Food for thought: JNU seminar tries to dispel doubts over GM

Scientists are expected to push for genetically modified varieties of rice, wheat and chickpeas at an ongoing seminar on plant biology research in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The four-day seminar has been organised by the Indian Society for Plant Physiology in association with JNU and National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi.

Experts from 16 countries are participating, according to the organisers.

“We are covering a wide range of topics starting from climate resilient agriculture to plant physiology in the areas of photosynthesis – so that we can harvest more.

“We are also holding a special session to discuss possibilities of growing rice and wheat in saline water or less water,” JNU professor Ashwani Pareek said.

He said the seminar has the backing of American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), a US-based professional society devoted to the advancement of plant sciences.

Even as concerns over safety and benefits of genetically engineered food continue to swirl in the country, Pareek stresses that there is a need for an informed debate.

The seminar also will try to dispel doubts and allay the concerns of the people. It also wants to clear some of the mis-conceptions associated with GM foods, informed
Pareek.

“Both genetically modified food and classical green revolution have the same science behind it. But people think that these are two different things. We are collaborating with ASPB to learn ways to communicate with media and public about this,” he said.

JNU vice chancellor S K Sopory, who heads the Indian Society for Plant Physiology, said the seminar is being held to discuss challenges being faced by the agricultural sector in providing food and nutritional security.

He argued that it is about time researchers also focus on ways to enhance productivity of pulse and said the Indian scientists have made headways in research on chickpeas.
Sopory said recommendations based on the outcomes from the seminar will be shared with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.  

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