If we have the technology, it is absolutely silly not to use it: Deepak Pental

Deepak Pental, scientist, Delhi University talks about the impact of GM mustard on Indian economy

sakshi

Sakshi Kuchroo | November 16, 2016 | New Delhi


#hybrid crop   #modified crop   #farmers   #cotton   #Bt brinjal   #Deepak Pental   #GM Mustard   #Delhi University  
Deepak Pental, scientist, Delhi University
Deepak Pental, scientist, Delhi University

If the GE mustard hybrid was developed in 2002, why has the environment ministry not taken a decision on it yet?  

Nobody had the guts to release it, and till today, it’s the same story. The ideology behind not clearing it is so dumb that it is difficult to explain. This country is divided into two sides, the left and the right. They don’t agree on anything, but it is strange that they both agree on this matter.
 
Read our story on GM Mustard: GM Mustard is ready. But are we?
 
What concerns are being raised regarding the release of GE mustard? Are these ethical, moral or practical?
It is not as complicated as it is being made out. The left and right ideologues are not seeing it with a pragmatic eye. They are looking at it with coloured glasses. Somebody fears that this technology is going to expand the multinational sector, some are worried about the country’s food security, and others feel that agriculture should be done the way it was done 2,000 years ago. It is strange. I am not saying that older techniques have become useless but a huge amount of conventional breeding is required. You have a new thing in your arsenal and that is genetic engineering. You have to use it. And look at Canada, Europe and China: they have high productivity; the world has already done it. This is already in the food chain and that is why all these protests to GE and GM products are absurd.  
 
If we have the technology, it is absolutely silly not to use it. It’s of no use if ultimately you don’t want to take advantage of it. It is for the people.
 
How can transgenic mustard benefit the Indian farmer and agriculture?
If the yield is increasing, it will naturally be more productive for farmers. Seventy-five percent farmers are already replacing their seeds and when they get more production, they are bound to buy new seeds every year. However, the one who is not going to get immediate benefit out of this is the urban consumer because the price of mustard is not going to come down. It’s a matter of great shame for the country that we have 170 million hectares of land under cultivation. 47% of population is directly dependent on agriculture and our productivity is so low that we are asking for edible oils. That money should go in farmers’ pocket.
 
Also, this crop is disease-resistant. It also saves the farmer’s money in buying fungicides that are to be sprayed to protect the crop. An Indian farmer’s income is not that high that he can afford to buy such products to protect his crop. We have in-built this disease resistance in GE mustard. Protection of the yield is much more important than creating higher yield. And we took this in consideration while working on it.
 
But the seed cost will increase. Is it going to be affordable for the farmers?
Right now, the cost of a pure line variety seed is Rs 200 [per kg]. This might increase the price by Rs 50-100. Now this money is only 1-2% of their total expenditure which is on agriculture machinery, fertilisers, electricity, water, etc. The seed’s cost is peanuts as compared to that.

Read Suman Sahai's interview: GM tech is already obsolete
 
There have been reports that higher prices of Monsanto’s BT cotton seeds have pushed farmers into debt. Many activists have also blamed it for farmer suicides. Your comments?
If you put GE mustard hybrids which give 30% more yield in 1 million hectare of land, farmers will earn about Rs 400-500 crore. And this is not just some random calculation. We have worked on this and submitted documents. We don’t need to recover any investment like Monsanto. In fact, whatever we have invested will automatically be recovered within a year. As far as farmer suicides are concerned, relating it to something as constructive as a transgenic food crop is foolishness. For two years there were droughts. Farmers don’t even have access to bank loans. They have sources where they are charged exorbitant amount of money. So crop failure might be a cause, health of the farmers is also one of the causes but claiming that GMOs are leading to farmer suicide is absurd.  

What will be its overall impact on Indian economy?
It is going to be good for farm economy. If farm economy improves, general consumption will increase and thus India’s GDP will increase. Also, India’s oil import will come down. If we are spending about  Rs 65,000 crore on oil import, it will come down to Rs 50,000 crore.  So, we will save Rs 15,000 crore and it’s a great achievement. It is  not going to happen immediately but gradually it will come down. 

(The interview appears in November 16-30, 2016 edition of Governance Now)

Comments

 

Other News

“Whoever has a smartphone and a social media account is a journalist today”

In a scathing attack on media, political analyst Shehzad Poonawala has said that the time of media is gone and anyone with a smartphone and a social media account  can be a journalist today. While speaking to Kailashnath  Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the Visionary Talk seri

All you want to know about Republic Day celebrations 2021

India is celebrating the 72nd Republic Day on Tuesday. Attendance at the main celebrations in the capital is limited given the pandemic, yet Covid-19 has not dampened the spirit of the occasion. India’s military might, cultural diversity and social-economic progress will be on display at the majestic

How much time do you spend talking on phone?

How much time do Indians spend talking on phone? It is on average 761 minutes per month, according to a new report from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The telecom regulator released its report, titled ‘The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators: July-Septemb

“Developing public health infrastructure key to sustainable healthcare for all”

Renowned cardiologist Dr Ramakanta Panda has said that the pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of existing healthcare systems and it is wrong to draw comparisons with Korea, a country with the population equal to that of a single Indian state. While speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Gove

SC-appointed panel on farm laws holds first meet

The committee of experts appointed by the supreme court to deliberate with the stakeholders on the new farm laws held its first meeting here Tuesday, with one of its members saying that all stakeholders, including individual farmers, will be heard. Hearing a petition on the farm laws enacted

India’s glitch-free vaccination gathers pace

The nationwide vaccination campaign launched Saturday, the largest such exercise in the world, has started setting new benchmarks, with vaccines administered to 2,24,301 beneficiaries in the first two days. “India has vaccinated the highest number of persons on Day1 under its COVID19 v

Visionary Talk with Shehzad Poonawalla On the State of Current Affairs





Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter