“It is the scientists who are asking for regulation and precaution”

GM controversy: In conversation, Suman Sahai, geneticist, Padma Shree awardee and winner of 2004 Borlaug Award for contribution to agriculture and environment

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | January 21, 2013


Padma Shree awardee Suman Sahai
Padma Shree awardee Suman Sahai

What do you think of environmentalist Mark Lynas’ sudden change of heart – from being an anti-GM crusader to a pro-GM crusader?
It is a renewed propaganda push to create goodwill around GM crop. This is a product that very large corporations are trying to sell. India is a very particular target because of large scale rejections (of GM crop) in Europe, many parts of Africa and Latin America. For these corporations, there are only two big potential markets – India and China. Everybody knows it is impossible to influence Chinese policy because they are very determined about what they want and what not. India is perceived as a soft target with a big market and therefore a huge amount of propaganda is directed towards India and Indian policy making.

What is your stand on promoting GM crops in India?
As a scientist, geneticist, this is my subject. It is the scientists who are asking for regulation and precaution right from the beginning. The (GM) industry is trying to cut corners on regulation because adequate bio-safety testing costs money. It is my firm belief that had this technology been purely in public sector it would still be in the laboratory. It would only come to market after it was sufficiently and properly tested.

If you want to engage in science and technology that has a downside – any potential risk of the GM product having an allergenic component – but potential for benefits, then you have to be super careful to evaluate safety.

Also read: “In science, we go by evidence”

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