GM crops not evil: Ahluwalia

Speaking at he annual convocation of Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University in Hyderabad, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia stressed on the need to strike a balance on genetically modified of crops by adopting proper protocols. He said criticism on GM crops arises due to lack of knowledge as well as genuine concerns about the need to fully examine the possible adverse effects from the use of such technologies.

"We do need to strike the right balance so as not to lose the tremendous opportunity which scientific advance provides for increasing productivity," Ahluwalia told the agricultural university while delivering the convocation address.

He called upon graduating students and alumni to choose a career that would ''strengthen the link between lab and land''. "We need an innovative approach and well trained professionals to work for the institutional support elements for the modernisation of agriculture," he said.

Ahluwalia said contract farming had the potential to create a win-win situation for both the small farmers and the corporate entity, if there was a clearly articulated policy to protect the interests of both the parties.

"If you want food security, you must be willing to give the farmers a decent price. We should be willing to pay remunerative prices to farmers and they are been given a remunerative prices through better minimum support prices," he said.

He said too many people were dependent on agriculture in the country because the rest of the economy was not absorbing them fast enough. "We must find non-agricultural jobs for them and absorb them in the rest of the economy," he said.

The 11th five-year plan has set a target of raising agricultural growth to at least four per cent a year, which is entirely feasible technically and economically, he said. The share in agriculture in GDP has declined from 36.4 per cent in 1982-83 to less than 20 per cent in 2006-07.

This, he said, was not surprising because as economies develop and incomes rise, the demand for agricultural goods does not rise proportionately, so agriculture grows more slowly than other sectors.