Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi intends to roll out genetically modified crops to reduce his country’s reliance on agricultural imports. India has been slow to embrace GMOs, having issued a moratorium on an eggplant variant five years ago while leaving many other GM crops in regulatory limbo. But, as Reuters reports, Modi hopes to change that:
[A]llowing GM crops is critical to Modi’s goal of boosting dismal farm productivity in India, where urbanization is devouring arable land and population growth will mean there are 1.5 billion mouths to feed by 2030 – more even than China. Starting in August last year, his government resumed the field trials for selected crops with little publicity.“Field trials are already on because our mandate is to find out a scientific review, a scientific evaluation,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told Reuters last week. “Confined, safe field trials are on. It’s a long process to find out whether it is fully safe or not.”Modi was a supporter of GM crops when he was chief minister of Gujarat state over a decade ago, the time when GM cotton was introduced in the country and became a huge success. Launched in 2002, Bt cotton, which produces its own pesticide, is the country’s only GM crop and covers 95 percent of India’s cotton cultivation of 11.6 million hectares (28.7 million acres).
It’s hard not to see why Modi is pushing this GM-friendly policy. These crops can produce higher yields in more extreme conditions, and time and again have been shown to be safe. The developing world is keen to grow and grow quickly, and it’s using modern technologies to do so at a faster pace than did the developed world. Genetically modified crops can be a crucial component of that strategy if policymakers are willing to look past the knee-jerk green biases against them.