Prince Charles’ comments on Green Revolution right: organic farmer

August 23rd, 2008 - 12:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Faridkot (Punjab), Aug 23 (IANS) Comments by Britain’s Prince Charles against India’s Green Revolution may have evoked criticism from agricultural scientists and experts, but Punjab, where the revolution that changed India’s agricultural scenario took place, is “suffering” from its “poisonous after-effects”, says a crusader of natural farming methods.Umendra Dutt, who heads NGO Kheti Virasat Mission that is working among farmers in Punjab’s Malwa belt trying to “undo” the effects of a “poisoned ecosystem”, agrees wholeheartedly with Prince Charles’ views that the Green Revolution of the 1970s worked for a “short time” and is now leading to “disasters”.

“Prince Charles said the right thing. I fully agree with his views. One has to only take a look around Punjab and see the devastation wrought by the Green Revolution and the accompanying high use of pesticides, fertiliser and water,” Dutt told IANS.

Dutt, whose NGO has managed to convert several farmers in Punjab to the method of natural farming that does not use chemicals or genetically modified (GM) seeds, has in fact written a rejoinder to noted British journalist Dominic Lawson’s criticism of Charles’ views in The Independent.

Charles in an interview published Aug 13 in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper said: “Look at India’s green revolution. It worked for a short time but now the price is being paid.

“I have been to the Punjab where you have seen the disasters that have taken place as result of the over demand on irrigation because of the hybrid seeds and grains that have been produced which demand huge amounts of water. [The] water table has disappeared. They have huge problems with water level, with pesticide problems, and complications which are now coming home to roost.”

In his rejoinder to Lawson’s Aug 15 article, Dutt wrote: “Punjab is only 1.5 percent of the geographical area of India, but it consumes 18 percent of the pesticides of India. It has the highest cropping intensity 190 percent, and with 83 percent area under crops the people of Punjab are exposed to the highest probability rate of pesticide exposure.

“The food chain is contaminated, it is heavily loaded with pesticides and, from vegetables to breast milk, everything contains pesticides. Even our blood contains a cocktail of pesticides.” He went on to cite studies done by state-run bodies that say that residues of pesticides like DDT and Aldrin were found in samples of human blood.

“Punjab is facing a cancer epidemic now, courtesy the Green Revolution,” Dutt says.

“The Green Revolution brought short-lived prosperity and has taken away the very sustainability of our state (Punjab). It was perishable prosperity, it left us with a poisoned ecosystem, contaminated food chain, empty aquifers, contaminated water sources, destroyed biodiversity, …debts, disease and suicides. It is a devastating situation.”

According to Dutt, Prince Charles “gave a lot of money to the Punjab government (when Amarinder Singh was in power) under his Bhumi Vardan Foundation to help farmers switch to organic and more healthier farming methods. But the government ate up the money”.

“Charles is to visit Punjab soon as he is concerned about the poisoned ecosystem in the state,” he added.

However, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, which played a major role in the Green Revolution, does not agree with Prince Charles’ views on the Green Revolution.

“The Green Revolution ushered in food security for the country, increased productivity many times over,” N.S. Malhi, PAU director of extension education, told IANS.

On reports of degradation of the soil and water, Malhi acknowledged: “There has been some degradation of natural resources. PAU is working on ways to arrest it.

“With regard to depletion of underground water, we are working on ways to grow crops so that water requirement is reduced. The state government has passed a law allowing rice sowing only after June 15, when the rains come and dependence on underground water is less.”

On the use of pesticides, Malhi stressed that farmers “do not spray pesticides” on the wheat crop. “We do not advise any spraying of pesticides, except for weedicides on the ground, which is a compulsion.”

He also said that for the planned Second Green Revolution they would “adopt a holistic approach in order to overcome the problems encountered during the first Green Revolution”.

On the use of organic methods of farming that Charles and NGOs like Kheti Virasat Mission are propounding, Malhi said: “We cannot wholly depend on such methods. Hardly any organic manure is available. Farmers can adopt organic farming to supplement their income. Organically-grown produce fetches 10-15 percent more in the market, which only rich people can afford to buy.”

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