There is trouble ahead for the semi-arid regions of Rajasthan. What is presently classified as semi-arid region will soon turn arid, and barren. In a region where water is a scarce commodity, water guzzling hybrids will now be promoted with impunity. Rajasthan has in fact invited the multi-national seed giant Monsanto to sow the seeds of destruction. Monsanto has been handed-over the reigns of Rajasthan's agriculture, and in other words its food security.
Rajasthan becomes India's first Monsantoland.
Monsanto has signed an agreement with the Rajasthan Government to engage in public-private partnership to develop and market hybrid seeds of maize, cotton and vegetables like hot pepper, tomato, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower and water melon. The MoU has been signed on behalf of the State Government with Department of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Swami Keshavanand Rajasthan Agriculture University, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, and Rajasthan University of Venterinary and Animal Sciences.
The MoU was signed in July 2010, and a copy of the confidential agreement was obtained using the Right to Information.
With Monsanto virtually taking over seed production and distribution, and at the same time being allowed to use the resarch and extension services of the State and the universities along with the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) for disseminating the farm technologies, I wonder what role and task is left for the agricultural universities. If the universities have to be simply subservient to Monsanto, and be the executing agencies, isn't it time to close down these universities and save the tax-payers money? Why should the tax-payers bear the cost of providing supporting services which basically adds to the commercial gains of the private seed giant?
While the objectives include contributing to the agricultural economy through enhanced yields, encouraging cultivation of crops beneficial to farmers, the Rajasthan government has promised to bring in policies and programmes to make this possible by encouraging seed multiplication and distribution. Besides seed production and processing, Monsanto will engage in developing its proprietary germplasm in collaboration with the universities for which it will charge prescribed fee. Both the partners -- Monsanto and Rajasthan government -- will undertake feasibility studies and assessment to ensure that the hybrid seeds enter the seed value chain.
Interestingly, Monsanto will identify which hybrid seeds are to be cultivated, and will also evaluate cross-licencing agreement with the agricultural universities and the departments. To take cotton production to the next level, Monsanto has agreed to bring in mechanical harvesting equipment which will be made available to the universities at no additional cost. Students will also be provided with internships. The MoU provides a detailed list of activities to be conducted, which for all practical purposes means the virtual take-over of Rajasthan's agricultural research, education and extension infrastructure and services. Except that the State will pay for the staff salaries as well as maintenance cost for the infrastructure, universities and the two departments of agriculture and horticulture have been made redundant.
Hybrids are water guzzling crops. They consume roughly 1.5 times more water than the high-yielding varieties. At the same time, hybrids require increased application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. At a time when across globe and also within India questions are being raised about sustainability of agriculture, I fail to understand the logic of large-scale introduction of hybrids of maize, cotton and vegetables. What is the use of extending the Green Revolution to the northeast parts of the country when the northwestern belt is being virtually turned unfit for food cultivation.
Common sense tells us that you need to cultivate crops that require less water in arid regions. I wonder where has common sense disappeared when it comes to developing suitable and appropriate agriculture technologies. How can anyone justify growing hybrid crops in water deficit regions? Why is the Rajasthan Government so determined to destroy Rajasthan's semi-arid agriculture for all times to come?