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Updated: September 7, 2013 00:05 IST

Keep the pause button on GM pressed

Jack A. Heinemann
Comment (35)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Questioning a technology, especially of the kind that has serious unknowns and lacks clear social benefits, is not an attack on science

Jairam Ramesh, former Environment Minister for India, made the brave decision in 2010 to tell his then apex regulator of genetically modified organisms (GEAC) that it had failed to properly use available science to determine the safety — to human health and the environment — of Bt brinjal, created using genetic modification (GM). His decision followed careful evaluation of the science.

I was involved in Ramesh’s review. I read first hand the scientific evidence in my area of expertise provided to the GEAC and its responses. I was heartened to see that his decision was validated by the esteemed scientists that made up the Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee who have advised the Court on the need for better research and better process before continuing to release GM crops into the environment or using them as food.

Creating confusion

G. Padmanaban (“Sow the wind, reap a storm,” The Hindu, September 2) believes that the events surrounding the evaluation of Bt brinjal and now extending to other kinds of GM plants is an assault on science. He confuses science with technology. Science is the process of knowledge creation (or discovery) whereas technology is the means of knowledge application. This confusion causes some scientists to defend technologies that are questioned because they perceive questions on the technology as an attack on science. It is not.

There is much knowledge discovered or to be discovered that cannot be applied wisely — at least not now. GM plants are among the technologies that have both serious scientific unknowns and lack a clear social benefit — at least for now.

For over 30 years, GM has been promised to produce plants that will resist the stresses of drought, heavy metals and salt, that will increase yield, reduce the use of toxic pesticides and even fix their own nitrogen. To be fair, some GM crops have reduced the use of some toxic insecticides for a brief period. To be precise, though, none of these promises has been sustainably delivered to farmers.

Why not? Well, it isn’t complex regulation holding them back. By the year 2005, over 1,000 applications were approved to field trial stress-tolerant GM plants in the United States alone. None ever progressed out of the testing phase. The explanation for this is likely because stress tolerance is not a solution to the causes of stress. No matter how tolerant you make the plant to drought, using it in soil low in organic matter and unable to hold water will eventually further deplete the soil of moisture and the plant will struggle or die. GM is an attempt to use genetics to overcome the environment. This never works for long. That is why some call GM a distraction from investing in real solutions to the problems faced by real farmers.

A symptom

Herbicide use is increasing in the U.S. since it adopted GM maize (corn), soybeans and cotton. Insecticide use is down by a small bit, but extremely high compared to countries such as France which do not use GM crops. Western Europe’s maize yields match or exceed the U.S.’ yields using less pesticide. The yields in wheat and oilseed rape are increasing at an even faster rate in Western Europe than in the U.S. and Canada. This indicates a dangerous trend: those countries choosing to innovate in agriculture using GM are demonstrating lower productivity increases and greater dependence on chemical inputs in all crops compared to economically and environmentally comparable countries choosing to not use GM crops.

What is it about investing in GM products that seems to undermine other technologies in agriculture? GM products attract the strictest intellectual property (IP) rights instruments possible in agriculture (e.g., process patents). The use of those instruments concentrates investment and drives out simple but even more effective technologies.

Now every government research centre and public university seeks to compensate for the fall in direct public investment through licensing royalties from IP and the creation of partnerships with the private sector. This necessarily changes the kinds of questions they favour being asked by their researchers, the kind that will be supported by institutional resources or rewarded with promotion. With these policies in place we shouldn’t be surprised that every problem looks like it has a GM solution even to researchers who claim to have no entrepreneurial motivations.

Prof. Padmanaban’s ambition for a crop that provides all nutritional needs and grows everywhere demonstrates the poverty of the GM approach to hunger and malnourishment. Such a crop would quickly become obsolete as it would also serve as a wonderful meal for every conceivable form of pest. Meanwhile, it would undermine both biological and agricultural diversity as it became a weed in its own right.

Instead of that approach, supporting communities with education on nutrition and farmers with technologies that build up their soils, manage pests with little or no application of pesticide and manufactured fertilizers gives them the means and independence to grow a variety of crops and livestock to meet their dietary needs and sell their surplus in local markets.

This investment in agriculture is not as good at making intellectual property, but better for growing food. To properly support India’s mainly small holder farming requires removing the penalties and incentives on the public scientist to develop primarily technologies that bring direct revenue to their institutions. Instead, invest in them with public money and measure their success by the yields of farmers, the reduction of pesticides and fertilizer they use, and the increase in their wealth and health.

