Updated on 29 October 2012
One of the points raised by the scientists was the effect the recommended ban on all field trials, including the ongoing ones, of agribiotech crops for 10 years, would have on the Indian farmers. "The Indian farmers have to produce enough to meet the needs of the growing population without increasing arable land or irrigation facilities in a fast-changing climate. Such interventions as GM technology will play a crucial role in providing the necessary means to enable farmers to produce more using fewer resources," said Prof C K Rao.
The scientists also refuted claims made on the safety aspects of GM crops. "The report has extrapolated all the regulatory issues raised with respect to Bt brinjal, which in themselves have no scientific basis," said Prof G Padmanabhan. He added that it is "difficult to believe that developed countries, such as the US and Canada, and developing countries such as China and the South American countries, would grow GM crops for decades if they poses a serious threat to the population or the environment or the economy".
The technology industry also came out strongly against the recommendations of the committee on a moratorium on field trials for the next 10 years. "Field testing is an unavoidable and integral part of any crop improvement process," said Dr K K Narayanan. "If the recommendations are accepted, then it will be a great setback for India's agriculture. Technologies that can potentially mitigate the sufferings of farmers and revive our agricultural sector are being needlessly denied to the very people who need it the most," he added.
The participants of the meeting welcomed the recent advise by Union Minister for Agriculture Mr Sharad Pawar to the states not to block GM research as opposition to GM crops must not be based on unfounded apprehensions and that any hasty decision to block the progress of science will have a long-term implications on the country, which will have to be borne by the next generation. The scientists also drew attention to the recent recommendations of the Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council that reinforced the importance of GM crops for India, seeking a boost for public sector research and development in this area.
The forum went on to reiterate that the regulatory mechanism in India for field trials of GM crops is amongst the most stringent in the world and takes into account the latest developments. The operational guidelines of the Review Committee for Genetic Manipulation and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee are robust and as per the best international consensus, such as those issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris. The committee's view that India's guidelines for conducting field trials are unscientific or inadequate is not supported by any scientific evidence, scientists said.
Prof C K Rao concluded by saying that "the realization of a need to smoothen some rough edges in the present regulatory system led to the drafting of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, which is now in Parliament. It is unwise to throw the baby with the bath water in the meanwhile".