Saturday, June 26, 2010


Suman Sahai
If anything indicates the absurdity of India’s research priorities, especially in genetic engineering, it is the report that a group of researchers from the Jamia Hamdard University in Delhi have developed transgenic strawberry lines tolerant to salt stress. The strawberry was genetically engineered to express the gene coding for the protein osmotin. Osmotin kicks into action in response to salt and water stress and cold temperature. It also shows anti-fungal activity.

Please bear in mind that this salt tolerant GM strawberry works under cold conditions so even if it had any relevance to anyone in India, it would fail to take off under the prevailing global warming conditions. Apart from this, the scientists reported that the growth rate of these plants is slower than other plants, so this crop of GM strawberries will straggle behind the normal strawberry plants. The question must be asked, who are these high tech strawberries intended to benefit?

Precious public funds, the money that you and I pay in taxes, is being wasted on frivolous research of this kind, even as the country fails to demonstrate adequate investment in time tested technologies to secure food production. As India faces a food crisis and awaits the debilitating double whammy of global warming, threatening to reduce agriculture productivity, scarce research money is being spent on developing slow growing strawberries!
The proponents of GM crops, in the scientific establishment, the Agriculture Ministry, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Prime Minister’s Office, and a host of lobbyists, never tire of repeating that GM technology is necessary to solve the problem of hunger. Is this their road map for a hunger free India? Is anybody in the science establishment thinking?


  1. Linkage of undesirable traits is a problem also in plant breeding.

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