Don't Succumb to Prejudice Against Bt Crops: PM - The New Indian Express

Don't Succumb to Prejudice Against Bt Crops: PM

Published: 03rd February 2014 06:56 PM

Last Updated: 03rd February 2014 07:09 PM

Asserting that his government had worked hard to promote the use of science and technology as a key driver of India's development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday warned against succumbing "to unscientific prejudices against Bt crops".

"While safety must be ensured, we should not succumb to unscientific prejudices against Bt (biotechnology) crops. Our government remains committed to promoting the use of these new technologies for agricultural development," the prime minister said in his inaugural address at the 101st Indian Science Congress here.

Expressing delight at inaugurating the five-day event being held at the University of Jammu this time, Manmohan Singh said the congregation of premier scientists is a "vindication of our commitment to achieving inclusive and balanced development of our nation".

"Together with the scientific community represented here, our government has worked hard to promote the use of science and technology as a key driver of development," he said, adding "we have redeemed our pledge, if not in full, but very substantially".

Addressing his 10th session of the Indian Science Congress, the Prime Minister highlighted that the great potential of biotechnology to improve yields.

"I urge our scientific community to increase communication and engagement with society in explaining socially productive applications of technology alternatives and for improving the productivity of small and medium enterprises," he said.

The event, being attended by Nobel laureates, scientists, teachers and students, focuses on the theme of "Innovations in Science and Technology for Inclusive Development".

It will see various sessions on various topics including 'Futuristic approaches to biology of infectious diseases', 'Chemistry and futuristic role', 'Advances in physical sciences'; and Advances in science and technology for women empowerment'.

The Prime Minister also announced an initiative under which eminent scientists abroad will be invited to work in India.

"A new initiative is the institution of 25 Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowships, under which eminent scientists anywhere abroad are invited to work in India for 12 months over a three-year period," he said.

Out of about 200 nominations, first five selected for fellowships include M. Vidyasagar, computational biologist at the University of Texas; Azim Surani, life scientist at the University of Cambridge and Trevor Charles Platt, geo-scientist at Bedford Institute of Oceanography. As part of the fellowship, each scientist will be given $100,000 annually for three years.

Manmohan Singh also suggested an increase in the annual expenditure on science and technology "to at least two percent of the GDP".

Identifying strides in the healthcare sector, he said that efforts to discover drugs for neglected diseases are beginning to bear fruit, with the rota virus vaccine and a new drug for malaria being among the "reassuring developments".

The prime minister also announced the proposed setting up of a neutrino-based observatory in Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs 1,450 crore, and said India would also join the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland as an associate member.

Union Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy announced the launch of a Rs.200 crore scheme for scaling innovation to serve needs of the common man.

"Special overseas scholarships for bridging national gaps in critical and frontier areas of scientific research are being launched. The ministry proposes to also mount joint virtual institutes in areas like advances manufacturing and climate change science," he said.

Manmohan Singh also called for Indian science to be a "driving force propelling India as a resurgent civilisation".

"I worry that science has not yet got its proper due in our value system. I would like science to be high in our value system so that our entire society provides both moral and material support for its development," he said.

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