Despite opposition from different corners, the future of food could well be lying in genetically modified crops .It is evident by their growing popularity in emerging economies like India and Brazil. With 11.6 million hectares of area used for GM crops , India has joined the rank of Canada and surpassed China.
And the fact that India till now has approved only one GM crop i.e. BT Cotton, makes this upsurge extraordinary. In contrast Canada grows a range of such GM crops , canol and soybean. India's adoption rate for BT cotton has been 95%.
GM crops' seeds are genetically modified for various kinds of benefits, such as pest resistance or higher nutrient value. As per the latest update by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAA), it is for the third consecutive year, developing economies planted more biotech crop than developed economies.
It is an interesting development, since the opinions around the world are fiercely divided on the issue of GM crops. In China where public protests are highly regulated, anti-GM protestors have registered their disapproval before the agricultural ministry. In Philippines, protestors destroyed a field testing a GM crop last year.
But in emerging economies, major chunk of population are still dependent on farms, and esp. farmers with small-holding find it more beneficial to grow GM crops. Brazil is ranked second for the sixth consecutive year and added another 1.9 hectares for GM crops in 2014. With 24.3 million hectares, Argentina has retained its third spot.
Latest provisional estimate by economists G Brookes and P Barfoot suggests that India had increased its farm income from Bt cotton by US$16.7 billion (about Rs 98000 crore) in the 12-year-period between 2002 and 2013.
This upsurge could be attributed to various factors. Though there is stiff resistance against GM crops as the critics deem it unsafe for consumption but no scientific evidence has substantiated these allegations.
A research study from Matin Qaim and Wilhelm Klümper, of Göttingen University, which was published in PLOS ONE journal, found that GM crops have large benefits.
In a developing economy like India, These biotech seed companies are providing advising on farm-crop care and direct handholding. Firms like Monsato are fast filling in the gap and providing services which were supposed to be state run but have collapsed long ago in India. Such close coordination and rising aspirations have made BT cotton quite popular.