A judicious blend of traditional farming and new technologies like GM crops can ensure food and nutrition security, says the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) to the prime minister.
The SAC advises the prime minister on all issues relating to science and technology development in the country.
In a meeting here, the members of the SAC deliberated on issue of application of biotechnology for social and economic advancement of the country particularly in the area of agriculture. The prime minister is the head of the SAC.
The members expressed concern that a science informed, evidence based approach is lacking in the current debate on bio-technologies for agriculture.
According to members, land availability and quality, water, low productivity, drought and salinity, biotic stresses, post harvest losses are all serious concerns that will endanger country's food and nutrition security with potentially serious additional affects as a result of climate change.
"Accordingly, strategies for agriculture in future must be based on higher yields, concomitant with reduction in resource inputs. This will require a judicious blend of traditional breeding and new technologies, non-transgenic and transgenic," they said.
India allowed GM cotton in 2002 but imposed a ban on Bt brinjal, the first genetically modified(GM) food crop, in 2010, following stern opposition from civil society.
The members said that the precautionary approach is inherently sound but it must be applied through a science based safety assessment and social and economic analysis for deployment.
"Some of the opposition to GM crops in the country results from fear of domination by multinational companies. One way to address this concern is to invigorate and further strengthen the relevant scientific capacities of our institutions in public sector, universities and Indian companies," they said.
The members emphasised that the current debate on GM crops is demoralizing and isolating Indian scientists in the sector whose skills have been built with painstaking effort and large investment.
"The policy confusion will also keep the brightest away from this field of research. Our scientists are fully aware of the social realities in this country and have widely endorsed the judicious adoption of traditional breeding with biotechnologies, non-transgenic and transgenic, as appropriate," they said.
The council also called for prioritising the proposed bill for establishment of a national Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI), 2012, which is pending in parliament.