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Saturday / July 20. 2024
HomeAgri GenomicsEnhancing Crop Resilience in the Face of Climate Crisis

Enhancing Crop Resilience in the Face of Climate Crisis

By Dr Venkatram Vasantvada Director, The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and MD & CEO, SeedWorks International

Climate change poses a formidable threat to agricultural sustainability and food security. As we navigate these uncertain conditions, it is evident that in the challenges faced by our agricultural systems lies an opportunity for bringing innovative technologies in seed, including biotechnology, to play a pivotal role in adaptation and resilience.

India, with its massive population of 1.4 billion, faces a constant challenge in ensuring food and nutritional security. This tightrope walk is further complicated by environmental concerns and the looming threat of climate change. In this scenario, agricultural biotechnology emerges as a beacon of hope, offering impactful solutions to enhance agricultural productivity, improve crop resilience, and ensure food security for the nation.

Genetic modification (GM) allows introduction of beneficial traits in a crop from unrelated plants, its being used for crop improvement globally, and many GM plants have been approved for commercial cultivation worldwide. In India, genetically modified (GM) Bt-cotton has been cultivated since 2002, transforming cotton production by increasing yields significantly. Prior to its adoption, India’s cotton production was 14 million bales in 2000. With the adoption of Bt-cotton, production tripled to 39.8 million bales by 2014, turning India from a cotton-importing country into a leading exporter. This transformation highlights the immense potential of biotechnology in India’s agriculture sector. The commercialisation of Bt cotton has significantly benefited Indian farmers. As climate change poses challenges to agriculture, biotechnology can help develop crops that are more resilient to changing climatic conditions, such as drought-and heat-tolerant varieties.

Agricultural biotechnology offers better alternatives to pest control methods, including the development of genetically modified crops that produce their own insecticides or are resistant to specific pests, reducing the need for external chemical interventions. However, in the current scenario it is important that regulatory mechanisms related to GM crops research are streamlined to enable faster development of crops resilient to climate change.

In discussions about GM crops, it is crucial to consider India’s goals of reducing massive imports of edible oil, saving significant foreign exchange, increasing productivity, and raising farmer incomes. For instance, the Government of India has argued in the Supreme Court that adopting GM mustard could reduce edible oil imports and make it cheaper for consumers. Recognising the cultural, social, and nutritional significance of mustard for India is important in this context.

GM mustard and Bt-brinjal are two more GM crops that are ready to be introduced to Indian farmers for cultivation, but they are currently mired in legal and regulatory battles. Both the improved crops can enhance productivity and sustainability. Translating these research initiatives into products requires enabling policies and understanding among key stakeholders, including scientists, agriculture officials, industry, and consumers.

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