UpFront/Close Range | Feb 20, 2010 | 14151 views
Agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan tells Forbes India why India needs an independent regulatory authority for GM research
K. S. Murty Sep 26, 2011
Like Telugu soap operas on tv we cannot come to a conclusion on yes or no to BT Brinjal. However one thing is clear that some people and Scientists have always been envious of Dr. M.S.
Balaji Feb 20, 2010
I would like to know what does urgency mean? Its been used very loosely by Dr. MS and of course Jairamji. If somebody is concerned about urgency they should have tried to understand, respect and given guidance for programs such as Bt brinjal from its beginning or whenever opportunity was given. They waited long enough to make these comments. I disagree with comment that options such as referendum....this is not political is science based. I want to remind here Pandit Nehru's comments: Everything can wait but not Agriculture.
RRM Feb 20, 2010
One should really appreciate the "brain wave" that Dr. Swaminathan has even at the age of 85. Really commendable!

He is also in agreement that US has really stringent mechanisms and norms for evaluating the safety of GM crops and we all know that US has GM crops for the last 14 years. So if three independent mechanisms in US have proven that BT gene is safe, then why the irony for BT brinjal. It also has the same cry1Ac gene which has been used in Bt cotton and other crops in the US and other agriculture countries.

Citing an example of Switzerland, which is not an agriculture based country first of all and then has limited people to feed.

I feel one should take a balanced stand and let the people of this country decide, instead of the minister or some biased scientists taking a call for the food security of today's 1.12 billion and the increasing magic number.
bpank Feb 20, 2010
I'm really surprised to see comments from Dr Swaminathan and his opposition for release of Bt brinjal. I seriously doubt his motive.

In one of his article"GM:Food for thought" published in The Asian Age, New Delhi on 26th August 2009 he is clearly supporting Bt as a very safe technology though he is clearly missed out the way Bt protein works ( he said it is active only in acidic condition and not in alkaline condition which is prevalent in mammals and humans: which is exactly other way, so doubt can be raised on whether he really studied the technology) also there he slams environmental activists, NGOs etc saying that all the concerns raised by these people are baseless and there is no scientific proof to prove these concerns as this technology is proven safe from last 10 years of its release.

And today he is opposing this technology or going safe on it so how do you take it ?? is it a age effect on Dr. Swaminathan?
Vel Feb 22, 2010
This is Dr. David Schubert's words, a PhD holder in immunology and a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California. The Salk Institute is considered one of the best medical research institutes in the world.

I am writing this text because of my concern about the introduction of brinjal genetically modified with bacterial Bt toxin into the food supply of India. There are several reasons that the introduction of this genetically engineered (GE) food plant should not be allowed. They include:

1) The lack of need. Brinjal is not a crop threatened by an overwhelming insect infestation.

2) Environmental risk. Brinjal is native to India and the GE genes will unquestionably contaminate the native population.

3) Higher costs. The purchase of seeds on an annual basis as opposed to saving seed from year to year will increase costs at all levels of the food chain.

4) Social and political dependence. Once a foreign company controls the seed market of any single food plant, seed for more GE plants will follow, and the company will have tremendous power over both the farmers, which constitute a major segment of the Indian population, as well as the political process. This has clearly happened in the United States (US), where Monsanto is a major financial supporter of both political parties, and therefore has political appointees who dictate both national and international agricultural policy.

5) Finally, GE brinjal expressing Bt protein poses a serious health risk to those who consume it. This is the issue that I wish to address. First, however, I would like to debunk some myths that are used by the proponents of GE brinjal to claim that it is safe.
Raj Feb 22, 2010
Dear Vel, I know Dr Schubert is a professor of Immunology and I also hope he has enough knowledge of Indian Agriculture, but for his and your referenced, following are the clarifications to what you have quoted as Dr David Schubert's comments
1) If you are from India and know the way brinjal crop is cultivated, you will stop eating brinjal. On an average 25-80 sprays are done on the crop which is of atmost 150-180 days. These sprays are done mainly for the Fruit and shoot borer, which causes damage to the extent of 60-70%.
2) No one till date has ever proven that Brinjal is a native of India. All the botanists have mentioned that the Centre of Origin for brinjal unknown. It has only been claimed that India is the Centre of Diversity for brinjal. If not you can go through numerous references in the Expert Committee-II report.
3) Mahyco has donated the Bt gene to three public Institutes in India and one each Insititute in the Bangladesh and Phillipines. They all have developed "varieties" with bt gene in it for the resource poor farmers. These varieties can be saved and the farmer can reuse the seed every year.
4) I think bt brinjal has been developed by Mahyco and its an Indian company, so no concern about the issues raised.
5) EPA, FDA, EFSA and SFANZ all have said that cry1Ac gene is safe for use and has been in use for more than 60 years.

I hope all the above clarifications will help you analyze the view of Dr Schubert.
Thanks, keep writing......
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