of rule and regulations to retrain degradation of the environment.