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Updated: March 10, 2014 10:00 IST

ICAR stresses GM technology for Kerala

T. Nandakumar
Comment (11)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Swapan K. Dutta
Swapan K. Dutta

Biotechnology and genetic engineering would assume a greater role in the battle against pathogens and plant diseases that caused crop loss: Swapan K. Dutta

Kerala cannot afford to overlook the potential of Genetically Modified (GM) crops to emerge as a substitute for toxic chemicals used against plant parasites in polyhouse cultivation, Swapan K. Dutta, Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has said.

Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the National Biennial Group Meeting of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Nematode pests here earlier this week, he said states like Kerala that were increasingly turning to protected cultivation could no longer ignore the benefits of genetic engineering for pest and disease control.

Dr. Dutta said biotechnology and genetic engineering would assume a greater role in the battle against pathogens and plant diseases that caused crop loss. “The controlled conditions that help to optimise crop production inside a polyhouse are conducive for pests as well, forcing farmers to use toxic chemicals for control. Through genetic engineering, the plant itself develops protection against pathogens. That way you avoid toxic chemicals. States like Kerala will soon have to pay attention to GM technology”.

Highlighting the potential of plant genetic resources, he said, “In nature, plants continuously try to defend themselves against hundreds of thousands of pathogenic bacteria and nematodes. If scientists can understand the genes that plants activate against pathogens or diseases, it will be a million dollar discovery with potential impact on plant as well as human health. Understanding the resistance mechanism of the gene could provide a breakthrough in disease control”.

Terming Kerala’s move to switch over to organic farming as a political gimmick, Dr. Dutta said it had no meaning. “It is not possible for a whole State to make the switch to organic farming. Our experiments show that organic farming will not give sustainable production and high productivity”.

Observing that farmers in Kerala, like their counterparts elsewhere in the country, used subsidized fertilizers and other chemicals, Dr. Dutta noted that there were some niche areas like speciality and high-value fruits and vegetables that could be kept organic. “Organic farming helps in increasing soil fertility. But to keep production and productivity high, you need to have other fertilizers”.

Dr. Dutta said plant-parasitic soil nematodes, a microscopic variety of worms, constituted a major threat for protected cultivation of fruits, vegetables and flowers. “Surveillance, monitoring and pest management assume more importance in protected cultivation.”


Panel reapproves GM food crop field trialsMarch 22, 2014

People opposed to science in agriculture for the benefit of farming are opposing mostly because of non-scientific reasons.

Posted on: Mar 11, 2014 at 14:10 IST

Good comments have come from the elite readers of Hindu mostly Malayalees.The ICAR being a Central Government Organization should take a note on these comments.Organic farming is not a new concept in Kerala.The Pokkali rice cultivation stretching from Alleppy to Malapuram is organic fully and completely.The black pepper and cardamom are organic in many plantation.Speciality rices like Njavara,Gandaka sala and Jeerakasala are organic.The Idukki based Peerumedu Development Society markets organic tea, coffee and medicinal plants.Wynadu and Idukki districts were declared organic by the Government.But the follow up was not effective.The kitchen garden concept practiced in Kerala is intended to reduce the use of pesticides.Incidence of cancer due to excessive pesticide use is on a higher level.The emphasis of 2014 as year of family farming is on kitchen/nutrition garden.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Mar 11, 2014 at 09:38 IST

GM crops generate no seeds and if adopted, Indian farmers will be
forced to buy seeds for every crop season from foreign companies like
Monsanto. Arguably, most of our farmers are unaware of this! If Bt-
cotton was indeed an unmitigated success, why are farmers of the
cotton belt committing suicide? Ultimately, this country would
irrevocably lose its seed sovereignty. Just imagine, not only do we
lose our biodiversity, but we also depend on a greedy MNC for our food
– India as a country becomes a seed slave! At the very least, Indian
scientists should develop their own GM technology instead of
spinelessly depending on foreign sources, which surely at some point
will hold our country to ransom. Also, our food grain storage capacity
is already loaded to the maximum. So what's the rationale for GM? This
is all very very suspicious!

from:  Prof. B. Vinod Kumar
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 23:13 IST

This from Swapan Dutta is not at all surprising. He was involved in the Golden Rice project, a Vitamin-A rice, that interestingly has not cleared biosafety norms, inspite of such a huge propaganda saying this is needed for tackling night blindness. Now we know Vitamin A is abundant in many of our green leaves, papaya, carrots, fish etc, but ICAR prefers to ignore this knowledge.

