Vet­eran bi­ol­o­gist and ac­tivist passes away

BioSpectrum (India) - - PEOPLE NEWS -

Vet­eran molec­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist and a ve­he­ment critic of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops, Pushpa Mit­tra Bhar­gava, died at 89 in Hyderabad. A stri­dent critic of multi­na­tional seed com­pa­nies, Bhar­gava was op­posed to the in­tro­duc­tion of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops — from cot­ton to brin­jal and, most re­cently, trans­genic mus­tard — in In­dia. His ar­gu­ment was that these crops posed health haz­ards and re­quired decades more of tests be­fore pos­si­ble clear­ance.

He had led what came to be called the Award Wapsi pro­gramme in 2015 when sci­en­tists and lit­ter­a­teurs re­turned their awards against what they called ris­ing tide of in­tol­er­ance in the coun­try. Bhar­gava was chair­man of the Draft­ing Com­mit­tee for the As­sisted Re­pro­duc­tive Tech­nolo­gies (Reg­u­la­tion) Bill 2013. The Bill was the cul­mi­na­tion of a 15-year strug­gle as he mo­bilised and mar­shalled sup­port by meet­ing leg­is­la­tors and pol­icy mak­ers. The draft Sur­ro­gacy (Reg­u­la­tion) Bill was ap­proved by the Union Cab­i­net in 2016. How­ever, Bhar­gava op­posed the ban on sur­ro­gacy, in­stead call­ing for pro­tec­tion of the rights of sur­ro­gate moth­ers.

Bhar­gava was also vice-chair­man of the Na­tional Knowl­edge Com­mis­sion. In his role as a founder di­rec­tor of Cen­tre for Cel­lu­lar and Molec­u­lar Bi­ol­ogy (CCMB), he also in­vig­o­rated the art scene in Hyderabad by invit­ing artistes from across the coun­try and creat­ing a res­i­dency pro­gramme.

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