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16th ASC Experts Call For Balanced Technology Policies to Maximize Benefits From GM Crops

"Understanding socioeconomics and sustainability implications are very much required for upscaling upcoming technologies on genomics in the agriculture sector," said Dr R Ramakumar, NABARD Chair at the School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and a part-time member of Kerala Planning Board.

Parvathy Pillai
(Right: Dr R Ramakumar)
(Right: Dr R Ramakumar)

The 16th Agricultural Science Congress (ASC) incorporated discussions that emphasized genome editing, biosafety for product development, and socioeconomic considerations. Agricultural experts put focus on formulating balanced technology policies which are crucial for maximizing benefits from GM crops.

Experts are of the view that the sector needs a broader and multi-dimensional framework to understand the net social value of technology transpired in the field and suggested that there should be greater consultations among agri-bio scientists and social scientists.

Dr R Ramakumar, NABARD Chair at School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and a part-time member of Kerala Planning Board mentioned that the government research establishments in the country should take adequate care and measures for risk assessment, risk management, hazard identification and socio-cultural impact of agricultural technologies.

He further said, "Understanding socioeconomics and sustainability implications are very much required for upscaling upcoming technologies on genomics in the agriculture sector."

Bt Cotton

Dr Ramakumar talked about the Bt cotton experience in India and said that his technology was not a failure as widely perceived. He adds, "This experience can be utilized to bridge the disconnect between technology regime and policy discourse. Hence, social impacts like displacement and inequality can be addressed adequately."

Ownership of Technology

Dr Ramakumar also stressed the need to exercise due diligence on matters regarding the political economy of ownership of the technology.

Applications of the best science and technology, including in the areas of agri-bio, agri-tech, and food-tech are required to produce more food from less land to meet the growing food demand sustainably, said Dr Michael Jones from Murdoch University, Australia. “The genetic potential of crop plants in the field underlies all these technologies, and genome or gene editing is providing exciting new opportunities for genetic crop improvement”, Dr said.

Increasing Role of Women and Youth in Agriculture

The ASC also witnessed a symposium on youth empowerment and gender equity. The speakers at the symposium pointed out that efforts are still needed to speed up ensuring the active participation of women in the sector as agri-entrepreneurs.

The meeting also suggested that skilling the youth should be the focus for the future and that sharing of learning materials and knowledge through joint exchange programs should be encouraged.

A comprehensive women-friendly capacity-building framework in the seed chain should be strengthened and promoted. Unpaid work by women in agriculture should be counted, the symposium suggested.

The ASC is being organized by the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) and hosted by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).

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