In what was probably his last science congress before his retirement, prime minister Manmohan Singh threw his full weight behind “Bt crops” stating that government remains committed to promoting use of these new technologies for agricultural development.
“Climate-resilient agriculture and modern bio-technological tools hold great promise. Use of bio-technology has great potential to improve yields. While safety must be ensured, we should not succumb to unscientific prejudices against Bt crops,” said Manmohan Singh inaugurating the 101st Indian Science Congress at the Jammu University here.
The prime minister, however, urged the “scientific community to increase communication and engagement with society at large” in explaining socially productive applications of technology alternatives and for improving the productivity of small and medium enterprises.
“To ensure food security and to improve land and water productivity, we have to launch a national drive for an evergreen revolution. This will test the ingenuity of our agricultural scientists,” Singh said.
The issue of allowing field trials of genetically modified crops has been hanging fire with ministry of environment and forests not supporting it from long. Right now only Bt Cotton is allowed by the government with a moratorium on its use in food crops.
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had put a moratorium on use of GM technology in food crops after a huge controversy had erupted over use of GM technology in Brinjal crop. The case regarding allowing of field trials for GM food crops is pending with Supreme Court.
A Technical Expert Committee in the case at SC had also favoured a 10-year moratorium on field trials of GM crops. Jayanthi Natarajan, who resigned as environment minister in December 2013, was also not in favour of the move.
Thus prime minister’s remarks at the Indian Science Congress are ‘significant’ and may certainly bring a smile on face of scientific community which has been advocating use of GM crops for improving yield for long.