Laws on conservation of agro- biodiversity should not hamper growth of agriculture in developing nations like India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said, while asserting that use of technologies for crop enhancement must not be at the cost of sustainable development.
Addressing the first ever International Agro-biodiversity Congress here, Modi cautioned against growing threat to plant and animal species and said there is a need to adopt a "shared vision" for conserving them through focused research and proper management of genetic resources.
"World over, crores of poor people are fighting hunger, malnutrition and poverty. To address these issues, science and technology is very important. While finding solution to these problems, we should not ignore sustainable development and conservation of biodiversity," Modi said at the conference attended by about 900 delegates from 60 countries.
There is a need to assess the negative impact of use of the technology in agriculture, he said, citing the example of pesticide usage affecting honeybee in pollination process.
In lighter vein, he also mentioned that technology's negative impact on people was such that they do not remember their own telephone numbers after the introduction of mobiles.
"So, we need to be alert on how application of technology in agriculture is bringing changes," he said.
Terming pesticides as a major concern in agri ecosystem, Modi said, "The use of pesticide not only kills pests but also those insects necessary for entire eco-system. Therefore, there is a need to audit development of Science. In the absence of audit, the world is facing various challenges."
Expressing concern over extinction of genetic resources, the Prime Minister called for national, international, private bodies and experts to work together and prepare a shared vision for conservation of agro-biodiversity.
"We will also have to see how various rules related to agro-biodiversity can be harmonised so that these laws do not come in the way of development of agriculture and farmers."
He said about 50-150 species are getting extinct every day despite adoption of the recommendations of the 1992 biological diversity convention. "In the coming years, there is threat of extinction of one out of eight birds and one fourth of animals. We will have to change our thinking."
"People have exploited natural resources blindly in the name of development. As a result, challenges are going to grow in the coming days. In the current scenario, discussion and research on agro-biodiversity are very important for achieving global food, nutrition, health and environment security."
Stating that the problem of climate change has been due to imbalance in nature, Modi said, "In view of global warming threat, we have ratified Paris agreement on October 2. India is playing a leading role.
Stating that each nation is adopting a different way to
protect agro-biodiversity, Modi said, "It would be appropriate if we prepare a register to keep a record of all such practices and then do research to find out which practices need to be promoted."
He added that biodiversity conservation should be more a matter of individual consciousness than rules and regulation.
Elaborating on the richness of India's biodiversity, Modi said there are more than 47,000 plant species and over 89,000 animal species besides over 8,100 km of coastal areas.
India has been able to protect genetic resources as ancestors linked agri-produce with culture. The country has been able to conserve many varieties including 'Konamani' rice variety in South India, 'Agnibora' in Assam, 'Bhalia' wheat in Gujarat, he added.
India has also helped other nations in conserving agro- biodiversity, Modi said, noting that Haryana's buffalo breed 'Murah' and Gujarat's 'Zafrabadi' are known as international trans-boundary breeds.
However, he pointed out that the country has been able to register only 160 animal species and urged to focus on research in this area to identify more species.
Emphasising on widening the scope of research for value-addition on the strength of biodiversity, Modi mentioned how a high nutritional grass variety 'Banni' in Gujarat was helping in increasing milk production.
"Through value addition in the characteristic of this grass, we can promote this grass in the country. We need to expand the scope of research for this," he said, adding that value-addition can be done in castor, millets and mushroom.
He made it clear however that there should not be any damage to species while doing value addition.
"Human beings have created a problem of climate change by interfering in the nature. Rise in temperature is affecting life cycle of plants and animals. As per one estimate, 16 per cent of wild species will be on the verge of extinction by 2050. This situation is a cause of concern," he said.
Stating that agro-biodiversity management is a priority for all nations, Modi stressed on conserving genetic resources in gene banks and making it available for farmers.
"We need to create such a mechanism so that our farmers are able to analyse desirable genes in their farm fields and for which they should get good price. Such farmers should be involved in research work," he said.
Modi also called for blue revolution and asked scientists to focus not only on fisheries but also on sea weeds farming.
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Addressing the conference, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said India has rich genetic resources to face the challenges like climate change on agriculture.
The country has the world's second largest gene bank with 4.29 lakh species, he added.
Eminent agri-scientists and Father of Green Revolution in India M S Swaminathan urged the Prime Minister to take up with the United Nations a proposal of having an international year of agro-biodiversity.
Agro-biodiversity is the foundation of food security of India, he said, adding that new varieties need to be promoted for boosting production.