The Busy American

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Nina Fedoroff lobbies hard in New Delhi

By Shantanu Guha Ray

IF SHE was asked what messed the show, Nina Fedoroff, Science and Technology Adviser to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would surely blame it on the blizzard that delayed her flight. As a result, she got a few hours to lobby for genetically modified (GM) crops in the Indian Capital. If she had arrived on time, Fedoroff would have got a day and a half out of her visit, whose schedule was coordinated by the office of Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda.

Around the time when Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh announced a moratorium on Bt brinjal, Fedoroff dropped in on Planning Commission Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, regarded as belonging to a section of government favourably disposed towards genetically modified crops. Ahluwalia merely said they discussed “agricultural issues”.

Fedoroff is a strong votary of GM crops, to the extent of being regarded as a spokesperson for US seed multinationals like Monsanto, the principle purveyors of GM seeds. Fedoroff had famously told The New York Times in 2008 that only GM technology could feed the world and became a target for sustainable farming enthusiasts worldwide. She followed up her that statement by telling a group of US agri-scientists that although Europe and Japan were averse to GM foods, Africa and India were clamouring for them and couldn’t wait for Europe to make up its mind. Fedoroff has also co-authored a book in favour of GM foods, titled Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Foods.

Highly-placed sources told TEHELKA that Fedoroff was also scheduled to meet Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chauhan, another strong votary of Bt brinjal, but it fell through. Her meeting with anti-GM activist Vandana Shiva did not work out either. Fedoroff eventually met up with some scientists. That was at 1500 hours, at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. By then, the moratorium had been announced. No one knows if she is stillf blaming the weather for those lost hours.

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