GM crops: Scientists form group to bring politicians on board

Stung by adverse political reactions on genetically modified crops, agriculture scientists have formed a 12-member pressure group comprising top scientists to brief ministers and other policy-makers on technology issues in an attempt to win over the political class.

Headed by noted farm scientist M S Swaminathan, the Committee on Political Understanding of Science (CPUS) met here on Tuesday to discuss the road ahead. A day earlier, Swaminathan met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and informed him about agricultural challenges.

The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences formed the unique panel along with another committee on Public Understanding of Science to spread accurate scientific information on GM crops. Both panels are formed on the pattern set up by the Royal Society of London.

The committee on public understanding of science is being headed by Deepak Pental, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University and developer of a GM mustard variety. Its job will primarily be to increase awareness among schoolchildren.

“We had our first meeting yesterday. We will advise the government on all policy issues and will not restrict to GM crops, but on monsoon and natural resources management too,” said S Ayyappan, Director-general of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and one of the members of the CPUS.

Besides Ayyappan, CPUS comprises heavyweights of the Indian agriculture scientist community like V L Chopra, Mangala Rai, R B Singh, R S Paroda, Punjab Singh, P L Gautam and M P Yadav.

A large number of research studies are stuck at various stages of research and development in the absence of regulatory approval and political opposition.

In its election manifesto, BJP said GM foods would not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on its long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers.

Soon after taking over, new Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said GM crops would be considered only as the last option.

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