No matter how strongly the Left-led Kerala government pushes for a state free from all genetically modified (GM) crops, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh would not allow ideology to triumph over science.
Going ahead on this, Ramesh on Tuesday rejected Kerala government's fervent request to stop trials of GM rubber in the state, the largest rubber grower in the country.
In a letter to Kerala farm minister M Retnakaran, the environment minister stated GM rubber "just cannot be compared with BT brinjal" - the word "cannot" put down in bold text.
Last February, Ramesh banned Bt brinjal citing inadequate testing of the product.
A potential turf battle is brewing as Kerala wants the Centre to seek its permission before allowing trials of transgenic crops. The Constitution gives states exclusive mandate over agriculture matters.
Ramesh, however, put up a firm defence of GM rubber trials.
"The Rubber Research Institute of India, Kottayam, (which is conducting the trials) is not a private institute interested in rubber and making money by selling it," Ramesh stated.
The technology will make rubber drought-tolerant and sturdier, raising productivity, he argued. The end product, he said, will go to poor farmers free of cost.
Despite stiff resistance, GM technologies are fast taking root in the developing world, where unproductive farmers stand the most to gain from such technologies.
Ramesh also states, "Extension of natural rubber cultivation to non-traditional states like Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and North Konkan will require development of new rubber varieties, for which the GM approach is one option."
The fresh move shines better light on what Ramesh stands for: GM crops will be evaluated case by case for risk-benefit analysis and, in case of GM food, greater caution will apply.
The GM files