Letter from Prof. M. S. Swaminathan to the Editor of Current Science

Modern Technologies for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security, Current Science, Vol. 115, No. 10, November 25, 2018

Chennai, December 19, 2018: The above paper published in Current Science was mainly intended to ensure that the most effective and economic technologies are available to our farmers. The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation has adhered to the following principles in the choice and implementation of projects involving techniques of genetic modification:

  1. Genetic engineering technology has opened up new avenues of molecular breeding. What is important is not to condemn or praise any technology, but to choose the one that can take us to the desired goal sustainably, safely, and economically.
  2. Genetic modification is the technology of choice for solving abiotic problems like drought, flood, salinity etc. This is particularly important in the context of climate change. It may not be equally effective in the case of biotic stresses since new mutants of pests and diseases arise all the time.

It is my belief that the green revolution should not become a greed revolution and that we should ensure that the long-term productivity of the soil and of water also become part of new agricultural technology. I also believe that genetic modification is the best pathway for breeding crop varieties for resistance to abiotic stresses. For example, as part of anticipatory research programme at MSSRF to meet the challenge of sea level rise, we have developed sea water tolerant rice varieties based on donor genes from mangrove species (Avicennia marina), which have also contributed genes for iron content of the grain.

I believe that some acceptable and transparent regulatory authority will be necessary to inspire public, professional, and political confidence in relation to risks and benefits.

I wish to conclude by reiterating my total commitment and support to modern technologies including genetic modification and gene editing. Also, my emphasis has been on generating synergy between technology and public policy.

In view of my extremely limited role in the paper, it would have been appropriate for Prof Kesavan to have been designated as the sole author of the paper.

- M S Swaminathan