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The idea is to bring supporters and opponents of GM technology into the same room and sort out differences.

New Delhi: The Modi government has tasked NITI Aayog to play peacemaker in the GM controversy amid opposing viewpoints on the use of this technology to boost farm productivity, ThePrint has learnt.

The idea is to bring supporters and opponents into the same room and sort their differences out, sources said. This includes groups such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an RSS affiliate, which has been leading the opposition to GM technology.

The invitees also include farm experts such as Kapil Bhai Saha who is opposed to GM and scientists such as Dr K.C. Bansal and Dr Deepak Pental who support GM.

A first meeting scheduled for 26 April was cancelled at the last moment as NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar was not available. A new date is yet to be set.

“GM technology is the need of the hour. One can’t wish it away,” one of the invitees to the meeting told ThePrint, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But unfortunately there are so many misgivings about it. The technology has received the image of evil,” he added.

He said pesticide companies are opposed to GM seeds as they will drastically lower the demand of their products.

“The opponents of GM technology must make up their minds about what they are opposing: the process of genetically modified seeds or the multinational companies, which are doing it?” said another source.

American biotech company Monsanto, one of the pioneers of GM technology, entered the Indian market with GM cotton seeds in the early 2000s. Farm experts say this helped India to go on and become the largest cotton producer in the world, surpassing China.

Similar attempts to introduce and commercialise GM brinjal seeds over the last decade have, however, not met with success.

An NGO working on environmental issues and which opposes GM technology, said, “This technology is very new and so there are no studies to substantiate that its use has no harmful health implications. MNCs which produce GM seeds are in a hurry as they just care about their profits.”

Monsanto, which is set to be acquired by German firm Bayer AG in a $66 billion deal, has faced many hurdles in India. It has invited the wrath of NGOs and civil society groups.

On 11 April, the Delhi High Court dismissed Monsanto’s plea to enforce its patent on the BT cotton seed.

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