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The World Food Prize 2006 International Symposium. Des Moines 19 October 2006. Looking Back at the Green Revolution. M.S. Swaminathan Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, Government of India President, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

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The World Food Prize 2006 International Symposium

Des Moines

19 October 2006

Looking Back at the Green Revolution

M.S. Swaminathan

Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, Government of India

President, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs


Statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside Pietermaritzburg Railway Station, South Africa where he was thrown out of a first class compartment

This year marks the centenary of Gandhi’s non-violent, non-cooperation movement which inspired among others Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Cory Aquino


“To a people famishing and idle, the only acceptable form in which God can dare appear is work and promise of food as wages”


India’s tryst with destiny

“Everything else can wait, but not Agriculture”

Jawaharlal Nehru, August 14-15, 1947

Agriculture is the Greatest Living, Private Sector Industry of India providing Livelihood to over 600 million persons


August 14-15, 1997 :Fiftieth Anniversary of India’s Independence

The most significant achievements of the first 50 years

  • Adherance to a democratic system of governance from the village to the national level
  • Green Revolution leading to adequate food availability (from begging bowl to bread basket)

Shri. K. R. Narayanan, President of India, August 14-15, 1997


Famine: Triage Classification of Countries

Haiti Can’t- be-saved

Egypt Can’t-be-saved

The Gambia Walking Wounded

Tunisia Should Receive Food

Libya Walking Wounded

India Can’t-be-saved

Pakistan Should Receive Food

- Paul and William Paddock, 1967


Era of Sharing of Genetic Resources


(U.S. winter wheat, high yield)


(Japanese semi-dwarf)



(semi-dwarf, high yield)

Turkey Red

(U.S. winter, high yield)


Norin 10

(semi-dwarf, winter, high yield)

(Dr Gonziro Inazuka in 1935)


(adapted to

U.S. Northwest)



(semi-dwarf, winter,

U.S. adpted)


Local Strains

New Wheats

(semi-dwarf, high yield, adaptable,

rust-resistant, fast-maturing,spring)


Wheat Revolution Symphony (1968)

(Pan GoI Approach)

  • Technology
  • Services
  • Public Policies
  • Farmers’ enthusiasm

“Brimming with enthusiasm, hard-working, skilled and determined, the Punjab farmer has been the backbone of the revolution. Revolutions are usually associated with the young, but in this revolution, age has been no obstacle to participation. Farmers, young and old, educated and uneducated, have easily taken to the new agronomy. It has been heart-warming to see young college graduates, retired officials, ex-armymen, illiterate peasants and small farmers queuing up to get the new seeds. At least in the Punjab, the divorce between intellect and labour, which has been the bane of our agriculture is vanishing”

Secret of Success :

Farmer – Scientist Partnership

- M S Swaminathan“The Punjab Miracle”, The Illustrated Weekly of India , May 11, 1969


Sustainable Food Production

“Intensive cultivation of land without conservation of soil fertility and soil structure would lead ultimately to the springing up of deserts. Irrigation without arrangements for drainage would result in soils getting alkaline or saline. Indiscriminate use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides could cause adverse changes in biological balance as well as lead to an increase in the incidence of cancer and other diseases, through the toxic residues present in the grains or other edible parts. Unscientific tapping of underground water would lead to the rapid exhaustion of this wonderful capital resource left to us through ages of natural farming. The rapid replacement of numerous locally adapted varieties with one or two high yielding strains in large contiguous areas would result in the spread of serious diseases capable of wiping out entire crops, as happened prior to the Irish potato famine of 1845 and the Bengal rice famine of 1942. Therefore, the initiation of exploitative agriculture without a proper understanding of the various consequences of every one of the changes introduced into traditional agriculture and without first building up a proper scientific and training base to sustain it, may only lead us into an era of agricultural disaster in the long run, rather than to an era of agricultural prosperity.”

- M.S. SwaminathanIndian Science Congress, Varanasi, January 4, 1968


Some questions we face in Biology today

Will Malthus Continue to be Wrong?

We need to set priorities, understand reasons that make ecosystems resistant or vulnerable; also whether stressed ecosystems, such as marine fisheries, have a threshold at which they won’t recover

India will be the most populated country in the world by 2030

What don’t we know? 1 July 2005 Vol 309 Science


Threats to an Ever-green Revolution

  • Invasive Alien Species
  • Abiotic Stresses
  • Biotic Stresses
  • Market factors
  • Climate Change
  • Constraints in the exchange of genetic resources
  • IPR and access to technologies
  • Diminishing support to public good research

Biodiversity & Molecular Breeding : Mangroves

“There are no useless plants” - Charaka


Open field trial of a transgenic rice plant with

Superoxide dismutase gene from Avicennia marina

Field Trails being carried out at Kalpakkam


 Genetic Shield

Prosopis juliflora has wide adaptation to water stress and drought conditions

Used as source material for drought tolerant genes


36 days of water withdrawal

Preparing for adverse changes in precipitation


The Way Ahead

Our ability to achieve a paradigm shift from green to an ever-green revolution and our ability to face the challenges of global warming and sea level rise will depend upon our ability to harmonise organic farming and the new genetics.


Community Food, Nutrition and Water Security System


Genetic Enhancement



Community Grain Bank

Field Gene Bank

Participatory Breeding

Seed Bank

Community Gene Bank

Water Bank

Post Harvest Processing & Value addition


Farming Systems Diversification and Value Addition

8% growth rate in horticulture and animal husbandry will be necessary to achieve 4% growth rate in agriculture as a whole

Livestock and Livelihoods

Over 50 million women and 15 million men are involved in Dairy Enterprises in India

India :Largest Producer of Milk in the World


Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy for Rural Prosperity [NVA]

ICT-enabled knowledge flow

Lab to Lab, Lab to Land, Land to Lab, Land to Land

Uplink Satellite

Web based interactive portal

State Level Hub (MSSRF)

Data Managers (both connectivity and content)

Data Generators & Providers

Data Users (Rural families)

Block level hub


Life saving role of VKC during Tsunami (26 December 2004)- VEERAMPATTINAM


No Time to Relax

Shaping our Agricultural Future

Population rich but land hungry countries like China and India have no option except to produce more food grains and other agricultural commodities per units of land and water under conditions of diminishing per capita availability of arable land and irrigation water, and of expanding biotic and abiotic stresses. Such a challenge can be met only by harnessing the best in frontier technologies and blending them with our rich heritage of ecological prudence. Eco-technologies for an Ever-green revolution should be the bottom line of our strategy to shape our agricultural future.


Iowa gifted to the world great visionaries and missionaries like Henry Wallace, Norman Borlaug, Aldo Leopold and George Washington Carver. Norman Borlaug’s epic fight against hunger is well known. George Washington Carver served as an Advisor to Mahatma Gandhi on matters relating to eliminating poverty and improving human nutrition. It is therefore appropriate that Iowa is the home to the World Food Prize Foundation.

George Washington Carver