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Looking for Another 'Green Revolution'

M.S. Swaminathan discusses sustainable agriculture in Melbourne on June 3, 2010. (2 min., 37 sec.)

M.S. Swaminathan discusses sustainable agriculture in Melbourne on June 3, 2010. (2 min., 37 sec.)

MELBOURNE, June 3, 2010 - Information communication technologies have an essential role to play in bringing sustainable farming to India, according to Indian agricultural scientist Professor M.S. Swaminathan.

Known as the "father of the Indian green revolution," Swaminathan spoke at the Asialink-Asia Society Australasia Centre about what can be done to improve food security across Asia and, in particular, what role the private sector can play in achieving that goal.

Swaminathan stated that new information communication technologies, or ICTs, primarily inform a farmer about incoming weather conditions and market dynamics, but they can also educate that farmer on effective pest control.  

"Most of the ecologically sound practices are knowledge-intensive," he said. "They are not chemical-intensive. They are not capital-intensive. But they are knowledge-intensive. You need the right information at the right time."

Swaminathan is founder and Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and a Member of India's Upper House of Parliament.

Time magazine named him one of the "20 most influential Asians of the 20th century"—and one of only three from India, the other two being Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

Swaminathan highlighted the need to make farming an intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding occupation, particularly in the case of India, where 70 percent of the population is under 35 and could be increasingly tempted to forego rural life in favor of better-paying city jobs.

"Technology without public policy will not help at all," he said. Swaminathan cited sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as being the two most vulnerable parts of the world today in terms of achieving a balance between population density and the human capacity to grow food.

Beyond achieving another green revolution in these regions, he envisioned an "evergreen," or sustainable revolution that would manage to ensure both food security and biodiversity. 

"We can increase productivity in perpetuity," he concluded. 

M.S. Swaminathan is the Co-chair of an Asia Society/International Rice Research Institute high-level Task Force on Food Security and Sustainability in Asia. The Task Force is set to release its report in New York on September 27, 2010, which will coincide with the opening of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Reported by Will McCallum, Asialink-Asia Society Australasia Centre