Bio related stuff…
What are GM crops? And why is Arnab not talking about it?
Photo by Trisha Downing on Unsplash (College students today, are arguably best poised to innovate and bring a change. Courtesy a simple net connection, a helping of curiosity and a large amount of zeal, they can keep pace with all the recent advancements while taking their first steps in their respective fields. So, in this assuredly irregular part of Snaptimes, we will help you know about Biotechnology, through the printing press of a college periodical, the Ribose Times. So, shall we?) It is a mark of our country's progress that in present times, there is no dearth of commentaries on shayaris, or about a bombing in Russia, or even on how to travel safely in Italy. We can afford to do this, taking for granted the food that turns up on our table. A phenomenon which is rather mystifying, for while we all aren't looking, the people whom we voted for are on the verge of changing the very nature of the food we eat. First, some background. GM crops are agricultural plants where the DNA is modified through genetic engineering. The objective is to introduce new characteristic(s) to the plant species, ones which do not occur naturally. They have their benefits and their drawbacks, and are already here. In fact, they may even be in your food! According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a lobby for biotech crops, cottonseed oil makes up 13.7 per cent of edible oil in India. But about 90 per cent of the cotton grown in the country is genetically modified Bt cotton. So can we then, let the consumer choose? If we tell them, that this is the GM crop-derived one, and this is the organic crop-derived one, now you choose, will that be practical? That, is the debate on GMO labelling. Is it good, or is it even practical? GMO labelling will ease the concerns of consumers by letting them know where their food really comes from. This transparency can only help restore confidence of the consumers in the food industry. BUT It would require large scale separation of food products. The food distribution system is not equipped to handle two different categories of food, which have to be handled and supplied separately. Meanwhile, the biggest producer of GM crops, Monsanto, went ahead and merged with Bayer, the chemicals giant. Basically, this created a behemoth which will produce both GM crops AND the pesticides for these crops. That's not all: People are worried that less competition will shrink up innovation because of which no new and improved crops would be introduced into the market. Many are even fretting that these giants will now hold power to manipulate the government for their own profit ignoring the requirements of the farmers. In India, the stakeholders believe that these mergers will narrow down choices for farmers. Bayer and Monsanto will become the major players in the seed sector and will contribute their share in maize, cotton, paddy, vegetables and agrochemicals. What now? Our government is thinking about allowing growth of GM mustard, something which would officially make us all consumers of GM foods. But away from how much of it sounds right or wrong, how many of us know the actual science behind it? How many studies done on its consumption - done by a neutral third party - are accessible? And can we not, at the least, have a say in what we eat?