The R&D yield

Government must step up private sector involvement in agricultural research.

Why Bharat Ratna awardee C.N.R. Rao called the acts of politicians "idiotic" is for him to elaborate. Perhaps he was referring to those advocating a ban on GM research in India. After all, Rao has vehemently urged a five-fold increase in funding for research and development in agriculture. That includes research on GM crops.

On the food front, we have only been able to sustain ourselves because of the hard work of farmers and because of improvements in farm technologies. The world spends about $50 billion a year on food and farming science; it spends more on cosmetics. The world spends about $1,750 billion a year on new weapons — that is 35 times more than the amount spent on food research. Agricultural investment is a drop in the ocean when one considers the quantity of finance available worldwide.

In the next 50 years, we will need to produce as much food as we have in the last 10,000 years. In that time, the world population is likely to touch 10 billion, while India's population could go up to 1.8 billion. With the existing technologies, we can feed this magnitude, provided everything remained stagnant. But the ecosystem is in a perpetual state of flux. This could have a dramatic impact on food security, especially in India, as it

is more vulnerable than most other countries.

The Earth is likely to get 3 degrees hotter by 2100. Even a 1degree rise in temperature would reduce the world food supply by 10 per cent. This change will be most devastating for the tropics, especially our bread basket: the Indo-Gangetic plains. We have 17 per cent of the world's population surviving on 4.2 per cent of the world's water supplies and 2.4 per cent of its land. Our per capita water supply is estimated to decrease 45 per cent by 2050. Sixty per cent of the arable land is rain-fed and already risk prone. The soil in one-third of the total arable land in India has become too depleted for agricultural productivity. Every rupee invested in agricultural R&D gives an eight-fold return to the rural economy and is the most cost effective way to reduce poverty. India currently accounts for 30 per cent of the world's poor and hungry. When we do manage to lift them out of poverty, fulfilling the subsequent demand for

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