Opposition to GM Crops Due to Ignorance, Fear: US Professor

Published: 28th August 2015 04:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2015 07:48 AM   |  A+A-

COIMBATORE:  It is the fear of the new that makes people oppose genetically modified (GM) crops, according to Prof Susan R McCouch of the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, USA.

But cultivation of GM crops is the need of the era and those opposed to it must study the matter in depth. Many of those who question it are not really aware what GM crops are and how they are created, Prof McCouch told Express on the sidelines of a special interaction session here recently.

It was organised by KG Hospital to create awareness among students and the public of the positive and negative aspects of GM crops.

For instance, genes that can help destroy pests is used to 'strengthen' crops. This variety can thus become toxic to several pests, but is so integrated that it does not harm non-target organisms. However, many people all over the world fear that consuming GM crops would harm human beings and animals by causing system imbalance. Those who raise such doubts cannot be blamed, but they are not really aware of how it is done.

She said people have the tendency to oppose all such changes in the beginning, even when they are good, but gradually accept them.

“When antibiotics were first introduced, there was strong resistance. See the situation now, people cannot even think of a day without antibiotics. This is not an isolated case. There are hundreds of such examples around us. Even the magnificent Green Revolution was resisted in the beginning. It has resulted in eradication of hunger for billions of people,” she said.

Those who oppose GM crops must also think of the wide use of pesticides, she said. In many countries where GM crops are cultivated, the use of pesticides has come down considerably. The harm from GM crops is not as severe as that of pesticides.

Indeed, pesticides were first developed to kill people during war and they are now used on farms in diluted forms. “This is the situation now. It is people’s fear of the new that makes them oppose GM crops,” said Prof McCouch.

G Balakrishnan, chairman of KG Hospital, presided over the session.


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