FOCUS ON ASIA
Press Release, 05 Oct. 2004
BOOK LAUNCH - GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS: A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR THE ASIA PACIFIC
by Suman Sahai
As part of its Asia level awareness building exercise on Genetically Modified (GM) crops and food safety issues, Consumers International Asia Pacific, Gene Campaign and Voice, are organizing a three day regional workshop on 5,6 and 7 October, in New Delhi.
The workshop is meant principally for consumer groups and other civil society organizations (CSOs). The aim is to provide factual, up to date information on GM technology, its food safety and environmental aspects, the nature of policy making and the ability of developing countries to implement this technology.
The three day workshop will allow participants to have discussions with experts and give them access to information to help them form their own views on this new and controversial subject and its relevance to agriculture and food security in the Asian region.
On this occasion, Dr. Sothi Rachagan , Director of Consumers International Asia Pacific, is launching the book GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS: A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR THE ASIA PACIFIC written by Dr. Suman Sahai, Convener of the Gene Campaign.
The book is supported by Consumers International - Asia Pacific and will be used by Consumers International in its global campaign to build capacity on this subject among consumer groups and government agencies.
Dr Suman Sahai has written a basic book explaining the subject of Genetically Modified crops. The subject of GM crops and foods is controversial and the debate is so polarized between the opponents and supporters that the lay public is more exposed to views than to information. Dr. Sahai who is a geneticist by training and has several years of research and teaching experience in the universities of Alberta, Chicago and Heidelberg, has written a book which deals with the factual aspects of GM technology in a simple language and straight forward manner that lay people can understand.
The book "GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS : A resource Guide for the Asia Pacific" has been written for the public in this region. Although the book's focus is the Asia - Pacific, it will be useful to groups working in other parts of the world also.
Suman Sahai's book starts with explaining what GM technology is, how genetic engineering is done and the way GM crops are produced. The book then goes on to explain why GM crops are considered risky and how risks are assessed in the case of each new GM crop variety. There are examples of the kind of environmental risks associated with GM crops and a whole section deals with why it is necessary to be vigilant about the food safety aspect of these new crops, as well as how food safety tests should be done.
Although there are scientific books dealing with the subject of genetic engineering and GM crops, these are scientific, not popular literature. Because of the use of technical jargon, these books are difficult if not impossible for the lay person to understand.
The importance of the GM book by Suman Sahai is that the complex subject of genetic engineering and the impacts of GM crops are explained in a lucid, easy to comprehend language. There is a large amount of information without the text being technical and overbearing. This will enable people to develop their arguments and views on GM crops on their own. The other important contribution the book makes is to provide information and analysis in the context of the Asian region. This is to be seen in light of the fact that most of the literature available has been generated in the west.
Sahai explains the situation in Asia, detailing the kinds of committees and regulatory structures that exist in India and ASEAN and analyses the loopholes and weaknesses of the Indian situation.
Given that religious sensibilities in this region are high, an interesting section in the book deals with the cultural and religious views on GM technology, documenting what people of various faiths feel about eating GM foods and why they have ethical concerns.
This book highlights a much neglected aspect of GM technology, that of its socio-economic impact on small farmers and producers in developing countries. The dominant debate usually centers on the health and environmental impacts of this technology. Since the GM debate is largely western, where there are no small farmers, the impact on them and their livelihoods is not usually addressed in the literature that is commonly available. Written for the Asian region, this book deals with those issues that are relevant to farmers and consumers here.
The book deals with a wide range of issues associated with genetically modified crops. It explains the science behind genetic engineering and its current applications. It deals with the implications of this new science and the framework necessary to ensure its safe use. The book critically analyses the prevalent regulatory systems and suggests improvements. The book concludes with recommendations to civil society and -governments.
Suman Sahai's book will serve as a resource guide and information source for people and NGOs concerned with GM crops. It will provide a much needed input into public education and awareness programs and contribute to fostering an informed public debate, leading in turn to public participation in the decision making process with respect to GM crops in the Asia Pacific region.
Contact: DR. SUMAN SAHAI
Phone: - +91 11 26517248; 98-110-41332
New resource on GM for Asia-Pacific (5/10/2004)
FOCUS ON ASIA