Nobel laureate for GM food, against biofuel and cloning

April 26th, 2008 - 7:55 pm ICT by admin  

Chennai, April 26 (IANS) For Nobel laureate microbiologist Sidney Altman, biofuels and clones are “no, no” but genetically modified (GM) food is a big “yes”. The renowned professor at Yale University thinks biofuels “cannot be the solution” the mankind is looking for.

“There is no indication that biofuels can ever substitute fossil fuels,” Altman said in the keynote address at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-organised interaction on “what business and society can learn from basic research” here Saturday.

Pointing out that as of now, biofuel costs more than petrol in many countries, he said though biofuel “sounds like a good idea but scientific data do not support it (as a cheap alternative to fossil fuel).

“Biofuel is not the answer” to petrol and, moreover, it can scale up prices of wheat, maze and milk in every country, he warned.

Talking of cloning, Altman was even more definite. “I am against anything (scientific development) that will promote a complete human clone”, Altman said.

He said he was okay with cloning the human skin and “there is some bone cloning being tried, but the question is can we clone a heart or a kidney?

“Cloning is a very complex process and to clone a heart scientists have to clone different micro-processes that take place in the heart. It might work with animals but with a human? I don’t know”, Altman said.

He, however, supported GM foods, attributing the success of food self-sufficiency in developing countries countries to the new technology.

China, India, Australia and Singapore were doing well in biotechnology research, Altman said, adding that “a good education” was the bedrock for industrial development.

Calling upon the Indian industry to “provide education opportunity to everyone in society”, Altman said “this trip of mine to India will be worthwhile” if India’s industrial houses contributed towards this goal.

“Everything we do in biotechnology and biology related to industry comes through knowledge of basic science. There is no way you can make a contribution to industry without knowing the basic science.

“You must understand the biology happening today and what relevance it has to our lives, only then can you make a partnership with business houses,” Altman told the scientists and industrialists among the select gathering.

Altman received his Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the catalytic properties of the RNA (ribonucleic acid which is the transcription protein in chromosomes) in 1989, which he shared with Thomas R. Cech.

He is in India to participate in an international biotechnology conference.

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