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GM crop is as safe as any other form of breeding. It's probably safer: Mark Lynas

Interview with British author and journalist

Sanjeeb Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 

Photo: Youtube
Photo: Youtube

In the 1990s, Mark Lynas, was one of most vocal critics of genetically modified (GM) technology and an ardent environmentalist crusader. An author of books like The High Tide, Six Degrees, and God Species (most of them on environment and climate change), Lynas shocked the world in 2013, when he said he was wrong in opposing genetically modified organisms or GMOs. In an interview with Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Lynas defends the government's recent decisions on mustard, saying that globally it is proven that GMOs reduce pesticide use by 40 per cent and it should be best left for the farmers to decide whether they want GMOs or not. Edited excerpts:

Do you think the technical expert committee (TEC) is right in giving a favourable verdict on commercialisation of mustard?


Clearly, this holds great potential to improve productivity of in India. Currently, imports a lot of oil, which could be grown domestically if there were higher-yielding hybrids available. If people keep strangling agricultural innovation in India, the country will become increasingly reliant on imports and increasingly food-insecure as the population increases and consumption rises.

How do you view expertise in handling these issues?

TEC's expertise is not in question. It is ironic because this is a home-grown GMO developed by and other Indian scientists in Delhi University.

Anti-activists are questioning the trials and tests done by that led to the favourable nod to mustard. Do you think their argument is justified?

No amount of tests will satisfy them (anti-activists). We have already had 30 years of safe use of this technology. Let's be clear: anti-people are trying to prohibit an entire field of scientific endeavour.

Opponents of are saying developers haven't produced a single instance of health test to the public or blood analysis of animals that have consumed to prove that it is safe for human consumption. Do you think both these tests are necessary for establishing the safety of mustard?

There is a 120-page safety assessment document available, which I can only assume none of the opponents of has bothered to read. They sound plausible, but this is just about demanding more and more ridiculous data. "Feeding studies with 100 rats not enough? We must have 10,000 rats! Or a million!" It's just a blocking tactic, aimed at scaring the public. What is important is to understand that there is a worldwide scientific consensus that the technology of is as safe as any other form of crop breeding, and probably safer.

There is an allegation that use of would lead to increased use of herbicide, which would benefit a particular company making plant chemicals and instrumental in developing the seed. Do you think there is any substance to this argument?

The trait that has is male-sterility in order to facilitate the use of hybrids, which can increase yield via hybrid
vigour. The herbicide tolerance trait was only used in development as a selectable marker for hybrids, and is not intended for use in the field. Scientific studies have shown that GMOs globally have dramatically reduced pesticide use, by about 40 per cent.

According to you, what should be the approach of the government on and how should it go about so that farmers gain?

My view is farmers should be the ones to choose. Once the competent technical authorities have performed their assessments, this should move out of the political realm. Farmers can choose to grow or not, and consumers can choose to buy or not. Let the market decide. We need to hear the legitimate voice of farmers in this debate.

Do you think large-scale commercialisation of would wipe off all indigenous (native or local) varieties of from the country?

No, because cross-pollination is not an issue. Remember: self-pollinates! That is the whole point of this development, to prevent self-pollination via a male sterility trait, thereby facilitating the use of hybrids. But you can grow and existing varieties right next to each other and it is highly unlikely there will be any out-crossing, so this is another non-argument. These will be hybrids, which do not breed true and so seeds will not be saved.

Many people are questioning the need for when existing hybrid varieties give better yield. Your take.

Existing hybrid varieties are difficult and expensive to produce, due to the fact that is self-pollinating, so it is difficult to get it to cross-fertilise with different lines in order to produce hybrid vigour. The version is male-sterile so it simplifies this process, meaning that hybrid vigour will be available to many more farmers at a better cost. How it will perform in the market remains to be seen: At the very least, farmers and consumers should be given a choice.

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GM crop is as safe as any other form of breeding. It's probably safer: Mark Lynas

Interview with British author and journalist

Interview with British author and journalist
In the 1990s, Mark Lynas, was one of most vocal critics of genetically modified (GM) technology and an ardent environmentalist crusader. An author of books like The High Tide, Six Degrees, and God Species (most of them on environment and climate change), Lynas shocked the world in 2013, when he said he was wrong in opposing genetically modified organisms or GMOs. In an interview with Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Lynas defends the government's recent decisions on mustard, saying that globally it is proven that GMOs reduce pesticide use by 40 per cent and it should be best left for the farmers to decide whether they want GMOs or not. Edited excerpts:

Do you think the technical expert committee (TEC) is right in giving a favourable verdict on commercialisation of mustard?

Clearly, this holds great potential to improve productivity of in India. Currently, imports a lot of oil, which could be grown domestically if there were higher-yielding hybrids available. If people keep strangling agricultural innovation in India, the country will become increasingly reliant on imports and increasingly food-insecure as the population increases and consumption rises.

How do you view expertise in handling these issues?

TEC's expertise is not in question. It is ironic because this is a home-grown GMO developed by and other Indian scientists in Delhi University.

Anti-activists are questioning the trials and tests done by that led to the favourable nod to mustard. Do you think their argument is justified?

No amount of tests will satisfy them (anti-activists). We have already had 30 years of safe use of this technology. Let's be clear: anti-people are trying to prohibit an entire field of scientific endeavour.

Opponents of are saying developers haven't produced a single instance of health test to the public or blood analysis of animals that have consumed to prove that it is safe for human consumption. Do you think both these tests are necessary for establishing the safety of mustard?

