CHENNAI: Nobel laureate Sidney Altman, who won the coveted prize in Chemistry in 1989 for co-discovery of the catalytic properties of the RNA, made a case for genetically modified foods here on Saturday.
It was very worthwhile to use genetically modified crops, Dr. Altman said. “If used appropriately, they do not present a great danger.” The GM strains could be used in areas, where there was a need for more food. He was responding to questions at the end of his lecture on “What business and society can learn from basic research,” delivered to a gathering of businessmen, educators and scientists convened by the Confederation of Indian Industry.
Dr. Altman cautioned against pushing bio-fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. “There is no indication that they will substitute fossil fuels,” he said.
On the other hand, it was documented that the prices of milk, maize and wheat have gone up enormously in countries that have replaced certain types of crops with bio-fuel crops.
The financial power of investors, when combined with the imagination of scientists, becomes a very powerful force, he said. There were several examples in South East Asia, especially in Singapore and Australia and China. A lot of money was being poured into scientific research in China, Dr. Altman added.
He also underlined the importance of knowledge of basic science. “Everything that is done in bio technology is based on the imagination and innovation that comes through the knowledge of the basic sciences.”
Highlighting the examples of the Bangalore-based Biotech and the US-based Genotech, he said both were international businesses that were started in a garage by research scientists. “They knew what to do and how to do it… In order to develop a global company, you need to have a vision that will go beyond your local circumstances,” he said.