Updated on 7 May 2013
I returned from IRRI early in 1988 and proceeded with the organization of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) at Chennai. One of the first projects taken up by MSSRF was anticipatory research to cope with the challenge of sea level rise. For this purpose, the mangrove species Avicinia marina was chosen as the donor of genes for salinity tolerance. Similarly Prosopis juliflora was chosen as donor for drought tolerance. This research has resulted in valuable material for salinity and drought tolerance and these have been patented.
I was invited by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, to chair a Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology in 2003. In the report that I submitted on behalf of the committee early in 2004, I suggested that we should develop a parliament-approved regulatory system which inspires public, political, professional and media confidence. Had the government acted on this advice, the kind of problems we are facing now would not have arisen.
A transparent and professional regulatory system would help to measure risks and benefits associated with each genetically modified organism (GMO) in a credible manner.
Thus, my contacts and experience in the field of biotechnology during the last 60 years have helped in both initiating programs, which can help us to strengthen our food and environmental security and at the same time understand public and the NGO concerns in relation to genetically modified food crops. I have little doubt that these fears can be allayed with the help of an autonomous and professional regulatory system.