EXCERPTS: Dr Kalloo also exploded the myth that organic practices generally lead to a lower yield. He said, "Our field experiments have shown that certain crops respond exceptionally well to organic practices. Organic farming in sugarcane has resulted in an increase in yield by 25 per cent. We should select crops for organic farming with a view to boost our exports in dollar terms. Crops like Basmati rice, soyabeans, cashewnuts, medicinal plants, spices, tea, coffee and select fruits and vegetables should be taken up for organic farming."
"The geographical indications such as Basmati rice should be kept in tact and untouched by transgenics. The developed GM Basmati rice will not be released for commercial cultivation." (item 2)
1.Organic farming: A new boom arena
2.No Transgenic Tech For Organic Crops: Experts
1. Organic farming: A new boom arena
Go Back To Basics, Say Experts
ASHOK B SHARMA
NEW DELHI, MARCH 28: The Green Revolution, though it has enabled the country to boost production of staple crops, has deteriorated the soil health due to excessive use of chemical fertilisers and degraded the environment through use of chemical pesticides.
The groundwater table has also been depleted on account of over-exploitation. In this context, the experts, who deliberated in the national conference on organic farming for sustainable production which concluded in Delhi on March 25, gave a clarion call "Go Back To Basics".
Sompal, chairman, the National Commission on Farmers, who is also a former Union minister for agriculture and member of the Planning Commission said, "The Green Revolution resulted in mono-cropping system of high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice. The result was that traditional varieties of wheat and rice which were more nutritious went out of cultivation. Even the nutritious coarse cereals which were earlier grown in arid and semi-arid rainfed areas went out of cultivation. It is time to bring back traditional crop varieties into cultivation and resort to multi-cropping system in the interest of food and nutritional security."
He also said that not only excessive use of chemical fertilisers has damaged soil health, the indiscriminate spray of chemical pesticides have killed the bio-agents occurring in nature which protect the crops against pests.
Mr Sompal, who himself is a farmer, also said that last year he tried cultivation of some traditional varieties of wheat through organic practices and this resulted in better yields. He said that these traditional varieties of wheat has more nutrition content as compared to high-yielding varieties. The clarion call of going back to the basics was also given by several other experts. The director-general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr Mangla Rai in his message to the conference advocated the concept of bio-dynamic agriculture which "has come into being alongwith modified methodologies for preparations of farmyard manuare and other formulations for pests and disease control." He said that concepts of integrated nutrient management (INM) and integrated pest management (IPM) packages evolved by ICAR includes use of natural or organic products like farmyard manuare, neem seed kernel extracts, neem and karanj seed cakes and biological agents, micobial preparations like Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Aspergillus, Verticillium, Trichoderma to minimise the dependence of agriculture on synthetic chemicals in effective crop production systems.
Dr Gautam Kalloo, deputy director-general, ICAR, said that shelf life of organic fruits and vegetable were more than their non-organic counterparts. Organic farming is less expensive for farmers who can earn premium prices for their produces. Hence, proper marketing and cerification of organic produces is absolutely necessary.
He said that the package for organic farming technology has to be location specific and therefore, "There is a need to explain our organic farming practices to the international certifying bodies like IFOAM and other quality certifying bodies in the importing countries. He said there is a need to encourage farmers to produce on-farm organic manures as the transportation of organic manures in bulk will invlove higher transportation cost. He advocated use of green manuare, compost, nadep compost, cow dung, cow urine, bio-fertilisers, vermicompost, vermi-wash, irrigation management and biodynamic approach for enhancing soil fertility. For pests and diseases management Dr Kalloo advocated use of bioagents for insect management and nematode management.
2. No Transgenic Tech For Organic Crops: Experts
Global market for organic food pegged at $36.89 billion; grows at 15-30 per cent annually
ASHOK B SHARMA
NEW DELHI, MARCH 28: Indian agro experts are of the view that transgenic technology should not be applied to crops selected for organic farming, if the country is to take any advantage of the lucrative $36.89 billion global market for organic food.
The global market for organic food has grown at the rate of 15 to 30 per cent annually in the last three years, while the Indian export of organic food has remained negligible at $19.99 million (Rs 89.42 crore). Organic food gets a price premium of 20 to 30 per cent over non-organic food.
Organic food retail sales took place in Europe and the US in 2002 is estimated to between $10,000 million to $11,000 million. If the country’s export of organic food increases optimistically by 25 per cent, the gains will be substantial, they said.
Vowing to keep organic crops protected from any possible influence of transgenics, the experts advocated that organic farming areas should be distinctly earmarked away from areas of approved genetically modified (GM) crops cultivation or field trial sites of GM crops. So far, only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation is Bt cotton which is grown in parts of Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Dr Kalloo also exploded the myth that organic practices generally lead to a lower yield. He said, "Our field experiments have shown that certain crops respond exceptionally well to organic practices. Organic farming in sugarcane has resulted in an increase in yield by 25 per cent. We should select crops for organic farming with a view to boost our exports in dollar terms. Crops like Basmati rice, soyabeans, cashewnuts, medicinal plants, spices, tea, coffee and select fruits and vegetables should be taken up for organic farming."
Though one of the ICAR’s affiliate body, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has developed two Bt transgenic rice namely IR-64 and Pusa Basmati-1 and has conducted bioassay for yellow stem borer resistance, the ICAR director-general, Dr Mangla Rai has clearly said, "The geographical indications such as Basmati rice should be kept in tact and untouched by transgenics. The developed GM Basmati rice will not be released for commercial cultivation."
The public sector research system under ICAR has developed 14 experimental transgenics in various crops and the private sector has developed 18 transgenic crops. All these transgenic crops will be released for commercial cultivation only after assessing the situation vis-a-vis the organic farming and export potential of organic food.
Several state governments have joined the race for organic farming. Uttaranchal has established an Organic Commodities Board and chief minister Narayan Dutt Tiwari has vowed to keep his state GM-free. Mizoram has also declared itself totally organic and has not asked for allocation of any chemical fertiliser in the current year’s kharif (summer) season.
Sikkim, Nagaland and Meghalaya are in the process of declaring themselves as organic states. The Madhya Pradesh government has identified about 3,300 villages where only organic farming would be practiced.