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Updated: April 15, 2014 22:58 IST

‘GM crop adoption needs more trials and a stronger approval regime’

Special Correspondent
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ITC Ltd. Agri & IT Businesses Group Head S. Sivakumar. File photo; Mohammed Yousuf
The Hindu
ITC Ltd. Agri & IT Businesses Group Head S. Sivakumar. File photo; Mohammed Yousuf

It has a lot of promise, says ITC Agri Business head Sivakumar

Even as the raging controversy over genetically-modified (GM) crops is refusing to subside, S. Sivakumar, Group Head – Agri & IT Businesses, ITC Ltd., has pressed the caution button.

In a free-wheeling interaction with select journalists from The Hindu Group of publications here on Tuesday, Mr. Sivakumar asserted that subject (GM crops) required more research work and improved approval regime.

Mr. Sivakumar’s observation comes even as the Indian government is trying hard to arrive at a scientific consensus for modified crops.

Instead of blindly opposing it, more research work should be allowed in terms of number of trials, he said. This especially was needed in the wake of claims that the GM crops were more resistant to the vagaries of climate change and higher productivity benefits, he pointed out.

“GM crops have a lot promise … though it is necessarily, it need not be the only solution. “Rather than saying that we will not consider GM and not even allow trials, work on two fronts has to happen concurrently – work on science must happen as well as efforts should go to strengthen approval protocols,” he pointed out.

One of the lacunas that really created all controversy in BT Brinjal’s case was the fact that approval happened despite insufficient independent trials and data, he said. Drawing comparisons with other markets, he noted that in countries like the U.S., all aspects including the role of government and intermediaries were dealt with clearly when GM crops were deployed. However, it was not the case in India, he said. He admitted that there was a serious challenge in creating the knowledge and know-how among the farmers about the importance of such modified crops and foods.

He pointed out that the past 10 years saw a much better growth of close to four per cent in agriculture amid more volatile weather conditions when compared to the preceding decade. He listed out four key areas where quick action was needed to boost agriculture namely use of technology, better policy framework in trade and marketing, enabling infrastructure and social subsidy-related policies.

Mr. Sivakumar also indicated that there was good progress in farm mechanisation, which also helped precision farming that led to better utilisation of natural resources, in the country. But the inflection point of mechanisation will probably occur in 2-3 years’ time, driven by a combination factors such as drudgery reducing and precision-related activities, and farmers’ shift towards non-farm works, among others.

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