Changing Hearts & Minds: Talking to the Skeptical Indian Public about GMOs

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The talk examines challenges in integrating cutting-edge gene tech into research and how to ensure public acceptance of such products.

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Changing Hearts & Minds: Talking to the Skeptical Indian Public about GMOs and Gene-Edited Food

Channa Prakash, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Tuskegee University, USA

Date and Time: July 21st, 2021. 11:00am - 12:15pm.

Abstract: Many recent developments in agricultural biotechnology hold considerable potential in advancing sustainable farming in India. Advances in genomics, gene transfer, proteomics, bioinformatics, gene editing, synthetic biology, and genome engineering can be employed to enhance ecologically-friendly crop production for smallholder farmers in India by developing nutritionally-rich crops with enhanced climate resilience. I will showcase a few examples of such technologies of relevance to Indian farming. However, several challenges are ahead in integrating such cutting-edge gene tech into research in India and ensuring that the public accepts products developed from such technologies. Indian policymakers must provide favorable policy environments to support and integrate research on these frontier technologies in agriculture. How can we gain public trust with these emerging technologies to ensure their acceptance? Here, we can draw from our experience in dealing with the GMO controversy for the past three decades and ensure that we do not make some of the same mistakes with new breeding tech as it was done with GM crops. The Indian scientific community, especially in the public sector, such as agricultural universities and ICAR, can help foster such acceptance by proactively engaging all the stakeholders and being very transparent in addressing their concerns about the new technology. It is vital that the science community interacts with the media, consumers, and policymakers and share the benefits and safety aspects of these emerging technologies. The Indian scientific community must also use innovative tools in information and communications technology, primarily social media, to enhance greater societal understanding and acceptance of novel crop varieties developed through new breeding techniques.

Presented by: Canada India Research Centre for Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)

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