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July 16, 2000


Dr. Borlaug's talk!


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com

What an irony that we got Vandana, Sahai and Dr. Norman Borlaug
postings together
on the Agbioview. Both the views are from extremes of the shade. The likes of
Shivas would even challenge the authority of Dr. Borlaug and his
knowledge of agricultural science even if one of them may not spell AGRICULTURE
as it is. Dr. Borlaug is father of green revolution. The green
revolution, which
revolutionized the way our agriculture is in India today. One should go and ask
the farmers of Punjab and Haryana. If a farmer of sixties is still around will
tell you the difference. Just this difference has fed the generation that now
finds energy to shout foul against the same scientists who were instrumental
in bringing the change. Just that the scientific community is not eloquent
enough and NOT FUNDED for such job, as these NGOs are to oppose BT. I wish we
form and NGO, if someone funds us. But I guess our knowledge of genuineness and
reality should be our weapon to fight them. Just that we have to be
vocal enough.
This is the era of mega-bytes. Very high-pitched voice is heard. We
need to reach
common mass. Internet, still, doesn't reach common man in India.
However good our
postings on net may be, they won't reach the real target, but will only educate
people who already know the truth. We need to take print media, and TV, which
reaches larger audience, in simple language. That's how these NGOs
make their kill.
Let's learn this lesson from them.

As Dr. Borlaug mentioned the green revolution was a temporary victory
and it was
meant for the period when the phenomenon took place. Now we need, as said by
Dr. Swaminathan, a green revolution everyday to sustain the
production level required
to feed the ever growing population. The world population during
sixties was not even
half of what it is today, and would be only 20 percent of what it
would be after 25 years.
We can't and shouldn't be complaisant because of our past
achievements. Let's not
forget that the means to produce have either remained same or have
reduced due to
several factors. The production level in developed world has
plateaud. The much of
potential is left only in the third world countries. As rightly said
by Dr. Borlaug,
problem of production is not non-availability of technology but the
access to it.
The power of this science is still not fully comprehended, less
exploited. Looks like
before this happened we may end up throwing the baby with the tub if
likes of Shiva
have their go. If the phenomenon is in developed world, they can
afford such luxury.
One is at doubts when such cause harping NGOs mushroom in the
developing world, and
spell slogans as though we have stocks of grain rotting in the
backyard no one to buy.
Yes we do have it. That's because of poor storage and transportation.
Here again BT
will help to produce farm produce that can remain good after long
storage and transportation.
Lets not the luddites win the war, even though we seem to have lost
initial battle.

Let's reason, if they are reasonable and ask these breed of NGOs the
solution for higher
production, if BT is not.

1. Tell us how we can produce three times as much farm output in the
middle of this
century as it harvests today.

2. What choice the agriculture has to provide full y adequate diets
for the larger,
more affluent human population projected for 2050.

3. How should parents not let their children starve, not letting them
go without
high-quality protein (from eggs, milk, meat)

4. How else we can preserve the planet's wild lands species, without
achieving still-higher
yields from our crops and live stocks, and without burning down the
already shrinking
green belts. While we are already using 37 percent of earth's surface
for farming,
and almost remaining non forest land will be used by the peak
population to make cities.
Dr. Borlaug in one of his lectures estimated that if American farmers
hadn't raised their
farm yields in recent decades, we would have had to clear all of the
forest east of
Mississippi to get today's food supply.

When public suffered periodically from food shortages they always
seem concede the importance
and virtue of farmers. Today when the developed world has real food
security for the first
time, it no longer reveres farmers. Urbanites have no more sense of
gratitude for food
than they have for radial tires(which also saves lives). They know
their food comes from
supermarket. It can be bought for a small and declining share of
income. So the food
security is taken for granted. World never had enough food. It is
just that there is no
money with many in majority of countries to buy. People's access to
food depends on income.
Currently, more than 1.3 billion people are absolutely poor, with
incomes of a dollar a day
or less per person and another two billion are marginally better
(World Development Report,
World Bank 1997). These people are far away from the up-market offices of NGOs.

High yield farming is mankind's greatest humanitarian achievement.
The world got food
security and people are not pitted against people during food
shortage. Parents are no longer
forced to choose between feeding themselves and their children, or
choosing whether girl
babies will starve while boy babies live. This change has still to
percolate in the villages
and below-poverty line people in developing world. Developing
countries will drive increase
in world food demand. With an estimated 40% increase in population
and 4.3% income growth,
developing world is set to account for most of the increase in global
demand of cereals
and meat products. High- yield farming is humanities greatest
conservation achievement.
Crops have saved the most- probably about 15 million-sq. miles. The
total wild lands
saved by the modern food system are probably close to 20 million sq. miles.

BT is not just about higher yielding farms. How else could you get
aluminum tolerant tobacco
and papaya plants which produce citric acid to counter the bad soil
type? Now one can
think of rice crop, which is aluminum tolerant. 20 to 40 percent of
world arable land
constitutes of acid soil. So far, this have been major barriers to
providing adequate in
the regions that are critical to wild lands conservation-the third
world tropics. The very
area where the populations are growing most rapidly, where incomes
are growing most rapidly,
where the food gap are growing most rapidly, and where most of the
world's biodiversity is located. How else can we produce acid
tolerant crops but through BT and increase the production and
effective cultivable land? Why are biotechnological products in
medicine acceptable, and not in farm produce? Because one can clearly
see the benefit. We realize the power of agriculture during food
shortages. We need another food shortage, to realize the power of
agri-biotechnology. This time it would be very serious, God forbid,
if it comes this time, with 6.0 billion mouths to feed.

We have to tell urban public about the environmental benefits of
high-yield modern farming,
We must talk about saving wild lands and wild species and conquering
soil erosion with
biotechnology. We must point out that organic food is not always
safe. CDS data shows
that such food products are 8 times as likely to be attacked by the
virulent bacteria,
E.coli O157:H7.

The activists of world are always unhappy, and always pushing for
something different. It is
the very nature of activists. One don't blame activists. People are
the ones to be blamed and
the ones those who should have represented the other side of the
question. And press is also
to share responsibility, for not seeking out reality and playing into
the hands of activists.
If modern research has to succeed, it looks like it has to succeed in
an activist-rich environment. It can only when there are people who
can counter the activism and breath sense in larger population. Who
else but the scientists should take the challenge. The message will
be the same: Modern science offers mankind a powerful instrument to
assure food security for all. If we are to produce enough food to
meet increasing and changing food habits, to make more efficient use
of land already under cultivation, to better manage our natural
resources, to improve the capacity to produce and purchase more food,
we must put all the tools of modern science offers to work. This
includes biotechnology which is just latest method for the practice
plant breeders have been employing since decades.