Based on the important lessons learnt from the Bt brinjal case, it is important to systematically and constantly monitor genetically modified (GM) crops. There is need for an independent agency to evaluate and engage with public groups to assure complete transparency of relevant information and comprehensive evaluation and compliance, Member of the Planning Commission K. Kasthurirangan, said here on Wednesday.

Delivering the 32nd convocation address of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, he said though Bt cotton, the first GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in India, was grown on 80 per cent of the area under cotton in the country, much debate and controversy arose when approval was sought for commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal.

“The opposition came from a section of the scientific community itself, besides some environmental groups, pointing to risks in terms of presence of an unwanted transgene, which encodes resistance to certain antibiotics. Several lacunae were pointed out with the evaluation process. The controversy culminated in an indefinite moratorium for commercial cultivation,” Mr. Kasthurirangan said.

Pointing out major problems that continue to be of great concern in agriculture, he added that problems brought with them new opportunities and challenges. For many problems, solutions could be found from gene sources available in germplasms.

“Although we succeeded in raising the genetic yield level of major food grain crops through hybrid technology, we have failed in fully realising their inherent potential. Though many new technologies have been developed for rainfed regions, yield gaps continue to be very large. Our scientists must therefore work intensively to accurately assess the felt needs of our country,” he said.

Revenue, Relief, Rehabilitation, and Urban Land Ceiling Minister of Andhra Pradesh N. Raghuveera Reddy, and Chairman and Managing Director of Thiru Arooran Sugars Limited R.V. Tyagarajan, were conferred degrees of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by Governor K. Rosaiah, who presided over the convocation.

Agriculture Minister S. Damodaran instituted six new endowments.

As many 678 candidates received Ph.D., post-graduate and graduate degrees.