Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Designer rice plans in trouble as environment activists oppose any tinkering of rice genes

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The efforts of a group of scientists in the city
to develop designer rice, a genetically modified variety with greater
yields and higher resistance to pests and climatic stress, have come
in for sharp criticism with biodiversity activists expressing concern
that it will kill the natural rice varieties.

Andhra Pradesh is the rice bowl of India and any tinkering with the
genetic makeup of rice will affect the naturally occurring ones, thus
damaging the local biodiversity.

Dr PV Satheesh, national convener of Southern Action on Genetic
Engineering, demanded that Dr EA Siddiq, chair of the expert committee
on Agro-biodiversity of the National Biodiversity Authority, should
step down for allegedly supporting genetically engineered designer rice.

Designer rice is being touted as the future rice variety that will
solve the problem of hunger of ever-growing population on the earth.
Recently, scientists involved in the proposed project on designer rice
held a meeting in the city to emphasise the need for introduction of
genetic engineering in paddy.

“Support to the designer rice is a grave threat to the local
biodiversity, which is already under the aggression of the GE
technology. It is now concluded all over the world that GE and
agro-biodiversity (which is a product of ecological farming systems)
cannot coexist. The phenomenal capacity of GE crops to contaminate
organic crops in general and agro-biodiversity in particular is now
globally too well known to need fresh argument,” Dr Satheesh said.

He said while one is quite used to the machinations of the biotech
industry by making important scientists to make pro GE statements,
that it has been able to use the very Chair of the NBA’s
Agro-biodiversity Expert Committee comes as a real shocker. The NBA
should make its stand clear on genetic engineering in agriculture.

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Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity