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  • Q. Three critical challenges for Indian agriculture?

    A. It requires improvement of crop productivity using new genetic gains, better soil fertility and efficient water management; higher investment in agricultural research for development, infrastructure, storage, market intelligence; and we need a National Policy for Agriculture for short, medium and long term vision, implementation, and governance.
  • Q. Share of agriculture in the GDP in India declined from 14.6% in 2009-10 to 14.5% in 2010-11 and further to 14.1% in 2011-12 and it is likely to decline to 13.7% in 2012-13. What do you suggest to increase agricultural share?

    A. We require productive agriculture which will translate into remunerative agriculture. We also need gradual conversion to large holding farms from less-productive small holding farms to enable farm mechanization. There is a need to give impetus to agriculture based agro-industry as well as development of skilled labourers for agricultural.
  • Q. Mechanization in India remains low - and added to that is the problem of shrinking labour force - causing stress on the productivity. What is your recommendation?

    A. Mechanization in agriculture is very much needed and sooner it happens better it is for the Indian agriculture growth. Government policy on subsidy for mechanization needs further improvement and understanding to make it functional. Attention to develop designer crop architecture is needed to enable cultivation of crops suitable for mechanization system, seed to seed in a chain system.
  • Q. What are the three major interventions Government should initiate to make Indian farmers empowered?

    A. We must have a system of education that will provide understanding of the modern agricultural practices. This needs to be supplemented by a complete agriculture package including timely availability of quality seeds, fertilizers, procurement/marketing arrangement. There is also a critical need to promote research for monsoon independent and climate resilient crops development.
  • Q. How do you think implementation of Food Security Law will impact agriculture?

    A. One of the key tasks for the government is to ensure adequate food grains production as well as make the Public Distribution System effective and functional. The pressure of making Food Security successful might force Government to invest more in modern science in agriculture including Biotechnology and genetic engineering to ensure higher crop productivity. Otherwise, the requirement to meet the demand of 40-60% more food grains during the next 20-30 years would be impossible and India might need to import food grains from other countries as it does for vegetable oils and pulses. I also hope the additional cost for Food Security should not hamper or reduce Government’s spending in need based infrastructure, procurement system, storage capacity.
  • Q. What is the extent of introduction of biotech in Indian agriculture?

    A. Biotechnology is a global science and it is already introduced in India for a long time. DBT is expected to make biotechnology more useful to the people/society and beneficial to the farmers. Bt Cotton has been a successful story in India which is a product from a multinational company, Monsanto. However, Indian seed companies also benefitted from this product through sub-licensing. Farmers are also happy using the Bt Cotton seed that resulted in enhanced cotton fibre production and India today is an exporting country, thanks to science based agri-business of Bt cotton. However, we failed to utilize on the big gains made by Bt Cotton in other GM crops due to several reasons including indecisive attitude of some sectors as e.g. current non-function of GEAC forcing us collectively become non-responsible. Recently, the President of India Sri Pranab Mukherjee said in a meeting on 16 July at ICAR that “Development and introduction of genetically modified crop has the potential to revolutionize Agriculture”. When the Prime Minister and the President of India are supportive of science-based innovative agriculture, how long some people can ignore the truth and power of science and continue acting irresponsibly? Not for a very long time.
  • Q. Your opinion on use of GM seeds in increasing farm productivity? Do you think ban on field trials is in farmers’ interest as proposed by some?

    A. GM seeds ensure certain quality/trait improvement/architecture improvement for better mechanization and reduced post-harvest yield losses. Quality seed with value addition in GM seed would certainly improve farm productivity. Science and technology should be the driving force for improvement of Indian agriculture. The Nobel Laureate in literature, Rabindranath Tagore introduced non-organic fertilizers and tractor to modernize agriculture long back. Unfortunately, many states are lagging behind in utilizing them today. GM crop field trial is essential for evaluation of application of modern science. Those who oppose such field trials were also against the introduction of Bt cotton. The success of Bt cotton result shows otherwise. Science will prevail as it happened through centuries. Anyone can debate or oppose any new science or a product but needs to be realistic based on scientific arguments. GM field trial is an extension of plant breeding and can only be evaluated in the field and success of developing a value added crop will definitely help farmers. ‘Ban’ is a non-scientific issue, at least for GM crop evaluation in field.
  • Q. Why do you think is there such fierce opposition to GM crops in India and by whom?

    A. A small group of people around the world who believe in an ideology of being anti- MNC/Industry/Science and Technology are only opposing GM crops.
  • Q. What three steps would you recommend to address these challenges?

    A. Science and Technology must be applied continuously to improve Indian Agriculture to enable Food Security. There is a need for better public understanding of new technology and its beneficial aspects. And most importantly, government, industry and ICAR/DBT/DST/CSIR should work together to address the challenges for the present and future science-based agricultural growth and development. Field trial of GM crops should be allowed through a functional regulatory system of GOI sooner than later.

    Dr Datta spoke exclusively to Chitrakshi Vij of Indiagri. Send in your inputs at info@indiagri.in.

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info@indiagri.in
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EDITOR'S NOTE

13 Jul 2020

Uniting India's farmers: FPOs will strengthen the rural economy

The proposed creation of ten thousand new Farmers’ Producer Organizations (FPOs) until 2023-24 by the government is a big step in the right direction. The empowerment of farmers in a country where 86 perce