Agri-biotechnology GM Crops

If Humans are Genetically-modified, Why Not Crops, Asks Swami Aiyar

In his Sunday blog, Swaminomics, economist and journalist Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar takes on the anti-GM lobby in India, led by Greenpeace, and makes a strong case for India allowing cultivation of GM crops. ‘All crops, including GM crops, are routinely field-tested for safety before commercial release. But to stop even field trials (as activists want) is a pseudo-scientific form of religious frenzy,’ he writes in the Sunday Times of India’s 22nd March edition.  (A slight correction,  Swami: conventional hybrids are not tested for bio-safety. The rigour applies only to GM crops –ed)

Swami continues: ‘The US does not curb GM crops, so Americans have eaten a trillion meals of GM crops – without a single demonstrable health risk. Ironically, Europeans who fear FM foods happily visit the US as tourists and eat GM foods there with no adverse results. If even a trillion cases cannot convince the activists, nothing will. Theirs is a triumph of ideological faith over common sense.

Swami says humans are genetically modified organisms and quotes an Economist post of 14 March, which says: ‘Leaving aside the fact that the whole of agriculture is unnatural, this is still an odd worry (moving genes between species). It has been known for a while that some genes moves from one species to another given the chance, in a process called horizontal gene transfer. Genes for antibiotic resistance, for example, swap freely between species of bacteria.’

The Economist quotes a just published study in Genome Biology by Alastair Crisp and Chiara Boschetti of Cambridge University, and their colleagues, that human beings have at least 145 genes picked up from other species by their forebears. Admittedly, it says, that is less than 1 percent of the 20,000 or so humans have in total. But it might surprise many people that they are even to a small degree part bacterium, part fungus and part algae.

Swami has taken on the activists and exposed their falsehoods even earlier. In 2013 he had accused Greenpeace India’s executive director Sumit Aich of ignoring facts.

(Swami’s photo here is courtesy

Leave a Comment

Hit Counter provided by technology news
Web Design MymensinghPremium WordPress ThemesWeb Development

I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?