While the Indian government has put field trials of 15 genetically modified (GM) crops on hold, globally, more and more farmers are switching to GM crops to increase productivity. Over 18 million farmers planted GM crops last year in over 181 million hectares in 28 countries.
Over 90% of these are small farmers and GM crops have helped more than 16.5 million small farmers and their families worldwide.
Globally, land under cultivation with GM crops has risen from around 20 million hectares in the mid-nineties to 181 million hectares now and 81% of the total soybean crop is GM. Even a small neighbouring country like Bangladesh has approved Bt brinjal last year and 120 farmers planted the crop in the country. Other developing countries in Asia like Vietnam and Indonesia have also approved cultivation of biotech crops like drought tolerant sugarcane.
The success of Bt cotton in India and the dividends is very much visible as it accounts for over 90% of the total cotton produced in the country. In fact, Bt cotton is a success story of the Gujarat agricultural model which prime minister Modi has showcased.
A report by the International Service For The Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications quoting Brookes and Barfoot’s latest provisional estimate indicate that India had enhanced farm income from Bt cotton by $16.7 billion in the 12-year period 2002 to 2013 and $2.1 billion in 2013 alone.The government in India should put in place a proper regulatory system which ensures that public health concerns are addressed and farmers’ interests are taken care of.