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A sagely warning against Green Revolution: Abandon genetic modification of crops

By Rosamma Thomas* 

Journalist Bharat Dogra is unique among journalists for never having taken up a full-time position with any media house. He has always only served as a freelancer, following issues he feels interested in and writing about things he feels readers must know. After a long career in journalism spanning more than four decades, he now distils his experience in book form. 
Dogra has consistently followed farming related issues, and his latest book, co-authored with economics teacher Kumar Gautam, "India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food" brings together the vast and rich experience and offers some policy prescriptions.
This is a timely book, although already a little dated for having been written at the time that the three laws that farmers opposed tooth and nail had still not been withdrawn. Dogra offers rare insights into the life of India’s farmers, mentioning how during a reporting trip to Vidarbha in Maharashtra, he was mistaken for an urban visitor seeking to buy land – such was the frequency of such visits by urban folks that middlemen engaged in the business would swarm around visitors in hope of making a deal.
The Union government has now decided to restrict the quantity of foodgrains that any bidder can bid for under the Open Market Sale Scheme from the Food Corporation of India – the earlier upper limit of 3,000 tonnes has been drastically cut to 100 tonnes. 
At a time when foodgrains are at the centre of the tussle between state governments and the Union, Bharat Dogra’s recommendations that spring from his great admiration of Gandhi, make even more sense – Dogra suggests that to reduce the carbon footprint of the food we consume, what is grown must ideally not be transported a long distance, but be consumed locally.
In Dogra's view, soil is gold, silver and diamonds but only if used with care and kept free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides
Plunging straight into raging debates in the sector, Dogra writes unambiguously, with the wisdom of long experience – genetic modification of crops must be abandoned, he says, citing authorities like Dr RH Richcharia, whom he recalls meeting. A biographical note about Richcharia, who sagely warned against Green Revolution, makes this book especially valuable.
Soil, Dogra asserts, is wealth – what is considered wealth is gold, silver, diamonds; but if used with care and kept free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the good earth is the best measure of wealth. It can be used without decreasing in value, and if distributed equitably it can create conditions for healthy social relationships and good human and environmental health. 
He rues the fact that land re-distribution seems to have slipped off the political priorities of present-day political leadership, but asserts that people must keep up the pressure for such justice, since good nutrition and health are all dependent on a large number of small farms, and landless farm labourers too must ideally have at least the homestead, so they can grow as much of their own food as possible. Preserving the life in the soil, and keeping the atmosphere healthy for pollinators are repeatedly emphasized.
This book (Vitasta Publishing House, New Delhi, price: Rs 495),  is a valuable addition to the library of all agriculture departments in universities across the country. It will serve well the lay reader interested in understanding the farming sector in India. One’s only grouse is that this book could have been served better by its editor -- tighter editing could have prevented repetition.
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*Freelance journalist

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