While the debate on permitting trials of genetically modified (GM) crops continues to rage in India, global coverage under such crops touched a record 181.5 million hectares in 2014.
Data released last week by not-for-profit organization International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, show that the US continues to be the leader with an area of 73.1 million hectares, up 3 million hectares in 2014. Brazil increased planting of biotech crops by 1.9 million hectares to 42.2 million hectares whereas Argentina maintained biotech crops area at 24.3 million hectares. Biotech crops were planted in 28 countries that represent more than 60 per cent of the world's population.
In Asia, China and India continue to lead planting of biotech crops at 3.9 million hectares and 11.6 million hectares in 2014, respectively. Neighbouring Bangladesh successfully started cultivating Bt Brinjal on a commercial scale during the year.
In India, only four of 29 states have allowed the trials of GM food crops. These are Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. India follows a cautious approach to field trials of edible crops. The Ministry of Environment and Forests had in July 2011 made it mandatory for companies, institutes and research bodies to get no-objection certificates from the states concerned before conducting trials.
Globally, biotech crops range from major commodities such as maize, soybean, canola and cotton, to crops like sugar beet and sweet corn, and to fruits and vegetables like papaya, squash, sweet pepper, brinjal and, most recently, potato.
India is yet to approve the commercial cultivation of an edible GM crop even though commercial cultivation of Bt cotton started in 2002. With cotton alone, India is the fourth-largest country to grow biotech or GM crops in 2014. Twelve years later, cotton remains the only GM crop to be commercially grown in this country. India has successfully increased its cotton production by three since 2002 but is far from replicating this success in food crops.