India’s Way To Ending Starvation Might Be Through Genetically Modified Plants

According to a recent report on nature.com, India might have to turn to gentically modfied crops in order to cope with food starvation. Anurag Chaurasia, a biotechnologist with the National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Microorganisms, wrote on genetically modified food and how this may just be the way India can feed the extra population.

 

The Problem

“At the beginning of this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a road map to guide India’s science and technology over the next two decades. Launched during the Indian Science Congress at the University of Mysore, the plan signalled a cautious approach to techniques such as genetically modified (GM) crops, noting that “some aspects of biotechnology have posed serious legal and ethical problems in recent years”, he writes. But looking at a potential problem the country may face in the coming years, he moves on to state a report by the 2015 United Nations World Population Prospects report, which reports that India will grow to be more populated than China in the next decade, with the growing need to feed many. According to the 2015 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute, he states that India is already facing a ‘hunger’ problem, with a potential threat that not many individuals can be fed.

India's Way To Ending Starvation Might Be Through Genetically Modified Plants

 

IP Rights

“India needs to invest in modern agricultural methods, including GM crops,” he writes, in order to increase the level of food production in the country. The article goes on to state that Indians do have the capacity to generate such crops, with the pest-resistant cotton grown in India as an example. Molecular-biology, being the base of this, is something that India has not developed on it’s own, therefore giving rise to conflict over Intellectual Property Rights. “Most high-profile was the insecticide-producing GM cotton variety that was released by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi in 2009. It was based on a Bacillus thuringiensis gene to which the agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto, based in St Louis, Missouri, owed the IP rights. The ensuing controversy has seeded confusion among Indian researchers, scientific managers and administrators over IP rights, patents and the related rules and regulations.” The article goes on to talk about issues with companies turning to redundant technology and furthur growth on GM plants.

 

An Opinion – A Solution

One thing that really stuck with us a strong statement was this piece written by Anurag – sharing his opinion on what might be best for the country to do – “India should stop trying to build the Taj Mahal with borrowed bricks. We need a concerted effort at home to discover and manipulate relevant genes in indigenous organisms and crops (such as chickpea and rice). Indian microbial institutes should take up projects in this direction, because most of the currently used genes for transgenic generation are of microbial origin. That requires a change in direction from an Indian GM-food strategy that has traditionally aimed at quick product development instead of careful assessment of the underlying science.”