V.K.V.Ravichandran’s 500 Words | A Third-Generation Farmer from India
Hello, I am V.K.V.Ravichandran, farmer from India. I am a third generation farmer growing rice, sugar cane, cotton, pulse etc. I have been farming for over 30 years. India has a population over 1.25 billion. Majority of our population make their lively hood by farming. More than 85% of our farmers are small and marginal farmers holding less than one hectare. Around 80% of our crops are grown under rain fed condition. In other words the success or failure of our crop depends on monsoon which is the most unpredictable factor. The meager income we derive from farming is not adequate enough to take care of our needs.The overall arable lands are shrinking rapidly, as fertile lands are used for non agriculture purpose. Our water resources are fast depleting, our younger generation are not keen to take up farming as their career as it has become unremunerative. The impact of climate change on agriculture is a matter of great concern to our farmers. Besides these, the yield of the crop is affected by biotic and abiotic yield reducing stress factors. We have to produce more with fewer resources. We need to adopt the system of farming which not only enhances the profitability but also increases the productivity of land, water,manpower,various farm inputs and so on.
Until Green Revolution, we were adopting organic farming practices for over a millennium by default as we used traditional seeds,organic inputs and we didn’t know much about chemical pesticides. Our food requirement was so severe that we had to import millions of tons of food grains to feed the then population ( 1960s ) which was less than 40% of the present population. Fortunately for India we had the savior Dr Norman Borlaug, the father of Green Revolution. But for the High Yielding Wheat and Rice Varieties during Green Revolution, which responded well to inputs, millions would have starved to death in India.
The High Yielding Varieties of Green Revolution have sufficiently fed our population thus far. However we need to move forward and adopt new farming technology to increase farm productivity in a sustainable way to feed our growing population which keeps ticking at a faster rate every minute. As a farmer I feel we have not achieved the real yield potential which these High Yielding Varieties are capable of. This is because the yields of the HYV are restricted by biotic factors such as pest, disease , weeds etc and abiotic factors like flood,drought,salinity and so on. Fortunately the Science of Biotechnology has the potential to offer viable solutions to these problems and more. We can have pest resistant, disease resistant, weedicide tolerant, drought tolerant,submergence tolerant,salinity tolerant Genetically Modified Crops.
Let me just recall the perils and hard ships we had under gone prior to the introduction of Bt Cotton ( Bt Cotton was approved for commercial cultivation in the year 2002). As a farmer who had been growing cotton since 1986, I had the bitter experience of loosing substantial money to save my NonBt Cotton crop from boll worm infestation. I still remember the days when our farmers spent major portion of their gross sale proceeds on various chemical pesticides to combat boll worms alone. The smell of these harmful insecticide used to fill the air in the villages where cotton was grown. At one point of time I was so much frustrated and even decided to abandon my cotton crop as all my efforts to control boll worms turned out to be futile exercise.
At this juncture our Government took the sane decision of approving commercial release of Bt Cotton Seed. It was the turning point not only for the cotton farmers like me, but also a trend setter for yarn and textile industry. Initially I had my own apprehensions about Bt Cotton as I was misguided by the false allegation leveled against GMCrop by the Anti Progress and Anti Science Activists. Besides; the pesticides dealers and seed producers who did not have the pest resistant trait incorporated in their seeds,tried to influence and scare our farmers through their false propaganda and fictitious allegations against Bt Cotton. This is because their pesticide sale plummeted steeply ever since our farmers started using Bt Cotton Seed. Though Cotton is grown relatively in a smaller area when compared with other crops, pesticide consumption rate was the highest for cotton crop prior to the introduction of Bt Cotton. Even at micro level, I used to spend Rs2000-3000/acre on pesticide prior to 2002 to control Cotton Boll Worm alone. Ever since I started cultivating Bt Cotton, my spending on pesticide has come down to Rs 500/acre, that too to control sucking pest for which Bt Cotton is not meant for.
Inspite of the stiff resistance by few anti GMO Activists, our farmers whole heartedly patronized the technology.Though non Bt Cotton Seeds are available in the market, more than 92% of the cotton grown in India are Bt Cotton. This is because our farmers select the technology which really benefits him
With a single crop namely cotton,with a single trait namely pest resistance we are able to derive so much of benefits. When the technology could offer solutions for disease resistant crop, weed free crop, drought, flood and salinity tolerant crop why not our farmers allowed to make use of them?
GMCrops are very much needed for developing nations like India. GMO may not solve all the problems; confronting our farmers. But with out GMO agriculture will be subjected to irreparable damage. We can not afford to ignore GMO in our endeavor to drive away hunger from the face of the earth. Especially India can not afford to remain complacent and refrain from adopting the technology.V.K.V.Ravichandran, Farmer, Nallamangudi, Nannilam, Tamil Nadu, India.
If you would like us at GMO SF to share your story, please see our previous post: Callout for Your Stories! In 500 Words, What is Your Stance on GMOs in Society?
Photo Credit: Abhishek Srivastava | CC