Not withstanding the controversy that raged over the introduction of Bt brinjal and the government's moratorium on it, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sees future in transgenic crops for the welfare of combat troops in high altitudes.
Delivering the keynote address at a seminar on “Futuristic food requirements of the armed forces” organised by the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) here on Thursday, W. Selvamurthy, DRDO scientist and Chief Controller, R and D (Life Sciences), said although it was controversial in certain areas, the DRDO was looking at it for specific and limited applications. He said providing fresh food for army personnel entailed cultivation in areas where water was scarce, in high altitude and in cold regions such as Ladakh. Hence the DRDO was looking at transgenic crops and hybrid variety as a solution and was experimenting on tomatoes to overcome the problem. The transgenic tomato would be subjected to field trials and cultivated. But it would be analysed for safety and subjected to tests.
Dr. Selvamurthy said the challenges of providing fresh food to troops in sub-zero conditions were enormous and the DRDO, which not only provided weapon systems but also worked on nutrition aspect of the troops, had made several innovations in this field.
“We not only formulated the calorific requirement of troops in different terrains but also their composition such as vitamins, carbohydrates and so on,” said Dr. Selvamurthy who pointed out that the DRDO had formulated 18 ration scales based on altitude and other parameters.
Major General B.P. Tiwari, Deputy Commandant, ASC Centre and College, Bangalore, in his inaugural address, underlined the importance of nutritional requirement of combat troops and quoted Napolean Bonaparte who said an army marched on its stomach.