A Word of Caution on GE Crops:
Satyasunder Barik, The Hindu, 9th Dec 2011
Two biologists have warned against introduction of genetically engineered rice variety in place like Odisha, which is known as centre of origin of the crop, saying it will prove disastrous for food sovereignty and environment.
“It is reportedly planned to grow ‘golden rice', a Bt rice, here. The engineered rice will definitely end up contaminating traditional variety,” says Michael Hansen, who currently works primarily on food safety issues.
Dr. Hansen, who obtained doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan, has been appointed a FAO and WHO Joint Consultation on Genetically Engineered Animals in 2003.
“In Mexico they did not allow planting engineered corn, but they later allowed corn to be sold in Mexico for food under pressure from USA and North American trade agreement. Some farmers used it as food and some planted it. That had led to contamination of indigenous variety,” he points out.
Concurring with Dr. Hansen, Ricarda A. Steinbreacher, a biologist, says, “it is recommended in quite a number of scientific papers that centre of origin should be paid utmost attention because if anything goes wrong it is difficult to undo it.”
Odisha is store house of rich rice varieties. According to a survey done in 1970, 1700 varieties of rice could alone be detected from Jeypore tract under undivided Koraput district.
The two scientists have cautioned that allowing entry to engineered varieties is likely to contaminate the traditional variety. “That can happen in a number of ways. One is of course cross pollination between variety and other way is varieties – both engineered ones and traditional species – get mixed,” says Dr. Steinbreacher.
Pointing out that seed could actually get mixed due to human error, Dr. Hansen says, “a perfect example is canola which was not allowed to be grown in Japan, which is centre of origin of some of these plants. But import and export of oil seed was allowed for some other purposes. However, during unloading of canola shipment at ports species seeped out.
There is actually engineered canola growing in wild in Japan especially along the roadways.”
He has warned that farmers could incur huge economical loss due to contamination by opting engineered crop. Both visiting scientists share their knowledge with scientists of Orissa University of Agriculture Technology and Central Rice Research Institute here.
They have dismissed the argument of policy makers and seed companies that genetically engineered crop would give high yield and help meet growing food demand of huge population of nations like India. “The problem is not with the production. The problem lies with mismanagement in distribution. What we produce today is able to feed twice the population. Governments should pay their attention on proper distribution of produces,” they have argued.
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ProQuest/CSA site on GM Food: