Updated on 11 September 2012
"It is worth taking a pause and thinking that could we have sustained and progressed without self-reliance in food we developed through introduction of green revolution technologies. India was organic in a sense that we were not using pesticides or fertilizers. Yet we were totally dependent on the US and other developed countries for food that were using both. One must clearly see through the hypocrisy and question why we would want to go back to dark days of hunger and poverty again," he added.
The supreme court, in response to a separate public-interest litigation (PIL), has also appointed a separate five-member committee, comprising of members of the scientific community. This committee, is independently looking into the same matter and preparing a report as well, which is slated for release soon. The findings of this committee will also be important, since its conclusions could strengthen or further weaken the case of genetically modified crops.
GM crops have been in the past, and continue to be a highly debated topic, sometimes with more regional and political undertones than scientific ones. They have even been hailed as anti-nationalistic by certain critics who have been quick to point out the role of MNCs such as Monsanto in GM research, but fail to see the 60-plus small and medium sized Indian companies that currently sell genetically modified cotton. A blanket ban on all field trials of GM crops would question the efforts of not only the private enterprises engaged in developing newer varieties, but also the large number of esteemed government institutes such as Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore and Univeristy of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad and many more who have been actively researching GM crop technology.
Dr K K Narayanan, managing director, Metahelix, one of the first companies to successfully release a GM product based completely on Indian research, says that such delays will only hurt the farmers. He adds, "There are thousands of farmers who have taken to this technology much faster than anywhere else in the world. They would not have, if it was indeed such a bad thing. The claim that farmers are forced to buy it, as there is no alternative is misleading, if the farmers wanted non Bt cotton, there would definitely be more companies ready to supply them."
For the parliamentary committee recommendation to become a reality, the ban has to be reviewed in the concerned departments and then in both houses of the parliament before it can be passed as a law in our country. With a number of legislations including the Biotech Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill still pending, it remains to be seen if this recommendation will get passed as a piece of legislature any time soon.