Agro-tech to be evaluated
the green light has been given for the first ever global assessment of agriculture science. The us $15-million exercise, titled 'International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology', is likely to begin towards the end of 2003 and continue till early 2006. It would cover issues as diverse as transgenic crops, agricultural research priorities and organic farming.
The proposal was cleared by a steering committee of the World Bank after a meeting in Budapest, Hungary, in early August 2003. A year back, it was announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, that the review would be given a final shape after eight months of consultation. This was followed by several rounds of regional discussions and a meeting of the 40-member steering committee in Dublin, Ireland, in November 2002. It was left for the Budapest round to give the go-ahead to the framework of the assessment.
The effort will be led by Robert Watson, chief scientist of the World Bank and former chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The World Bank has tried to involve all stakeholders in the process to lend it credibility. Environmental pressure groups such as Greenpeace and Oxfam are included, as are agro-chemical corporate giants Syngenta and Monsanto. But it seems that the civil society representation is mostly from the industrialised world.
M S Swaminathan, eminent agricultural scientist and father of India's Green Revolution, says he has "no idea about the World Bank process". India is represented in the assessment by Rita Sharma, former joint secretary in the Union ministry of agriculture and now posted with the rural development department of Uttar Pradesh. Swaminathan regrets that it has become a "part of our government culture to send only bureaucrats to all conferences, including technical ones".
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