Modern Plant Health Management Practices can Transform Agri – Food Ecosystems

Plant health management is a comprehensive set of practices and tools required to achieve a crop’s attainable yield, which is determined by various factors. Water availability, growing degree days of the growing season, available sunshine etc. Therefore, effective plant health management is critical for increasing the productivity and sustainability of agri-food ecosystems.

IMPACT OF PLANT HEALTH ON GLOBAL ECONOMY

Farming communities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, continue to face plant pests and diseases due to limited investment in R&D, knowledge gap, low labour availability among others. These threats cause 10–40% losses in major food crops each year, costing the global economy $220 billion.

According to recent studies, the highest losses due to pests and diseases are associated with food-deficit regions with rapidly growing populations. 

LIMITED KNOWLEDGE OF TECH TO DETECT PLANT HEALTH

Plant health problems pose a constant challenge for farmers and extension workers. Pests and diseases, as well as abiotic factors such as low soil fertility, cause regular and often significant losses in crop production and quality. A variety of causes and symptoms with multiple possible origins makes diagnosis difficult.

Diagnostic capability, global-scale surveillance data, risk forecasting, and rapid response and management systems for major pests and diseases remain in short supply. Smallholders and marginalized communities are ill-equipped to respond to biotic threats due to lack of knowledge and access to climate-smart control options.

To protect plant health and productivity in our agricultural and natural ecosystems, tools for early detection and identification of plant pests and diseases are required. Technical support services are frequently inadequate, and extension workers struggle to reach all farmers. Choosing the best management options necessitates better tools and resources.

PLANT HEALTH CLINICS (PHCs)

Plant health clinics (PHCs) are a practical way for plant health specialists to collaborate with extension workers to provide farmers with advice on how to manage a variety of plant health problems.

Plant clinics at research institutes have laboratory facilities for identifying pests and pathogens, and some provide management advice through extension intermediaries. To serve farmers directly, extension-based PHCs are held in public areas nearby where farmers live and work.

PRECISION FARMING THROUGH CROP CARE CLINICS

A startup company in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh is offering precision farming advisory to citrus farmers. To collect data and provide advice to farmers, a combination of cloud services, drones, IoT devices, mobile apps, and AI/ML algorithms are used.

Following the farmer’s onboarding, a soil test report with 12 different vitals is generated, followed by a Drone survey and a comprehensive Digital Tree Health Audit (DTHA) in which every tree in the field is tagged. Every tree is scouted for 52 different Citrus problems, and data is captured in the form of images and videos in the Mobile App. This data is then analyzed by our Advisors (Plant doctors), and relevant advice is sent to the farmer via mobile app and SMS.

NEW ADVANCES IN PLANT HEALTH MONITORING

Wearable sensors can now monitor plant visual signs, such as shriveling or browning leaves, which typically do not appear until the majority of the water has been depleted. The electronic system wirelessly transmits data to a smartphone app, allowing for remote management of drought stress in gardens and crops.

This technology has improved on previous plant monitors, where metal electrodes were previously less accurate due to the hair on a plant’s skin falling off. Monitoring water content on leaves can also provide information on pests and toxic agent exposure, making monitoring the entire plant possible rather than just the water content.

CONCLUSION

With new technological advancements, many more plant health applications are possible. For example, because plant wearable sensors can provide reliable data indoors, the devices can be used in outdoor gardens and crops to determine when plants require watering, potentially saving resources and increasing yields. 

To continually improve plant health management systems, we need predictive surveillance and monitoring systems, robust disease management practices, and effective training of food production professionals. Enhancing our systems for protecting plant, animal, environmental, and human health will help us to protect plant health and strengthen food security.

 

 

WHY PLANT HEALTH MATTERS

Plant health is essential for both human and animal life and is an important component of the complex connections between humans, animals, and the environment. Plants are the primary source of nourishment for animals and provide approximately 80% of the food consumed by humans. However, our plants are in more danger than ever before, and it is critical to raise awareness about the importance of plant health and the steps that must be taken to reduce the dangers of plant pests and diseases. A greater understanding of how to control the spread of invasive pests will help us strengthen the global food supply chain.

THREATS TO THE HEALTH OF PLANTS

According to the FAO, forty per cent of global crops are lost each year owing to pests and diseases. This could become a more challenging scenario, given our rapidly growing human population, challenges of climate change, and vulnerability of a long food supply chain.

