The Punjab government, in a bid to get better cotton yields to use in textile industries, has started selling unapproved BT seeds to farmers. The seeds being sold were supposedly in the testing stages from 2010 till 2013, yet are now being re-sold without passing any safety standards. The testing stages did not go all that well according to experts, with problems seen in the planting stages as well as the yields. Corporations that sell genetically modified (GM) seeds will tell you that there is nothing to fear, that these seeds have been modified for the best interests of society, and will cite the example of India’s ‘record returns’ from their harvest in the past years, but some experts would beg to differ.
It all depends on who you ask. The scientists employed by the Indian government will claim that the yields have increased without a doubt. But others will also highlight the increasing risks and the problems faced, such as the decreasing yield in the kharif season of 2013 and the lack of awareness of pest control to be used side by side with the seeds. The yields of BT crops are likely to increase for the first two or three years, but some claim that this stops happening beyond a certain point, and the increased tolerance developed by insects brings the levels of produce back down. The only way to counter this is through increasing the amount of poison in the seed, which can affect humans as well eventually. Cases of birth defects and kidney problems in infants have already been attributed to the use of BT seeds in agriculture, which begs the question as to why they are being used in the first place.
The developed world has started to come to terms with the dangers of GM seeds but here, the dangers are still unrealized which makes it all the more crucial to inform the farmers and the public about what these crops can do. The long term consequences of BT crops have only just begun to surface. And as time passes, it is likely that more will be unearthed.