Nobel laureate Richard Roberts, a well-known advocate of GM crops who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1993, on Wednesday blamed “green groups” for scaring people against GM crops in India.
However, he said that in India, there is the possibility of the government taking a positive stance on the issue.
Addressing the media after a lecture at Amity University on Wednesday evening, Roberts said that green outfits must admit that they were wrong in “spreading lies” around the issue.
Calling the BT cotton example in India as “terrific”, he said that the BT brinjal is already growing in India as it is being “smuggled” from Bangladesh.
He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pro-GMO but other members of the government have been getting things wrong and using the issue for political reasons.
“Once someone gets scared, it will be very difficult to reassure him. Ideally, the green groups which started the problem by planting the fear should address the fear they instilled in people,” Roberts said.
“If they can just be honest and admit that this was an issue they got wrong, I think that would be very effective,” he said, when asked about what needed to be done to get the anti-GM crop groups on board.
“You live in a democracy and unfortunately, some people will get things wrong and they will use the issue for political reasons. Here at least, there’s a possibility of the government taking a very positive stance. We are getting better and better and better. It’s fast, you need better crops since the monsoons are changing. We are not going to have the same rainfall. You will need drought-resistant crops. You are going to need changes, which won’t be possible with traditional methods,” he said.
Launching a tirade against Greenpeace, an international NGO, which has been running anti-GM crops campaigns, he said that it was interested only in raising funds which they were getting from the campaign. “They are not interested in the truth, they are not interested in the fates of the Indian children, the Indian population. They are only concerned about themselves,” he said.
Roberts also said that there needed to be a movement from the farmers who need to ask for something they want and also called upon religious leaders to support the cause.
“There needs to be a grand movement from the farmers, but I think some movement from thought-leaders too. I think the leaders of religious organisations have an opportunity here to play their role and that’s why we are going to speak to the Pope, because a lot of people listen to what he says,” he said.
When asked about the need for a mechanism for the regulation of GM crops, he said that even as the green parties call for regulation, they are against the big agri-businesses.
Roberts is a part of a global campaign, “Support Precision Agriculture” which has an online letter signed by 123 Nobel laureates urging Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods “improved through biotechnology”.
Sunil Dahiya, national-level campaigner (climate and energy), Greenpeace India, told TOI that GM crops destroy the bio-diversity if there is any problem in the crop. “Greenpeace is not merely opposing the GM crops but it has also suggested alternatives like organic agriculture,” he said. “We are running a campaign for organic farming in Kedia village in Bihar,” Dahiya said.