Sunday, November 04, 2012

I am against to hunger and poverty, not to the technology

Achieving Food and Nutritional security is not easy task, we need to try every option either genetically Modified (GM) or Conventional. The food grains which are cultivated today are not absolutely wholly natural, most of them are altered and hybridized by selective breeding or chemicals or Viruses. We need to depend on modern technologies to get bumper yields, drought tolerant and disease tolerant crops for growing food needs. The government and the progressive thinkers should focus on public understanding on Agriculture technology research.

I am not against to the technology ...but especially in food crops part we have some concerns about safety of human health and environment. We already have so many conventional verities of food crops for centuries which contain rich health & nutrition values.  The agritech researchers are mentioning that the GM food contains same nutritional values as non GM, then why we need GM Food crop?! why can’t our researchers develop new verities by hybridization and natural selection instead of genetically engineering? Food security is not only providing food for all but also the bio - safety must be ensured, the bio technology  has to develop the food crops without compromising safety and regulatory aspects.  

The BT Cotton was developed and introduced in India in 2002 and still the farmers have mixed opinions on the crop. Monsanto claims that the BT cotton  plays a beneficial role in increase of production and reduction of  the costs of cultivation. But the farmers are complaining that the cost of cultivation has been increased comparatively with the traditional verities and the yield per acre did not increase. We have reports on livestock dying allegedly on consuming Bt cotton plants and Farm workers are suffering with allergies including rashes, itches, and irritations while working in GM crop fields. The mainstream scientific community argues that all safety tests have been done but there is no systematic research to address this serious problem.

In India, there are a lot of apprehensions associated with GM foods chiefly relating to the safety aspects both for the environment and for human health. There are fears that novel genes and genetic constructs could escape into the environment and create monster plants like weeds that cannot be destroyed or new, recombinant pathogens like bacteria and virus for which there are no cures. That is the reason there is a strong appose on BT Brinjal and the protesters are claiming that the  BT brinjal is a threat to plant biodiversity, flaws in the data on the gene inserted into the brinjal, no long-term toxicity and cancer-safety tests were done which leads to kidney and liver damage. The technology needs improvement and the safety aspect will have to be tested far more rigorously before it can be declared that GM crops are indeed a safe source of food.

The GM companies should focus their R&Ds on the crops like drought tolerance, salinity tolerance and alkaline tolerance. Farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation since most of the  cultivatable lands have been converted to non agriculture purposes. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought , high salt/alkaline content in soil will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable lands. Ethanol based Transgenic Sugarcane, maize and sugar beet crops have to be developed for support Bio fuels instead of fossil fuels. Genetically Engineered Tobacco plants are required for medical use. Modified Subabul, Eucalyptus and Bamboo plants are required more tonnage for paper production. We expect the crop science  or agriculture research  outputs should be safe for human health and environment. The safety tests and systematic research should be conducted under regulatory measures before launching any crop which is genetically engineered. I am  against to hunger and poverty, not to the technology.