Today's letters

Scientist should not be blamed for GM crops

Vandana Shiva in her article ‘Democratic choice’ (DH, March 11, 2010) spews venom and biotechnology and ‘the so called biotechnologists’. She lauds Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, but calls other biotechnologists as ‘technicians’ without any vision. According to her it is unsafe to entrust ‘risk assessment’ with such obtuse people. A refrigerator maker cannot be aware of its risks, a car maker cannot be aware of the risks of driving a car, and likewise a biotechnologist cannot have any idea of the risks of his product. She says biotechnology is as ‘primitive biology’ though many consider it as modern biology. ‘Epigenetic’ according to her is the new approach required. Also, she mentions that a GM (genetically modified) crop, contains virus genes, i.e., genes of a parasite.

A car maker is the best person to know the risks of a car, as he has studied all aspects of his product, before launching it. Likewise, a responsible biotechnologist can understand the potential risks, if any, of his product. Biotechnology is an interdisciplinary subject that includes biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, botany, zoology, genetics and all aspects of modern biology including epigenetic. Biotechnologists are not naive to think that gene expression is not influenced by extraneous factors. However, when things work in the predicted way under different environmental conditions, it is clear that things are under control.

Biotechnologists are also not foolish to think that an organism is a combination of different parts, like a machine, and parts can be changed at will. To make a gene express in a different organism, in a regulated manner, was not easy. Scores of Nobel laureates (including our own Hargobind Khorana) have worked in understanding the nature of genetic code and gene expression. To say that a gene can behave in 30,000 different ways due to extraneous factors, is just statistics of permutation and combination, and is meant to create fear psychosis.

Some of the virus gene sequences put in GM crops are not the sequences coding for the actual virus, but are pieces of DNA which act as promoters, having no ability to produce the actual virus or part of it. There is no record of a virus infection due to the insertion of a promoter.

Under the above circumstances, ‘public hearings’ are not the solution to risk assessment. In addition, scientists should be not blamed for commercial aspects such as marketing of GM products.


Bangalore University


Quota for Muslims in Andhra Pradesh 


 I refer to the report (March 12) that the Apex Court would hear an appeal from the Andhra Pradesh government regarding provide 4 per cent quota for Muslim students in various professional colleges. A seven judge bench of the Andhra Pradesh high Court has already struck down the law by a majority holding it to be illegal and unconstitutional. In-spite of this sensible verdict the Andhra Pradesh government has approached the Supreme Court perhaps to please Muslims and get their favor.  In this connection it is worth mentioning that reservation and quota based on religion, caste, gender etc has defeated the very principles of independence and democracy. Hence I am of the firm view that in our country any type of reservation without considering poverty of the family is only a crime on the nation. 


B S Ganesh 


Keep an eye on burning of leaves 

Though all our efforts are being made to lessen the temperature of the earth, some educated people from the civic bodies and from the public are getting the dried leaves burnt which naturally increases the temperature of the Mother Earth leading to global warming.

Therefore it is the duty of the BBMP administration to inform the public by tom-tom that no dried leaves should be burnt by imposing hefty fines for any violation of the directives.instead the dried could be used for composting.

Therefore the BBMP administration should entrust the responsibility of protecting the Mother Earth by having an eye on those who burn the dried leaves and other waste products in addition to other duties which the BBMP should entrust to them, and see that their duties are performed as per rules by taking action on the report on a weekly basis which should be monitored by the commissioner or his deputy.
B S Raghavendra Rao,

Baised  media of India

The media in our country has double standards in reporting unsavory incidents that take place in the Hindu society on one hand and those in the minority Christian and Muslim soceties. Two Kannada channels are trying to outdo each other in showing the murky happenings in the Nithyananda Ashram. One only wonders whether these channels would take the same interest and liberty if the incidents were to take place in a Catholic church. The media in the west reports on the shady incidents like sexual assaults and child abuse in the Catholic church, in India the media is shying away to report these happenings. Likewise, a breaking of a glass pane of a Church gets front page news, while desecration of a thousand year old Hindu images in north Karnataka is reported in an inside page. The media in our country has to a long way in fair and balanced reporting.


Modi Summoned; so what?  


 The “secular” press seems to have gone into a euphoric state with the news of the summons being issued to the Gujarat C.M. by the SIT. In the process, they appear to have overlooked the snail’s pace at which the wheels of the legal machinery move in the country. Firstly, the SIT is not a court of law to announce and carry out punishment under the Indian laws. Secondly, even if the SIT finds incriminating evidence against Mr. Modi, would that deprive him of his constitutional right to approach higher judicial tribunal for justice? And, thirdly, the politically most important point is---this whole episode can be utilized by him to paint himself as a martyr, who is made to suffer for championing a cause.

Arun Malankar

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