Source: The Times of India

Investing in agro-ecological agricultural practices, backed by the right technology, balanced against traditional wisdom would help ensure food security, said eminent agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan on Monday.

Delivering the 11th Joseph Cardinal Parecattil Commemorative Lecture 2012, on the theme, 'Rio+20 - Green Economy With Inclusive Growth', Swaminathan said modern practices like precision farming and climate-resilient farming or 'smart farming', would help convert the concept of 'evergreen agriculture revolution' into a reality.

"The shift from green revolution to evergreen revolution requires emphasis on ecologically sustainable practices and state interventions to improve food supply. We are able to produce enough to feed our 1.2 billion people. But, malnutrition and under-nutrition still remain major issues. Increasing food price volatility is another problem that has to be tackled," Swaminathan said. Recommendations to control food price volatility have been made for being incorporated in the Food Security Bill to be soon passed in Parliament, he said. The suggestions include tougher regulatory measures in commodity markets, increase in transparency in exchange trading and closing of agricultural contracts and building stocks at world and regional levels.

"It is important to restore confidence in the international trading system through policy options like putting in place the right import and export policies, as well as timely dissemination of information on market fundamentals," Swaminathan said.

Swaminathan, who had mooted forming a national grid to store grain to reduce the high distribution costs and time taken in delivering agricultural produce to India's remote parts, said legal entitlement should be given to underprivileged and disadvantage people on a priority basis to ensure their food security.

"We have to think in terms of a targeted PDS (public distribution system) versus a universal PDS. An important issue for the Food Security Act to tackle is whether PDS can be made universal in the 200 high-burden districts identified by the Prime Minister's Nutrition Advisory Council," he said. Noting that the Food Security Bill should be built on cultural honesty, he hoped it would help usher in convergence and synergy among diverse areas like drinking water, sanitation and health care.

The National Commission on Farmers chaired by Swaminathan has also recommended the formation of a National Nutrition Food Security Council under the provisions of the FSA to ensure political support and oversight of the Food Security Bill across party lines once the bill becomes law.