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Food & Hunger

India's Prime Minister introduces an answer to India's growing population

Photo: Gates Foundation

In the 1960s, India underwent a green revolution.  By introducing better performing seed varieties, fertilizer, and irrigation, the former colony became self-sufficient in producing it’s own grains, something once thought impossible.

Now, Prime Minister Modi is committed to pursuing a second revolution, this time  by allowing India to expand its production of genetically modified crops.

First things first. What the heck are genetically modified organisms?

A genetically modified organism (GMO for short) is an organism whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered through genetic engineering techniques.

The idea behind GMOs is that through a little manipulation, crops can essentially obtain super powers. Ideally, they’ll be able to increase their yields, they’ll become more nutritious, better looking, and better at fighting off pesky viruses and insects.

Initially, GM seed developers focused most of their energy on suiting producers’ needs (increasing yields and protecting crops from plant diseases caused by insects and viruses.) To that end, they’ve succeeded. Bloomberg reports that “plenty of research, including this large study from the National Academy of Sciences, has found that GMOs have significantly increased farm yields while decreasing pesticide use and soil erosion.”

But, not everyone’s on board.

Critics argue that genetically modified crops pose a risk to human health as well as the environment. They point out three main areas of concern: that GM foods could cause allergic reactions, that the manipulated genes in the food could have adverse effects on the human body, and that genes from GM plants could unintentionally migrate into conventional crops and wild plants. The World Health Organization explains this in greater detail, but all you need to know is that the vast majority of scientists and respected organizations (The National Academy of Sciences, WHO, and the European Commission, just to name a few) have found GMOs to be safe.

What does this mean for India?

Prime Minister Modi | Image: Wikipedia Commons

India prohibited the production of GM eggplant back in 2010, and while other GM crops weren’t specifically prohibited, the regulatory system was brought to a halt. 5 years later though, the Prime Minister has to consider that India’s population is growing. By 2030, India will be home to more than 1.5 billion people; allowing GM crops should help ensure there’s enough food to feed everyone, through boosting farm productivity.

I understand why people question GMOs- they don’t sound natural. But, here’s what I’ll say about that: globally, we’ve accepted vaccines because we realize they are safe and an insanely effective at combating diseases. But, just like GMOs, they’re created with biotechnology. I believe we need to think of GMOs the same way we think of vaccines.

As a global community, it’s in our best interest to come up with safe, innovative ways to feed the world’s people, especially as we’re seeing crops affected by climate change. If GM foods can aid in that effort, that’s good enough for me.