AGRICULTURE IN INDIA – FUTURE TECHNOLOGICAL PROSPECTS  GS-3 FOOD SECURITY,  E-TECHNOLOGY IN AID OF FARMERS

CONTEXT

The era of Green Revolution in agriculture in India has come a long way. The science behind the revolution is what saved the country from food shortages and severe farming distress.

Today, the country is once again at the turning point, though it’s in a much stronger position than it was in the pre-green revolution era. India today is one of the leading producers in a variety of crops which include wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane and an impressive list of fruits and vegetables. But, India lags behind in terms of yield or output per unit of land. Major reasons affecting crop yields include access to high-quality farm inputs, mechanisation, access to capital  climate conditions, and latest farming techniques.

Even if we sought the above mentioned problems,the purpose is defeated if the seeds that go into our lands are not of the best quality or do not have resistance to many of the pests and diseases.

Merits of GM technology

  • Transition from Importer to Net-Exporter: In India reap  immediate and very impressive benefits of GM technology. Ever since the Indian agricultural sector has been opened to the genetically-modified cotton (Bt Cotton), the country has emerged as one of the major producers of Cotton cash crop and in less than aspan of 3-4 years, India became a net exporter.

  • Value addition in the crop: Transgenic or modified seeds are nothing but seeds which have some value addition by introducing new desired genes extracted from another species. The genome of the seed can be changed as per the need and can improve its taste, colour, quality, nutrition value and make them resistant to common diseases or resistant from the impact of nature (drought, pest etc)for eg the bollworm that attacks the cotton plants.

  • Climate Resilient Agriculture: Following mentioned critical need for the future – climate resilient agriculture  can be attained through the use of GM technology.

    • Disease and drought-resistant plants that require less water and fertilizer.

    • Less dependence on pesticides

    • Ensuring stable supply of food with less cost and longer shelf life

    • Medicinal foods when introduced with special genes can be used as vaccines or other medicines.

    • Can help in tackling hunger for eg- fortified crops.

Demerits of GM crops

  • Diversification in Genetic Crops: BT cotton is the only available GM crop right now in the Indian agriculture market. The benefits of this transgenic technology enjoyed by the cotton farmers have not spread to other crops. 

  • Losing valuable Forex: China is importing huge quantities of maize imports from the  American countries. Whereas as China’s next-door neighbour, India is unable to profit from these opportunities or have a competitive price because of the current levels of productivity.

  • Keeping pace with Technological Advancement: Indian agriculture is not averse to science and technology, and development of technology in agriculture is not in pace. Gene edited crops have shown great promise and are being cultivated in other parts of the world for benefits like quality of produce, India can also increase its agricultural produce by keeping pace with GM technology.

  • Unknown Environmental Impact: There can be unknown consequences and disturbance in nature to altering the natural state of an organism through foreign gene expression. Such alterations can change the organism’s response to external environmental factors, change its metabolism, growth rate etc.

  • Health associated Risks: Possibility of exposure to new cancer causing agents  in genetically modified foods, as well as the transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes to gut flora etc have potential health risks to humans.

Way Forward

  • Keeping Pace biotechnology: Other GMO crops can be granted permission after the exhaustive Environmental impact assessment for eg Bt brinjal, DMH-11 mustard. Only after core and deep research the government should go for commercialization of GM seeds.

  • Use of Indigenous Technology: In order to double farmers income home-grown technologies should be encouraged and also get support  with the necessary regulatory steps without any compromise on the science and safety. 

  • Promoting investment: There is a need to attract foreign investment along with more domestic allocation of funds which will motivate all technology developers to take interest in crops that are relevant to India.

 

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