After instant noodles row, activists question research on genetically-modified crops

  • Rameshinder Singh Sandhu, Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
  • Updated: Jun 11, 2015 23:54 IST

After the issue of Nestle Maggi instant noodles raised an alarm on the food we consume, now the agricultural experts, especially those, who favour natural farming have questioned the research on genetically modified (GM) crops being carried out by some agricultural universities. They feel instead of carrying out such research they should focus on natural farming, so that neither human health nor the environment suffers.

Some of them also raised questions on Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) that accepted transgenic cotton material from former Delhi University (DU) vice-chancellor Deepak Pantel on May 8 to develop new hybrid cotton varieties. PAU also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with DU for the same.

Ominder Dutt, executive director of Punjab-based Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) that promotes natural farming, said, “Giving green signal to GM crops and their research is an open invitation to several severe diseases. Infact, diseases are rising with every passing day as our agriculture sector which generates food for us is going far away from nature and natural methods.

Scientists forget that excess of everything is bad. If PAU will develop GM cotton varieties as gifted by Pantel, it will severely affect the soil, environment and eventually the health of the people due to the influence on environment. If it is worried about the human life and agriculture, PAU must return the material back to Pantel.”

Ajay Tripathi, director of KVM, said, “No one has forgotten that Pantel was also once imprisoned at Tihar Jail, New Delhi, for bio plagiarism, but despite that PAU has shown faith in him. Why can't PAU research on how to reduce chemicals in agriculture which is affecting health of human population?

A student of masters in development studies from Bangalore, Kartik Kwatra, who is currently doing training on natural farming in Punjab, said, “Public institutions are usually very less scrutinised and the source of such genetic materials in not known. In other words, PAU and other agricultural universities need to think twice if they go ahead with GM crop research developments. And, until and unless we will not leave artificial food, we will continue to face health problems.”

Jagmohan Singh, state secretary of Bharat Kisan Union, Punjab, said, “Several farming associations are against these crops as they cause harm to the human body in long run.”

Other than this several individuals also feel that all artificial foods and preserved items should also be checked thoroughly by respective state governments.

Former PAU vice-chancellor MS Kang and agricultural economist SS Johal said, “GM crops are developed through an erudite science and people should not have any fear regarding them. GM crops are no different than natural crops and do not affect human health.

Even in the US, research and cultivation on GM crops is very common. In fact, yield is higher with GM crops and can feed the rising population,” said Kang, while Johal said, “People must have faith in science and development. It is need of the hour. However, scientist must be very faithful in the entire process.”

PAU that hosted a seminar on GM crops on May 25 also stressed that people must have faith in new technologies.

PAU V-C BS Dhillon could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. Meanwhile, Maharashtra government has recently banned trail of GM crops (rice and chickpea) in the state after some anti-GM crop activists met Maharashtra CM Davendra Fadnavis.

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