Hyderabad

Nobel laureate bats for GM crops

Nobel Laureate Sir Richard John Roberts at a lecture organised by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad on Tuesday. Director of CCMB Ch. Mohan Rao and Indira Devi Dhanrajgiri look on. —PHOTO: MOHAMMED YOUSUF  

The developing world, including India, should adopt genetically modified (GM) crops, Nobel laureate Richard John Roberts said here on Tuesday. Rallying behind GM crops, Mr. Roberts said he is not alone in GM advocacy as he has garnered the support of 75 other Nobel laureates for it.

Dig at Greenpeace

“Environmental organisations such as Greenpeace oppose GMO for political ends. There is no truth in their claim as there is no scientific proof that GM crops are harmful,” Mr. Roberts emphasised in a media interaction that followed his lecture organised by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Telangana Academy of Science.

Standing by his pro-GM stand, he said millions of people in the third world would die of starvation unless GM crops were introduced.

“We have been breeding crops for long naturally. I would call GM precision plant breeding. Greenpeace is in the business of scaring people when it comes to GM crops,” he said.

The Nobel laureate was in the city to deliver the CCMB’s distinguished lecture series. Mr. Roberts who won the prestigious prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1993 asked: “If technology can support starvation crisis, why not use it?”

Mr. Roberts, however, said private investment in medical research should not be supported.

“In the West, the drug manufacturers are not interested in cure as they want to keep people dependent on drugs. Countries in the developing world should not follow this model of capitalism,” Mr. Roberts said.

‘Chase your passion’

In the distinguished lecture, Mr. Roberts asked scientists to follow their passion.

“I wanted to be a detective when I was a child, but later developed an interest in science as my parents gifted me a chemistry kit,” said Mr. Roberts, who developed his taste in research at a very young age.

“My first experiments were to make fire crackers,” he said. Someone who still likes jazz music and caving, Mr. Roberts had shared the Nobel Prize with Phil Sharp. A British citizen, he was knighted in 2008.

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