Ensure social and gender equity in agriculture: M S Swaminathan

Eminent agricultural scientist Prof M S ­Swaminathan, Founder, M S ­Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, has been conferred the Doctor of Letters (D Lit) degree by the ITM ­University, ­Gwalior, for his ­‘unparalleled contribution to mankind’ at a Special Convocation held at the Foundation in ­Chennai. Presenting the degree to Prof Swaminthan, Dr Kamal Kant Dwivedi, Vice Chancellor of the ITM ­University, Gwalior, quoted a Sanskrit saying that ­translates thus: “There is no greater ­service than selfless sacrifice which makes others happy. This is an apt description of Prof Swaminathan’s life and work.”

Thanking the University for the honour bestowed upon him and the Foundation, the ­agricultural ­scientist, who is an honorary ­member of RC Madras East, said that the ­Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) can only be achieved through sustainable agriculture, and congratulated the ITM University for producing 1,000 agricultural graduates. He said it was important that higher education in agriculture includes dimensions of social and gender equality, as well as ­knowledge in economics and ethics.

Stressing the importance of the ethical aspect, particularly with regard to patenting new discoveries, he said institutions should be put in place to ensure equity. He gave the example of the Swiss ­Government that purchased the patent for the Golden Rice variety and made it available to all developing nations free of cost or at a nominal charge. This is a model to emulate, he stressed.

Prof M S Swaminathan delivering his acceptance speech. To his left is former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Dr T Ramasami.
Prof M S Swaminathan delivering his acceptance speech. To his left is former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Dr T Ramasami.

“Biodiversity ­conservation is a key step in sustainable agriculture,” Prof Swaminathan said and gave the example of how the germplasms of thousands of varieties of rice available now can be attributed to the work of farmers, who originally discovered it. “The first rice cultivators were women,” the scientist said, noting that there was a portrait of a woman in a temple at Along, a town in Arunachal Pradesh, whom the local people consider to be the one who introduced rice into their cultivation.

Dr T Ramasami, former ­Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, while ­congratulating Prof Swaminathan, called for a re-definition of ­agricultural research highlighting the current disconnect between reality and research and ­development. He spoke about the need for ­developing people-centric science, or ­“science that adds value to people’s lives. The very basis of all of Prof ­Swaminathan’s work has been ­centered on this philosophy,” he said.

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