A group of scientists from Norway have discounted the argument that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would increase yields. “They have been telling this for the last 17 years. There has not been a single GMO that has demonstrated production of larger yields than traditional varieties,” Dr John Fagan, Chairman and Chief Scientific officer of Genetic ID, said.

Dr Fagan, who was here with regard to a workshop on bio-safety, pointed out that the proponents of GMO had been talking about traits such as drought and flood resistance. “But not one is released so far,” he said.

“The planet is changing very fast because of climate change. And as a result of this, there is decline in biodiversity. GM might show some short-term solutions for pest problems. But in the long run, resistances would have an adverse impact,” Dr Thomas Bohn, Senior Scientist at Genok, said.

His colleague, Dr Jan Husby felt that the GM pollution might impact exports. GM crops would pollute the traditional crops by cross pollination and this could reflect in the produce. “Some countries have certain norms. If organic produce contains contaminated material, exports could be banned,” he said.

India was the centre of origin of many species. Cross-pollination was bound to happen, making a dent into biodiversity. “India has been a chest-keeper of diversity. It needs to protect this heritage,” Dr Odd-Gunnar, Head of Department of Biology at Genok, said. Dr Lim Li Lin, a senior legal and environmental researcher at the Malaysia-based Third World Network, said GM technology would force farmers to buy seed every year. Overall, it would lead to dependence on technology companies. “They (farmers) would lose sovereignty on their decisions. The Andhra Pradesh Government has every right to control prices because farmers have small holdings and are poor.”

GM crops can pollute traditional ones, affecting India's biodiversity.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 6, 2011)
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