AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org, http://agbioview.listbot.com
Subj: Dr Borlaugh's talk (re-formatted)
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 4:28:37 AM Eastern Daylight Time
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
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 fully 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,
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.