Farmers came together Wednesday with scientists and agri-biotech industry to demand the second green revolution in India. Speaking in a unified voice they agreed that use of new technologies in agriculture was the only hope for farmers and solution to address the challenges of food security. According to a working paper by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) India would have to double its food production by 2025. Faced with tremendous challenges of ever reducing arable land & water resources, quality of soil, climate change, and shortage of labour farmers find it difficult to enhance their farm yields and need technology push.
The group strongly appealed that the Indian Parliament clears the long-awaited Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) and Seeds Bill. They also emphasized on expeditious approvals of biotech crop trials and commercialization under the existing system till the BRAI is approved.
Plant biotechnology is a powerful tool that helps farmers provide food, feed, fiber, and fuel to a growing global population in a sustainable manner, while reducing agriculture’s footprint on environment. Biotech crops have helped farmers increase their productivity while protecting biodiversity by increasing yield per acre.
Panduranga Wamanrao Iname, a farmer from Ranjangaon in Aurangabad said, “Biotechnology offers one way out of this dilemma of growing more with less. It’s nothing less than a miracle crop that requires fewer resources and produces greater yields than old-fashioned cotton, bringing prosperity to many families. With more than 90 percent of India’s cotton famers taking advantage of biotechnology, I would appeal to the government to replicate the benefits to other crops.” Nandkishore Chandrabhan Raut, another farmer from Yavatmal supported this view.
Prof C Kameswara Rao, eminent agri-biotech scientist and founder, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness & Education cautioned, “Some groups with vested interests are providing misleading information to public, media and policy makers and this is dangerous. Biotech crops undergo rigorous safety assessments following international and national guidelines and no verifiable cases of harm to human or animal health have occurred.”
Mr. V Ram Kaundinya, Chairman, ABLE-AG said, “We are committed as an industry to prove the safety of biotech crops and adhere to very robust trials rules laid out by the Government of India. Our compliance to the regulatory processes is complete and sacrosanct. Extensive studies examining the safety of biotech crops have been conducted by various independent bodies, including the World Health Organization. These bodies have overwhelmingly concluded that there are no adverse effects on human health. Twenty five Nobel Prize recipients and more than 3,400 prominent scientists have expressed their support for plant biotechnology as a “powerful and safe” way to improve agriculture and the environment.”
Prof Mugdha D Karnink, Sociologist and Director - Centre for Extra Mural Studies, Mumbai said, “To oppose any new scientific invention and innovation is a mark of a primitive mindset. Opposition to GM foods, which are proven safe, is a manifestation of such mindset.”
In 2010, more than half the world’s population (59% or 4 billion people) lived in the 29 countries, which planted 148 million hectares of biotech crops. UN WHO, FAO, EFSA, Royal Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, French Academy of Medicine, British Medical Association, 25 Nobel laureates (incl. Norman Borlaug) all concluded that biotech crops are as safe as conventional crops. 59 countries have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996 incl. USA, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, the European Union, Brazil and China. In India, large amount of edible oil is imported from various countries which produce them from biotech crops and no scientifically proven effect on people’s health has been observed.
Karnail Singh of Fajilka, Punjab who recently won the best farmer award from the Punjab government said, “As illustrated by the success of Bt Cotton, the benefits are clearly in favor of us. Our earnings have improved considerably, commensurate with dramatic increases in cotton yields over the past decade. We want the benefits to continue and urge the government to expedite legislations in agri biotech so that more brothers from my community reap the benefits.”
Said Mr. Kaundinya, “Today, Indian and international corporations as well as Indian universities and other research institutes across the country are testing technologies or conducting field trials both independently and in partnerships. He further added, “There should be a level playing field for all companies who invest millions in research and the there should be more efforts at encouraging further research on Indian soils for the benefit of India’s farmers and future of the country.”
Biotech cotton constitutes more than 90% of the total cotton grown in India. Bt cotton is safe and with no negative impact on soil. Families of Bt cotton seed farmers are increasingly enjoying a higher standard of living – purchasing cars, motorcycles, building pucca and larger houses, enrolling their children in English medium schools, or sending them abroad for education, investing in agricultural land, and farm equipments like tractors, drip irrigation, pipeline, tube wells and more. The ABLE-AG industry group also called for creating an enabling environment for adoption of biotechnology in agriculture in the country.