Plant health issues can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Based on whether they are living or non-living, these elements can be separated into two groups. Environmental stress or cultural care are examples of non-living disease agents, sometimes known as abiotic agents. Microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria are examples of living disease agents, often known as biotic agents or plant pathogens.

Measures to prevent or treat infections, such as the use of pesticides, if not used in appropriate amounts and manner may be overused and influence on the health of agricultural workers and customers, as well as make pests resistant to the chemical.

HOW PLANTS NATURALLY PROTECT THEMSELVES

Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can make plants sick, just like any other organism. Insects, herbivores, and omnivores prey on them. Plants have been reasonably successful in surviving the combined attack of such a diverse group of species. While they are unable to fight or flee from a predator, they have evolved extremely effective ways of reacting.

Plants have walls around their cells that protect them from diseases and can produce chemicals that repel pathogens or attract defensive agents. They’ve developed an immune system that, when infected, can cause cell death, isolating infected areas.

EMERGENCE OF NEW PLANT DISEASES

Plant health is under threat as a result of an increase in the number and frequency of new and reemerging pests as a result of intensification, globalization, trade development, and climate change. We are already witnessing the spread of novel diseases, which are, in some cases, the result of climatic change that favors the spread of pathogens or their carriers.

New fungal diseases are wreaking havoc on cereal crops and banana trees, resulting in significant production losses. Bacteria such as Xylella fastidiosa damages Mediterranean fruit trees such as olive and almond trees, wreaking havoc with the livelihood of the farmers and tradesmen.

ALTERNATIVE PLANT HEALTH SYSTEMS

Farmers are well aware of the importance of cultivating plants in order to ensure their optimal health. Increasing plant resistance to diseases is the top issue for farmers in agriculture. They often use a variety of remedies to safeguard their crops, but these compounds can cause environmental or human health issues in some circumstances. Reduction of crop protection products is a top priority in many parts of the world.

Alternative plant protection strategies have been developed, such as integrated pest control or the use of transgenic cultivars that can combat insects. One of the most effective ways is to introduce resistant traits through selective breeding. This is also being done with the help of modern genome editing techniques.

CONCLUSION

Plant health is crucial in the face of global concerns, including climate change, among many other challenges. Competition between crop resistance and disease adaptation has always existed between plants and pathogens. It is our responsibility to use the greatest research available to better understand these interesting biological processes and to give breeders and farmers the tools to help them grow healthier plants in their fields. We need to focus on building robust plant ecosystems to safeguard the environment and biodiversity, as well as to improve livelihoods and help create sustainable growth.

 

 

India needs drought tolerant crops

Drought in agriculture leads to severe economic losses for the farmers and the country. This is now being intensified due to climate change and the frequency of drought is increasing each year. There are reports highlighting drought as one of the key factors that is contributing to the continuing rise in the number of hungry people and jeopardising the food security of countries.

Sustainable management of natural resources is an integral part of growing healthy crops. Since the economic liberalisation and introduction of new crop varieties, farmers have been using water in abundance without adopting sustainable practices and it has resulted in the lowering ground water table and degradation of the health of soil. India is an agrarian society and majority of the farmers are small holders. This indicates that they are not equipped to deal with losses posed by unpredictable weather and they do not have the financial capabilities to get access to technologies that can help them adopt a different strategy.

There are several drought tolerant hybrid varieties in crops in India like rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, barley, chickpea, groundnut, soybean, sugarcane, cotton and jute. Recently, 35 new crop varieties were dedicated by the Prime Minister of India to the nation,of which several are drought tolerance varieties. While farmers are adopting these varieties, they have not been able to achieve optimum production level.

Another challenge involves accelerating the breeding of improved varieties, as it takes scientists 10 or more years to commercialise the product. In this period, the scientist after breeding the variety, tests the seed to accurately characterise the traits involved and the tests are carried out in multiple locations. With the rapidly changing environment, 10 years is a long phase to predict the desired results, further, not many farmers are aware of these varieties that are available in the market.

Given the several roadblocks in developing and realising the benefits of a new heat tolerant variety, adoption of innovative technologies to overcome the challenges is critical. Gene editing can rapidly decrease the breeding time to two years and introduce beneficial traits at the same time. It allows breeders to work within elite plant’s own gene pool to try to reach the same endpoint as they would through more traditionally breeding methods–but with greater precision and efficiency.

