“In science, we go by evidence”

On GM crops: a conversation with Pushpa M Bhargava, eminent biotechnologist, Padma Shree awardee and founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | January 31, 2013


Pushpa M Bhargava
Pushpa M Bhargava

Dr Bhargava, what do you think of environmentalist Mark Lynas’ sudden change of heart – from being an anti-GM crusader to a pro-GM crusader? [Read more here]

I think it doesn’t change the situation one bit. We have no credentials of him and one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

In science, we go by evidence. Nothing has been added to the evidence that we have for or against the GM crop. Opinion is completely irrelevant in science if it is not based on evidence, existing or new. In science, if we ever change our opinion we always give reasons. Here, none is given.

To the community of scientists, he (Lynas) is a completely unknown entity and no different from somebody one might pick up on the street randomly.

How do we know that he is not purchased? How do we know the person exists and not merely a story created by the multinational seed companies making GMOs? The very fact that this story has been released without scientific evidence makes the case against GM crops stronger.

What is your stand on promoting GM crops in India?

Firstly, we must make a socio-economic assessment whether there is a problem at all. We had a problem in case of cotton but not for brinjal at all.

Secondly, we must see if alternatives are available to the GM technology. In case of cotton, there was a problem but there were alternatives – integrated pest management, bio-pesticides and organic agriculture. So we didn’t need it.

Third, if it turns out that we need GM crop we must go through a very strict safety assessment. This has not been done for any GM crop (in India). Nearly 30 tests need to be conducted. Out of these, about six tests have been done and that to, done badly. So for all practical purposes, no safety assessment has been done.

Therefore, a moratorium on GM crop is justified.

Also read interviews with Kavitha Kuruganti and Suman Sahai

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