Nobel laureate Venkataraman ‘Venki’ Ramakrishnan on Monday came down heavily on those opposed to genetic modification of agricultural crops.
In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, he said there was definitely a need to be careful while dealing with GM crops with proper regulatory mechanism, but one should not ignore the tremendous potentials on offer such as in terms of developing drought resistant varieties and crops with more nutrients and with greater shelf life.
“India has to feed a large number of people. We can’t ignore the potentials of GM crops. We, no doubt, need to be careful, and have proper controls and effective regulations.”
He noted that varieties of wheat, rice and other crops that are cultivated today were developed over the centuries from the wild varieties through various man-made techniques of selection. “Genetic modification is just another tool for selection [developed scientifically].”
He rejected the argument of anti-GM groups and activists that GM crops are promoted by large multinationals and must, therefore, be opposed in the interest of the sovereignty of developing countries and to protect their small and marginal farmers.
“If needed, India and other countries can set up their own national agencies or institutions to ensure that genetic modification could be pursued independent of the MNCs. But, we can’t ignore the great potentials of GM crops. We can’t do without them. We should not mix up issues.”
A fellow of the Royal Society, Dr. Ramakrishnan is here for a series of lectures in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai and New Delhi. In Hyderabad, he will speak at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Birla Science Centre and the C.R. Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. In Bangalore, he will speak at the Indian Institute of Science and the National Centre for Biological Sciences. In Pune, he will deliver a lecture at the National Centre for Cell Science and the Indian Institute for Science, Engineering and Research and in Mumbai at the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research and University of Mumbai.
Asked whether he had plans to go in for collaborative research with Indian institutions and research groups, he reiterated that there was no scope for it in his field of study. “We are a self-contained team in Cambridge. The issue of collaboration would arise only if we lack in expertise in any area of our interest. There is no such need now.”
Asked about his future plans, Dr. Ramakrishnan said he was planning to learn about the latest developments in the area of electron microscopy. “There has been lot of interesting developments in electron microscopy in the last one to two years, particularly during the last one year, which would help us a great deal in our work. I plan to learn them.”