At a time when a debate is raging across the country on whether commercial use of genetically modified mustard should be allowed or not, Prime Minister Narendra Moditoday said that technology is needed in agriculture for fighting malnutrition and hunger, but it should not be the cost of sustainability and compromising the country’s bio-diversity.
Addressing the first ever International Agrobiodiversity Congress here today, Modi said that the world community needs to develop a system where all rules related to agro-biodiversity is harmonised.
He also called upon the scientists from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and others to expand the ambit of their research so that plant and animal varieties which are helpful to farmers could be publicised across the country.
“Despite most countries accepting the International Bio-diversity convention almost 50-150 species of plants, animal and marine resources are getting extinct every day,” Modi lamented.
In India, a recent panel under the Genetic Engineering and Appraisal Committee (GEAC) gave a favorable ruling on GM mustard, thus opening one door for its commercialisation in the country.
However, the move has sparked intense debate within the country with right-wing organisations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch along with prominent civil society organisations criticising the approval.
One major argument of these organisations is that once GM mustard is commercialised it will gradually lead to wiping off all indigenous mustard varieties. The honey bee industry has also opposed GM mustard on the ground that it would kill honeybees and also the livelihood of millions of growers as mustard is a main crop for bees.
Modi in his speech also said that research have shown than extensive use of pesticides in crops destroy honey bee colonies for which a proper analysis should be done to understand which are beneficial insects and which are harmful.
“We have till now managed to register 160 animal species, but our bio-diversity reserve is much larger than this and hence research should be done to register more species,” the Prime Minister said.
Warning scientists against the ill-affects of global warming on agriculture bio-diversity, Modi said that studies are showing that around 15% of original animal species would be wiped off in the next few years due to climate change.
He said India with over 47,000 plant species, over 89,000 animal species and 6.5% of world agro-biodiversity research should play a leading role in world to maintain and conserve bio-diversity.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and noted agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan also address the gathering.
Over 900 delegates from 60 countries are attending the three-day Congress starting today which will encourage a dialogue among relevant stakeholders – including farmers – to better understand everyone’s role in agro-biodiversity management and the conservation of genetic resources.
World over there are around 390,000 species of plant, but just 5,538 plant species are known to humans. Only 12 plant species and just five animal species are presently used to produce 75% of the world’s food, according to a study by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
India’s bio-diversity reserves
* Home to over 45,000 plant species
* Home to over 91,000 animal species
* Global share in land is just 2.5%, but possess over 7-8% of recorded species of plants and animals.
* Home to four of the 34 designated global biodiversity hotspots
* Recognised as one of the eight Vavilovian Centres of origin of crop plants
* India’s National Gene Bank is the second largest gene bank in the world storing over 0.4 million collections from 1,800 plant species and their wild relatives