Stressing that India needed to look at its seed industry, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today said he believed in the fundamental primacy of the public sector seed industry. “The first Indian public sector Bt cotton is in the market and we can’t depend on private sector biotechnology in agriculture, which is different from that in health. Biotechnology in agriculture must remain overwhelmingly with the public sector,” he said.
Ramesh added that testing procedures and trials for food products should be more stringent than that of drugs as people consumed food when healthy and drugs when they were unhealthy.
“I have stressed the importance of public investment in biotechnology for agriculture but Indian private investment in this area is already a reality. Mayhco is one example. Between 2007 and 2009, the GM crops approved for field trails by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) include insect-resistant cotton and rice developed by Metahelix Life Sciences, Bangalore and hybrid rice developed by Avesthagen, Pune, both companies run by a new generation of Indian scientists,” said Ramesh.
Moreover, the law ministry along with the environment ministry is mulling the setting up of a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority to formulate proper guidelines for commercial cultivation of food crops in the country.
However, activist Vandana Shiva disagreed with the idea of increased public participation in biotechnology in agriculture and said: “Poison is poison whether you give it through public sector or private sector.”