Feeding the Future
For India, GMOs Are a Matter of Life and Death

India has a food security problem, but it’s stubbornly snubbing its best available solution. The country’s 1.2 billion people require a lot of food, but India is having to rely on food imports to meet those prodigious needs. With its population expected to swell by 50 percent over the next 35 years, this problem is only going to get worse. Unfortunately, as Quartz reports, genetically modified crops (with higher yields and better drought resistances) are largely being ignored in New Delhi:

Experts…say adopting technology that will lead to higher crop productivity is essential to feeding the growing Indian population. Currently, a food supply deficit is pushing prices up and India has been forced to import pulses and even cultivate foreign farmlands to plug the demand-supply gap.

Genetic modification could make such drastic measures unnecessary. For example, says Chengal Reddy, chief advisor to the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association, “there is research being done on genetic modification technologies that can help crops survive longer even in a drought season.”…Perhaps the most promising GM crop is a hybrid mustard that yields 25-30% more than the original seed. It was developed by a team of scientists of Delhi University. Mustard is used to make one of the most popular edible oils in India. The GM mustard seed could be a huge money saver and lower the country’s dependence on edible oil imports: In 2014-15 India imported 14.5 million tonnes of it, worth over $10 billion.

But the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), the Indian government agency responsible for approving the commercial release of GM crops, hasn’t okayed the new seed as it is unsure about the possible public health and environmental impact of GM crops.

Safety is obviously paramount whenever decisions are made regarding food supplies, and that shouldn’t be any different with GM crops. Each seed ought to be thoroughly evaluated by researchers to make sure it’s safe for human consumption, but here’s the thing: they have been. And let’s be very clear, the scientific community has agreed on the fact that GMOs generally are perfectly safe, and that the seeds governments like India’s are considering specifically are safe.

Yet around the world, these wonder-crops that could grow more food on less land and in more extreme conditions, instead of being embraced, are on the contrary often demonized by a public fearful of “frankenfoods.” Never mind the fact that humans have been genetically modifying our crops through selective breeding for thousands of years, or that the real experts in these fields all know these crops to be better versions of what we’re already eating. People are afraid of this new technology, as they are with many of modernity’s other new advancements, but the big difference here is that GMOs can keep millions (and eventually, potentially billions) of people from starving, or even from going blind.

The worst actors in this fiasco aren’t the unsure politicians in New Delhi or the skeptical Indian public, but rather the international green groups that have spent time and money creating and exaggerating the threat that these valuable agricultural innovations pose. A group of more than 100 Nobel laureates recently published a letter scolding Greenpeace for its Luddite efforts to smear GMOs. Given how often environmentalists point to scientific research when they’re advocating for climate change policies, you’d think that these same people would be interested in what science has to say about modern agriculture. Clearly, that’s asking too much from our modern environmental movement.

The scientists’ letter concludes with this powerful line: “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity’?” There’s obviously no answer to that question, but it drives home just how necessary the world’s best and brightest believe GMOs are for the future food security of humanity. India’s own food supplies are already imperiled, and hardier, more productive crops are the only thing standing between the world’s most populous country and malnourishment and starvation.

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