The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scan on farmers’ mindset

Calcutta, July 27: The Indian Statistical Institute will study farmers’ psychology to find out why they are “reluctant to accept technological changes in cultivation”, state agriculture minister Naren De told the Assembly today.

“Our field officials received a lukewarm response from farmers when they were asked to experiment with new kinds of seeds, crop diversification and other bio-technological innovations. The government wants to understand the psychological as well as other factors behind their hesitation so that we can plan remedial measures with the help of farmers’ organisations,” the minister said.

De said the study was necessary as the government planned to modernise farming in the state to increase production and ensure food security.

“We also want to promote crop diversity for intensive and maximum use of all kinds of land available for cultivation. This will enable the farmers to cater to the growing market for agriculture products.’’

The minister also announced that the government would reward the “best performance in farming using modern technologies”.

De’s views seemed closer to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s rather than those of his party, the Forward Bloc, which is sceptical about the government’s acquisition of farmland for industry and the move to modernise agriculture marketing.

Underlining the need to acquire land for industry, De tried to allay fears of consequent food insecurity, saying the government was keen on converting fallow and waste plots into cultivable land. Surveys have identified 32,000 acres of uncultivable land, he added.

The minister told the House that production of foodgrain was more than the total annual demand in the state. Farmers had produced 145.11 lakh tonnes in 2005-2006 while the demand was around 134 lakh tonnes.

Production is expected to go up to 159 lakh tonnes in the current fiscal and is projected to reach the target of 195 lakh tonnes at the end of the Eleventh Plan period, when the estimated foodgrain requirement would be around 180 lakh tonnes.

De brushed off apprehensions — voiced by some members of the state agriculture commission — that field experiments in growing genetically modified crops, including trans-generic BT rice, might be hazardous for humans.

“The furore is largely misplaced. The so-called hybrid varieties of rice and vegetables we consume every day are genetically modified (GM),” he said.

“We will set up committees to monitor experiments in GM crops so that the private sector seed companies follow the central stipulations,” the minister added.

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