C. Kameswara Rao, Executive Secretary of the Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education in Bangalore, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the decision by Indian government officials to impose a moratorium on genetically modified Brinjal (eggplant).
Rao believes this decision by the Indian government is not based on science. He writes that genetically modified crops, including Bt Brinjal, have been thoroughly tested and evaluated. In fact, “about 200 scientists and experts from over 15 public and private-sector institutions” participated in the agronomic and biosecurity evaluation of Bt brinjal from 2000-2009. The group found the crop safe for food and feed use and approved Bt Brinjal for commercialization in October, 2009.
Rao argues that this decision by the Indian government disproportionately hurts Indian farmers, and echoes the sentiments of Rajesh Kumar, an Indian farmer who recently published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the government’s decision to restrict biotech crop use. Farmers in India lose between “50-70 percent of their annual marketable eggplant yield to two insects” every year. Through an advanced gene Bt Brinjal can withstand the pests and farmers can produce more yields. The same gene has been inserted successfully into several other biotech crops such as cotton, corn and potatoes.
Despite the proven success of these biotech crops and the relief they can bring by increasing food yields, he believes the Indian government reacted to misleading claims about biotech crops when issuing this decision. Rao believes that this rejection of science will only hinder India’s progress and delay the commercialization of a crop that could benefit millions.
Indian farmer Rajesh Kumar published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal today that expresses his discontent with the Indian government’s recent decision to deny the use of genetically modified (GM) brinjal (eggplant) by Indian farmers.
Mr. Kumar describes the potential gains from GM brinjal, including the need for fewer pesticide applications since the crop has a built-in resistance to pests. He writes that this quality would allow for the cultivation of better and safer foods. Additionally, Mr. Kumar writes that the adoption of GM brinjal would be economically beneficial for India by improving farm production and thus reducing the economic disparity between the rich and poor in India. The opportunity for higher yields will also help fight malnutrition in India, a concern that is rising with the increasing population.
Mr. Kumar recognizes that for India to compete and feed its growing population, the farmers must be allowed to participate in the “gene revolution” and utilize all available scientific tools.
You can read Rajesh Kumar’s entire op-ed here. Additionally, the Council for Biotechnology Information interviewed and videotaped Mr. Kumar at the annual World Food Prize Symposium in October 2009. You can watch a video that features an interview with him here.
Following the recommendation of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the Indian Government is taking further steps to approve the commercial use of BT Eggplant. The Journal reports that land area under food cultivation has shrunk from 73.8% in 1951 to around 60% in 2007.
“We have to use technology which does not demand more water or more land,” said D.H Pai Panandikar, an economist and chairman of the Indian arm of the Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute.
“I believe technology advancement has to take place and farmers should be given the advantage of new technology,” said Vibha Dhawan, executive director of The Energy Resources Institute (TERI).
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