‘Revise Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill’

Agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan has stressed the need for revising the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, which will lapse along with the term of the present Lok Sabha, by incorporating bio-safety aspects and presenting a fresh Bill as soon as the new Lok Sabha begins its work.

Delivering his address at the convocation of the University of Agricultural Sciences Bangalore here on Sunday, he said, “While it may take time to set up a Parliament-approved national biotechnology and bio-safety regulatory authority, guidelines for safe field-testing of Genetically Modified crops should be developed immediately. Enforcement of procedures for the release of GM crops for commercial cultivation through the proposed Act may take time, but the field testing under well-defined safeguards should go on.”

“We should place in position a trial and safety assessment system which answers the concerns of anti-GM experts and environmental organisations,” Mr. Swaminathan said.

He observed that the present moratorium on field trials of GM crops was a handicap and disincentive in harnessing the benefits of the wide array of transgenic material currently available with various public and private sector research organisations and universities. Many of the GM crops waiting in the breeders’ assembly line had excellent qualities for resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses besides possessing improved nutritional properties.

Mr. Swaminathan said much of this work had been done by institutions committed to public good like the UASB and by brilliant young scientists, who were getting discouraged because of the lack of a clear official signal on the future of genetic modification.

“It takes nearly 10 years for a new variety to be ready for recommendation to farmers for commercial cultivation. Therefore speed is the essence in organising field trials and gathering reliable data on risks and benefits,” he observed.

Honorary doctorates

Governor H.R. Bhardwaj conferrred honorary doctorates on Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the US Agriculture Department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; former Union minister M.V. Rajasekharan; former deputy director-general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, C. Kempanna (in person); and ICAR Director-General S. Ayyappan (in absentia).

A total of 847 students received various degrees at the convocation including 59 doctoral degrees and 222 master degrees. As many as 129 gold medals were also awarded on the occasion.

UASB Vice-Chancellor K. Narayana Gowda presented a report on the overall achievements of the university in the present academic year and its future vision.

Minister of State for Agriculture Krishna Byre Gowda, who is the pro-chancellor of the university, was present.

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