The new environment minister Prakash Javadekar is yet to take a call on allowing further trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops. The seed industry is hoping for better days, like they used to be before 2010 when the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal was put on hold. Ram Kaundinya, Chairman, Association of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (Agriculture Group), spoke to Sandip Das on the need for using biotechnology for meeting the rising demand for food in the country.
What are your expectations from the government on the use of biotechnology in agriculture?
We are focused on R&D of innovative biotechnology products for the benefit of the farmers, the consumers and the nation. Any technology initiative requires policy support from the government for R&D as the gestation period is long and huge amounts have to be invested. The technology and its applications have stagnated since 2010 (with the moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal). We believe this inaction should end and a phase of active adoption of agricultural biotechnology be ushered in.
We expect that, under the new regime, the process of research, including open-field trials under the supervision of existing regulatory bodies, is not halted while the requirement of NOC from states for conducting trials is waived off. Coordination among the agriculture, the science & technology, and the environment & forests ministries along with the state agriculture universities and respective state agriculture departments is key to this.
The new agriculture minister, Radha Mohan Singh, has stated that GM technology should be adopted in case of urgent needs. What would be your approach?
We have always maintained that this technology is no silver bullet that solves all the problems. The objective of food and nutritional security of the nation will need a basket of solutions of which GM technology is a part. We should deploy the technology where it can deliver the best value to the farmer and the consumer. The government and the industry together should identify high-priority crops and traits for which GM technology would be beneficial for India. This will help the industry to focus its efforts with the government providing the necessary policy support. As India asserts its position globally, it must use the best technologies for the benefit of its farmers and develop technologies for long-term agricultural sustainability.
Ongoing biotech research trials in India, concerning crops like corn, rice, cotton, vegetables, etc, are being pursued under strict regulatory guidelines. The data generated from these