The use of gene editing to develop new plant varieties isa promising and growing field. Gene editing applications that lead to DNA changes that could also occur in nature or from more traditional breeding methods particularly are of most interest. Because of this, genetic changes resulting from gene editing cannot reliably be differentiated from the same changes that can occur by traditional breeding or spontaneously in nature.

The primary benefit from gene editing is that it is flexible and can provide more choices to the breeders. Because of its ease of implementation, small entities, public sector institutions, start-ups, smaller companies can develop innovative products without concerning themselves on upfront investment. Therefore,staple crops which are water guzzlers like rice, maize, soybean, wheat, beans need improvement through gene editing. Many countries have paved a path of predictability and acceptance in gene editing guidelines which has encouraged scientists, developers, institutions, start-ups to evaluate and develop crops that can be made healthier, cheaper and which complements the environment to sustain the crop and food security. We believe India too will realise the opportunity that gene editing has provided to the world and make the nation and farmers at one with other countries.

Deregulation and Harmonization of Genome-Edited Crops in India

CRISPR-Cas gene-editing tool has proven to be a powerful technology that can accurately and precisely alter the genomes of a plant. Gene editing can modify a plant’s genes without introducing any foreign genes. As a result of this technology, plant species for agriculture, food, and nutrition can be improved using a simple, precise and efficient method.

Many countries have adopted this technology to improve their crops and greatly benefit from it. For eg:

  • The USDA has approved genome editing of mushrooms, soybeans, and petunia
  • Japan approved CRISPR-edited nutritionally enhanced tomato 

The examples above illustrate the progress being made in this field and encourage other countries, including India, to use CRISPR in plant breeding.

It would be a great help to Indian agriculture if these efficient gene editing tools could be adopted for precise editing, which would lead to developing crop varieties for climate resilience and nutritional security in timely manner. Now is the time for India to address greater issues such as climate adaptation of crops, dwindling natural resources, increasing input efficacy, and nutritional sufficiency for our citizens.

Many countries have not yet decided on the legal status of gene editing or are still discussing it. In India, for example, regulation of gene-editing is still under development. The South African government has begun negotiating gene editing regulations. Additionally, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana is now cultivating GM plants and Uganda is still debating the establishment of GMO legislation without explicitly mentioning genome editing. India has released a draft document in 2020 on Genome Edited Organisms in which it suggests a risk-based approach to regulating these products.

According to the guidelines, regulatory approval would be based on a tiered system of classification based on the type of genome editing. 

  • The plants in Group 1 contain a few or several base pair edits based on SDN-1 or ODM 
  • The plants in Group 2 contain a few or several base pair edits based on SD

In the draft, there is no clear distinction between a few and several. For Group 1 and Group 2, a risk assessment would include confirmation of the targeted edit, excluding biologically significant off-target effects, as well as a case-by-case comparison of the trait’s effectiveness with the reference varieties except for the edited trait. Group 3- plants with large DNA changes and foreign DNA insertions are in this group. If the plants are genetically modified, the same stringent risk assessment applies as in the case of traditional transgenic plants.  

The regulatory framework must be deregulated and harmonised globally for gene-edited crops to be commercially viable. This will help the smallholder farmer and consumer.To realize the full potential of this technology, there must be regulatory impunity for such edited crop plants. If plants derived through gene editing are similar to their non-edited counterparts, it would be logical for them to be treated as conventionally bred plants. A number of countries around the world have implemented it, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Argentina.

In terms of the seed industry, if the Indian government makes a similar decision, it will give smaller companies the opportunity to improve crops quickly and precisely using gene editing.

India must also align its agricultural policies with the major agricultural producing countries. The impact on seed trade, food production, safety, and security will be significant.

Youth is more accepting of GMOs in Agriculture

GM crops are gaining popularity due to its positive role in reducing carbon emissions, using less crop inputs and saving natural resources in agriculture. Unpublished results from a recent survey by the Center for Food Integrity suggest that millennials and Gen Z perceive agricultural technology as offering powerful solutions to humanity’s problems. They are more accepting of it than their older counterparts.

