CHENNAI: Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) can only be achieved through sustainable agriculture,” said Prof MS Swaminathan, who was conferred the Doctor of Letters (D.Lit) degree by ITM University, Gwalior, for his ‘unparalleled contribution to mankind’ at a Special Convocation held at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) on Wednesday.
The founder of the MSSRF emphasised on the ethical aspect, with regard to patenting new discoveries, and asked that institutions be put in place to maintain equity. He gave the example of the Swiss Government that purchased the patent for the Golden Rice variety and made it available to all developing nations free of cost or at a nominal charge. This is a model to emulate, said Prof Swaminathan.
He highlighted that biodiversity conservation is a key step in sustainable agriculture and went on to illustrate how the germplasm of thousands of varieties of rice available now can be attributed to the work of farmers, who originally discovered it.
“The first rice cultivators were women,” he said, noting that there was a portrait of a woman in a temple at Along in Arunachal Pradesh, whom the local people consider to be the one who introduced rice into cultivation.
Kamal Kant Dwivedi, vice chancellor, ITM University, Gwalior, presented the degree to Prof Swaminathan. Dwivedi quoted a Sanskrit saying that translated to: there is no greater service than selfless sacrifice which makes the other happy. This was an apt description of Prof Swaminathan’s life and work, he said.
T Ramasami, former secretary, Department of Science and Technology, spoke about the need for a re-definition of agricultural research highlighting the current disconnect between reality and research and development. He spoke about the need for developing people-centric science, i.e. science that adds value to people’s lives and how the basis of all of Prof Swaminathan’s work has been centered on this philosophy.
The convocation was attended by scientists, researchers, scholars, guests of ITM University, the staff of MSSRF, the media and other members of the public.