Mumbai: Genetically modified crops are an answer to improve crop yield and help maintain high food production, industry experts have said.

"In a country like India where resources are limited and the burden of the population is growing rapidly, a judicious use of plant biotechnology, after addressing the bio safety issues, can help farmers grow more food on the same amount of land," Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI) Regional Director (South Asia) Ravi Khetrapal told.

By 2050, the world population is expected to be over nine billion. Plant biotechnology has helped with improved farming techniques and resistance to diseases and pests, that reduces pesticide applications and improves crop yields, he said.

"In the absence of higher yielding biotech crops, an additional 91 million hectares of farmland would have been required between 1996 and 2010 to maintain the global food production," Khetrapal added.

Echoing the view, National Seeds Authority of India (NSAI) executive director Raju Kapoor said with dwindling resources, it will be imperative for agriculture to become more water-efficient.

"Crops that cope with saline soils, nutrient-deficient soils and extreme temperatures and techniques, and new plant varieties that utilise low-fertility soil and grow under drought conditions will be crucial," he said, adding that plant biotechnology has the potential to accomplish many of the challenges faced by Indian agriculture on Sunday.

In the last 16 years, a cumulative 3 billion acres (1.25 billion hectares) of land worldwide was used for biotech crop farming in 29 countries, T M Manjunath, a consultant in agri-biotechnology and integrated pest management, said.

In 2011 alone, 16.7 million farmers worldwide planted biotech crops on 160 million hectares, he said.

Bt-cotton in India has undergone all the prescribed bio safety tests for over six years before it was approved by the regulatory authorities as safe for commercial cultivation in March 2002, he said.

Although there have been speculative allegations, experts have not found any conclusive evidence to demonstrate any negative impact of biotech crops on humans, animals and environment, he pointed out.


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