Feeding the Future
One Step Closer to GM Food Crops in India

File this under good green news: a government panel in the world’s second most populous country just gave a green light to its first genetically modified food crop, a variety of mustard seed. That means that, pending approval from the Modi administration, the south Asian country—home to more than 1.2 billion people—will finally start cultivating the best varieties of crops available. Reuters reports:

Technical clearance for indigenously developed GM mustard seeds was given on Aug. 11 by the panel of government and independent experts, following multiple reviews of crop trial data generated over almost a decade, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

The decision to go ahead is likely to be made public soon by the environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, and is expected eventually to move to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desk via Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave. […]

Permitting GM food crops is a big call for India, which spends tens of billions of dollars importing edible oils and other food items every year. Farmers are stuck with old technology, yields are at a fraction of world levels, cultivable land is shrinking and weather patterns have become less predictable, experts say.

This is important news for a couple of reasons. First, India’s already large population is going to continue to grow, and food security is necessarily becoming an issue of increasing concern. Allowing farmers access to the crop varieties with the highest possible yields and the greatest resilience to drought, extreme heat, and other challenging growth conditions will keep millions of people from going hungry in the coming decades.

But this is also potentially a victory for science over emotionally wrought, factually inaccurate environmental fear mongering. Greens have a long history of staunchly opposing GMOs on the grounds that these crops are somehow “unnatural” (ignoring the fact that their “organic” ears of corn bought from their nearest Whole Foods is the result of hundreds of years of selective breeding themselves), but study after study has shown all of these new seeds to be perfectly safe for human consumption.

Moreover, if our climate change future really is as grim as environmentalist Chicken Littles would have us believe, we’re going to need all the help we can get feeding future generations under changing growing conditions. In that sense, GMOs seem a tailor-made solution to this problem. It’s undoubtedly good news that one of the world’s biggest, hungriest countries is now moving to take advantage of these technologies.

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