Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday urged agricultural scientists to double their efforts to remove all misgivings on genetically modified (GM) crops from the minds of policy makers and the public.

Inaugurating a two-day conference of Vice Chancellors of agricultural universities and meeting of Directors of Indian Council of Agriculture Research here, he said, “The recent decision on Bt. brinjal should not be seen as a setback to our efforts, but a challenge that we need to surmount.”

Mr. Pawar said the conventional technologies of agriculture were inadequate to meet the formidable challenges. The most compelling case for bio-technology and, more specifically transgenic crops, was their capability to increase crop productivity, lower production costs, conserve bio-diversity, use efficiently external inputs and improve economic and social benefits.

Referring to animal husbandry, he said the threat from trans-boundary animal diseases and epizoonotics hadincreased.

Crop-live stock farming

The Minister called for development of crop-live stock farming systems based on integrated food-fodder, breed health and bio-security management. “Socio-economic safety and environmental implications of these developments should be critically analysed to provide policy guidelines.”

Underlining the need for an alliance of ICAR-university and line departments of the State governments for creating an atmosphere of academic excellence, he called for development of models of all-round excellence in creating institutions of global standards. Requisite models of public-private partnerships must be evolved for educational activities as well as for development, application and flow of technologies from the laboratory to the market place.

Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas called for a big push to the higher education sector in agriculture and allied subjects. “Without working out the numbers and prioritising research engagement, especially in cutting edge areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and instrumentation in agriculture, historic momentum in agriculture cannot be fully sustained.”

Later, talking to journalists, he expressed the hope that food prices would fall after the rabi harvest.

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