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Is US Insecure With Twisted Agriculture Trade Of 2:1 With India

Agricultural trade between the United States and India was estimated at about USD 5.3 billion in the calendar year (CY) 2016, although the balance of agricultural trade was twisted more than 2 to 1 in India’s favour

Photo Credit : Shutterstock,

India’s agriculture trade had remained in the interest of India by 2:1 ratio when it comes to Indo-US trade which estimated around 5.3 billion USD in the year 2016. US foreign agriculture service has shown their perspective on the internal struggle of India for Genetically Modified (GM) edibles trade and how do they look at the current union government’s approach to GM crops. Is it only GM or is it the twisted trade ratio, the reason to oppose food security bill by India at WTO!   

Agricultural trade between the United States and India was estimated at about USD 5.3 billion in the calendar year (CY) 2016, although the balance of agricultural trade was twisted more than 2 to 1 in India’s favour.  Vegetable oil derived from select GE soy and canola (since Sept. 2015) is approved to be imported. Bt cotton is the only GE crop currently approved for commercial cultivation in India. Since 2002, the Government of India (GOI) has approved six Bt cotton events and more than 1400 Bt cotton hybrids and varieties for commercial cultivation. India does not commercially produce GE animals, including cloned animals, or any products derived from GE animals. 

On the other hand, US possibly has an eye on India’s huge potential on GM crops. A reason behind its strong objections to India’s stand on food security bill in world trade organisation!

Additional secretary of Agriculture, Government of India, Ashok Dalwai has told BW Businessworld, "without a buffer stock which is linked to MSP based procurement, farmers will definitely suffer. It will only di-incentivize production. US will live this, they will still produce and sell". It may also be a possibility that they want to arm-twist to promote their GM based seed producing groups for the sake of higher yields and better productivity. 

On the other hand, the 1986 Environment Protection Act (EPA) provides the foundation for India’s biotechnology regulatory framework for GE plants, animals, their products, and by-products. Current Indian regulations stipulate that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s apex regulatory body, must conduct an appraisal of all biotech food and agricultural products, and products derived from biotech plants and/or other biotech organisms prior to commercial approval or importation by GOI. The EPA outlines the procedures for biotech product imports, including products used for research. The Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 includes specific provisions for regulating GE food products, including processed foods. However, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) is still in the process of formulating specific regulations for overseeing GE food products, and the GEAC continues to regulate processed food products containing GE ingredients, as per the 1989 Rules.  

Things become more interesting when USFDA’s perspective takes twists and turns, ‘India’s biotech regulatory policy environment made some progress since the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power in 2014. In the last few years, the GEAC has continued to clear field trials, tried to streamline the process for obtaining a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) for open field trials from the relevant state government and approved environmental safety guidelines with a clearly defined process for public consultation’ says USFDA. In May 2017, the GEAC approved the environmental release of locally developed GE mustard.    

Although the NDA administration has facilitated a more active, functional regulatory process under existing regulations, internal politics continue to hold back progress as the government decided to defer the approval of GE mustard due to opposition from a section of right-wing organizations and anti-biotechnology groups. Also, actions led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MAFW) over the past year (Bt cotton seeds pricing restrictions and a proposal for licensing regulations on biotech seeds more generally) has created significant uncertainty throughout the agricultural biotechnology sector.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many other senior GOI officials continue to express support for adopting new agriculture technologies, including biotechnology, the government decisions on GE mustard and seed pricing has been regressive in the pathway for the progress of agriculture biotechnology sector. Most local biotech stakeholders remain cautiously optimistic that senior leadership in the current government may intervene to open the way for approval of GE crops as they allow biotechnology research and field trials to progress to meet the food and clothing needs of growing Indian population.

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