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Agriculture Cannot Progress Without Fundamental Changes: Prakash

Maharashtra Times
July 6, 1999

Mumbai, Monday ( July 5): By the year 2020, India is expected to emerge as one of the four major powers in the world, according to a study prepared by the World Bank. Even then, India will not be able to make much headway and progress without ushering in fundamental changes in its agriculture, according to senior biotechnologist, Dr C S Prakash.

Dr Prakash is the director of the 'Center for Plant Biotechnology Research' at Alabama in the US. He is credited with improving the qualities of food products like sweetpotato and peanuts. Dr Prakash is also active in bringing together biotechnologists of Indian origin under an organisation through the Internet.

In the next ten years, along with the US, Japan and China, India will be among the super powers. However, in order to achieve that kind of growth, it is imperative that the existing practices in agriculture undergo fundamental changes. This is important as more than two-thirds of the population still depend on agriculture, according to Dr Prakash. The "green revolution" is slowly petering out and even if our food production witnesses a four-fold rise, there will be many children who will still suffer nutrition deficiency and lack of adequate food, Dr Prakash said.

Dr Prakash said that according to a study by Prof. Anatoly Kratiger of Cornell University, India's foodgrains output will have to more than double from the present levels in order to feed the next two generations. In this context, it is essential that our farmers are ready to meet the challenge, Dr Prakash said.

In India, a majority of farmers have small holdings and are vulnerable to the vagaries of nature like drought and floods. According to Dr Prakash, against such a background, there is a need to make special effort to increase productivity. Biotechnology and the innovations it is creating should therefore be made available to Indian farmers so that they can benefit from the latest knowledge, he added. Dr Prakash also expressed his concern about the general lack of understanding about the harm caused by the use of excessive pesticides. "In our country, nearly 50 per cent of the pesticides used is accounted for by cotton alone, which is really alarming", Dr Prakash said.

Dr Prakash expressed regret over the kind of concern expressed about multinationals in the country. Referring to the 'Terminator' technology and Monsanto, Dr Prakash said that in India no new technology can be brought in in a haphazard manner as rules and regulations were very strict. However, he expressed his unhappiness with the delay and the attitude of officials which often results in delays and loss to the Indian farmer. "The fears expressed about the new foods (GMO) in India are unwarranted as more than 60 per cent of the food used in the US comes from genetically developed methods and not a single person till today has complained about even a headache", Dr Prakash said.