Food, Fibre and the Indian Farmer

In August 2012, an Indian parliamentary panel recommended against the use of genetically modified crop research. Some scientists, corporates and policy makers raised alarms that this will shake India’s food security. I believe, it provides very timely opportunity to explore alternative approaches such as agroecology which has potential to enhance productivity and farm sustainability through adoption of ecological techniques that improve functional agricultural biodiversity, avoids expensive inputs and are less energy intensive. More than half of India’s population are farmers and it is not surprising that corporate control of agriculture (through GM seed) is perceived as threat to livelihoods and food security. The focus of the discussion now should be on realising the potential of farmers to improve productivity and adaptation to climate change through increased investments in research and resources required for the development and uptake of sustainable agriculture that remained elusive in the past. India’s greatest strength lies in its farmers who worked with great enthusiasm to lift India’s food production during the ‘green revolution’ with equal support and investments from the agricultural research, extension networks and government. However, that technology based on fossil –fuels led to massive farm debts and have social and environmental impacts. The lack of research and investments, on the other hand is an impediment in the availability of ecological techniques required at farm scale. The current technical knowhow and efforts can be diverted for the development and extension of sustainable agricultural practices, and help future-proof farming and livelihoods of millions of farmers on the basis of equity, justice and fairness. India must recognise and improve the contribution of agroecology for the sustainable production of food and fibre to improve livelihoods and food security. Strengthening the Indian farmer is the only and sensible option to achieve food and fibre security in India. or Do we have another option?

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