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CoP-11 special focus on GM crops

HYDERABAD: India's concerns on genetically modified crops with a special mention to the debatable Bt cotton was given prime attention at the inaugural session of the biodiversity conference.

Meeting of Parties (MoP-6) to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety held in Hyderabad on Monday with the focus being on living modified organisms (LMOs). The experts felt that creating awareness at the government level on risk assessment and management with a view to curbing misinformation was important.

While tackling questions in a side event titled 'Key Issues For Advancing Bio-safety in Hyderabad', the panelists had to struggle a bit to convince the audience on an approach to push the government for decision making on promoting genetically modified crop such as Bt cotton. even as the public mood is opposed to the innovation at a time when it is beneficial to the community.

"In a country like India, it is easy for the government to ban genetically modified crop like Bt cotton, but it is hard to convey the benefits of the innovation. How to address this frustrating issue?" was the question from the audience following the presentations given by the experts.

Although perturbed by the query that brought the esoteric debate to the ground level,

Jack A Heinmann, professor at Centre for Integrated Research in Bio-safety, University of Canterbury, said, quoting Article 23 of the Cartagena Protocol,

that the public awareness must be created considering the risk assessment angle and explained how Ad Hoc Technological Expert Group on Risk Assessment and Management (AHTEG) was established to address these sorts of issues.

"The guidance on risk assessment of LMOs that is the outcome of AHTEG would come handy in creating awareness among both the government and the communities. The government must leverage on this to highlight the benefits. However, in a democratic set up various dynamics are in operation and it is difficult for decision making," he said.

Explaining the benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), illustrating the soybean experiment in Bolivia, Georgia Catacova Vargas, member of Bolivian Development to the COP-MoP6, said the use of genetically modified crops was beneficial for the farmers as well as the consumers as they yield more and are less toxic because of minimal use of pesticide. "It is imperative that the government has the right information. The genetically modified crop like Bt Cotton is advantageous as the level of toxin expression in it can be very high thus delivering sufficient dosage to the pest. And as the usage of pesticide is less the health risk in minimal," she said.

~ Times of India
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