Genetically modified foods are prepared by altering the genetic make – up of plants by inserting genes from one species artificially into another one. The essential reason they were introduced was because it was supposed that they would ensure an adequate food supply for the world population that is growing at an alarming rate. These foods increase resistance to pests and herbicides and therefore help in eliminating the use of chemical pesticides and various time consuming and expensive processes to destroy weeds. More importantly, in countries like India, it is believed by experts that these foods would also help in removing malnutrition as normal foods can be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals.
However, I feel that after so many years of work done in this field there are hardly any genetically engineered foods that have lived up to their hype. It is said that these foods will feed the worlds poor but all that genetically modified foods have managed to do is increase the monopoly of biotech companies such as Monsanto , Bayer Cropscience. These crops can also cause other crops to be contaminated through cross pollination and may cause these genetically modified materials to build up in the food chain. These are also a threat to bio-diversity as they can contaminate other crops and once they enter the food chain it is difficult to recall them. The extensive uses of such foods pose massive risks. There has not been sufficient research on their impact on human health. Similarly, by patenting plants, animals and their genes we are converting life into an industrial commodity and are forcing world’s food supply to conform to economic models.
We should, rather, look at more local centric and sustainable models of agriculture. By adopting practices that focus on sustainable and organic agriculture we will have a system that can restore the imbalance caused by chemical fertilizers as well as work with nature.
Though it is argued that these foods are a sure shot way to reduce hunger in developing countries like India, but , I believe that if hunger could be solved by technology alone green revolution would have done it long ago. Genetically modified foods would just succeed in strengthening corporate control over agriculture and utilize both financial and human resources on futile research. Likewise, if the poor cannot buy normal rice how can it be expected of them to buy genetically modified golden rice.
The research that has gone into these products in the past years has shown that they are not suitable for Indian conditions, are more unsustainable and destructive to the environment and human health. Had we provided the same focus to sustainable farming systems, we would have been able to develop a much more comprehensive and unique agricultural system that would not only address the current issues but also take into account the future needs. It is high time we realize the social and environmental impact of these foods and stop trying to go against nature and intervening in the food chain.