Historically farmers used the soil bacteria bacillus Thuringiensis or Bt to kill pests like moths and worms which were destroying their crops. It was part of pest control and useful in organic farming. The problem started when the gene from this bacterium was isolated and used in Genetically Modified (GM) crops as method to control the pests and increase the crop and food yield. The controversy is basically on the safety of GM foods for human consumption and its impact on other crops and plants in the environment. The issue and controversy over the GM crops for its use in increasing the yield of crops and other food items is going on for almost a decade now. In India, a few years back it was Bt Cotton, which created a controversy over its trial and use in Indian fields. Today it is Bt Brinjal, which once again raised the issue of Genetically Modified crops. Certainly there was more opposition to Bt Brinjal and hence the government had to take a decision against its introduction in the country. The green revolution in the late sixties and early seventies did increase the food production in the country and today the big companies have come up which are promoting the genetically modified crops with the promise of increasing food production. While biotechnology has revolutionised the food production and food processing, the issue of genetically modified crops and its produce has not been universally accepted even among the scientific community.
The genesis of agriculture and its development have been the continuous endeavour of mankind to control nature for sustenance and well being. The development in agriculture has gone through years of experimentation and a knowledge that is based on centuries of experience.
Since the beginning of the agriculture activities, pests have bothered farmers and there have been times when pests been times caused widespread famine. Farmers over the centuries have tried various means to control the pest menace. Crop rotation and multiple cropping were some of the methods to control pests. Besides this, plant extracts were also used to destroy or control pests.
The process of industrialization of agriculture started with simple inputs from industries. Later rapid mechanisation of farming and the use of chemicals and fertilizers resulted in the dependency of agriculture sector on industries for its very survival. Monoculture and cash cropping was a natural outcome of industrialization of agriculture.
A sustainable agriculture approach should be to minimise the adverse effects of modern agricultural technology. Agricultural systems must be ecologically sound, economically viable and based on the use of appropriate technologies. An ecologically sustainable agriculture strengthens the vital relation between the soil, plants, animals and human beings. It regenerates and enriches the soil and does not deplete it. One of the main forms of sustainable agriculture is through organic farming systems.
While green revolution ushered in pockets of prosperity in some regions, the GM crops which also promises prosperity, has not answered the bigger question of its safety for human consumption and its environmental safeguards.