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The recent farmers’ agitation in Western India, to be allowed to grow Bt Cotton, or the illegal cultivation and sale of GMO brinjal (egg plant) in North India, are just the beginning of many more such things that we are going to see.

The reason is simple. The economics of GMO crops are changing very rapidly.

Companies like Monsanto created self destructing (or non reproducing) crops which forced farmers to buy seeds every time. But the new wave of GMO, mostly gene edited, crops that are going to come will be created by labs big and small all over the world, and not by large corporations.  That these genetically modified crops will mingle with (contaminate?) regular crops is a foregone conclusion.

Many of these crops will have desirable traits that farmers (and consumers) will want, simply because they offer better economics, or taste, appearance, or shelf-life.

The regulation of these crops will also change. For example, it was impossible for government regulators to detect the widespread availability of genetically modified brinjal (egg plant) earlier this year in North India, or to control the growing of Bt Cotton.

In the next few years there will be tens or hundreds of various genetically modified varieties making their way into the fields and our food supply. There is no way that our regulators can keep up.

My worry is that some of these genetically engineered crops may be deliberately created for malicious purposes. And with neither regulators, nor farmers and consumers being in a position to detect or control this, how will we cope?

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