Debating GM crops: Let sound science, and so good sense, inform it

The Paris-based International Council for Science, a federation of more than 100 national science academies, has come out with the biggest review of scientific literature on genetically modified crops. The review provides guarantee: GM foods presently in circulation are safe for consumption. It also avoides judgement: the future safety of GM foods and their impact on the environment are troubling matters, it says

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- THE Paris-based International Council for Science, a federation of more than 100 national science academies, has come out with the biggest review of scientific literature on genetically modified (GM) crops. The review provides guarantee: GM foods presently in circulation are safe for consumption. It also avoides judgement: the future safety of GM foods and their impact on the environment are troubling matters, it says.

This review is the first of its kind. Others, equally welcome, are in the offing. Such studies will provide an immense service to a global community immensely confused by the pro and contra of any talk on GM crops. Sound science will now hopefully cut through the swathes of rhetoric that usually characterise, and even incite, controversies surrounding GM crops. The issue is now poised to move into the domain of knowledge. Now benefits can be clearly weighed clearly against dangers. It should now be possible to take informed decisions in the public interest.

Informed decisions are the sore need of the GM hour. Consider the World Seed Congress-2003 held recently in Bangalore. The secrecy surrounding the meet was shocking. No farmers' body was invited or taken into confidence. Civil society was brushed aside. In the meet, the Union government cravenly endorsed GM crops in the presence of the biggest seed companies.

Transnational companies are known to be despotic about their controversy- and secrecy-ridden products. They are manic about profit motive. They like to overrun the corridors of power in developing countries, liberally sprinkling 'concessions' and 'miscellaneous costs'. Transparency runs contrary to their business interests. The problem also is that the us government is a proponent of the technology that does not breed trust. it has no use for scientifically validated facts or knowledge. The GM industry should learn that this 'friend' is its worst enemy in the battle for mind and hearts.

That doesn't mean it is impossible to play ball with the companies. In fact it is an ethical imperative that there be no easy victories. It is extremely important that the real issues are brought out in the open. If civil society must fight a battle on GM crops, this battle must be fought in the public domain, not in corporate seminars or other such closed playgrounds. For this the civil society will need to make good use of scientific and democratic institutions. Hopefully, it should now be possible to do so.

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