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Jairam GM voice finds no echo in PM panel

His colleagues in the Government,Ministers Sharad Pawar,Prithviraj Chavan and Kapil Sibal disagreed with him and called for science,not ideology,to dictate Government policy on genetically modified (GM) foods....

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi |
February 20, 2010 2:39:06 am

His colleagues in the Government,Ministers Sharad Pawar,Prithviraj Chavan and Kapil Sibal disagreed with him and called for science,not ideology,to dictate Government policy on genetically modified (GM) foods. Now the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) has joined in — it has taken a stand more nuanced than that of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh made a distinction between food and non-food and public and “private” research to justify his indefinite “moratorium” on Bt Brinjal. The PMEAC doesn’t see it in such black and white terms.

“After the success of Bt Cotton and the benefits it has brought to the farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra,it is imperative that the government must have a clear policy on Genetically Modified (GM) crops. The regulatory framework should clearly assess performance in the field and the impact on environmental and food safety issues and bring the results into the public domain at the shortest possible time,” the PMEAC said in its Review of the Economy (2009-10) presented today.

While Ramesh is against the private sector driving research in seeds and agricultural biotech,the PMEAC underlines the value of private sector research and the need for public-private partnerships.

It argues that “basic research which benefits the poor and marginal farmer” is the responsibility of the state but underlines the “significant contribution” of the private sector in “evolving hybrid varieties of seeds for commercial crops.”

“In extension of research findings to farm level,there is a large scope for public-private partnership (PPP),as the public extension system has virtually collapsed,” the PMEAC said.

“India’s first Green Revolution was not powered by the private sector,” said Ramesh. “And there is no reason to believe that the second Green Revolution would be driven by private companies.”

The PMEAC,headed by former RBI Governor C Rangarajan,identified technology and organizational factors as major constraints to sustainable growth in agriculture and lamented the fact that there’s been no major breakthrough in agricultural research since the Green Revolution years. The council’s members include economists Saumitra Chaudhuri,M. Govinda Rao,V S Vyas and Suman K. Bery.

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