India was self-sufficient. But with changings times, agricultural systems witnessed significant distortions leading to a monoculture trap.
Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu and Veena V Rao
On the occasion of Convention of Biodiversity (CBD) Centre for Sustainable Agriculture has carried out a study titled “Modern Agriculture and Erosion of Agro-biodiversity” which analyses how agro-biodiversity was eroded in the name of modernising agriculture, drawing experiences largely from two case studies ie, paddy and cotton. The study aimed to come up with a larger framework for people and government to adopt and move forward making agriculture sound ecologically and economically sustainable.
Part I of the study synthesises and reviews history of agriculture production in India through the period of green revolution and post green revolution. It draws lessons for India from green revolution, which had brought food self-sufficiency and also provides insights into historical agricultural production systems in late 1700s period. The report capture genesis of green revolution and its impact on agro-biodiversity; loss of genetic diversity and concludes that Indian agriculture production in historical times was self-sufficient and with changing times agricultural systems witnessed significant distortions in land use pattern, irrigation and introduction of cash crops. India which is one of the mega biodiversity centres in the world has fallen into the monoculture trap. Only paddy and wheat was promoted. Indian agriculture was always technology driven. Instead of evolving technologies based on our conditions, they were displaced by the green revolution technologies which played havoc with the environment and livelihoods of farmers in the country which has taken a toll on farmers.
Part II of the study, draws lessons from case studies of paddy and cotton from India, as how modern agriculture technology driven agenda drove the nation towards greater risks of long term food shortages in the country and emergence of new issues and concerns.
Cotton cultivation and use in India dates back to Indus Valley Civilisation. Things have changed with introduction of American cottons to suit the spinning mills. The American cottons brought in their own set of ecological problems including the most dreaded American bollworm and then chemical pesticides to control it. With pest resistance built up, newer pesticides were brought in and today the entire nation suffers from huge pesticide poisoning. The genetically modified Bt cotton which was brought in 2002 as a solace caused more damage. Similarly, India is the centre of origin and centre of rich diversity of rice. Estimations show that India had about two lakh rice varieties and about 50,000 of them under cultivation by independence time. Green revolution has not only monocultured rice, but also the way it is grown.
Today we get 85 per cent of our rice from about 10 varieties and 95 per cent of it grown in water stagnated conditions. This has led to serious environmental problems. Ignoring the fact that India is the centre for diversity for rice and has large trade interests in being non-GM, government and industry are pushing GM rice in the country.
The lessons from Bt Cotton are never learnt.
The writers work at Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.