Rajesh Kumar, India – recipient of the 2012 Kleckner Trade and Technology Advancement Award.

Farmers in the developing world must be allowed to embrace biotech crops

Des Moines, Iowa – Rajesh Kumar spent his 2009 visit to Iowa talking to as many people as he could who understood farming and the business of farming. That visit to Iowa changed the way he farms on the other side of the world.

When Rajesh returned to his farm in Salem, India, he worked with a group of local farmers to open a new sweet corn processing plant.  “The knowledge I gained in Iowa made it possible.  I’ll always be grateful to Iowa and the people I met at the Global Farmer Roundtable and World Food Prize for pointing us in the right direction.”

Rajesh Kumar’s willingness to engage, learn as much as possible and share that information with others led to his selection as the 2012 recipient of the Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award.

The award, given annually by Truth About Trade & Technology (TATT), recognizes a global farmer who “exemplifies strong leadership, vision and resolve in advancing the rights of all farmers to choose the technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity and availability of agricultural products around the world.”

Rajesh farms 55 acres in southern India, using irrigation to grow sweetcorn, tomatoes, brinjal (eggplant) and other vegetables.  In addition to the sweetcorn processing plant, he sells fresh produce directly to consumers through kiosks at several locations.

“I hope Indian farmers can imitate Iowa farmers in other ways as well,” says Kumar.  “Most importantly, we must be allowed to embrace biotechnology.”

With a population of more than 1.2 billion people, demographers say that India will pass China as the most populous nation on the planet by 2025.

“Many of our people are already poor and malnourished – and the problem could grow worse”, stated Kumar.  “Our crop yields are stagnant, many young people avoid farming, believing it is a profession for the poor and illiterate, and our government does little to promote agriculture.”

“If we’re to thrive in the years ahead, India must adopt the latest technologies in agriculture. This happened once before, during the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, when new seeds, methods and equipment transformed agriculture in developing countries like India and billions of lives were saved.  Nothing of that scale is happening now in our country.”

Kumar believes that agriculture can be revived and thrive in India, but biotechnology must be embraced by farmers and the farmers must organize and demand that the government allow them their rights to use this important tool.

“India has a desperate need for agricultural biotechnology.  It is for our overall self-development that tools like biotechnology must be available so farmers can produce enough food for our people.  We must participate in the Gene Revolution.”

Rajesh Kumar received the 2012 Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award on Tuesday, October 16 in Des Moines, Iowa at a Global Farmer Awards Dinner hosted by Truth About Trade & Technology and CropLife International.

The Kleckner Trade & Technology Advancement Award was established in 2007 in honor of Dean Kleckner, Truth About Trade & Technology Chairman Emeritus.  The award is given annually in conjunction with the TATT Global Farmer Roundtable. Previous award recipients are Rosalie Ellasus, Philippines (2007); Jeff Bidstrup, Australia (2008); Jim McCarthy, Ireland (2009), Gabriela Cruz, Portugal (2010) and Gilbert arap Bor, Kenya (2011).

 

Columns by Rajesh Kumar

Des Moines Register – The World Needs Biotech – Oct 11, 2012

Wall Street Journal Asia — India’s Genetically Modified Mistake – Feb 22, 2010

 

TATT Guest editorials:

An Indian Smallholder Farmer Speaks Out: Allow Us to Embrace Biotechnology – Oct 11, 2012

The Future of India Depends on GM Seeds – Nov 27, 2009