He was member of the GEAC, that cleared Bt Brinjal with all the biosafety concerns and later it was put on a moratorium by the then MoEF in 2010. He was caught on a conflict of interest issue where he sat in a meeting that cleared a proposal of his own wife - Kabari Dutta, that too with a dangerous compromise on the biosafty norms. Now all these are known about him. He frequently shares media platforms with MNC and agri business lobbies to promore dangerous GM crops and Pesticides. Need I say more about him. He may be DDG of ICAR, but he is a threat to India's food security and soveriegnty.

from:  Sridhar R
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 22:25 IST

What's happening? have the Agriculture Minister, the Environment
Minister, the ICAR all become spokespersons for The-Company-Which-Must-
Ignoring Gandhiji's ideals that envisage self-reliance, we have been
made reliant on 'reliance'. So both the food you grow and the means by
which you can cook it for consumption are effectively going to be

from:  Bhaskaran
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 22:05 IST

It is ridiculous. I believe GM seeds is banned in parts or all of Europe and there is a rising tide against the same in North America. Why is ICAR pushing it here? One can surely smell a stink somewhere.

from:  MK
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 17:15 IST

Going through all these comments, it really appears as if its ICAR which needs to be genetically modified. The genes of ICAR require some real mutation, before it becomes a pest for the nation's biodiversity.

from:  CK Raju
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 16:20 IST

How conversant is ICAR with the following language - "Seed sovereignty is seen as an essential requirement for food sovereignty, which is defined as the right of each person, community, and nation to define its own agriculture and food policies and practices that will enable each entity to not just have food security, but also ensure that the food produced is environmentally sustainable, and socially just." That's Vandana Shiva making a very vital remark about right of a farmer. The pro-GM policies being promoted now will affect the right of an average farmer to assert her right over seed sovereignty. Its a shame that a premier research institution like ICAR has evolved to be ignorant of such fundamentals.

from:  Dr S Gayathri
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 16:14 IST

I have only one question for Dr Swapan K Dutta. If you have the technology to make modifications in genes, why doesn't ICAR concentrate its energy and focus on altering genetic code of pests ? Not many would complain if you do it. Why go behind this corrupt corporate logic ?

from:  Dr Prasad M
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 15:55 IST

We have surplus grains and record output every year. Why go in for GM?
we need to move away from inordinate amounts of mechanization. Because
we have increasing mouths to feed and increasing numbers of jobless
We need to go organic the traditional way, and not the laboratory-touted

from:  swarna
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 14:49 IST

Any conscious citizen would be bewildered to see how easily a public institution like ICAR gets influenced by a seed-control-corporate logic, and turns spokesperson for the market logic, suppressing many other aspects of food. A pest in the wild is a living organism. A human body has many bacteria inside it, whose task is to break the edible food passing by the internal intestines and other organs of human body. The edibility of food by pest, is a certificate that such food would be easily processed by the bacteria inside human body. By creating food that is not edible to pests, how can ICAR conclude that the bacteria inside the human body would be unaffected by such modified food ? Additionally, what risks to such genetically modified seeds extend to naturally available seeds of same species of food ? Will there be a cross-pollination leading to loss of reproductive capability of natural seeds ? A public institution like ICAR must clarify such facts first.

from:  RA Jumes
Posted on: Mar 10, 2014 at 10:19 IST
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