India is likely to rely a great deal on biotechnology in food crops to ease growing demand for food amid rising prices, even though the country has clamped a moratorium on Bt brinjal, its first genetically engineered food crop.
A working group set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to suggest long-term solutions to high food inflation, which submitted its report to the PM on Wednesday, has said a second green revolution would not be possible without biotechnology-led breakthroughs.
“A second Green Revolution focusing on the rainfed areas is possible only through a technological breakthrough in the use of bio-technology … by evolving plant varieties resistant to pest and diseases, tolerant to adverse weather conditions, better nutritional value and enhanced durability of product,” the group, led by Haryana chief minister B.S. Hooda, said in its recommendations. The group also includes the chief ministers of Bihar, Punjab and West Bengal.
The working group, one of the three set up by the PM to look into ways to cool prices, has advised loans for farmers at not more than 4% and called for MSP that are 50% higher than cost of cultivation. Ironically, yearly increases in MSP, or the floor price, are one of the reasons for rising food costs.
India could raise overall food production by around 36% if widespread yield gaps can be bridged, the report has said. “If we take up average yields in deficient states, we can produce an additional 80 million more tonnes of foodgrains. This is do-able,” agriculture secretary PK Basu said.
Food prices, of late, have undergone a “structural shift”: high overall growth has pushed up incomes and, with it, demand for protein-rich food items, according to RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarn.