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Counter Monsanto with ‘desi’ tech: MazumdarShaw

Counter Monsanto with ‘desi’ tech: MazumdarShaw
Highlights

Veteran biotechnologist Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw says the best way to counter transnational seed company Monsanto’s 'monopoly' in India’s...

She argues field trials are essential to evaluate safety and efficacy of any crop improvement technology

Bangalore (PTI): Veteran biotechnologist Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw says the best way to counter transnational seed company Monsanto’s "monopoly" in India’s cotton seed sector is to allow competition to develop similar technologies, maintaining that activism against genetically modified (GM) crops is stifling the efforts of Indian firms. Though a substantial level of the country’s cotton contains Monsanto’s technology, which is licensed to over 25 seed companies, the CMD of biotech firm Biocon said the criticism that this will put India’s seed sovereignty in jeopardy is too far-fetched.

"The best way to counter such a monopoly is to allow competition to develop similar technologies," she said. "All this activism against GM crops is stifling the efforts of the Indian companies as well the public sector institutions to come up with competing technologies.

The anti-GM activists may thus be helping the multinationals to hold on to their monopoly." On the Supreme Court-appointed technical experts committee (TEC) on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) recently recommending that there should not be any field trials of GM crops until gaps in the regulatory systems are addressed, Mazumdar- Shaw said the report has disregarded the enormous body of evidence attesting to the safety and benefits of GM crops.

"It may also be noted that the members of the TEC who have signed the report have for a long time opposed the introduction of GM crops and therefore it is not at all surprising that they recommended the ban. If you have been following the story, this report has been roundly condemned, not just by scientists, but by several other stakeholders, including farmers," Mazumdar-Shaw said.

She said "India’s regulatory system is well designed – there is not a single credible report of any harm to humans, animals or the environment. "On the other hand, the benefits have been many; the production, productivity and farmer incomes have all gone up! The functioning of our regulatory system is being stifled by strident activism and misleading campaigns. Even our legal structures are being misused to this end" "Well, this does not mean that there is no scope for further improving the present regulatory system. But for this you need not stop the trials," she said.

She also argued that the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill (which is yet to be tabled in Parliament) does effectively address some of the inadequacies of the present system. "There are many studies which have established that GM crops can reduce pesticide use and consequently increase the number of beneficial insects and other non-pest organisms, in addition to reducing human and animal exposure to noxious chemicals."

"The claims that GM crops can harm biodiversity and the environment are mere propaganda and not supported by facts. If we go by facts and hard data, the regulatory system should actually be a facilitator, which can actually promote environmental sustainability," Mazumdar-Shaw said. She argued that field trials have to continue under the present system while the new regulatory bill is being discussed and passed. Field trials are essential to evaluate the safety and efficacy of any crop improvement technology.

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