Pawar advocates GM crops for meeting food security plans

Pawar advocates GM crops for meeting food security plans

Chandigarh: Food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday advocated introduction of genetically modified (GM) food crops to meet the foodgrains requirement under the proposed National Food Security bill.

“Ultimate solution to produce more (to achieve food security) will require a lot of quality seeds, whether it is hybrid or even GM food," Pawar said at a CII meet in Chandigarh.

Increasing farm production is imperative as the proposed bill would entail extra foodgrains procurement from the open market and this may affect supply side and prices, the minister said.

According to official data, the country’s foodgrains production stood at 218.20 million tonnes in 2009-10 crop year. While this year, the government has kept a target of 244.50 million tonnes.

The UPA government would require more than 65 million tonnes of foodgrains to implement the proposed Food bill as per the recommendations of Sonia-Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC), the minister had said yesterday.

This requirement is, however, higher than the government’s total procurement of 50-56 million tonnes in last two years.

Pointing to those who opposed the entry of GM food in India, Pawar said: “There are lot of people who always think otherwise and oppose new technologies."

Pawar, who was here to inaugurate the 9th edition of CII’s Agro Tech fair, highlighted the “revolution" Bt cotton has created in the country and how the technology has catapulted India to the second position in world in terms of production of the natural fibre.

At present, the government has allowed GM seeds in non-food crops like cotton. Among food crops, the government has put a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal owing to opposition from various quarters.

Last year, the President had announced that the government will enact a legislation with a provision of supply of subsidised foodgrains of 25 kg of rice or wheat a month to poor at Rs3 per kg.

Meanwhile, NAC has made suggestions on the number of beneficiaries to be covered under the proposed bill and it is being examined by the expert panel constituted by the Prime Minister Office.

NAC has suggested the government to grant a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to at least 75% of the country’s population under the proposed Bill through a reformed PDS system from the next financial year.

At present, the government provides cheap foodgrains to 18.04 crore families, which includes 6.52 BPL families and 11.5 APL families, under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Off take under the PDS in the last fiscal was 42.4 million tonnes.