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BW Businessworld

Genetically Modified Seeds Can Make India Self-Dependent In Edible Oil

India is largely dependent on the edible oil imports where canola and soybean are mostly GM in nature, then why should we spare domestic farmers from practising sowing of GM seeds

Photo Credit : Bloomberg


“Genetically Modified (GM) mustard can make the nation self-dependent on edible oil requirements,” says a collective statement by National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) during an open session in New Delhi. More than 250 noted scientists have participated in the session.

Going a step forward NAAS has challenged opponents of GM mustard that they have created havoc out of nothing. The NAAS scientists had even passed a proposal in favour of GM mustard crops. NAAS has written a letter, appealing to Prime Minister Narendra
Modi for intervention in the sensitive matter of national welfare.

Executive Chairman of NAAS and former Director General (DG) of Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) Panjab Singh spoke to BW Businessworld and said, opponents of GM mustard are giving baseless arguments. Singh added, “India is largely dependent on the edible oil imports where canola and soybean are mostly GM in nature, then why should we spare domestic farmers from practising sowing of GM seeds”.“ More than 182 million hectares of land across the globe is witnessing GM crops practice and more than 26 developing nations are practising it if the government has to spend Rs 60 thousand crore in edible oil imports, why can’t we practice GM seeds here?” said Panjab Singh.   Most of the renowned scientists like Panjab Singh, Dipak
Pental (former Vice-Chancellor Delhi University), K V Prabhu and R V Singh had signed the letter to the PM. The DG of ICAR, Tirlochan
Mohapatra was also present at the occasion.

Pental, who was in lime light to head the group of scientists who developed GM mustard in India, responded to a question, if there will be honey in flowers of GM mustards, he said, “These silly questions cannot be of scientific nature, we don’t have much respect for science in India, GM mustard will have better production which means more flowers and more flowers means more honey”.

Another eminent scientist KV Prabhu was in complete agreement with his fellow scientists. Prabhu said, “GM mustard will not be toxic in nature, it will be free of toxins”. This rumour is airing as GM mustard will not need pesticides, this mustard is developed to keep production cost at the lowest. GM mustard will definitely increase the yield of 30 per cent.

Adding to the tune of other scientists, former chairman of NAAS, R B Singh said, “GM mustard has passed quality tests that had been done to keep all the stakeholders in mind”.    

Demand-Supply Gap in Edible Oil
A data from Solvent Extractor Association of India suggests that, “It is the first time when Indian oilseed production has exceeded by 6 lakh
tonnes which is 14.6 million tonnes in the year 2016-17 from 14 million tonnes of production in 2015-16. While domestic production is only 6-6.5 million tonnes and domestic demand of edible oil is 21 million tonnes, India has to bridge the demand-supply gap with edible oil imports that are 15 million tonnes and it is, a costly affair”. Import of 15 million tonnes of edible oil with variable prices can cross even Rs 60 thousand crore mark and this also satisfy the statement by Panjab Singh.

The Background 
Discussion over GM seeds started in India with introduction of BT cotton by a United States multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto during 2002 with help of Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company). BT cotton has had a record cotton production in India in year 2011, but during time it was noticed that cost of BT cotton seed was higher than domestic cotton seeds and the BT cotton reduced its effect on pests in 120 days of duration which made it vulnerable as well. The issue become national when farmers who took loan for the BT cotton practice started committing suicide. After 15 years of BT cotton, government of India has approved the field trails of GM mustard seeds, this time Ministry of Environment has not approved the GM mustard as of now and most of the farmers’ unions in India are opposing the use of any GM seed. On the other hand agricultural economists and scientists have termed it as need of the hour for higher yield keeping climate change in mind.