There is scientific evidence on GM crops safety: Secretary

Last Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 17:55

New Delhi: There is a clear scientific evidence on safety of genetically modified (GM) crops but more debate is needed to address other fears, Biotechnology Secretary Vijay Raghavan said here today

He said India is in "ideological turmoil" but scientists must speak "fairly, fearlessly and freely weighing in on the side of scientific evidence rather than the dominant "ideology" of the day.

"The scientific evidence is very clear that GM crops are safe. ...The reason for the opposition to GM is not because of the Science primarily, but other fears. Are they warranted or not, is a separate issue," Raghavan told PTI on the sidelines of 44th Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture organised by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).
Since there is lot of opposition even from people who understand Science, he suggested, "I think another debate need to be done is not on whether GM is safe or not, but on the big market (of GM) and its role in agriculture."

Unfortunately, the issue of GM safety has clouded the other debate that raises interesting questions which are much more complex to address, he added.

The Secretary also said: "We should address other issues calmly rather than worrying too much on GM and non-GM crops."

Meanwhile, in his lecture, Raghavan emphasised the need for scientists to speak based on "evidence" by citing an example of how ideology of Soviet Union`s then Agriculture Minister Trofim Lysenko had influenced the farm policy adversely.
"His ideology transformed Soviet`s agriculture and biology into a disaster zone. The impact of his influence ruined the growth of biology and agriculture in eastern Europe and when adapted in China resulted in the death of millions in famines," he said.

"Biology in today`s Russia has still not recovered from Lysenkoism, he added.
Noting that India too is in "ideological turmoil", he said that citizens have their own ideology but scientists should speak based on evidence.

"We must press for correct moral decisions to be taken. ...If public science is to service public good, scientists in countries such as India must speak up for reason and must dominate the landscape of bringing science to be partner in solving our agricultural and health problems," he said.

At present, government has allowed commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, while there is a moratorium on Bt brinjal amid different opinions over safety and effect of such technology.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar informed Parliament that there are no "credible scientific reports" to prove that GM crops have adverse impact on environment, human health and livestock.

It may be recalled that a technical committee appointed by the Supreme Court had last year recommended an indefinite moratorium on open field trials of GM crops till the deficiencies in the regulatory and safety systems are effectively addressed.

PTI

First Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 17:55

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