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GM urgency eases

The push to promote genetically modified (GM) wheat to combat global food shortages could slow as global commodity prices ease, a top industry executive said Nov. 16.

“Now that prices have fallen off their peak, I don’t think it will be a priority,” said Vijay Iyengar, managing director of the Singapore-based grains trader Agrocorp International Pte Ltd.

“Because of the record-high prices we saw the push for increasing supplies, and so the call for genetically modified grain seeds received a lot of attention.”

No commercial transgenic wheat currently exists in world markets due to strong opposition by consumer and environmental groups in many countries.

The European Union has not approved any genetically modified crops for a decade and the 27 member countries often clash on the issue.

Japan supports genetic research, but the public is strongly opposed to genetically modified wheat and rice.

But the future push for GM seeds does have some potential with the success of India’s cotton production, Iyengar said.

India surpassed the U. S. to become the second-biggest producer of cotton in 2006-07 after adopting GM crops.

India’s GM cotton area is estimated at 6.33 million hectares or 66 per cent of the total cotton area in 2007-08, up from 3.69 million hectares in 2006-07, data from the Cotton Advisory Board showed.

“The success of GM cotton in India is encouraging with the production of a hardy crop, where crop levels have improved,” Iyengar said.

“The issues surrounding using GM seeds will be overlooked if you can replicate similar yield levels for grains.”

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