Updated on 11 January 2013
These are issues of policy. We haven't stopped manufacturing drugs because these are expensive. We have an essential drug pricing strategy and same can be applied to agriculture. Scientific committees cannot be decision makers. After all a scientist is not going to tell you what to eat or not. However, I believe that we should separate the assessment of risk from the commercialization part. After all this is a democratic country and even after all the debates, I think the consumer must be the final authority to choose and decide. So let the benefits of technology reach them and either they will take it or just ignore it.
Recently you had said that diagnostics will be the next big focus of DBT. What are the steps taken in that direction? Which are the other priority areas?
There are tremendous opportunities in the areas of detection, prognosis and surrogate markers. The best way to look at it is through problem. We do an analysis and we come to know that diagnosis can play an important role in clinical trials management practices. Likewise in agriculture, animal husbandry and diagnostics sector, we need to create this central innovation system. We can then have well defined opportunities. Then they start asking what are the tools we can use for business opportunities.
Diagnosis along with new therapeutics can become the foundation of modern medical care. In chronic diseases, testing precautions are being exercised . That means if you meet requirements of million diabetics, we can make their life better on to better. And makers of progress or lack of it. It requires information technology and telecommunication to be used. It requires reworking of system when patients and facilities can self monitor. For all other disease, it can be what biomarkers can do to the process of drug development. I think there are fantastic opportunities in the areas of diagnostics, vaccines, cytology, pathology and others.
Given the deadlock on Bt crops in the country, what according to you are the steps required to create awareness and connect with the common man on the issue?
My only concern is the hindered agricultural growth. We have to address wherever there are concerns. One way is that we effectively explain the technical as well as social dimensions of the agri-biotech.. When we say technology, the question is for whom. We have rich farmers and marginal farmers. To provide for both, there is a special policy issue. Again the technology renewal after a decade because of development of resistance due to abiotic stress.
If we concentrate on things that are in public area and are of huge importance to public such as rice, wheat, legumes etc, it can lead us to extremely important results. Secondly, we must have a strategy for small farmers. So that hybrids in variation must be pushed concurrently. And it also means now that we really augment our institutional capacity in genomics, bioinformatics and breeding. There is a capacity enhancing challenge and then its up to them to decide.
However, I don't think we must withdraw because of current difficulties in transgenics. The R&D must continue despite the commercial release getting delayed.