By Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA
Genetically modified crops play a role in enhancing agricultural productivity according to Dr. Gurdev Khush, the 1996 World Food Prize laureate in a lecture at Lubbock, United States of America. Dr. Khush has led a program that has resulted in more than 300 high yielding rice varieties.
Speaking to a full room yesterday in the Halls of Nations at Texas Tech University (TTU), Dr. Khush highlighted the benefits of modern technology, genetics and breeding efforts that have helped the world. Remarkable developments in agriculture have enabled the world’s poverty level to drastically reduce from 37% in 1990 to 12.8% in 2015.
The graduate students of the Plant and Soil Science department at Texas Tech University hosted the visit of the internationally renowned geneticist, who is a Fellow of Royal Society, London.
Jake Sanchez, a graduate research scholar stated that Dr. Khush’s career will inspire future students to make career choices that can impact the humanity. Professor Eric Hequet, the Chairperson of the Plant and Soil Science department at TTU encouraged the students to follow the path of Dr. Khush and quipped that the student should surpass the internationally renowned scientist.
In speaking about new technology and its adaptation, Khush stated, relaying correct information to the public is important, as misinformation may be misleading, particularly regarding GMOs. Strategies for enhancing agricultural productivity should focus on increasing the yield ceiling and closing the yield gap. Genomic approaches must be carefully adopted to improve the farm sector.
Citing China as an example, the speaker stated how hybrid breeding has enabled China to enhance its rice yield by 20 percent.
The cotton revolution, which has taken place in India is due to both hybrid and the adaptation of GMO seeds.
To a question from this scribe on the prohibitive cost of the seeds with advanced technologies, Khush while agreeing that there is a cost of research and development involved, stressed the importance of striking a balance to support the farmers.
In closing, Dr. Khush stated that he is optimistic about GMOs and convincing people and governments with proper information is essential.