Younger adults are more inclined towards positive effects from genetically modified foods. A third believe that such foods will make food more affordable, while a third says they will enhance the global food supply.

Around the world, farmers are able to reap more from each harvest, as they need less fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs to achieve higher yields. Farmers with both large and small operations benefit from these advances. Growing brinjal (eggplant) that is genetically modified to resist the destructive fruit and shoot borer reduced smallholder farmers’ pesticide use by more than half in Bangladesh and multiplied their profits six-fold. Since 1996, the adoption of biotechnology has increased 112-fold, making it the fastest-growing crop technology in the world. In 2019, there were 190.4 million hectares of GM crops grown in 29 countries, 56 percent of which included developing nations.

Europeans may be perceived as staunch anti-GMOs, but their concern for GMOs has declined from 66 percent in 2010 to as low as 27 percent in 2019. For countries impacted by European NGOs and their policies that prevent farmers from accessing the benefits of genetically modified crops, that shift in sentiment is nothing short of good news.

To feed the world’s 9 billion citizens by 2050, agriculture will need to boost crop production by 70 percent. While doing so, agriculture will also have to drastically reduce its carbon footprint. Globally, topsoil loss, greenhouse gas emissions, nitrogen emissions, and deforestation caused by farming are currently 50 percent, 33 percent, 75 percent, and 80 percent, respectively. The use of biotechnology in agriculture can shrink agricultural footprints while producing abundant and nutritious food. Using today’s tools will help save the planet’s future. The favorable opinion of youth in agriculture should bring GMOs and other technologies in a much more accepting situation than earlier. Today’s youth understand the significance of technology on the farm and have witnessed how innovative solutions can benefit the farmers and reduce their hardships. On top of it, the Indian population consists of a majority of the young crowd who come from an agricultural background. The nurturing of the youth to adopt biotech food can bring about sustainable changes in the Indian agricultural sector, especially when a majority of youth is realizing the significance of GMOs in agriculture. It will certainly create revolutionary progress in the way India can tackle food problems by 2050.

GM Crop is a Viable Answer to Deal with Climate Stress

As the world population grows and the demand for nutritious food grows, agricultural productivity is challenged by poor farmlands and climate change. Of all the challenges, adverse climatic conditions seem to negatively impact agricultural productivity, food security, production stability, and income the most. Given this backdrop, agricultural productivity needs to increase by 65% to meet the food demand.

Genetic modification can be the flagbearer of crop improvement as it can develop climate-resilient crop varieties. Developing and adopting innovative crops backed by science is required to mitigate climate change and for sustainable agriculture.

What are GM Crops?

Genetically modified crops are plants with their DNA altered to create desired traits, typically by adding one gene from a close wild relative.

GM crops are developed to enhance traits, it could be drought resistant or pest or disease resistant. Globally, scientists are using GMOs to help farmers prevent crop loss. In addition to making some of our most valuable food crops more resilient to climate change, study shows that it has also helped in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving fossil fuel.

Benefits of GM Crops

GM crops are enabling farmers to protect their produce from various biotic and abiotic stresses. GMO crops offer farmers better yields that can also be resilient to droughts and floods. There are various benefits that a farmer can reap using GMO crops in the field:

· Herbicide tolerance

· Tolerance to plant pathogens

· Protection against insect damage

· Less water consumption

· Optimum nutrition

· Low carbon footprint

Above all, the farmers reap higher profits in terms of lower inputs which most conventional crops cannot offer.

India should Embrace GM Crops

Despite being agricultural land, India continues to face major challenges when it comes to its agriculture output. Over the last 15 years, biotechnology has enabled approximately 17 million farmers to grow GM crops offering one of the most promising solutions for meeting the world’s food security.

Bt cotton’s spectacular success is evidence of the success of biotechnology in India. As with Bt cotton, a switch to high-yield oilseeds engineered specifically for India’s semi-arid zones can help reduce India’s dependence on imports just as Bt cotton allowed it to transition from being a net importer to a net exporter.

Moreover, mustard is one of the three largest oilseed crops in India, along with soybeans and groundnuts, but yields have stagnated for many years. The total edible oil consumption in India is nearly 22 million metric tons, while the domestic production is only about 10.65 million tons. Edible oil is India’s third-largest import item after crude oil and gold. Increasing the production of oilseeds, particularly mustard and soybean, is a wise idea for many reasons. In addition to one ton of oil, a farmer also produces a ton of cake, which is a protein-rich feed for animals. An Indian farmer’s dependency on pesticides can be reduced through biotechnology or using GM crops.

