India pips China for top slot in GM crops

New Delhi, Jan 19 | Updated: Jan 20 2007, 06:09am hrs
In Asia, India has emerged as a leader in genetically modified (GM) crops by tripling its area under Bt cotton to 3.8 million hectare in 2006, surpassing China which remains at an area coverage of 3.5 million hectare, according to annual report prepared by the US-based International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The report also said that India alongwith China, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa with a combined population of 2.6 billion (40% of the global population) grew 38.2 million hectare of GM crops in 2006, equivalent to 37% of the global total.

Releasing the report for the first time in India, the ISAAA chair, Clive James made out a case for the need of GM crops to meet the challenges of global food, feed and fibre security, in the face of the rising population. He however said, Transgenic technology is not a panacea, but it is important. Successful strategy must have multiple approaches, including conventional crop improvement, population stabilisation and improved food distribution system.

The report said that 2.3 million farmers cultivated Bt cotton in India and gains were significant. It however, ignored reported cases of Bt cotton crop failures in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country. Contrary to several studies pointing to extensive use of water and chemical fertilizers in Bt cotton cultivation, the ISAAA report painted a rosy picture on input cost reduction.

ISAAA report said that global area coverage under GM crop increased to 102 million hectares in 22 countries in 2006, up from 90 million hectare in 21 countries in 2005.