‘GM crops safe but not ultimate solution’

New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) Refuting claims that genetically-modified (GM) crops are hazardous or would be monopolised by multinational companies, scientists say the “controversial crops” are perfectly fine as well as a need of the hour.

“I support science and there had been all the required tests to prove that GM crops are safe and a step towards food security,” said Vibha Dhawan, Senior Director, New Initiatives and Programmes, at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

The scientist, along with another GM crop expert, Nutan Kaushik, however, added: “No technology is enough and final to ensure food security and safety. We have to keep finding new solutions.” She added that GM Mustard would be a step forward for “food oil security”.

Their comments came on the sidelines of the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) organised by TERI here, amidst speculation that GM Mustard would soon receive government approval.

The scientists, who are currently working on “Bio-pesticides” — non-chemical, non-harmful pesticides — also believed that the “anti-GM lobby” indulges in “fear-mongering”.

“The entire scepticism that the GM Mustard will be controlled by MNCs is wrong, It’s (the variant of GM Mustard) completely indigenous and is expected to be franchised by the public sector,” Kaushik said.

Dhawan, who had worked on the development of “Golden Mustard” — another GM variant with “Vitamin-A” efficiency — said that due to scepticism and bad publicity, a lot of “science” is either being ignored or discarded.

“In villages, we have many examples of people getting eye-related problems; it’s because their food has deficiencies. The right use of science would be to make their food nutrition-rich,” Dhawan said.

She said that because of bad publicity, of total endowment for a GM project, only 30 per cent is used on development while 70 per cent is spent on regulation and in spreading awareness among people.

“With Bt brinjal it would be 120 per cent instead of 70 per cent,” she said.

GM Mustard has been opposed by several activists and farmers, who claim that it would have ill-effects on health. the Union Ministry of Environment has, however, has said it is safe.

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the ministry on September 5 had invited public remarks on the safety aspects of the DMH-11 mustard variety developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants.

If approved, GM mustard would be the first genetically-engineered food crop in India.

The other GM crop, non-edible, in India is Bt cotton. The ministry earlier rolled back on Bt brinjal following resistance from the anti-GM lobby.



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