Research has shown that biotech crop’s adoption is three times as fast in developing countries as they do in industrialized ones.

However, besides enormous benefits, the GMO crop yet requires its fair share of recognition and acceptability in the consumer market. The urban consumer is open and aware of the multifaceted benefits of GM food and understands how well-suited it is for human health. It is now time that consumers demand such quality food so that farmers who want to grow them and are stuck due to regulatory lacunae can finally get the chance to grow them.

Rice

India is one of the largest exporters and consumers of rice. Still, Indian farmers have to incur losses due to drought, flood, continuous and intermittent rainfall, manual harvesting, etc. Nearly three billion people around the world eat rice as their main source of nutrition. It is responsible for generating about 20% of the calories consumed worldwide. Till now only golden rice has been developed by scientists that can help people with Vitamin A deficiency and the Philippines is the first country to approve the crop for commercial purposes. GMOs can develop rice suitable for severe climatic conditions.

Soybean

Another example of a successful GMO crop is Soybean which is the highest exported crop from America. The GMO Soybean is spliced with the pigeon pea gene which makes it resistant to Asian soybean rust or ASR caused by fungus. This disease spreads quickly and can only be treated by the introduction of a fungi-resistant trait of another legume.

Cotton

India introduced Bt cotton almost twenty years ago. Bt cotton is a genetically modified variety of cotton. Toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis are highly toxic and have been found to control bollworm larvae, which commonly attack cotton crops. In India, Bt cotton was introduced to reduce the amount of insecticide required for cotton farming. Since this plant was introduced, Bt cotton is widely used throughout India. The majority of Indian cotton is now Bt. It is estimated that 80% of cotton grown in each of India’s nine cotton-growing states is Bt cotton.

Canola

Cooking oil and margarine are primarily made from GMO canola. Animal feed can also be made from canola seed meals. Many packaged foods use canola oil to enhance the consistency of their food. American farmers benefit from GMO canola’s herbicide resistance, which helps them control weeds within their fields more easily.

As the world’s population and demand for food grow, farmers and growers must also deal with the problems nature throws at them. The traditional plant breeding methods still have their place. Researchers must develop crops resistant to pests, which can flourish even as the climate crisis develops. This will enable them to avoid food shortages in poorer countries especially. Easing out GMO regulations in India can bring favorable changes as the weather conditions become extreme shortly. GMOs can have positive effects, but regulatory frameworks should be strengthened so that the commercialization of GMOs does not suffer from delays. In several developing countries, GM crops are not yet allowed due to the lack of regulatory frameworks, or they are regulated excessively even when they have a defined framework. This example of Golden Rice illustrates how excessive regulations can delay a technological breakthrough for more than a decade. The delayed approach should not lead to an increase in poor statistics. As a result, regulators and political drivers in developing nations must take steps forward when it comes to approving these nutritious and safe crops.  

IPR, Innovation & Agriculture

Globalization has led to a knowledge-based economy, and intellectual property rights protection has become an important motivator for innovation. Agribusiness was not historically concerned with IPR, as farming was based on sharing knowledge. Yet, the last few decades have witnessed remarkable advances in agriculture. The development of genetically modified plant varieties and specialized insecticides for pest control warrants an examination of the IPR regime of developing nations, particularly India. This is to encourage the introduction of innovative agricultural practices.

Patent rights are particularly important for technological innovation. By extending the patent scope, and increasing the number of inventions that are patentable, the patent system becomes more useful to inventors and contributes to social welfare. This gives inventors an incentive to invest in research and development since patent rights provide exclusivity on the invention.

IPR in agriculture in India

IPR in agriculture are used to protect goods or services produced in agricultural sector and mainly deals with patents, plant breeder’s right, trademarks, geographical indications and trade secrets. India Patent Act 1970 and subsequent amendments to it provided patents for agricultural tools and machinery or theprocesses of development of agricultural chemicals. Till the beginning of 2005, only method inventions relating to substances prepared by chemical processes were patentable. Then Government of India passed the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act in 2001. It became the world’s only IPR legislation on plant varieties that recognised and protected the rights of both breeders as well as farmers maintaining traditional landraces. The PPV&FR Authority set up under the Act started functioning from 2005.

