Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Truth Prevails

In the past weeks lots of support has been pouring in for GM crops. Many who have been working tirelessly to promote GM crops understand the contribution of these crops to food security, poverty alleviation, reduction in environmental footprints, and in mitigating climate change. And for these people it is often frustrating to see bad press and scaremongering tactics used to create fear among the public.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Downing Street joins the chorus of proponents of GM crops saying GM crops should be grown and sold widely in Britain. A spokesperson has been quoted as saying opposition to GM crops is “complete nonsense”. I hope this drives some sense into those who religiously spend their time and resources to do all they can to deprive the world from benefiting from GM crops.

Next to join this is WWF Vice President, Jason Clay who backs intensive agriculture and GM crops. Clay understands that the burden on the environment can be reduced through intensive farming and by adopting GM crops. He says intensive agriculture is more sustainable than extensive farming.

And then comes Mark Lynas, a one-time strong opponent of GM crops who says “What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it”. In his lecture at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas said the anti-GM movement  has rendered the process of official approval of new crop technologies too long-winded and prohibitively expensive.

(This is something I never understood – anti-GM activists complain that the technology is monopolised by the giant companies and then make it easier for them by prohibiting public sectors from entering by raising the regulatory costs.)

Anyways, I hope the public and the policymakers and the politicians will start to realise the science behind GM crops and able to differentiate science and pseudoscience.

Will Seralini take a cue from Lynas?

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I am always amused with the talks of new year resolutions and its impact on our achievements. Can anyone tell me if new year resolutions have really made a great impact on your life? I don’t make new year resolutions as we have 365 opportunities (if not more)  to make resolutions on any other days. I make resolutions all the time, so I don’t wait till the 1st of Jan.

Anyways, to those who  religiously followed through your resolutions  - my sincerest congratulations!

I would like to reproduce my editorial note from the Dec issue of Petri Dish and hope we could connect with each other on the issues discussed.

“THE year is coming to an end. And as usual it is time to take stock of our success and failures to improve in the coming years. A number of biotechnology related policies were launched in 2012.

The Bioeconomy Policy took the limelight, so did all the EPPs under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). The National Biomass Strategy and the various strategies to promote innovations all looked very ambitious.

It created a number of high-level positions and involved huge investments and expenses and these have to be justified and the return of investment has to be quantified in terms of number of successful biotech companies, commercialisation of research at universities and research institutes, and creation of job opportunities.

So what is on my Christmas and New Year wish list? Pointedly it is for the country to pay urgent attention to fundamental research. I am reiterating what I have always preached - if we don’t have strong fundamentals or basic research, we can never have successful commercialisation of high-end products. We will end up with herbal supplements with no global standards and markets, buying technologies from outside, luring foreign companies to set up their plants here with locals working as second-class workers, seeking assistance from outside to address national challenges such as tropical diseases, food security, managing diseases and pests in the agricultural sector, etc.

We keep encouraging our students to take up science but are the job opportunities promised a reality? How would biotech companies emerge if there is no fundamental research? Is that why a number of Bionexus companies have closed shop and none have reached global status?

There are no short-cuts in biotechnology. Just like how a building without a strong foundation would crumble, a biotech industry without strong fundamental research would not last long. Players will come and go and no legacy would be created.”

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan