Published: Friday 10 July 2015

Inequity and genetics

This is in reference to the article on genetics (October 15, 1993), which mentioned a future project to be launched by a consortium of Western universities and scientists, known as the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP).

Learning about the diversity of the human genetic make-up is no doubt valuable to medical research -- claimed to be performed for the good of all mankind -- but the distribution of medical resources, as with resource distribution in general, is still unequal. The patterns of exploitation and unequal distribution of resources apply as much to medical research as to other research and resource issues relating to the developing world.

Though it is recognised that indigenous communities are being marginalised into extinction, why and how this is happening in the context of larger issues is not clear. It seems that indigenous populations can be surveyed and their privacy impinged upon, but will the bio-based research include the influence of factors such as depletion of their resources and decimation of their habitats?

I agree with the initiative taken by the Rural Advancement Foundation International to get HGDP authorities to meet the World Council of Indigenous People. A holistic perspective can then be arrived at and employed in any activity that involves using indigenous people as a source of genetic data. Apart from genetics, we can also learn about various practices, traditions and knowledge from these people, which might help us preserve the biodiversity of the planet.

Above all, we can learn about one of the most important aspects of survival, i.e., the right attitudes towards nature as the nurturer of life. Why should we use genetic technology when indigenous knowledge and attitudes can teach us simpler and inexpensive ways of preserving human life and livelihoods? Respecting nature also means respecting the integrity of each human being and giving them a choice of not becoming mere "guinea pigs" in scientific research. ...

Cattle energy

Apropos Matthew Vadakemuriyil's letter (October 15, 1993), cattle power is not used only for biogas, but also for pre- and post-harvest operations, lift irrigation, transportation and other rural activities. According to an estimate, animal energy provided by bullocks is equivalent to 40,000 MW, which is considerably higher than the total power available from all the power plants in the country. India would need petroleum products worth $20 billion against the total external debt of about $85 billion to replace this animal-derived energy.

India also produces about 960 million tonnes of cow dung, which even if priced at 25 paise per kg, could contribute almost Rs 25,000 crore. Divergent use of cow dung and urine have already been found, which could lead to further value-added products. ...

More than one

In the In Brief section (October 31, 1993), it is mentioned that India's only marine national park is in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. Please note that there are two more, in the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep....

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