The architect of India’s Green Revolution M S Swaminathan was in the city on Sunday to deliver the convocation address at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS).
He spoke to Express on various issues including, future of Indian agriculture and genetically modified crops. Excerpts from the interview:
What are your views on genetic modification of crops for commercial purposes?
We can do without genetic modification as we have Marker Assisted breeding methods today where we choose a breed with a particular marker gene responsible for a particular trait like fruit size and then multiply the crop.
Occasionally, we may need a new gene. Then genetic modification is required and the process has its pros and cons and must be handled in a safe and responsible manner. This is true of nuclear power also. The safe use of biotechnology must be promoted.
Our country has a large number of students who are specialising in biotechnology and related subjects. We must become a leader of safe and responsible use of biotechnology.
What could be the future of Indian agriculture?
Self-sufficiency in food and nutrition is important. 2016 has been designated as the International Year of Pulses and efforts must be made to intensify cultivation of pulses. We have to attend to nutritional problems such as protein hunger and hidden hunger caused by the deficiency of micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, iodine, vitamins etc. This year has been designated as the International Year of Family Farming, for developing every family farm into a nutri farm. Small farm agriculture needs technology upgrades. We need more research on genomics and phenomics.
What do you think should be the agenda of the new government?
The new government must implement our recommendations. Monsoon and market are the two main determinants of agriculture and the well being of farmers, the science can develop but technology and its use is decided by the public. The new government must look at market reforms and promote a single Indian market where farmers can move and sell their produce all over the country without restriction on the price.
The Agricultural Biotechnology Committee which I chaired in 2003 and which submitted its report in 2004 had recommended both a Parliament approved regulatory agency as well as the necessary infrastructure for conducting All India Coordinated Trials with Genetically Modified Organisms. Such a special trial to be organised by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) should have an eminent biosafety expert as its coordinator. Ten years have passed since this recommendation was made and we should lose no further time in implementing it.
Empowerment of women in farming in land, water, technology and getting credit must be on the agenda of the new government. Narayana Gowda, Vice Chancellor of UAS, Bangalore has propagated the Chinese model of on farm productivity and profitability. This will bring more income and add value to farms.
Eternal vigilance is the only way to fight challenges like climate change.