Ahead of the debate on the Food Security Bill in parliament, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said Saturday that while he supports the Bill, he has concerns about keeping up with rising demand unless drastic steps, including approval to more genetically modified crops, are taken simultaneously to boost agricultural production.
In a detailed interview to The Indian Express, Pawar said his biggest concern was that incentives to the farmer may be cut to meet the subsidy burden arising from this Bill, which, in turn, could set off a negative spiral, forcing India to import large amounts from abroad.
“My worry is not today or tomorrow, but when it (Food Security Bill) will be in full swing... By next year, the subsidy bill will go up to Rs 1,25,000 crore. My worry is that any finance minister or finance secretary will not be happy with this burden and their advice to the council of ministers will be that don’t hike the minimum support price... That will directly affect farmers. And if the farmer gets hurt, he will shift from crop A to B. So, if he shifts from wheat and rice to some other crop, then how are we going to implement food security?”
The country, Pawar added, will have no choice but to import, which will send international prices soaring because India will have a high demand. “So for that purpose, we have no choice but to produce more. For that, we have to provide money for irrigation, electricity, concentrate in a big way on the research for development of new type of seeds. We have to see fertiliser is available.
We have to develop the infrastructure of our marketing. We have to see that the farmer also benefits. We can definitely go for a Food Security Bill, but we cannot neglect this aspect.”
On this count, Pawar called for easing the environment for conducting field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops. He pointed out that at present, 91 per cent of the land under cotton cultivation is Bt Cotton, because of which India has moved from a net importer of cotton to the second largest exporter of cotton.
“I can understand that we