Independent and fulltime regulators should be appointed: Arjula R. Reddy

Genetically modified crops are often viewed with suspicion by the people, and hence there is a greater responsibility on the companies developing these transgenic crops to follow the laid down protocols in letter and spirit, former co-chairman of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), Arjula R. Reddy, said.

To ensure the safety of the transgenic crops and compliance of guidelines by companies there is an urgent requirement to appoint independent, fulltime regulators in the bodies like GEAC, he said.

Each crop has a potential to yield more than what it produces in a farm, and to feed the burgeoning population it is necessary to reduce the gap between potential yield and the farm yield. Genetic modification plays a crucial part in this process of increasing the yield, he explained.

Prof. Reddy was delivering the keynote lecture at an awareness workshop on Biosafety procedures for recombinants and genetically modified crops held here on Wednesday.

“Rice crops yield just 25 percent of their potential and wheat varieties produce just 18 percent of their potential. When compared to these, the latest maize varieties have a yield of about 75 percent of their potential. This indicates that farm output can be increased to a great extent,” he said.

If transgenic crops are dangerous for human consumption, the American population would have been affected by now as that country has been consuming high yielding transgenic varieties for many years, he pointed out.

Terming the questions being posed by few people on the safety of genetically modified crop varieties as mainly philosophic, Prof. Reddy said that the scientists should instead ensure that the newly developed molecule is what it is supposed to be.

“It is imperative for us to develop safe, but high yielding, genetically modified crop varieties. To ensure this we need a robust Biosafety testing setup and stringent regulatory framework,” Prof Reddy added. To ensure that a better regulatory setup is created, academics should start training some of their students in regulatory procedures, he suggested.

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