Genetic modification crop technology is necessary for low-input, high output agriculture, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences has resolved at a round table on ‘GM crops and nutritional security’ in February, 2015. It was headed by eminent scientist M S Swaminathan.
The resolution calls for a lifting of the present unofficial ban in many states on field trails as these, it says, are needed to evaluate food and environmental safety risks. The scientists observed that much of the GM research work in India confers resistance to diseases, pests, drought and salinity and improves the nutritional quality of crops.
They called upon their fraternity to engage more actively with policy makers and the public to remove misapprehensions about GM crops.
They wanted the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to play a key role in the commercialization of GM crops after biosafety approval by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) . This was meant to address criticism about the proliferation of a large number of confusing (to farmers) hybrids and varieties of Bt cotton, the only GM crop that has been allowed for cultivation by farmers in India.
The resolution asserts that India’s regulatory mechanism complies with the consensus-based international regulatory guidelines. Till such time as an autonomous National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority is set up (as the bill to set it up lapsed with the last Lok Sabha and a new bill has not been introduced in parliament), the existing apex bodies (GEAC and Review Committee on Genetic Modification) should be allowed to function. For that purpose, it called upon the government to appoint full-time chairpersons should be appointed to them.