Bharat Ramaswami
Indian Statistical Institute

Micronutrient deficiencies are responsible for major health problems among the poor in India. Biofortification promises to be a cost-effective approach in enhancing the intake of micronutrients. However, it requires government support in terms of resources and regulatory climate. This paper assesses the political receptivity to biofortification especially when it may involve genetic engineering. The paper draws on an understanding of political economy of pro-poor policies as well as the political responses to Bt cotton—the only GM crop that has received regulatory approval. The paper argues that mainstream political parties are unlikely to take strong positions on biofortified crops—whether in favor or in opposition—unless it affords an opportunity to politically mobilize farmers. If it involves genetic modification, biofortified crops will certainly be opposed by NGOs opposed to biotechnology. The extent of support from the scientific community will depend on whether the health and nutrition community is involved.

Key words: Biofortified crops, GM foods, political economy, India.