Pvt sector entry in farm research `not detrimental' to public good

Our Bureau

CoimbatoreApril 12Adopt biotechnology as a means to break the yield barrier being witnessed in food crops such as wheat and rice whose yields continue to stagnate at 76 million tonnes (mt) and 85-90 mt, respectively, in the last seven years or so.

If reaching the biotechnology to a larger section of farmers is an issue, it can be accomplished through seeds that are the carriers of technology or new genetic traits. The seed industry today is, therefore, technology-driven and the application of biotechnology in agriculture is capital intensive, requiring long-term investments.

Unlike in the `green revolution' days in the 60s when public sector institutions remained main players in agricultural research, the declining financial supports from government will soon leave the research bodies in public domain unable to meet the developmental costs needed for spending on cutting edge technologies.

These are some of the underlining expressions from one of the key participants, Mr M. Ramasamy, who is also the Managing Director of the private seed company Rasi Seeds Ltd, at the two-day conference on `public-private partnership in promoting agri-biotechnology in India,' which opened at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University here.

The entry of private sector in agriculture research, according to him, need not be seen as detrimental to the public good as its role, particularly in seed production and distribution, could be the most effective way to achieve the national goals set by the Government. There has, however, been a gap in agriculture extension where there has been no substitute to the public sector whose credibility stands accepted for ages by the farmers. Here the private sector can complement. Of late, there is a tendency to blame the seed industry for crop failure, though the crop performance depends on several factors. With technologies for seeds largely flowing from private industries, the public sector backed extension services often would have no chance of understanding in-depth the varietal management of seeds and explain the same to the farmers. To overcome this inadequacy in extension, Mr Ramasamy suggested that some mechanism be created so as to carry the private sector technologies through the public sector's agri extension system. This will also end the needless controversy embroiling on seeds.

A cotton scientist Mr R. Krishnamurthy who was instrumental in evolving the extra long staple cotton variety `Suvin' released by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in 1973 was given the ABLE's first award for excellence in agricultural research for his contribution to cotton research on the occasion.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 13, 2007)
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