"Huge unknowns" with GMOs, conference told
NOTE from the Deccan Development Society (DDS): We conducted a State level conference on Genetic Engineering, Farming & Food on 7 November 2009 to debate GE crops. The speakers included the Head of the Biotech division, Indian Institute for Horticulture, Bangalore, the Head of the Dept of Biotechnology, Mysore for GE, and against were Ms. Aruna Rodriques from Sunray Harvesters, PV Satheesh from the Deccan Development Society, and Dr. VS. Vijayan from the Kerala State Biodiversity Board. It was covered in an article in The Hindu.
'There is paucity of data pertaining to GM food'
The Hindu, November 8 2009
[image caption - FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Michel Pimbert delivering the keynote address at a conference on Genetic Engineering, Farming and Food in Mysore on Saturday.]
MYSORE: A conference on "Genetic engineering, farming and food" held here on Saturday discussed the science behind genetically modified (GM) crops and examined their ramifications on food security, environment and genetic diversity.
The conference, organised by the Institution of Engineers in conjunction with Mysore Grahakara Parishat and the Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, was held in the backdrop of the Government’s move to introduce genetically modified brinjal in Indian market.
Delivering the keynote address, Michel Pimbert, Director, International Institute for Environment and Development, the United Kingdom, said bad science influenced by corporate power enabled genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to enter market. He cautioned against being carried away by the existence of regulatory frameworks to monitor GMOs and said they were not only inadequate but were conceived to expedite the introduction of GMOs under the influence of corporate power rather than protect the consumers.
Dr. Pimbert, who was formerly the Principal Entomologist at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), warned that there were "huge unknowns" about the risks involved.
He said there was paucity of data pertaining to GM food, and pointed out that power was concentrated in a few companies which not only owned patents but also controlled the seeds. This would have a direct bearing on food security, he said.
Dr. Pimbert explained that farmers would be handicapped in the absence of seeds as they were patented, and this dependence on seeds would drive them further into penury while enriching the corporate houses. He said that GMOs had generally failed to deliver on what they promised.
Studies consistently proved that GM crops failed or the yield was not significantly higher. Field trials had proved that GM crops could not coexist with non-GM crops, and transgenic contamination was unavoidable as wind carried the pollutants and deposited them elsewhere. Centres of genetic diversity for maize such as Mexico had witnessed 95 per cent of the sampled sites being contaminated, said Mr. Pimbert.
Citing the Andhra Pradesh experience in cultivating bt cotton, he pointed out that it was largely a failure and had impact on soil ecology and fertility.
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