It may be one of the poorest nations in the world but India sure knows how to deal with health-unfriendly, so-called scientific developments by big-Ag powers like Monsanto. A high profile parliamentary panel in India has ordered the field tests of GM crops to be discontinued and all research should be done within strict containment. Though India’s chief of crop research doesn’t quite seem to be impressed by these recommendations stating that it would “paralyze research” and risk the nation’s food security, the panel’s chair, Basudeb Acharia, couldn’t seem to agree more. He said in clear words that India should not choose GMOs under any circumstances.
Now, the point is that these are just the recommendations of a panel, which the ministers, more specifically, the Prime Minister, is under no compulsion to follow. What remains to be seen is which way it goes. If we trace the history of GMOs in India, it will be clear that the nation has given a mixed reaction to these bio-engineered crops. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed GMO research for the sake of increasing agricultural productivity, his own ministers do not seem to share his line of thought. On the other hand, Monsanto was also accused of “bio-piracy” by India just a year back, which put a strain in the relationship between the pharma giant and India.
Though the panel’s recommendation does carry a lot of political relevance to it, whether it will be implemented or not is what remains to be seen. Advocates of GMOs would possibly place the example of genetically engineered cotton accounting for almost 93 percent of the total cotton production now (introduced as Bt-toxin carrying cotton in the year 2002).
The thing is, if India can at least place a high level parliamentary panel to decide the fate of GMOs and save its citizens from the woes of spending huge amounts in healthcare, then why can’t America do the same?