There is a 120-page safety assessment document available, which I can only assume none of the opponents of has bothered to read. They sound plausible, but this is just about demanding more and more ridiculous data. "Feeding studies with 100 rats not enough? We must have 10,000 rats! Or a million!" It's just a blocking tactic, aimed at scaring the public. What is important is to understand that there is a worldwide scientific consensus that the technology of is as safe as any other form of crop breeding, and probably safer.

There is an allegation that use of would lead to increased use of herbicide, which would benefit a particular company making plant chemicals and instrumental in developing the seed. Do you think there is any substance to this argument?

The trait that has is male-sterility in order to facilitate the use of hybrids, which can increase yield via hybrid
vigour. The herbicide tolerance trait was only used in development as a selectable marker for hybrids, and is not intended for use in the field. Scientific studies have shown that GMOs globally have dramatically reduced pesticide use, by about 40 per cent.

According to you, what should be the approach of the government on and how should it go about so that farmers gain?

My view is farmers should be the ones to choose. Once the competent technical authorities have performed their assessments, this should move out of the political realm. Farmers can choose to grow or not, and consumers can choose to buy or not. Let the market decide. We need to hear the legitimate voice of farmers in this debate.

Do you think large-scale commercialisation of would wipe off all indigenous (native or local) varieties of from the country?

No, because cross-pollination is not an issue. Remember: self-pollinates! That is the whole point of this development, to prevent self-pollination via a male sterility trait, thereby facilitating the use of hybrids. But you can grow and existing varieties right next to each other and it is highly unlikely there will be any out-crossing, so this is another non-argument. These will be hybrids, which do not breed true and so seeds will not be saved.

Many people are questioning the need for when existing hybrid varieties give better yield. Your take.

Existing hybrid varieties are difficult and expensive to produce, due to the fact that is self-pollinating, so it is difficult to get it to cross-fertilise with different lines in order to produce hybrid vigour. The version is male-sterile so it simplifies this process, meaning that hybrid vigour will be available to many more farmers at a better cost. How it will perform in the market remains to be seen: At the very least, farmers and consumers should be given a choice.
image
Business Standard
177 22

GM crop is as safe as any other form of breeding. It's probably safer: Mark Lynas

Interview with British author and journalist

In the 1990s, Mark Lynas, was one of most vocal critics of genetically modified (GM) technology and an ardent environmentalist crusader. An author of books like The High Tide, Six Degrees, and God Species (most of them on environment and climate change), Lynas shocked the world in 2013, when he said he was wrong in opposing genetically modified organisms or GMOs. In an interview with Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Lynas defends the government's recent decisions on mustard, saying that globally it is proven that GMOs reduce pesticide use by 40 per cent and it should be best left for the farmers to decide whether they want GMOs or not. Edited excerpts:

Do you think the technical expert committee (TEC) is right in giving a favourable verdict on commercialisation of mustard?

Clearly, this holds great potential to improve productivity of in India. Currently, imports a lot of oil, which could be grown domestically if there were higher-yielding hybrids available. If people keep strangling agricultural innovation in India, the country will become increasingly reliant on imports and increasingly food-insecure as the population increases and consumption rises.

How do you view expertise in handling these issues?

TEC's expertise is not in question. It is ironic because this is a home-grown GMO developed by and other Indian scientists in Delhi University.

Anti-activists are questioning the trials and tests done by that led to the favourable nod to mustard. Do you think their argument is justified?

No amount of tests will satisfy them (anti-activists). We have already had 30 years of safe use of this technology. Let's be clear: anti-people are trying to prohibit an entire field of scientific endeavour.

Opponents of are saying developers haven't produced a single instance of health test to the public or blood analysis of animals that have consumed to prove that it is safe for human consumption. Do you think both these tests are necessary for establishing the safety of mustard?

There is a 120-page safety assessment document available, which I can only assume none of the opponents of has bothered to read. They sound plausible, but this is just about demanding more and more ridiculous data. "Feeding studies with 100 rats not enough? We must have 10,000 rats! Or a million!" It's just a blocking tactic, aimed at scaring the public. What is important is to understand that there is a worldwide scientific consensus that the technology of is as safe as any other form of crop breeding, and probably safer.

There is an allegation that use of would lead to increased use of herbicide, which would benefit a particular company making plant chemicals and instrumental in developing the seed. Do you think there is any substance to this argument?

The trait that has is male-sterility in order to facilitate the use of hybrids, which can increase yield via hybrid
vigour. The herbicide tolerance trait was only used in development as a selectable marker for hybrids, and is not intended for use in the field. Scientific studies have shown that GMOs globally have dramatically reduced pesticide use, by about 40 per cent.

According to you, what should be the approach of the government on and how should it go about so that farmers gain?

My view is farmers should be the ones to choose. Once the competent technical authorities have performed their assessments, this should move out of the political realm. Farmers can choose to grow or not, and consumers can choose to buy or not. Let the market decide. We need to hear the legitimate voice of farmers in this debate.

Do you think large-scale commercialisation of would wipe off all indigenous (native or local) varieties of from the country?

No, because cross-pollination is not an issue. Remember: self-pollinates! That is the whole point of this development, to prevent self-pollination via a male sterility trait, thereby facilitating the use of hybrids. But you can grow and existing varieties right next to each other and it is highly unlikely there will be any out-crossing, so this is another non-argument. These will be hybrids, which do not breed true and so seeds will not be saved.

Many people are questioning the need for when existing hybrid varieties give better yield. Your take.

Existing hybrid varieties are difficult and expensive to produce, due to the fact that is self-pollinating, so it is difficult to get it to cross-fertilise with different lines in order to produce hybrid vigour. The version is male-sterile so it simplifies this process, meaning that hybrid vigour will be available to many more farmers at a better cost. How it will perform in the market remains to be seen: At the very least, farmers and consumers should be given a choice.

image
Business Standard
177 22