Farm technology should be safe and affordable, say experts


Chennai : With a growing population, stagnating farm production and decreasing arable land and water, there is urgent need for safe and affordable technological intervention in agriculture, an expert panel said at the 98th Indian Science Congress near here Friday.

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Initiating the discussion, Ajay Parida, director of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, said there was need to “deploy relevant, affordable and acceptable technologies for enhancing agricultural productivity”.

“The advances in molecular breeding and biotechnology hold promise in addressing some of the major concerns facing agriculture and malnutrition today. Plant biotechnology offers opportunities to improve the production and composition of crops with benefits to the environment and consumers.”

Striking in a note of caution, Parida said the benefits of biotechnology should not divert attention from the real concerns about the application of the new science and investments in the development of safety assessment and management.

According to B. Sesikaran, director of the National Institute for Nutrition, biotech crops are thoroughly investigated for biosafety but scientists and technologists failed to communicate this to the public at large, by which time activists reached across to large audience.

Speaking on the proposed amendment to the US’ Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 sponsored by US senators, Krishna Dronamraju, director of the Foundation for Genetic Research, said the proposed changes, if carried out, would impact India and other developing countries.

He said the object of the amendment bill was to authorise appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, stimulate rural economies and to improve emergency response to food crisis.

According to Dronamraju, the controversial provision in the proposed bill is that it would include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology.

He said US company Monsanto has lobbied in favour of the bill. The bill is also supported by Gates Foundation and former American president Bill Clinton.

According to him, the impact of the proposed bill will have to be studied in detail.