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Experts bat for new tech for agriculture
18-January-2012 Deccan Chronicle
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Indian agriculture needs the latest biotechnology to improve yields and meet the demands of the growing population. However, farm experts blame the Central government for having double standards when it comes to “mutagenic” and “transgenic” food crops. The Central government has been promoting over two dozen food crops developed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre through “mutation breeding” using radiation to alter the genetic make-up of plants. While harmful radioisotopes like cobalt-60 is used to trigger genetic changes in plants to develop traits like high yield or resistance to pests, a gene from a bacterium is used in the “transgenic” process in crops to achieve the same qualities.

“Mutagenic brinjal, whose genetic make-up has been changed using cobalt-60, has been in use in Indian markets for about three decades without any protests from any quarters,” said Dr David Spielman, from the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, USA.

Dr David is one of the many experts currently in the city to participate in a two-day seminar on biotechnology in Indian agriculture. The seminar is being organised by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies from January 18. Prof. Ronald J. Herring of the Cornell University, New York, said, “The experts at the seminar will look at strong evidence on the impact of biotechnology on farming, crop production, and income of farmers and the welfare of their families. We will not simply debate whether the technology is good or bad, but will come out with strong evidence to support the claims.”

Though a decade ago the Centre allowed Bt cotton, it withheld permission to release Bt brinjal for commercial consumption. This has attracted criticism.

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