No missed opportunities

India is not missing out on the benefits of GM. So far, there haven’t been any proven to exist, or proven to be sustainable. GM crops are not designed to increase intrinsic yield and the largest scale and longest term studies bear out that they don’t yield more. Meanwhile, the cost of GM seeds is the fastest growing expense for U.S. farmers who are simultaneously suffering from weeds resistant to the herbicides excessively used on GM crops and pests resistant to the insecticides over-used in Bt crops. That likely would be India’s experience had it commercialised Bt brinjal which was developed with the least effective form of Bt for the target pest.

In addition, the safety issue still lingers over these products. It shouldn’t. The science needed to establish their safety exists and is affordable but it must be applied dispassionately and transparently. That is all Jairam Ramesh asked.

Claiming that GM crops are demonstrated safe by the absence of specific health claims from Americans is glib. There are no validated health surveillance programmes in the U.S. which could both detect and diagnose the cause of the most likely manifestations of harm if they do exist.

Meanwhile, more research studies accumulate with evidence of adverse effects, some quite serious. These studies require replication, but they run into roadblocks or fail to find new funding. Most often these studies report low level health effects using animal feeding studies, so it is not clear whether the effect would be the same, more or less in humans and more or less likely to be caused using GM plants cooked and processed, as humans eat them, rather than raw or processed the way they are provided to test animals.

Hunger, pestilence, and economic failure are the images of fear increasingly being used to drive acceptance of GM crops. Ignorance, anti-science, ideology and hypocrisy are the insults used to counter questions about the safety of GM crops coming from scientists and the public. What is right for India’s agriculture is too important a question to leave to fear and insult to decide. I think that both Ramesh and the scientists of the Technical Expert Committee knew this when they asked India to pause on the use of GM products. Pause so that all voices can be heard. Reflect on what the problems are and whether technologies solve them or mask them for a time, or even make them worse later.

(Professor Jack A. Heinemann is Director, Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

More In: Lead | Opinion

This lucidly expressed science at its best. It puts the spotlight on
the truth of GM crops and Prof. Heinemann has the authority to do it.
He is a leading international expert in GM risk assessment (RA)
protocols. Prof. Heinemann’s analyses reveal G Padmanaban's wholesale
deviation from the science and empirical evidence of GM crops.
Unfortunately for India, he has the support of very powerful politics
and people. There is the dark co-operation with the US to release GM
crops into Indian agriculture as official government policy. This
policy is headed and driven by the Indian PM and the PMO, along with
long-time GMO supporter Mr Sharad Pawar. Mr Pawar no longer pretends
to hide his support of a technology that profits from IPRs. It is
indeed strange that Monsanto and the ‘Industry’ have our government on
their side. Surely this tells its own tale? Prof Heinemann provides a
pretty accurate picture of the nature of the ‘storm’ which will
overtake India if we listen to G Padmanaban.

from:  aruna rodrigues
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 17:11 IST

Heinemann and also his anti-GM activists repeatedly hail Jairam
Ramesh for announcing a moratorium on Bt-brinjal in Feb 2010 and
since then they have been celebrating the event every year as if it
is their own victory! If they have so much faith in Jairam Ramesh,
let them also realize that he told emphatically in several public
meetings that Bt-cotton is a great success and it significantly
benefited the Indian farmers, and that opposition to it is not
justified. Yet, the opponents continue to ignore his positive
remarks and selectively quote him to suit their own ideology. If this
technology ‘lacks clear social benefits’ as claimed by Heinemann, the
number of Indian farmers adopting Bt-cotton would not have increased
from 20,000 in 2002 to over 6.5 million in 2012. Our farmers are wise
and they have simply ignored all the misinformation spread by the
anti-GM activists. In fact, they are looking forward to for more Bt
crops.

from:  TM Manjunath
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 15:34 IST

Truly agree with the last comment, both sides claim completely opposite
observations about GM crops. The factual information rich article would
be the best to decide the goods and evils of the technology.

from:  Praveen
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 22:18 IST

Dr.Heinemann,

My field is membrane biochemistry and biophysics with a focus on the interface between the plant plasma membrane and the cell wall; specifically, on phase transitions in the lipid bilayer and non-lamellar phases during stress and pathogen challenge. Much of my work is conducted in tandem with bioinformatics and genomics, that helps us elucidate the physiology and biochemistry behind what we strive to answer. I hope you will agree that I am submerged in the field on which you freely comment, without being involved with the commerce, the politics or personal scientific profit.

