While biotechnology and information technology can prove “powerful” and “transformative” for agriculture, there is a need to build consumer confidence to prevent controversies, said eminent agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan.

The vision of “agricultural extension”, or the mechanism of taking scientific knowledge to the field, should be enlarged to include two more essential groups of people outside the farming community — namely to the urban public and policy makers — to address the controversy over subjects such as genetically modified (GM) crops, Dr. Swaminathan said.

The creation of the Biosafety Authority is one such mechanism, he said, at the inauguration of an international conference on ‘Extension educational strategies for sustainable agricultural development’ at the University of Agricultural Sciences.

“The controversy over genetically modified crops still continues in India, and Bt cotton is the only GM crop grown. In the United States, where several GM crops are grown, including soya, corn and tomato, the concept of GM is accepted by the public,” said Dr. Swaminathan.

Evergreen revolution

Universities and farmers have to come together to ensure the transfer of knowledge from “lab to land” as much of the technology and science available remain unused by farmers, said Dr. Swaminathan. Time has come for an “evergreen revolution” to ensure “productivity for perpetuity”. The future of the country depends on the future of farming, he said.

Feminisation of farming

The country’s economic growth rate should also reflect the income of its 70 crore farmers , Dr. Swaminathan said. A strong support system is needed for women farmers, even as “feminisation of agriculture” takes place as men migrate seeking non-agricultural income. “But, without a strong support system, women will find it difficult to cope. We have to ensure gender justice and equity ,” he said.