GM food is essential to address malnourishment issue: Nobel laureate

Nobel laureate Sir Richard John Roberts delivering a lecture titled ‘A Crime Aganist Humanity’ during the centenary lecture series of the University of Mysore on Monday. Photo: M. A. Sriram  

Genetically modified food is not only safe, but also necessary to address issues of malnourishment, particularly in developing countries, said Nobel laureate and molecular biologist Sir Richard John Roberts.

Delivering the centenary lecture as part of the University of Mysore’s Centenary celebrations here on Monday, Sir Roberts said he finds the opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) by greens “appalling”.

“We could do wonders to our food supply with GMOs,” Sir Roberts said, before adding that the campaign against genetically engineered food “makes no sense”. If you don’t want to eat GMOs, then don’t. But, don’t pretend they are dangerous. They are not. They are probably safer than traditional foods, he said. He also expressed dismay over the delay in the production of Golden Rice, a genetically engineered food crop with high amounts of vitamin A. The crop, Sir Roberts felt, could help address vitamin A deficiencies, which is a major cause for childhood blindness in developing countries.

Though Golden Rice became a reality in February 1999 and could have been used as early as 2002, the opposition to GMOs has ensured that it is not made available until at least 2016, he said.

He claimed that more than 15 million children had died or suffered globally due to vitamin A deficiency since 2002. “How many must die before we consider this a crime against humanity that should be prosecuted?, Sir Roberts asked.

Further, Sir Roberts pointed out that food is not a problem in developed countries. “But, let us not forget the consequences of our actions for the developing countries,” he said before emphasising the need for more “science in politics and less politics in science.” Sir Roberts also sought to make it clear that he does not endorse the capitalistic and monopolistic approach adopted by large companies like Monsanto with regard to GMOs.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 12:59:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/gm-food-is-essential-to-address-malnourishment-issue-nobel-laureate/article7989089.ece

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