GM is a question of public or private good

By Op Rana
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, February 10, 2015
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The fact is, despite having the fourth-largest acreage of GM crops in the world, India has not (yet) allowed any GM experimentation with food grains, vegetables or fruits. Moreover, almost the whole of India's 11.6 millions hectares of GM crops last year consisted of Bt cotton (from seeds supplied by Monsanto, the American company that controls much of "Bollgard" technology or Bt) and thus the Indian market.

The question is: Does China want to prevent a Monsanto-like monopoly or does it just want to use discretion in allowing the use of GM seeds to grow food crops? It's difficult to say. But it would be refreshing to see a State-run GM seed company, whose intention is not to earn profits but to ensure a country's food security, taking on the mega-seed companies that have been ruling the international market.

Nevertheless, we have to increase food production by 70 percent to feed the 9 billion people who are expected to inhabit the world by 2050? This is a question of can we, or will we, says Prabhu Pingali, director of Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative in India. We definitely can (and without GM crops) given the land resources and technologies. But will we? It's a political question - as is the fact whether or not to allow the use of GM seeds. It's also a question of public good versus private good.

What perhaps is most important for public good is the sharing of information, and genetic materials and improved varieties of food crops, which was seen in India during the so-called Green Revolution, the leap in agricultural technology and production from the 1960s to the 1980s, says Pingali.

But earnest sharing of facts became history with the last century.


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