Resistance to GM Crops: Activism Is Stifling the March of Science
Our scientists are in no way inferior to foreign scientists in many fields, as has been widely acknowledged. The fact is that in many countries, GM crops have been successfully developed and accepted by farmers and public alike. Obviously, the biosafety norms were followed before the release and field test.
A strict regulatory system is in place, which would examine all the data before approval of the GM crop. Rightly, the Government of India has also constituted a Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), with renowned subject experts on board.
The regulatory authorities comprising of experts drawn from different specialisations must be entrusted with the responsibility of correcting any results that might impact the health of human beings or animals.
The present controversy over GM crops owes more to the confusion being created by activists and politicians than to legitimate safety concerns. Virtually a fear psychosis has been created among farmers and public alike. Whatever concerns were raised by the activists have been answered by the scientists, keeping biosafety in mind, and critically examined by the regulatory authority.
Scientific issues must not enter the precincts of courts. Can the academic excellence of renowned scientists be subject to legal scrutiny?
If so, that would be a dangerous trend, as it will open the courts to endless cases in future. One hopes that the Supreme Court suggests that scientists solve the problem themselves, just as the court did in the case of Ram Mandir recently.
Hampering the Progress of Science
No science can progress in the country if political pressure is put on scientists. Outright condemnation of technology and confusing farmers is not a right approach.
The degradation of science does not augur well for the healthy development of any nation. Every idea deserves a fair trial and review for a reasonable period of time before the technology is withdrawn for fear of negative impact. The activists and politicians should understand that any biological system will have some problems which can be fixed.
Questions for the Activists
As an environmental activist, I have a couple of questions for the GMO activists.
If health is the main concern for activists, then why can’t they focus on other issues such as pollution levels, junk food, eateries prepared in the open, banned drugs being sold in the pharmacies, adulteration and water contamination?
How many of them know about the value of biodiversity lost in the country – plants, animals, insects, honey bees, birds, microbes due to indiscriminate cutting of trees? Be a holistic activist, not a selective one, and help the country progress.
So let the activists dispassionately introspect and allow GM mustard for the present generation, duly certified by authorities like the Indian Council of Medical Research. And don’t hesitate to withdraw the crop, which I am sure the scientists themselves would accept if there are defects, and thereby agree to abide by the regulatory authorities.
(Dr V Rajagopal is a distinguished scientist and former director, ICAR- CPCRI, Kerala and Founder President, Society for Hunger Elimination. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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