GM not feeding the hungry even in America (28/11/2003)

"GM technology is not a silver bullet to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. The US which has adopted this technology has 14 million hungry people." - Dr Shanthu Shantaram, Syngenta Foundation and former USDA regulator
'Avoid Trial Of GM Crops In Areas Rich In Biodiversity'

NEW DELHI, NOV 26:  Experts have suggested adequate biosafety measures in trials and commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

Noted agriculture scientist and the chairman of the government's expert panel on biotechnology, Dr MS Swaminathan while inaugurating a national symposium on the relevance of GM technology to Indian agriculture said that trials and commercialisation of GM crops should be avoided in the centres of biodiversity as a precaution. He said that this precautionary measure was needed to ensure that no pollen transfer from GM crops took place to centres in biodiversity.

The symposium was organised by Gene Campaign in Delhi on Wednesday.

Dr Swaminathan also said that the country needed to prioritise the crops where GM technology was needed to boost production or increase the nutrition value. He suggested that in the trials of GM crops the local community should be involved.

However, the scientist said that researches in biotechnology, both in the private and public sectors, should be a continuing process. He noted that the scientists in Chennai-based Swaminathan Research Foundation have isolated genes from Prosopis juli, a flora grown in coastal and arid zone and also from flora grown in sea water. These genes have been transferred to local rice varieties to make it resistant to drought. The trials were in process, he said.

The former Union environment minister, Suresh Prabhu, said, 'biotechnology is like a fire which when used with caution can result in benefits, otherwise it has the ability to create disaster.'

He said this was the technological challenge and civil society should be actively involved in the process and adequate biosafety measures should be put in place.

Speaking on the occasion, the former regulator for GM crops in the US, Dr Shanthu Shantharam said, 'GM technology is not a silver bullet to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. The US which has adopted this technology has 14 million hungry people.' He said the problem of hunger could be solved largely through government's poverty alleviation programmes. He also suggested public participation and transparency in clearance of GM crops and the need for proper documentation.

Dr Bibek Deroy, consulting editor of the Financial Express and chairman of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation said that what was more important was the implementation of the existing laws, then to put in place news rules and procedures. He also dealt with several intellectual property rights (IPR) issues relating to GM crops.
"If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the world, tell them that it is not." -Steve Smith, when head of Syngenta Seeds UK

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