Agriculture

Resisting GM crops is our responsibility: expert

Genetically modified crops are “Terminator technology” that kills the basic instinct for survival

 
By Subhojit Goswami
Last Updated: Monday 28 August 2017 | 10:19:52 AM
Presenting his views on genetically modified seeds at the Natural Farming Summit 2017 in Bengaluru on Tuesday, Kapil Shah questioned the “unethical tinkering of genes” for more productivity
Credit: Subhojit Goswami
Presenting his views on genetically modified seeds at the Natural Farming Summit 2017 in Bengaluru on Tuesday, Kapil Shah questioned the “unethical tinkering of genes” for more productivity
Credit: Subhojit Goswami Presenting his views on genetically modified seeds at the Natural Farming Summit 2017 in Bengaluru on Tuesday, Kapil Shah questioned the “unethical tinkering of genes” for more productivity Credit: Subhojit Goswami

Genetically modified crops are “Terminator technology” that kills the basic instinct for survival, Kapil Shah, one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement, says.

Presenting his views on genetically modified (GM) seeds at the Natural Farming Summit 2017 in Bengaluru today (May 9), Shah questioned the “unethical tinkering of genes” for more productivity. The summit has been organised by the Sri Sri Institute Agricultural Sciences & Technology Trust SSIAST).

“Whatever the scientists do, are they always ethical? Not really. You would be surprised to know that India ranks 31 out of 72 cotton-growing nations. Interestingly, 21 countries, which do not use BT cotton, are ahead of India when it comes to productivity,” Shah adds.

Building on the idea that the problem of pest has multiplied over the past 50 years due to the increased use of pesticides—from just three pests in 1965 to 14 pests in 2015—Shah pointed out that genetically engineered crops are not a sustainable pest control strategy, as has been claimed. In fact, they are adding to the pest problem.

Citing the example of Gujarat where farmers are uprooting BT cotton crops after pink bollworm pests wreaked havoc, Shah said that those protesting GM crops are countering certain claims with the help of science. “We are not against science. We are the most scientific community, but we are against such science that tilts towards economy and profit and not ecology and sustainability,” he says.

There are so many varieties of plant species whose potential has not been explored yet. Shah substantiates his claim with the following figures:

  • 400,000 plant species are known to us globally
  • 300,000 plant species are documented
  • 30,000 plant species are edible and out of that 7,000 plant species are utilised
  • Only 30 plant species feed the world

Highlighting different peer-reviewed studies on the damaging aspects of GM crops, he referred to the fact that most countries are refusing to import BT crops. Shah also pointed out how the World Health Organization suspected in 2015 that glyphosate used in Monsanto’s herbicide and HT seeds are “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Shah said GM mustard is not the final hurdle towards transitioning to natural farming as at least 72 crops in India are in the research pipeline for genetic modification.

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  • I wonder what kind of "expert" Mr Shah is, but "pioneer of organic farming movement" certainly places him in direct confrontation with the very idea of genetic modification. This is highlighted in his concern about "unethical tinkering of genes." This is neither a scientific concern, nor, strictly speaking, an ethical concern. This is simply an ideological concern. Studies have shown that organic farming, in fact, is unsustainable because of the large area of land it requires, and consequently likely to strain the planet's carbon budget. For someone who claims to care about sustainability and the ecology, and to be "the most scientific", this fact should be enough to deter him from pushing organic farming. One would like to read these "peer-reviewed studies" which Mr Shah cited to buttress his argument.

    Also, pests do evolve, migrate, speciate etc, just like pathogens do, throwing up new challenges all the time. There can be epigenetic changes. Controlling the gene, to whatever extent possible, is one of the best weapons in science's arsenal to deal with such challenges. Just because new, and more, pests are showing up, doesn't mean that we should totally abandon the technology itself. It just means more research is required to deal with the new challenges.

    Posted by: Lazarus_30 | one year ago | Reply