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India's Minister of State for Science - mad, bad or corrupt?
"We are evolving a simpler regulatory system to rapidly speed up the approval or rejection of technologies in order to bring in additional choices for farmers as soon as possible" - India's Minister of State for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal
He also signalled the Government's intention of introducing a stronger patenting regime and of "promoting biotechnology applications in agriculture, including genetically-modified (GM) crops". (item 1)
He even suggested India might accept test results from other countries which had already granted approvals! (item 2)
For more of the background see:
India's GM godfather
1.Govt to set up single window body for GM crops
2.India Pins Green Revolution Hopes on GM
1.Govt to set up single window body for GM crops
Hindu Business Line
New Delhi , Aug. 10
[image caption: The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Kapil Sibal, being greeted by Mr Y. K. Modi, President, FICCI as Dr Clive James, Chairman, ISAAA, watches at the International Conference on "Agricultural biotechnology ushering in the second green revolution" in the Capital on Tuesday. Ramesh Sharma]
THE Centre will put in place a single window regulatory body by January next to consider permission for cultivation of genetically-modified crops in the country, according to the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Kapil Sibal.
"We are evolving a simpler regulatory system to rapidly speed up the approval or rejection of technologies in order to bring in additional choices for farmers as soon as possible," he said, addressing a conference on agricultural biotechnology.
He also said the Government would devise necessary intellectual property rights (IPR) protection system for biotechnological inventions. "Until a sound IPR protection system is put in place, the developer of technology will be reluctant to transfer the technology."
He also signalled the Government's intention of promoting biotechnology applications in agriculture, including genetically- modified (GM) crops.
"In the backdrop of the country's growing food grain requirement and diminishing arable area we have no choice but to go on a path of biotechnology and gene revolution," he said.
Speaking at the conference, organised by FICCI, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri Biotech Applications (ISAAA) and M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Union Agriculture Secretary, Mrs Radha Singh, said the Government would contribute to initiatives "to hasten the process of biotechnology applications in agriculture."
Ms Singh pointed out that while considerable advances had been made in biotechnology uses in medical research, production of vaccines and pharmaceuticals for human and animal healthcare, its applications in agriculture continued to be cautious.
"An overall assessment up to present times clearly indicates that the benefits from the use of GM plants are substantial and that the gains outweigh risks, which in many instances are hypothetical and not quite real. The goodness and strength of biotechnology makes us believe that it would be difficult to stall or suppress the extensive use of this technology," she said.
She also called for full-scale development work on promoting GM technology beginning "as quickly as possible on all fronts scientific and societal."
Ms Singh noted that while commercial cultivation of Bt cotton was permitted since 2002, the area covered under it had expanded from 62,000 acres in 2002 to about 10 lakh acres this year. "The last two years experience indicates significant agronomic benefits leading to better returns. The experience of using Bt cotton has also enabled the regulatory agencies to gain greater experience of evaluation and regulation of GM crops and we are now planning to rationalise the regulatory mechanism and streamline protocols in keeping with international practices," she added.
2.India Pins Green Revolution Hopes on GM Seeds, Technology
- Uttara Choudhury, AFP August 10, 2004
Biotechnology is needed to combat pests and other challenges facing India's farmers, and could spur another "green revolution," the country's science and technology minister said Tuesday. "It's a new age weapon to fight the odds in agriculture," Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told an agricultural biotechnology conference.
He pledged the government would ease red tape surrounding clearance of biotechnologies.
"We're evolving a simple, transparent regulatory system to rapidly speed up by January 2005 the approval or rejection of technologies to give our farmers additional choices," he told the two-day global meeting.
The farming sector is vital to economic growth with over 60 percent of India's more than one billion population depending on agriculture for a living.
Sibal suggested India might accept test results of bio-engineered food crops in other countries in granting approvals for new technologies, despite critics who say the findings may not be applicable to other geographic environments.
"It's scientifically necessary these products undergo rigorous biosafety and risk assessment," he said. "However, it doesn't mean we should ignore the scientific validation of the same technology elsewhere and reinvent the wheel."
"The seed is the potential tool that can carry state-of-the-art technologies to every farmer. It can once again usher in a green revolution," he added.
India's previous "green revolution" between 1967 and 1978 is credited with making the country self-sufficient in food through the use of seeds that were more genetically resistant to pests. Biotech advocates say genetic modification (GM) boosts output, cuts costs and can improve nutrition. But critics including Greenpeace fear the environmental impact and worry that genetically modified foods may have long term ill affects on health.
Delegates who arrived for the conference were heckled by Greenpeace activists. "There's no doubt Indian agriculture is in a state of crisis," Greenpeace spokeswoman Divya Raghunandan said, referring to debt-laden farmers committing suicide over failed crops.
"But it's laughable this closed-door conference should consider genetic engineering as the solution," said Raghunandan, referring to government plans to introduce genetically modified BT cotton, short for bacillus thuringiensis cotton. "Illegally planted BT Cotton is rampantly out of control," Raghunandan said. "We face the very real risk of contamination of non-genetically modified crops during field trials and there'll be irreversible impacts on our biodiversity."
While India is the world's third-largest cotton-producing country, according to industry monitors, it has the lowest average yield of any big nation. It hopes to replace the United States as the world's largest producer by using BT cotton.
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