Talking green

BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE - A DIALOGUE -Edited by M S Swaminathan . Macmillian . Madras . 1992 Price: Rs 320

By S Rajendran
Published: Thursday 15 February 1996

THERE is a growing demand for food, fibre, fodder and fuel as population pressure is skyrocketing. This has been furthered by the problems already existing in the agriculture sector. The marginal and small farmers find themselves caught helplessly in the web of modern, capital-intensive farming which they find difficult to adopt.

Scientists, administrators and planners have already made a concerted effort to increase the generation of enough food for the people. Advances in science have brought remarkable changes in production as well as productivity. However, poor farmers still do not avail of these resources due to various economic and technological reasons.

The book under review highlights various issues to be taken tip for increasing food production by keeping developments in biotechnology in sight. No doubt, due to good infrastructural facilities, major private agricultural firms could establish powerful laboratories and create a good market for several areas including tissue culture and genetic engineering. But for the poor farmer, who is mostly dependent on the government machinery even for relevant information, this is not always the case.

Biotechnology in Agriculture ... is an outcome of dialogue among the boffins, administrators and planners hailing from diverse areas, organised by the M S S Research Foundation, Madras.

Participants discussed mechanisms like the 'Lab to Land' programme (transferring the findings from the laboratory to land), low-cost techniques, and adopting locally suitable crops or techniques. Although modern technology is essential to increase food production in the short run, the book lays emphasis on indigenous technology.

The main focus of the document is to provide a comprehensive suggestion to increase the efficiency in agriculture by using the latest biotechnological advances. Main thrust areas suggested by the document are biofertilisers and biopesticides which are eco-friendly and economical.

The book documents eight sessions dealing with a wide range of issues from integration of traditional technologies to technological management. The appendix contains a brief account of bio-villages, introduced in Pondicherry in India and China, The bio-village concept is a model for ilitegrating new technology with resource development targeting poor farmers.

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