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PM's science panel bats for GM crops

India's top science panel that advises the Prime Minister has said agriculture in the country has to rely, in part, on biotechnology. The view boosts genetically modified crops which is still a divisive issue. Zia Haq reports.

delhi Updated: Oct 11, 2012 00:36 IST
Zia Haq

India's top science panel that advises the Prime Minister has said agriculture in the country has to rely, in part, on biotechnology. The view boosts genetically modified crops which is still a divisive issue.

The Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister, headed by CNR Rao, said, unlike in Europe, India would face growing pressure on food. "This will require a judicious blend of traditional breeding and new technologies, non-transgenic & transgenic. This situation in developed countries such as in Europe; quite in contrast, as there is no dearth of food and a small proportion of people engage in agriculture," the panel said after a meet to assess the situation. It also questioned the ban on genetically modified brinjal.

India has proposed a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, which will be an overarching body to approve such technologies. Till the bill becomes law, the "current regulatory system for recombinant products administered under Rules (1989) of Environment Protection Act, 1986, should be reformed", Rao said.

Hordes of farm NGOs resist farm biotechnology but India's farm policy promotes GM crops in view of the country's precarious food situation.

"The PM's Scientific Advisory Council parroted corporate propaganda and failed to have an unbiased scientific approach on GM," the Greenpeace said, slamming the committee.

The country allowed GM cotton in 2002, after which output surged sharply, making it the second-largest cotton exporter. It, however, clamped an indefinite moratorium on the country's first genetically modified food crop - Bt brinjal.