Pawar bats for GM crops to meet rising demand

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday that the government should not hesitate to introduce genetically modified crops, as advised by scientists, to tide over the shortfall in foodgrain.

Pawar said while the country was set to reap a record harvest—129.32 million tonnes—of foodgrain during this year’s kharif season, the demand for food has also been on the rise.

In addition, the government has also embarked on the implementation of the ambitious food security law, which has made availability of food a legal right of the common man.

“Our natural resources—land and water—are under considerable strain as we account for only 2.4 per cent of world’s geographical area and 4 per cent of its water resources, but support about 17 per cent of world’s human population and 15 per cent of the livestock,” he said.

Pawar’s pitch comes at a time when the Supreme Court is set to hear a petition opposing commercialisation of genetically modified crops.

In 2000, India produced 13.14 million tonnes of pulses when the demand was for 18 million tonnes. The balance had to be met through imports. In 2012-13, the pulses production was 18.45 million tonnes and the demand had shot up to 22 million tonnes.

Similarly, the demand for oil seeds in 2000 was 30 million tonnes against the domestic production of 20.6 million tonnes. In 2012-13, the production had increased to 31 million tonnes while the demand had more than doubled to 65 million tonnes.
“It is good health wise, but we also have to ensure enough foodgrain to meet our future needs,” Pawar said.

“We have to enhance productivity by scientific management of inputs, more use of quality seeds, balanced use of fertilisers and economic/efficient use of water resources; we should not hesitate to introduce genetically modified (GM) crops to reap the benefits of scientific research in this area,” he said.

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