Therefore, any criticism directed at you is solely because of your unwarranted and deliberate obfuscation that I find sadly disingenuous in a teacher. You speak to a readership that is largely unfamiliar with the minutiae of a subject that is extraordinarily complex.

Is this within your core competence?

Take for example the Indian eggplant, to be continued in a subsequent post, if mods permit?

from:  Gautam
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 19:52 IST

When the financial crisis of 2008 happened we suddenly discovered the "too big to fail" phenomenon. There is a flip side to that which can be termed "too big to try".
A good example of that is a nuclear disaster. How many today know that the crippled Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan is 'leaking' 300 tons of highly radio-active water into the sea every single day ? Is that going to end in the near future - NO. Is that going to end at all - no one seems to care.. There never was any plan B.
So when GM goes haywire, remember, there is no plan B.
What is common to both is , as radition, effect of GM will also remain invisible - therefore ignorable....
We as a species are going down in a history that no one will be around to read as having scripted our own destruction.
Maybe that's what evolution is - or how it ends...ha ha

from:  P Vijaya Kumar
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 08:49 IST

The author beautifully describes the conundrum public sector scientists are facing. Ever shrinking public funds and the glorified solution to that - public private patnership and licensing. I fully agree with him on his lucid explanation of science and technology. As a scientist I am all for more public funded research in this area but as a technocrat, for me, it is not ready yet and growing evidence suggests that it will never be without irreversible ill effects on environment and food safety. Jairam Ramesh is right in pressing the pause button. May be he is one of the least environmentally hostile [his hands were tied] environment ministers we ever had. Thanks to him. I may add one thing. In India much more research and investment is required in waste reduction, food processing, storage and distribution.

from:  josh
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 03:42 IST

Heads I win tail you loss. That is science for you.
News in US
FDA inform there is Arsenic in Brown rice. It future states that
Organic Arsenic is good by general Arsenic is bad. Traces of Arsenic
were found in some wheat based foods. FDA also say the more you refine
the rice the arsenic level drops.
Why does it take such a long time to find out these issues? GM product
are market by big Corporation, who finance scientist, politician,
economist.... right sir? There are tons of report on Green Revolution
in India. If Mr. Jack had read some of them I am sure he would have a
lot to add.
Finally GUESS WHAT .
"70% or e more, of the farm production are used to feed animal that
we consume".
Chicken which were 1-2kg is weight now it is 3-4kgs and what about Mad
Cow.... science for you!! There is enough farm product we need to get
our priority correct.
Ladies and Gentlemen we have to go back to our drawing board and think
hard.

from:  Chakaraborty
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 02:19 IST

Excellent article... Well articulated. If there is no relative benefit, if cost of gm seeds is high, if herbicide resistant weeds are growing at a rapid clip, if Europe with its GM free food is being more productive with lesser inputs..... Then why go for GM.... Why go for a tech that's not validated for its potential harmful effects... It's a no brainer to me..... GM companies should be kept off India.

from:  Eshu
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 01:32 IST

Its really sad to see that such a wonderful technological innovation has not been able to contribute to India's raising hunger even after allocating crores of rupees in budget every year. It is best to see where the wrong is happening by constituting experts committee and to make best possible correction. Giving farmer's the best knowledge of new technologies in agriculture will definitely enhance agricultural output. It takes lot of time to accept new technologies which replace the traditional feature in a country like India.

from:  K Venkatraman
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 01:12 IST

A stupendous analysis and articulation by the writer, clarifies most of the pov with a global oerspective, as the title flashes his name , he is best with his title . Professor

from:  Amit Thakkar
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 00:45 IST

very well written and appropriate answer to Prof Padmanaban.
Thanks Professor for this enlightening article.
Prof. Padmnabhan has not only confused technology for science as the author pointed out, but also "corporate science" with "people's science" as someone said in a comment to his article (sow the wind....)
We can not see science and technology in isolation from social and economic as well as environmental consideration. As far as Bt Brinjal is concerned, i am unable to understand what is need for it when we already have surplus production of brinjal in country. We need to rather work out a balance between local ecological conditions and GM technology. A universal GM crop is an absurd idea,how can something be most efficient in any environment ???
Its more like a weed to local crops. Specifically in India, there are many other areas, like size of fields, availability of credit, irrigation, post harvest processing and storage and so on, that can do much more to improve production.