The PPV&FR Act entitles farmers to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell their produce, including seed from a protected variety, as long as they do not resort to branding or packaging of the variety for commercial purposes. At the same time, breeders have exclusive rights for the commercial production, sale, marketing, distribution and export of their protected varieties.

Further, any plant breeder or researcher can use a registered variety for conducting experiment and research, or as an initial source of genetic material (parent) for the purpose of developing another variety. This is acceptable so long as the protected variety isn’t used as parent repeatedly for the production of commercial seed, which requires the prior authorisation of the original breeder/farmer.

IPR protection could lead to a significant increase in agricultural production

Agricultural innovations include developing healthier, safer, and more nutritious food for humans and animals (for example, genetically modified seeds, new breeding techniques). In the agricultural sector, innovation drives productivity.  However, there are grey areas in the Act which helps the unscrupulous to steal the varieties and develop substandard seeds which results in crop failure for the farmers.

Agriculture has made some remarkable advances in recent decades, especially in the transfer of beneficial traits into many crops that would otherwise face extinction due to diseases, droughts, and pests. With the help of resistant seed varieties, crops can provide greater yields while at the same time requiring fewer chemical fertilizers. It is particularly valuable for farmers in developing countries such as India. A significant contribution can be made to poverty reduction, malnutrition, food security, and disease control through the use of this part of agricultural innovation.

Farmers, researchers, private businesses, advisors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumers, and many others are involved in guiding, supporting, creating, transferring, or adopting agricultural innovations, and also advising and informing farmers and the public about them.

The importance of intellectual property protection for agricultural innovation has grown over the last few decades in India. Even though investing in innovation is one of the primary drivers of economic growth, governments are constrained when it comes to funding innovative projects, including agricultural research and development. Crop innovation involves five stages – discovery, proof of concept, early development, advanced development and pre-launch which It can take between 10-15 years to develop commercially viable seeds. Hence, patent protection and regulatory compliance allow investors to make long-term investments in innovation. Consequently, IP rights have received increasing attention for supporting agricultural development, including foreign direct investment (FDI), technology transfer, trade, access to genetic resources and protection of traditional knowledge. 

In addition, intellectual property rights, primarily patents, have enabled plant genomics research to grow. Researchers are using advanced genomics to identify, map, and understand the gene expression of crops and their relationship to agriculturally significant traits.

IP rights play a key role in enabling companies to attract investors and generate the returns necessary to recoup development costs and invest in further R&D.Lack of IP rights discourages innovators to invest such huge sum of money to a technology. A balance between protecting the IP rights of breeders and allowing the technology flow to benefit the farmers and the whole ecosystem has to be implemented. This can only happen when there are strict actions taken for unscrupulous activities that can harm not only the technology but farmers who are vulnerable to a crop failure. This is great setback for the genuine market players who started with the vison of empowering the farmers with a breakthrough product but ends up losing trust and a return on investment.

https://hau.ac.in/public/pages-pdf/1548828324.pdf

https://icrier.org/pdf/jayashreeW.pdf

https://isbinsight.isb.edu/are-strong-intellectual-property-rights-the-future-of-innovation-in-india/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341494421_THE_ROLE_OF_INTELLECTUAL_PROPERTY_RIGHTS_IN_AGRICULTURE

https://www.innovationpolicyplatform.org/www.innovationpolicyplatform.org/content/processes-and-contributions-ip-systems-innovation/index-2.html

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/A-balanced-IPR-regime-Key-to-promote-technology-driven-agriculture/article20099424.ece

https://naarm.org.in/focarsrepository/files/6.%20Intellectual%20Property%20Rights%20in%20Indian%20Agriculture.pdf

GM Crops can Curb Food Waste

Feeding the world while minimizing our impact on the planet is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Reducing food loss and waste remains critical and needs a solution.

Half of the population around the world do not have enough food. As per a report by the United Nations, one third of food produced for human consumption globally goes to waste. Food waste is an important issue that consumers and farmers need to work together to resolve. Food waste also has a serious environmental ramification as it is a major source of methane gas when dumped in landfills.

