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  • New Agricultural technologies to strengthen the existing practices to combat global food crisis: The discussion at TERI cited common R&D centre of various organisations as a major solution

    12 November 2008

    The rapid increase in global warming has increased public and scientific interest in identifying mitigation options. The recent food crises raised further concerns regarding food security and affordability by billions with the future threat of overall decline in productivity due to climate change. The Energy and Resources Institute organized a one-day session on 'Agriculture and Climate Change' to discuss solutions to reduce the negative impact of food security.

    Talking about the international scenario, Dr Graham Brookes, Director of P G Economics, in his presentation said, "Since 1996, biotech crop adoption has contributed to reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, decreased pesticide spraying and significantly boosted farmers' incomes. The technology has also made important contributions to increasing the yields of many farmers, raising global production and trading volumes of key crops. World price levels of crops like corn and soybeans would also probably be higher than the current (record high) levels if this technology had not been widely adopted by farmers. These economic and environmental gains have also been greatest in developing countries."

    Dr Vibha Dhawan, Executive Director, TERI shared the Indian strategy on the issue in the second presentation. She said, "National security is linked to the food security since the recent spiral in the food prices is threatening the developing economies including India. We are further challenged with declining productivity due to unsustainable agricultural practices followed in the past, and the changing climate. Citizens of this planet are looking for a technological revolution and have crop varieties that are more efficient in water and nutrient utilization and tolerant to temperature and precipitation changes. The issue of intellectual property and licensing arrangement should ensure that global goods are for global citizens and are affordable to small and marginal farmers."

    Biotech crops ignificantly reduced environmental impact; yielded net increase in farm income since its launch in 1996
    286 million kg reduction in pesticides
    15.4% cut in associated environmental impact
    Reduction in Carbon Emissions: 2006 = cut of 14.8 billion kg CO2 release; equiv to taking 6.6 million cars off the road for a year
    $33.8 billion increase in Global Farm Income
    The presentations by Dr. Graham Brookes and Dr Dhawan were followed by high-level panel discussion that included Dr. Radha Singh IAS, Former Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture; Dr H P Singh (DDG Horticulture ICAR), Dr C D Mayee, Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB); Mr. Anand Kumar Singh, head Division of Fruits and Horticulture Technology, IARI; Dr Ashok Kumar Singh, Senior Scientist, Division of Genetics, IARI; Dr. Paramjit Khurana, Delhi University; Dr Renu Swarup Advisor, Department of Biotechnology among others.

    It was conferred that the use of biopesticides and biofertilizers is one such technology for sustainable agriculture apart from its benefits derived by the farmers. Biotech crop commercialization has resulted in significant global economic and environmental benefits and is making important contributions to global food security. Globally since 1996, use of pesticides on biotech crop area is lower by 286 m kg (-7.9%) - equivalent to total EU (27) pesticide active ingredient use on arable crops in one year. The environmental impact as measured by EIQ indicator is down -15.4%. In India, usage of insecticides has reduced by 29% corresponding to a lower EIQ indicator of -27%.

    Use of technology has significantly reduced the release of greenhouse gas emissions globally from agricultural practices. By reduced use of fuel and application of no/low till systems, biotechnology in agriculture alone has reduced the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 14.7 billion kgs.

    The new technologies (biotechnologies) like the Genetically Modified (GM) crops would stimulate productivity further and lead to increased production during this phase of food crisis.

    These must be viewed as supplementing technologies to strengthen the existing mandate of improving crops and associated agricultural practices. The existing germplasm must be evaluated and catalogued for future applications. The research initiatives must be strengthened with strong policy initiatives to ensure their adaptation. Strategies must be developed at global level to ensure that benefit of research are affordable to poorest and at the same time provide adequate incentives to the developer of the technology like providing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Global initiatives must be developed for public-private partnership and to develop and commercialize technologies that will ensure global food sustainability.

    Concluding the session, Dr Dhawan suggested creating a common global research centre that will include various research and funding organisations to work collectively for developing new agricultural technologies that will help all participating nations to reduce food crisis.

    TERI is actively working in the field of biotechnology, especially on biopesticides and biofertilizers, GM crops and seeds to mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture.

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