President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the introduction of genetically-modified (GM) crops would revolutionise the agriculture sector, while asking the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to bring clarity on safety concerns of these crops.
He also suggested that safety concerns attached to GM crops should be addressed by following global norms.
"The development and introduction of GM crops has the potential to revolutionise agriculture. The concerns over their perceived risks should be addressed by following internationally accepted procedures for assessing safety parameters," Mukherjee said at the 85th ICAR foundation day.
He said the ICAR, which is involved in developing useful products and technologies in this field, "must contribute to the public discourse and provide clarity on this sensitive issue".
The government has allowed the commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, while moratorium has been put on Bt brinjal.Permission has been given to private companies to conduct field trials of GM crops such as cotton, corn and maize in Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
India has transformed from being a food-deficient to food-surplus country, Mukherjee said, but cautioned that climate change posed a major challenge to agriculture and the country must chalk out a climate-resilient development strategy.
To achieve 4% farm growth per annum during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17), Mukherjee suggested that the focus must be on productivity-driving measures such as diversification of crops, adoption of high-yield hybrid seeds, and improvement in water management practices.
The farm growth in the 11th Five-Year Plan period was driven by improved farm prices. However, during the 12th Plan period, the growth in demand for major crops is projected to slow down. "We have to achieve higher productivity levels to attain the agri growth target for this Plan," he added.