"Do you want to have an agriculture in which one company controls 95% of seeds?"
This was Union minister Jairam Ramesh's poser to experts in the areas of nutrition and agriculture in New Delhi as he doubted whether the move to link both the sectors will encourage GM food.
He raised this question to a packed audience during the launch of 'Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition' - a comprehensive set of papers published in the month of June in 'The Lancet' two days ago. The series has a chapter linking nutrition and agriculture.
Ramesh, who put a moratorium on Bt Brinjal in 2010 during his stint as environment minister, also struck another note of caution on GM foods, saying, "The step from recognising the importance of agriculture in nutrition to making a case for genetically engineered GM crops is a very small step." He said that one should recognise the fundamental distinction between the first green revolution and today's green revolution.
While the first green revolution which was publicly funded and delivered saw the wheat and rice varieties coming from Cimmyt in Mexico and Iri in Philippines respectively, today's crop varieties are not coming from Monsanto and Syngenta - the two major sponsors of GM foods.
"That is a completely different ball game. I would personally be a little wary about this whole agriculture and nutrition. Because that opens the doors for advocates and champions of transgenics on which I believe we must be very careful about," Ramesh has said.
Continuing his opposition to the GM crops in India, the Minister has said, "It is a step that is ..that can be taken... I think one has to be careful here."
"Because it is very mesmerising and very seductive to have rice which is fortified with vitamin A, a wheat which is fortified with iron and all the wonderful things that have come out with through transgenetic techniques," he had said.