Newspaper: Sunday Times of India
Date: 1st September 2013
Edition: New Delhi
Emboldened by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s strong pitch in favour of scientific field trials for transgenic crops, leading agriculture scientists on Saturday, too, put forth a similar demand on genetically modified (GM) crops.
‘Ban Monsanto, but don’t ban GM crops’ and ‘don’t ban science (research and trials). Banning science is banning progress’, the scientists said in a powerful rejoinder to the anti-GM activists who allege that the advocacy for allowing trials of GM crops was a ploy to help multinational seed companies like Monsanto tap the huge Indian market.
Scientists from government institutions like IARI, ICAR and other research bodies argued that demand for scientific trials has nothing to do with benefiting company A or B, but it’s for larger interest of Indians. They argued that bio-safety data from field trials were the only way for determining whether GM crops will have ill-effects on health and environment as alleged by the activists.
Referring to the instances where many states don’t even allow trials of GM crops, noted genetics scientist Deepak Pental said, “It’s quite an irony that after a country which allows pesticides, drugs and vaccines, should restrain scientific field trials of GM crops which may turn out to be a boon for increasing agricultural productivity.”
Dismissing the stand of anti-GM crop activists as a case of “fear” and “scientific ignorance”, Pental, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University, said the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) too had taken an “ideological” stand which had nothing to do with science. The TEC had in its report to the apex court recommended a ban on open field trials of genetically engineered crops till a robust regulatory mechanism was put in place.
The scientists’ remarks come barely four days after Pawar made his preferences for GM crops clear