Chennai, December 6, 2018: An article by Prof Kesavan and me in Current Science seems to have caused considerable concern and confusion. As far as I am concerned, the following has been my view throughout: Genetic engineering technology has opened up new avenues of molecular breeding. However, their potential undesirable impacts will have to be kept in view. What is important is not to condemn or praise any technology, but choose the one which can take us to the desired goal sustainably, safely and economically.
It is unfortunate if the article has created the impression that I am opposed to GM as a technology. Technology always creates divergent viewpoints. For example, the gene editing technology (CRISPR) is now undergoing divergent views. This is why it is important to have a transparent regulatory mechanism which is supported by professionals, government departments and the private sector. After all we started genetic engineering research in 1990 for transferring genes from mangroves to rice for salt tolerance.
Genetic modification is the technology of choice for solving abiotic problems like drought flood, salinity etc. It may not be equally effective in the case of biotic stresses since new strains of pests and diseases arise all the time. This is why MSSRF choose mangrove for providing genes for tolerance to salinity.
I have always said that the green revolution should not become a greed revolution and therefore we should ensure that the long-term productivity of the soil and water also becomes a part of the technology. I also believe that GMO is the best pathway for breeding crop varieties with resistance to abiotic stress.
There has been some misunderstanding about my views to ensure sustainable productivity by avoiding the spread of greed revolution resulting in the undermining of the long term production potential. In this context, Norman Borlaug and I shared the same concern for ensuring sustainable food and nutrition security.