NEW DELHI Large-scale cultivation of transgenic
crops is a necessity if India is to feed a growing population
and use more of its farmland for industry and homes, a senior
government official said on Monday.
"Whether we like it or not, transgenic crops will soon be a
reality," Mangala Rai, secretary of the Department of
Agriculture Research and Education, told an international
conference on biotechnology.
Producing more food from less land would require widespread
use of GM crops, which can provide higher yields, he said.
"Self-sufficiency in food is crucial and the only way to
ensure that is to adopt the GM technology. There cannot be two
views on the issue," Rai added.
Opponents of the use of biotechnology in food crops argue
the new varieties could not only threaten the environment but
also the health of consumers.
Despite being the world's second-largest producer of wheat,
India has had to import massive amounts of the grain in the
last two years as harvests failed to meet demand and fill
buffer stocks to the required levels.
In a sign the government is increasingly looking to the
laboratory for an answer to India's food security worries, it
last month approved the first large-scale field trials of a
genetically modified food crop.
A new hybrid variety of the popular brinjal vegetable,
which promises better yields with less intensive use of
pesticides, will be planted at test sites.
India has allowed commercial cultivation of genetically
modified bacillus thuringiensis or Bt cotton seeds cotton since
The decision led to wide-spread protests from social
activists who feared ecological damage.
Rai said the genetically architectured seeds have helped
India raise cotton output by 3-4 million bales a year.
India, the world's second-largest cotton producer after
China, overtook the United States with estimated output of 28
million bales (1 bale=170 kg) in the year to September 2007.
Argentinian Deputy Secretary of Agricultural Policy and
Food Fernando Nebbia told the conference GM crops were
essential to raise foodgrains output, but a stronger regulatory
framework was necessary to address concerns.
He said Argentina, the world's second-biggest producer of
genetically modified grains, has planted bio-engineered crops
across 60 percent of its cultivated farmland.