from:  pradeep
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 00:25 IST

oh yeah Mr. Heinemann, we should keep away from GM foods while your
western world keeps on increasing the productivity gap with us using
these same technologies!! What is safe for US, China, Brazil, and now
Europe, suddenly becomes unsafe for Indians!! Currently our
productivity in most of the crops is less than one-fifth of western
(even Chinese) countries. If we do not use the new technologies
available, your farmers will capture all the market with cheaper
crops. Why does your column feel like another sponsored column by some
vested powers to keep India poor and backward?!

from:  akumar
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 00:11 IST

The safety tests on GM foods conducted by their manufacturers are only
60 days long when independent scientists conduct more long term studies
a whole range of serious adverse affects are produced.There is huge
pressure by powerful companies to discredit.dismiss any reports of
adverse affects.

from:  susan sanchez
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 21:47 IST

In our country where no laws are enforceable, opting for GM crops and
field trials will go unchecked and unreported. More and more instances
of wrong claims of Monsanto are reported and even USA is getting
worried.
Mr.Jairam has stood against great pressure of 'interested'scientists
lobby and politically powerful lobby who probably found gold in
allowing GM crops and field trials.
Thank you Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Mr. Heinemann, Ms. Vandana Shiva and
several others who saved our farmers from losing their livelihood.

from:  Chandran Avinjikat
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 21:19 IST

It can be accepted that we should not bring GM crops in consumption
before we become fully aware of pros & cons of them but as our
population is going upwards in a pace manner, necessary steps should be
taken to increase our productivity so that we may able to tackle the
growing demand of food grains. It should be understood that we have
undertaken our maximum possible land under cultivation but productivity
of that is very poor. So the only remedy to this is think about such
methods as present option of GM crops are showing.

from:  Abhishek Soam
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 20:23 IST

I am amazed that Jack Heinemann, an expert on GM technology has not
understood science and technology has developed in biotechnology field
in the past thirty years. As in any R&D endeavor, biotech research
has given major breakthroughs in the last three decades, and many are
on the anvil. Lot more unique GM crops would have reached the market
place, but for the overbearing regulations, which he and his cohorts
have been trying to increase through their baseless "scientific"
arguments. No one in the mainstream science accepts the so called
"scientific" objections Jack Heinemann keep raising. Even his country
New Zealand, has rejected the "scientific" opinion of the likes of
Jack Heinemann. Heinemann does not find a chance in any country that
has strong scientific and regulatory bodies. That's why he is teaming
with Indian anti-biotech NGOs to deny modern biotechnology to the poor
Indian farmers who need all the more science and technology they can
get hold of.

from:  Shanthu Shantharam
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 20:08 IST

Delayed effects of GM crops are unknown and untested, so Dr.
Heinemann is advising caution, which is exactly what one should
adopt before taking irreversible steps. Permitting a GM crop
amongst natural is as irreversible as chemotherapy. There will be
vulnerabilities in the system as it adopts GM crops. It can be a
boon if these vulnerabilities are identified beforehand,
otherwise it can be one of the largest busts !
And so, once again I agree with Dr. Heinemann, caution is
necessary. Let there be studies and more numerous than any drug
trial because EVERYONE is going to be affected by this, not just
the farmer who chooses to use the GM seeds.

from:  swanand
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 19:13 IST

When Prof. Padnabhan gave the example of China engaging so many PhDs in the
agritechnology research and India so little to emphasize his point for "missing out"
the so-called opportunity of using GM crops, it became evident that the article was
written desperately without any consideration for the 1.21 billion people of India.
Prof. Heinemann has aptly explained all the points and have many valid questions reagrding GM seeds. This GM technology is so powerful that if we will grab this "opportunity" without thinking about the future, there won't be any future.

from:  Vinci
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 19:11 IST

The GM’s supporters’ infectiously and contagiously pervasive logic for
the import of the GM technology was, “we are importing televisions,
computers, healthcare products, textile machinery, wireless products
and many more, why not also import the GM crops. AND THE GM CAME INTO
India, unabated, with honors.
Do we have an or any answer for stability of the inserted 'foreign DNA
sequence(s), their effects on and interactions with conditioned
stabilized whole host DNA?
What experiences does anyone in the whole of 7 billion world
population has in the risk assessment of GM Technology? The wisest
and the most superlative assessment can never visualize unpredictable
risks. Our abilities on risk assessments of the GMOs are merely and
humbly based on the knowledge of the present science of the lab based
technique of genetic engineering, certainly not at the level of the
infinite magnitude of nature,and time span.

