GM crops must for country, government tells SC

The central government has told the Supreme Court that it could not achieve the goal of reducing the number of hungry people by half without taking recourse to genetically modified (GM) crops, which could herald the second green revolution in the country.

"Despite rapid economic growth in the past two decades, India is unlikely to meet the target of cutting the proportion of hungry people by half if recourse to advanced and safe biotechnology tools are not adopted," the central government told the apex court in an affidavit last week.

The central government said GM crops would not only lead to increased food security but would also reduce pressure on land use. In the last 13 years, the average availability of land per head had shrunk from 0.21 hectares to 0.10 hectares.

While the population had increased by 181 million in the last decade, the land under sowing remained static at 140-143 million hectares since 1970.

The central government pronounced its position backing field trials of GM crops while junking the interim report of the court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) report, which had recommended a 10-year moratorium on GM crops field trials.

The TEC was appointed by the apex court while hearing a petition by Aruna Rodrigues seeking a mechanism mandating scientific examination of all the aspects of biosafety before GM crops are released for commercial cultivation.

Pitching for field trials of GM crops, the government said: "Genetic engineering promises remarkable advances in medicine, agriculture and other fields."

"Ban on GM crop field trials will be highly detrimental and not in national interest," the central government said in its affidavit Friday.

In an attempt to persuade the apex court to reject the recommendation of the TEC, the central government's affidavit said: "In biotechnology and genetics, the principle sciences behind the GM crops, India has done exceedingly well in investing in HRD, education and training since 1986 with the establishment of department of biotechnology, the first country to do so globally."

It added that the success of the green revolution was driven by sufficient human resources available.

Making a strong plea for field trials of GM crops, the government said that "a 10-year moratorium would have a "cascading effect" of putting all the related research fields which thus far on the upswing into a decline".

It added that it would be a "blow to Indian science as it would put the country 20 years back in scientific research in comparison to fast growing economies who are developing GM crops like Brazil, China etc".

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