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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

Agri scientists seek Natarajan’s intervention on GM crops

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 09, 2013
First Published: 18:20 IST(9/2/2013) | Last Updated: 18:26 IST(9/2/2013)

Hit by the possibility of the government lifting three-year-old moratorium on BT Brinjal, around 150 scientists including some from government institutions has sought environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s intervention to check “fallacious” campaign in favour of the Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

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The scientists, who have spent huge span of their life in agriculture, believes that the recent affidavit filed by the ministry of agriculture in the Supreme Court saying that without GM crops country’s food security could be jeopardised was ill-founded.

The affidavit was filed in response to report of a Supreme Court appointed technical committee on GM crops which had sought ten year ban on the transgenic crops saying its adverse impact on environment and human being are not well researched in India.

The agriculture ministry on behalf of the government said that transgenic technology was absolutely needed for India’s food security and field trials of transgenic crops were needed for India’s food security.

The environment ministry, which was original respondent in the case filed by social activist Aruna Rodrigues, failed to put forth its view in the case.

“In this letter, we intend to showcase the many serious scientific and policy fallacies in this argument of the ministry of Agriculture,” the scientists said on Saturday, giving global examples on failure of transgenic crops to end malnourishment and increase productivity in a longer run.

The scientists said that it was unclear that now ministry of agriculture was arguing that this controversial, nascent and unproven technology is the panacea to the problem of hunger.

“The first commercialized crops came into being around 16 years ago and to this day, only two commercially viable transgenic traits are present, which are cultivated mainly in 3 countries (United States of America, Brazil and Argentina which grow 77% of all GM crops),” the letter said and added that an overwhelming majority of countries worldwide do not grow GM crops. 

The letter signed by scientists who have received Padma Bhushan and Padam Shree from the government also quoted research by leading Indian agriculture scientists Dr KR Kranthi, Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research to say that increase in BT cotton yield was only in initial years.

“No significant yield advantage has been observed between 2004-2011 when area under Bt cotton increased from 5.4% to 96%,” he said, in his paper belying the claims that genetically modified seeds can result in increase in yields for a longer duration.

They have sought Natarajan’s intervention to project the adverse side of GM crops and present a holistic picture before the court, which has to take a final view on the technical committee’s recommendations.

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