In a statement on August 4, Europe’s candy giant Mars Wrigley carried out a mass recall of several batches of its Crispy M&Ms across the entire continent, and it garnered a lot of limelight. Now there has been a new development in that matter. As per the notifications of the European Commission’s rapid alert system, it was caused due to the use of one ingredient, i.e., rice flour with genetically modified (GM) contamination, and it has been alleged that this rice has been originated in India.
This matter was caught during a regular check by the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, according to which 500 tons of broken rice was imported from India and has been converted into rice flour by Westhove, a French company.
What are GM crops?
GM is the abbreviation of the term Genetically Modified Organisms, in which the genetic material (DNA) is altered in such a way to introduce the desired quality/trait in an alien plant.
GM Crops in India
In India, the cultivation of Genetically Modified crops has been banned at the commercial level. However, in an exceptional case, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had approved BT Cotton for commercial cultivation in the year 2002.
Since then, there has been opposition for the introduction of any GM crops in India, out of which the BT Brinjal and GM Basmati rice created a big controversy on the ground that during the GM field trial, they can contaminate the crops either directly or through seed leakages long after the actual trials.
Advantages of GM Crops
• GM crops have high resistance to diseases, pests, insects, and herbicides. The main objective of the development of GM crops has been the ability to resist disease.
• They also have a high tolerance to cold/heat, drought, and salinity which is helpful in the context of global warming and climate change. This is the ability to introduce certain qualities in the crop which are desirable and which were missing in the original generation that leads to the longevity of such crops.
• GM crops provide one of the promising solutions to meet the world’s food security needs. As the population of the world is rising at a rapid pace, GM crops have the ability to fill in the gap between demand and supply.
• GM crops improve yield in the given piece of land and thus help in increasing farmers’ income.
• The potential impact on human health, including allergens (any substance that can cause an allergy). The biggest drawback of these crops is the adverse effect they can have on the consumers. This is the reason why they have not been able to replace the mainstream natural crops.
• There has been a strong correlation between GM crops and birth defects, cancers, kidney injury, etc., because naturally, our bodies aren’t designed to process artificial crops.
• They can decrease species diversity. These GM crops can replicate the original crops in a rapid manner, causing large-scale destruction of natural species.
• It involves the process of the transfer of genes from one crop to another. Hence, this undermines the exclusivity of each species of plant.
• GM crop is the violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values by mixing among species. In the natural ecosystem, every species is interdependent on each other for their survival. However, such artificial crops led to the extinction of this natural biodiversity and, ultimately, existential crisis for humans.
Impact on India
India has been the 2nd largest producer of Rice after China. Thanks to the green revolution, the country that has been once looking upon the USA to feed its hungry population is now not only self-sufficient but a surplus. India’s annual rice exports amount to 18 million tons worth Rs 65,000 crore and reach more than 75 countries, according to the Ministry.
As per the latest update, the Government has identified an exporter from Maharashtra after the receipt of such information. It came to the notice that 500- tonne consignment of GM contaminated rice was given a certification of non- GMO by an independent agency. The Ministry of Commerce also directed Indian Agricultural Research Institute for further investigation.
The Centre is aware of the fact that Europe is the largest consumer of exported rice from India, and hence, the matter cannot be taken lightly as it may damage the image of India as high – quality rice exporter in the world. Therefore, it has also requested the European Commission to share more information about the consignment so as to trace the link of any field trial of GM rice if approved.