A one-day seminar on "Genetically modified crops and food security" was organised by Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here on Tuesday in collaboration with the Patiala chapter of the Indian Science Congress Association.
GNDU vice-chancellor Prof AS Brar presided over the seminar, while Prof SVS Chahal, vice-chancellor, Desh Bhagat University, Mandi Gobindgarh, delivered the keynote address.
Prof Tarlok Singh introduced the theme of the seminar. Prof AJS Bhanwer of the human genetics department presented the vote of thanks.
Delivering his lecture on "Food security: A multi-dimensional crisis requiring GM technology for solution", Prof Chahal said that at present 29 countries were growing genetically modified (GM) crops and more and more developing countries were adopting this technology. He said that with free movement of food items from other countries growing GM crops, GM food was already here in India. "The ban on testing of GM crops will put India at a great disadvantage in terms of augmenting the availability of food for achieving food security," said Chahal.
He said that it was desirable to follow the Swiss model, where cultivation of GM crops had not yet been allowed, but the Swiss government had created "secure zones" for testing of GM crops to generate data on the performance of such crops.
Chahal said that testing of crops evolved through GM technology in India should not be banned and there was also a need to strengthen the regulatory system, including bio-safety regulations. He said this technology had immense potential to overcome the problematic constraints which were difficult to overcome with conventional techniques.
"It will greatly help in achieving the targeted agricultural growth rate of 4% in the 12th plan as well as meeting the growing demand for food in the future in wake of the country's burgeoning population," he added.
Prof Brar, in his presidential address, expressed concern over the use of pesticides in farming. He said that organic farming should be encouraged for the sake of humanity.
In the technical session, Prof RK Khetarpal delivered his lecture on "Bio-safety of GM crops: National status and key challenges". Dr Gurinderjit Randhawa presented her talk on "New generation crop technologies for food security" and Dr Jagdeep Singh Sandhu spoke on "Transgenic crops: Safety assessment and risk management". Dr Baljinder Singh Nandra delivered a lecture on "Role of GM crops in sustainability of food and fibre crops".