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July 13, 2000


Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture: Global Academies Issue Reports


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Biotech has to be used to improve food production: Mehta

BANGALORE: Use of genetically modified food-crops may be inevitable
to meet the food
needs of the world's growing population.

This was the thrust of a report -- 'Transgenic Plants and World
Agriculture' released by the
Indian National Science Academy (INSA) at the Indian Institute of
Science, on Tuesday.

Releasing the report, Goverdhan Mehta, president of INSA, said the
report has been
prepared along with six other international academies of the world.
Each of these academies
has contributed a paper to the report.

Asian and African countries have been asked to step up productivity
of food crops to meet
the demand of the population.

Environmental concerns are primary for developing countries. But for
countries like India, the
pressure to have food-security is overwhelming, he said.

The report, which will be presented to the Union Government, aims at
putting Genetic
Modification (GM) and transgenic crops in perspective. The report should enable
Governments all over the world to make considered choices in national
interest, he said.

The opinion on GM and transgenic crops has been divided and there has
been a backlash
against the technology, said to be a threat to farmers. But such
opinion should not
overshadow the real perspective, says the report.

Each country has its own specific crop needs. Transgenic technology
should be used to focus
on an area's main dietary crops and increase their production. But
every country must have a
regulatory mechanism to identify and monitor introduction of
transgenic crops and and any
effect on human health, the report stated.

The debate on intellectual property rights, the need for GM
technology in agriculture,
transgenic plants and human health and safety were some of the issues
addressed in the

There should be a balance between public and private sector funding
for research on
transgenic crops, the report states. ''Public funding in research has
declined,'' said Mehta.
The Government should fund such research so that it can utilise its
results, rather than have
private investments that create profitable products, the report
states. Intellectual property
rights need to be specially considered while dealing with farmers in
developing countries.
Research should not be inhibited by over-protective intellectual
property regimes.

The report was simultaneously released today by the other participant
academies -- Royal
Society of London, United States National Academy of Sciences,
Brazilian Academy of
Sciences Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Mexican Academy of Sciences.