Nagpur, Sept. 16: Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today spoke against any freeze on trials of genetically modified crops, as recommended in mid-July by a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee.
The committee had identified flaws in India’s existing regulatory system that governs genetically modified (GM) crops and called for an indefinite moratorium on GM food crop trials until the regulatory system was fixed.
Pawar said the recommendation had unnerved the 3,000-odd scientists of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research who are conducting transgenic research on various food crops.
He added that banning the trials would hurt the country, which needed to increase production and productivity to meet the growing demands on its finite land resources.
The court had formed the committee, made up by scientists from top public research laboratories and academic institutions, while hearing a public interest litigation seeking such a moratorium. The government is the respondent and the hearings are continuing.
The only note of dissent had come from committee member R.S. Paroda, a former Indian Council of Agriculture Research director. He had argued that if the panel’s suggestions were accepted, two decades of research on GM crops by public institutions would go waste.
Today, Pawar echoed Paroda’s views during an interaction with reporters here, while replying to a question on the just-passed food security law.
The minister, who initially had reservations about the bill, said he wholeheartedly backed the law because it would help fight malnutrition among children.
“An FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation, a United Nations body) report says nearly 74 per cent of Indian children suffer from malnutrition. This legislation is therefore important to address this issue,” he said.
Pawar had arrived here on a three-day visit to assess the crop damage in rain-ravaged Vidarbha. He said the Centre would do everything to help the state provide financial aid to the region’s farmers.