People’s confidence in technology imperative: MS Swaminathan

The confidence of people in modern, transformational technology had to be gained ahead of adopting that technology, agricultural scientists and Member of Parliament M.S. Swaminathan has said. Only if the regulatory mechanism is “totally independent”, people will have confidence in the technology, he added.

Commenting to the manner in which the green revolution was implemented, he said that the dialogue with farmers had started much ahead of the implementation. Referring to the agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear power plants he said the government and politicians were giving assurances on the plant. But people will be confident if a truly independent regulator gave a similar assurance.

Global warming affects production

Global warming will affect agricultural productivity adversely in regions where the food needs are the greatest. A one degree rise in global temperature will curtail the growing season by a week in Punjab, he said. “You lose one week of growing period, you lose nearly 400 kg of wheat per hectare. We have calculated 6 million tones per year will go down in the northern part of India. International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that food production in south Asia will decrease by 44 per cent by 2050, if adaptation measures are not put in place,” he said.

Prof. Swaminathan said that this was preventable. “Our aim should be to shape the future, not just to predict the future. Prediction is important. But shaping is the duty of the scientist,” he said.

He said that in addition to national food security measures, and global food security measures, the community also needs to have a certain degree of food security. “We should also start from below. To the extent possible, the community should be self reliant in food production. This may no be possible everywhere,” he said. He was delivering the key note address at a biotechnology conference here on the theme ‘green revolution to gene revolution: are we on the right track.’

The conference was organised by the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, the National Science Foundation and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Environment. Experts from America, Europe, Africa and Asia talked about technologies relevant for Sri Lanka and analysed international models of biotechnology policy.

This is the first time that the Embassy and Sri Lanka government agencies have organized an initiative on biotechnology, though it follows a similar initiative last year with the private sector, a release from the Embassy said. Edward Heartney, Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy, hoped the conference “will stimulate proactive discussions on biotechnology and we expect a frank and forthright exchange of ideas and views which would hopefully steer Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector towards more vibrant growth and productivity.”

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