Eminent agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan is of the opinion that the current concerns on the impact of genetically modified food crops on bio-diversity will soon give way to an appreciation of the potential benefits new genetics can confer on mankind.
Dr Swaminathan is one of the panelists of the theme — ‘Science for Shaping the Future of India’ — to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the 100th session of the Indian Science Congress in Kolkata on January 3.
“Agricultural science and genetics together have fed the world and will continue to feed the world. Biodiversity, biotechnology, nuclear technology and nano-technology need priority to bridge the scientist-society perception gap,” he said.
Maintaining that women farmers will determine India’s agrarian and rural economy in the coming years he said, “On my suggestion, the former finance minister...Pranab Mukherjee had introduced, a couple of years ago, a Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana. This is playing a small role in assisting women farmers. I therefore introduced in the Rajya Sabha a Private Members’ Bill titled 'Women Farmers Entitlements Bill'. Unfortunately the Bill could not be discussed on two occasions due to disturbances in the House.”
In response to a question on whether there would be another Green Revolution in India, he said, “What we need is an evergreen revolution leading to an improvement in productivity. Green revolution is another term for improvement of productivity of major crops. Our farm size is getting smaller and therefore we have no option except to produce more from diminishing per capita land resources and expanding biotic and abiotic stresses.”
Observing that climate change will necessitate increase in productivity, he referred to crop varieties which are more salinity tolerant, varieties of which have been produced in Chennai.
The immediate challenges that agriculture science faces are those of conserving prime farm land for agriculture and attracting and retaining youth in farming. Older farmers deplore the refusal of their children to adopt as a career. The reasons for this, he added, are that farming is risky since it is dependent on nature and socially enjoys low esteem. “We should remember that ‘if agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will go right’.”
Swaminathan also touched upon plagiarism in scientific research and said it should be put down with heavy hand.