from:  Dr D C sastri
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 18:21 IST

GM as a solution evolved while addressing a particular cause like more
yield in times of depleting stock or when stressed for natural resources
and hence naturally it is time bound. But sincerely is anybody able to
control commercial exploitation of such interventions? the idea of pause
button is very relevant while addressing preservation and conservation
of soil and water.

from:  nirmala narayanan
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 16:39 IST

thanks to Prof Heinemann for giving a detailed scientific rationale
for the debate on GM crops. This is very important at this point of
human history when we have reached a very critical stage of soil
degradation, loss of biodiversity, compromised human health,
increasing poverty, corporates taking control over land , food and
agriculture, petrol price shooting up on one side and on the other
side people led ecological, biodiversity based , sustainable
agriculture development happening in a big way , even in developed
countries. We can not lose one more chance towards sustainability and
food security.

from:  usha
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 15:55 IST

Points raised by Dr. Heinemann on food safety of GM crops are valid, that is why there are bio-safety evaluations on GM crops world over before environmental release. Also, this is why GM crops have proven to be one of the safest. If the purpose of having Pause button on is to improve regulation then TEC should have suggested specific time bound measures to improve the regulations. Having Pause button on for ever amounts to pushing the Stop button, which is detrimental to the science led agricultural development of India. It only helps the very forces that anti-GM groups claim to be fighting against, apart from the bio-safety issues. If GEAC did not do its job properly then what step was taken to correct it? Was the matter investigated, GEAC reconstituted, wrong doers punished for failing to do their duty? Ministry repeatedly over ruling decisions taken by its own committee of scientific experts shows that politics has overtaken science. Why not make Mr. Heinmann chairman of the GEAC?

from:  Nagendra Kumar Singh
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 15:19 IST

There is a historic divide between US and Europe in science and technology.Despite the
divide American grown and processed GM canola and soybean oils are used all over the
Globe.China is now leading in acreage under GM crops including rice.Biofortified
rice, modulated non-leguminous crops,bio-remediated crops and inter generic DNA
recombinants are finding place in agriculture.There are a large number of new generation
drugs based on recombinant DNA technology.Nuleotides(nucleocide + phosphorous) are
common to all and to that extent common origin of organisms.What India want is adequate
quantity of food to feed its 1300 million people by 2020 especially 850 million by subsidized
grains.The rhetoric from Europe ,the combined population of UP,Bihar,North Eastern
states,is not of relevance to India.India may learn from China at least in food production.The
debate may continue but not at cost of hungry.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 15:17 IST

Prof. Jack Heinemann in this article hits the nail on the head. Riding
on fears and insults, GM industry is in fact becoming a major block in
innovations and initiatives to produce more. The economic burden on
the average Indian farmer is likely to increase if there is a growth
in usage of proprietary technologies, as experience with Bt cotton
proves. Per acre investment on seed has increased from a mere 6
percent to a whopping 40 percent in recent years.
It is time that government heeds to good advice. His advice captures
the essence of what needs to be done: "supporting communities with
education on nutrition and farmers with technologies that build up
their soils, manage pests with little or no application of pesticide
and manufactured fertilizers gives them the means and independence to
grow a variety of crops and livestock to meet their dietary needs and
sell their surplus in local markets."
He also cogently captures the dilemma of public research.

from:  Narasimha Reddy
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 15:12 IST

None of the objections raised has any bearing to an approval process.
If GM isn't efficient or effective, farmers won't use them - like any
other product or service. Approvals aren't about guaranteeing
efficiency. The typical strike ratio of successful development of
drugs is 1:1000 to 1:10000. So what is cited as a glitch, is a normal
research process. All the feel good about organic is largely presented
like a "don't eat eggs" reason. The author thinks it isn't good for
you, so don't eat them. Perfectly okay as an opinion, but the purpose
of review is to move away from such decision making.

from:  Prasanna
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 14:29 IST

Superb article, says all that needs to be said about the failed technology of GM. The
GM juggernaut is driven by irrational fearmongering and there are better and more
sustainable and affordable solutions for all the 'problems' GM is claimed to solve.

from:  Dave Woods
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 12:59 IST