The issue is complex, but many people might not realize that farmers can not only grow more food on less land through genetically modified crops. It can also help in reducing unnecessary food waste and minimize crop loss. Therefore, GMOs can play a key role in improving food security and sustainability in our global food system.

Unfortunately, unrealistic standards of beauty are also being applied on food. Consumers expect produce to look fresh, colorful and do not accept a fruit or vegetable with a slightest bruise on it. As a result, a large amount of fresh produce goes to waste every year. The FAO estimates that nearly half of all fruit and vegetable crops go to waste due to cosmetic issues. Genetically modified crops have enabled farmers to grow large quantities of crops that are resistant to such cosmetic issues.Biotechnology allows us to grow apples that do not bruise and do not brown. There are also potatoes that reduce the amount of bruising and black spots, meaning scarcely any go to waste.

GM crops are also developed to be disease and pest resistant, drought and flood resistant which means they are climate resilient. For GM crops that are resistant to insect damage, farmers can apply fewer spray pesticides to protect the crops. GM crops that are tolerant to herbicides help farmers control weeds without damaging the crops. When farmers use these herbicide-tolerant crops they do not need to till the soil, which they normally do to get rid of weeds. This no-till planting helps to maintain soil health, lower fuel and labor use.

Farmers who grow GM eggplants are earning more and have less exposure to pesticides. Countries are also working on several staple crops, such as virus-resistant cassava, insect-resistant cow pea, and blight-resistant potato.

Food waste and loss represent a serious challenge globally, one which requires engagement from different stakeholders if we are to ensure food security while simultaneously preserving the environment. GMOs can play a significant role to help us grow food sustainably. It is also important that consumers too,play an active role in reducing waste and conserving our natural resources.

Fading of Anti-GMO Evident with Consumer Acceptance globally

The anti-GMO movement is characterized by overwhelming fallacies. The most common of these fallacies is the assumption that crops enhanced using biotechnology is an unnatural deviation from an otherwise pure state of nature. This idea is fundamentally flawed on a number of levels, yet it continues to be parroted by naysayers alike.

For many years, NGOs such as Sierra Club has been vocal about its concerns over crop biotechnology. The environmental group that refers to gene editing as a weapon of mass destruction recently overturned the GMO debate when it cautiously endorsed the release of a genetically engineered chestnut tree called “Darling 58.” A newer variety of chestnut trees which are bred to resist a fungal infection that has killed almost all-American Chestnuts.

Similarly, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) previously criticized the Impossible Burger but have recently come to support it after realizing its key ingredient is made with help from genetic engineering.

When organizations like the Sierra Club and UCS that are well-known for their opposition to biotechnology backtrack on the issue, it can be believed that the impact is substantial.

In Europe as well, the situation has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Europe suspended its biotech regulations in July 2020 amid the threat of a new infectious disease it didn’t want to fight against with outdated technology, making quite clear that the world’s assumption of genetic engineering having disastrous side effects, was completely wrong. Europe has not been a friend to genetically modified organisms in the past, but there are indications that its anti-GMO sentiment is beginning to weaken. One reason for this might be that biotechnology can help meet their sustainability goals. It is to be noted that while Europe is opposed to GM crop cultivation, they are the biggest importers of GM derived food.

Healthier soybean oil and non-browning apples are among the examples of genetically modified foods.Many products developed through biotechnology are recognized today in the form of new varieties including watermelons, eggplants, carrots, pineapple, papaya, bananas among others. GMO is a safe and effective way to improve crops for better quality food.

SARS-COV-2 became unstoppable shortly after it started spreading globally, and humans have realized that our way of life is very fragile and we will not be able to sustain ourselves in a world full of deadly diseases when we lose access to innovation (tools).

Food production could be said to work the same way. The anti-GMO movement is unlikely to disappear overnight. They have a great deal of sway in poorer regions of the world. However, they are also losing this debate in these places. In 2019 alone, 24 developing countries grew biotech crops. Biotech plants are grown in the developing world and 56 percent of all the plants grown in the world are genetically engineered.

The familiarity of consumers with new biotechnology tools such as CRISPR, GMO indicates that efforts to increase awareness of these technologies could help to accelerate their acceptance by consumers.All over the world scientists are working on ways to feed more people by using CRISPR. However, it will be the public acceptance and adoption by farmers that will play an important role in the success of this technology.

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest