What is in this article?:
- India must embrace biotech crops – or at least we must be allowed to embrace biotech crops. Right now, large forces and special interests are blocking the way. They must be stopped.
India faces particular problems. Our crop yields are stagnant or dropping. Many young people avoid farming, believing it’s a profession for the poor and illiterate. To top it off, our government does little to promote agriculture.
The problem isn’t that we have no biotechnology in India: Many farmers plant GM cotton. They know the amazing benefits. I’ve grown GM cotton several times myself, appreciating the boost in yield and the reduced reliance on herbicides. It requires just one spray, whereas non-GM cotton needs six applications or more. That makes GM cotton healthier for farmers, in addition to being economically sensible.
Yet we don’t have access to other kinds of biotechnology–most notably brinjal, which Americans call eggplant. For Indians, it’s a staple crop. In 2010, GM brinjal was on the verge of commercial approval. Researchers had perfected it and farmers wanted it, but our government in New Delhi said no. It bowed to political pressure from special interests that took advantage of widespread illiteracy and scientific ignorance.
I’m returning to the United States next week, once again for the World Food Prize. This time, I’m the recipient of the Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award. It’s a humbling honor–and one that I hope will allow me to go back to my home with additional credibility, as I continue to advocate for biotechnology in India as well as the rest of the developing world.
I want to keep on changing the way we farm–and I hope Americans will continue to help me and my fellow farmers make the most of the Gene Revolution, for the sake of India and the world.
Rajesh Kumar farms 120 acres in two regions of India, using irrigation to grow brinjal, sweet corn, baby corn, tomatoes and other vegetables. He sells fresh produce directly to consumers through kiosks at several locations and runs a food processing unit for canning of vegetables. Mr.Kumar will be recognized as the 2012 Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award recipient in Des Moines, Iowa on October 16 during the TATT Global Farmer Roundtable / World Food Prize events. He is a member of the TATT Global Farmer Network.