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Professor Murli Manohar Joshi
Member of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha)
6, Raisina Road
New Delhi 110001                                                                                                                            May 6, 2008   


Dear Professor Joshi

A news byline of IANS datelined May 6, 2008 quotes you while addressing a farmer’s rally in New Delhi that “Bt variety of crops will act as TB (tuberculosis) for the Indian farming industry if continued to be used”. Your statement that completely betrays your ignorance of the subject matter appalls us. It is obvious that you were simply playing into the hands of the organizers of the farmer’s rally who are all well-known members of the anti-GM lobby, which is determined to banish modern biotechnology and GM crops from India. Their whole movement is regressive, anti-farmer and anti-progress. You have become a party to a movement that is going to shackle India’s poor farmers to medieval technologies and they will never be able to rise out of their miserable poverty at this rate. GM crops are in India to stay and we should all see to it they work to the maximum benefit of Indian farmers who are lagging behind in the application of science and technology.

It was shocking to us that you would compare GM crops to the dreaded TB. The analogy is highly mischievous and outright deceptive, and of all people, you should not have said such nonsense. Again, one of the organizers must have coached you to say it. You have wittingly or unwittingly fallen a trap into the false propaganda and disinformation campaign of the anti-GM lobby in the country who organized this rally. You are a physical scientist and may not have much knowledge of biology or modern biotechnology and the organizers of the rally have exploited it to the hilt to score political points. The anti-GM lobby in India is Luddites who want to take India’s agriculture backwards based on their own political ideology.

Being a former minister, you presided over the Department of Biotechnolgy with a multi-million dollar budget of which a significant part is devoted to the development of GM crops in the country. Leading public sector research institutions in the country are on the cusp of delivering the fruits of GM crops technology. The cotton farmers have already tasted stupendous success and financial benefit of growing Bt cotton, the first ever GM crop in the country. Scientific and empirical evidence is there for you to verify from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Department of Biotechnology, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests who are overseeing the implementation of this technology.

It is unconscionable that you called GM crops as modern day agricultural TB? This flies against in the face of scientific facts and empirical evidence, which we will be happy to furnish for your edification. We think you should have consulted your former Department of Biotechnology to ascertain scientific facts before parroting the words of the anti-GM lobby, which is determined to deny benefits of modern biotechnology to the poor and hapless Indian farmers. The anti-GM lobby is now bandying your words around the world by saying that a former Science Minister of India thinks GM crops are bad. The world scientific community will wonder what kind of an ignorant Minister of Science and Technology you must have been. They have made you a laughing stock in the eyes of the world scientific community.

Leading scientific bodies, academies including India’s own National Academy of Sciences have endorsed modern GM crops as one of the solutions to address so many intransigent problems in agriculture. The political and ideologically motivated anti-GM campaign in India is going to hurt Indian farmers and agriculture, if they have their say.

If you believe that GM crops are TB of Indian agriculture, then you should be militating against the Department of Biotechnolgy (0f which you were in-charge for five years) to stop funding GM research and shut the department down. We would have expected that a trained scientist like you would have been honed with an inquiring and objective mind with which you would have asked for scientific proof and evidence from the organizers that anti-GM rally. You can ask them even now, and they will have nothing credible to produce.

At the same time, you should ask the Department of Biotechnology and other scientific bodies in India and abroad about the aspects and prospects of modern biotechnology and GM crops, and then take an informed decision about whether you want to support GM crops or not. Falling for misleading propaganda to score political points is not the way to agitate for India’s agricultural development.

Please let us know if we can be of help in bringing forth-scientific documentation and empirical evidence about the risks and benefits of modern biotechnology and GM crops, and we will be more than happy to oblige. We want to interact with you about risks and benefits of modern biotechnology for India’s development.

Dr. Shanthu Shantharam
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The latest issue of Plant Physiology (July 2008; Volume 147, Issue 3) has a special section on next generation of biotech crops especially on nutritional improvement.  These papers can
be downloaded free!

Influence of Transgenosis on the Plant-Insect- Relationships, in Particular on Chemically       Mediated Interactions

Effect of Transgenes Conferring Enhanced Pathogen Resistance on the Interaction with Symbiotic        Fungi in Rice

Impact on the Soil Ecosystem through Natural and Genetically Engineered Organisms:
      Effects, Methods and Definition of Damage as Contribution to Risk Assessment

The Decomposition of Bt-Corn on the Fields and its Impact on Earthworms and on other        Macroorganisms in the Soil

Environmental Post-market Monitoring of Bt-maize:
       Approaches to Detect Potential Effects on Butterflies and Natural Enemies

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Against the Grains: 'The Terminator Hoax '

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