Genetically Modified Crops

This article on Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically Modified Crops

What are Genetically Modified (GM) Crops:

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and or natural recombination.

Food produced from using genetically modified organisms is referred to as GM foods. It carries genes of other species artificially inserted into them.

Transgenic or genetically modified seeds are developed by transferring selected genes from one organism into another. For example, Bacterium Bacillus Thruingiensis genes, inserted in cotton to form Bt cotton. It will resist the cotton plant from the attack of Bollworm pests.

Genetically Modified Crops are planted widely for commercial purposes in many parts of the world. Crops such as corn, cotton, rubber, and soybean have been developed to resist insects, pests, and herbicides. The USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Canada are the top five GM crops growing countries.


  1. Better tolerance: GM crops are better tolerant to different harsh climatic conditions like cold, heat, drought, heavy rainfall, salinity, etc. Scientists are developing such kinds of crops which can be produced in the regions of deserts and hilly areas as well. For example, the Rubber Research Institute of India developed the world’s first GM rubber plant for the climatic conditions in the Assam and Northeast India which can survive in cold winters.
  2. Crop protection: Herbicide is a poisonous chemical used for removing unwanted grass and vegetation but the use of such chemicals can also harm the standing crops, so farmers can replace traditional crops with GM crops that are herbicide-tolerant and increase the level of crop production by releasing a toxic substance. It creates resistance against plant diseases caused by harmful pests, insects, and herbicides. 
  3. Increased food security: GM crops fulfill the dietary needs and help in addressing the hunger crisis of developing countries. It ensures access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all. In this way, GM crops help in achieving United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) by achieving the target of zero hunger and ensuring excess quantity of food availability. It also helps in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) related to health, through healthy food to the masses.
  4. Fulfill the demand of growing population and domestic shortages: GM crops meet the demand of the growing population through high yields of agricultural output. In the modern world, exponential growth in population is putting pressure on the limited land, creating a barrier in agricultural production, in such a depressing scenario introduction of GM crops proved a boon providing higher yields on the same plot of land and fulfilling the demand of the fast facing population.
  5. Cost of production: GM crops can be produced with less labor and input cost. It also helps in reducing the cost of pesticides, and insecticides. Thus it provides a surplus amount of crop production with a low cost of production.
  6. Shorter crop duration and Longer shelf life: GM crops can be produced within a few months and have a longer shelf of life i.e. can be stored for a longer duration than traditional types of crops.


  1. Biosafety concerns: GM food crops may be unsafe for human and animal consumption. They may harm the soil bacteria and bees and harm the entire food web and biodiversity. It may eliminate that wild indigenous species by transferring genes of one species into another. 
  2. One-time use seeds: The seeds used for plants may be viable for only one growing season. Companies for the sake of their high profits, produce sterile seeds that do not germinate in the next cropping season. It increases the burden on the farmer’s income and forced them to purchase a fresh supply of seeds each year.
  3. Change in taste of the food crops: The crops produced by using GM seeds may differ in taste as compared to the crops produced by traditional seeds. This is the reason why people are reluctant to adopt these food crops in their daily dietary needs.
  4. Loss of soil fertility:  The harmful herbicides used in GM crops make the soil infertile, resulting in soil acidification. It further aggravated soil and water pollution.
  5. Formation of unknown harmful toxicants: Transgenic seeds can result in the development of tolerant or resistant weeds that are difficult to eradicate. They could lead to erosion of biodiversity and pollute gene pools of endangered plant species.
  6. Patent issues: Patents are the rights given to the owner of the product. There is apprehension regarding patents of GM crops that companies may misuse it when their time duration for producing such transgenic seeds will over and they will introduce minor changes in the seeds for further extension. This may create a monopoly in the market of GM crops and will force the farmers to purchase at higher prices.

Examples of GM crops:

Bt cotton is the GM crop that has been allowed for commercial cultivation in 2002 by the government of India, Bt Brinjal (Janak), and Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11 (DMH 11), GM Rubber are a few examples of GM crops.

Regulatory Bodies of GM food crops:

In India, the Genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC), a special committee under the Environment Protection Act 1986 studies and recommends the approval of genetically modified crops. Environment Ministry gives final permission.

Global regulation of GM food includes-

Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), a joint collaboration by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Wealth Health Organization (WHO). It is responsible for developing the standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and recommendations for GM crops.

Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity- A legally binding environmental treaty formed in 2003, regulates transboundary movements of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) that are capable of transferring genetic material.


From the above analysis, we can see that there are both benefits as well as challenges for GM crops. GM crops help in self-sufficiency in food grains and meet the hunger crisis of developing countries. On the other hand, it is also creating barriers to biodiversity. So the government should allow the use of GM crops with proper policy interventions.

Thank you.

Read also…

Organic Farming- Advantages and Disadvantages

Green Revolution in India

Essay on Water Conservation

Social Reformers of India

Population Explosion- A Threat to Country’s Resources

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