Crop science institute disputes minister

Crop science institute disputes minister

One of the arguments against any all Bt crops including Bt brinjal is widespread apprehensions on gene flow.

In his February 9 decision on Bt brinjal, Ramesh quoted the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) justifying the apprehensions.

“The bureau (NBPGR) points out that diversity-rich regions are likely to be affected by the introduction of bt brinjal due to gene flow,” he said (point 12) in the statement.
A week later, NBPGR has denied making any such suggestions to Ramesh.

“NBPGR neither has a facility nor a mandate for conducting experiments on gene flow or gene escape from transgenic crops in to the wild,” the institution said in a statement, available with Deccan Herald.

“Hence no scientific data (theoretical as well as empirical) is available with the scientists of NBPGR on gene flow events or indices with respect to bt brinjal or any other transgenic plants,” NBPGR informed the top brass at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research.
Ramesh quoted NBPGR to show India has 3951 varieties of brinjal and there are 134 diversity-rich districts.

The minister went on to claim that the institute – the nodal point in India for conserving plant genetic resources – also has similar fears on bt reaching flowing into the wild varieties as many non-governmental organisations.

The institute has now distanced itself from the claim.

Pawar backs Bt research
While there is no official comment from ICAR, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday assured crop scientists that rejecting Mahyco’s Bt brinjal did not mean end to research on crop biotechnology.

“The recent decision regarding Bt Brinjal must not seen as a setback in our efforts,” Pawar said at a conference of the vice chancellors of farm universities here on Wednesday.

The minister, however, asked the scientists to ensure all misgivings on GM crops is removed comprehensively from the “minds of policy makers and public.”

Citing half-a-dozen reasons to support genetically modified crop, Pawar stated that conventional farm technologies are inadequate to meet the formidable challenge of feeding 1.8 billion Indians by 2050.

Incidentally, before Ramesh's rejection of Bt brinjal, both Pawar and his cabinet colleague Prithviraj Chavan favoured commercial release of what could have been India’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop.

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