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Take pro-poor stand & promote GM crops to provide food security to growing population: ASSOCHAM plea to Centre
Apex industry body ASSOCHAM today urged the Central Government to continue allowing research in crop biotechnology (BT) and simultaneously identify areas to develop a more strong regulatory system for India to become global food hub.

"There is a need for the Government of India to take a pro-poor stand by allowing large scale production of genetically modified (GM) crops and develop technologies for long-term agriculture sustainability without considering social discourses which shall hamper food security ambitions to meet growing demands of country's burgeoning population," according to a paper titled 'Analysis on GM Crops in India,' brought out by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

"Biotechnology applications in agriculture should be a part of the package of solutions to address socio-economic needs of our growing population which is likely to reach 150 crore by next decade," said D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber's paper.

"With a view to deliver best value for the produce to the farmer, the Government and the industry should work together to identify high priority crops useful for India and provide necessary policy support," said Rawat.

"Measures like identifying genetic trait, employing water resistant techniques, promoting high pesticide usage and providing fertilizer subsidy would help improve agricultural productivity and counter the challenges of drought, salinity, poor irrigation facilities and others," he added.

India is known for its multi-agro climatic zone, thus selecting the most suitable varieties and hybrid crops grown for commercial cultivation across the country like rice, cotton, sorghum, wheat, corn, mustard, soybeans, vegetables, pulses and others to incorporate the genetic trait would address farmer challenges, further noted the paper prepared by the ASSOCHAM Economic Research Bureau (AERB).

Considering that agriculture has a share of about 18 per cent in India's gross domestic product (GDP) and employs over half of country's population, the sector holds grave significance in view of its role in ensuring food security, promoting employment generation and reducing poverty.

As such there is a pressing need for tools and technologies to help the agriculture sector overcome the handicap of constraints and allow the productivity to soar to higher levels, thus field trials as a precursor to adoption of biotechnology is a certain way forward, noted the ASSOCHAM paper.

The Government should also ensure benefits of advancement of science and technology to reach India's farmers to enable them to compete globally.

Blending plant breeding techniques with conventional farming systems to improve crop yields, developing technologically aided weed management mechanism, developing new technologies to counter growing labour shortage and abundant use of water in paddy cultivation, promoting use of seeds with biotech traits to protect crops from disease infestation and boost farmers' productivity and income are certain key suggestions listed by ASSOCHAM in favor of GM crops.

Cultivation of crops with the bt gene would substantially increase farmer's income owing to savings in pesticides, increased marketable yields, while consumers would benefit from a relatively much less pesticide sprayed vegetables, less prices coupled with environmental benefits, further noted the ASSOCHAM paper.

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