Prof. Heinemann has given a lucid presentation of his "wise" counsel
on the difference between "mitigation" and "solution" for the
problems of farmers. GM cropping at best is a mitigating path in
trying to create stress resistant crops....real solution lies in
managing the stress to the crops, be it drought or salt or
insufficiency of nutrients. Pest resistance using GM though useful,
again has to be effective in the long term without harmful side
effects. To sum up "The sad fact of todays life is that science
gathers knowledge faster than humans gather wisdom - Isaac Asimov".

from:  venkat
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 12:14 IST

Prof. Heinemann,s recommendations are well suited for his mother country New Zealand and other advanced ones like the West which have the luxury of plentiful land, low populations and favourable climates for growing their preferred crops. India,s case though is hopelessly different. An unbridled population growth, poor agriculture production, wasteful agro practices, shift of agro labour from fields to urban centres for livelihood. All this makes for a compelling reason for technological innovations to be introduced as soon as possible. Yes, if the West is ready to subsidize our food grains and oil seeds, pulses etc. we can assure them of using only organic farming methods, closing down our agriculture institutes(not that any significant discoveries/inventions have come out from them)
,however such things are fantasy!

from:  s mohan
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 11:51 IST

Though green revolution has been gift of technology to India but yield
of the crops can be increased with simply providing infrastructure like
irrigation facilities,and enriching the farmer with awareness about
natural factors like soil quality, and natural processes like
leaching,rain pattern etc. Genetically modified crops are outcome of
artificial evolution which can cause many unknown concerns to future
generation.Thus it is better to follow natural evolution especially in
food crops...

from:  anoop kumar bhardwaj
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 11:23 IST

I beg to differ on this opinion.if we are not investing time and money on developing newer technology as in GM ,how can current agricultural practices cater to increased urbanisation and growing population? Alternatives to conventional breeding n farm practices is a must. science n technology should be supported by the government as we have seen huge success of bt cotton in India.

from:  Vidya
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 10:02 IST

Developing GM crops looks analogous to killing the goose that lays golden eggs. Shouldn't spoil the little natural farming left in Indian villages by introducing GM crops there. Introducing supportive financial plans and enriching soil quality and water resources are more sustainable ideas than GM crops.

from:  Vetri Kumaran
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 09:08 IST

It is a very fine article selected by the Hindu. There is need of extensive study of merits and
demerits of use of GM crops.

from:  AnujKumar
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 07:32 IST

Congratulations to Dr Heinemann and the Hindu for pointing to the real drivers of the GM technology.It helped clear the muddiness those public sector scientists like Padmanabhan brings to the simple straightford debate on are GM crops required? Are they safe? Are there other more vialble alternatives? The answer for the first 2 seems to be in the negative at the moment and the last one in the affirmative.Dr Heinemann also brings to the table one of the key issues that one confronts not just in India but across the world,that of evershrinking public sector investment in S&T research.This has lead to these areas being opened up for private capital or making these public sector institutions vie with private capital/interests in the market place.The casuality, as one sees in the case of GM crops, is both of science and of technologies which are suitable for the farmer.GM crops at the moment seem to be solutions looking for problems and more for sustained profits of the technology developer

from:  Rajesh Krishnan
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 06:57 IST

Self-reliance in Indian agriculture is a must given the demography of
agrarian population. Given the socio-economic dimension, there is no
substitute for indigenous efforts to maintain soil health and
fertility, water use efficiency and such related issues critical for
sustained productivity. The productivity of crops across the country
is sub-optimal. GM technology alone is not a solution to bridge this
yawning gap. Our investment in these key areas is vital for long term
sustainable benefits. I agree with the emphasis given to this aspect in
the article. Access to indigenous varieties of cotton must not be
denied. The failure to monitor the requirement of refugee crops is
worrying. We should not allow corporate monopoly of indigo type
cultivation to enslave us. We should not lose time in accepting a
transparent and robust system of evaluation and regulation of GMOs for
their safety to human and animal health, biodiversity and environment,
and their efficacy in India.

from:  C Devakumar
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 04:30 IST

both sides in this debate say diametrically opposite things (more yield-less yield, more pesticide-less pesticide, health issues-none at all). I think it wouldnt kill these writers to give the supporting data with the sources based on which these claims are made. There are two possbilities here: Either the answer is already known or nobody can prove one way or the other which is better. Why not present the peer reviewed data to the reading public. I think the devil is hiding in the detail here.

from:  ashokr
Posted on: Sep 7, 2013 at 02:08 IST
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