Look east for food security: Pranab

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SWAMINATHNew Delhi, August 8, 2013: The rights-based approach to food, as envisaged in the Food Security Bill, can be sustained only if farmers and farming are given greater attention, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Wednesday.

Addressing the silver jubilee celebrations of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here, Mr. Mukherjee said it was imperative for the future of the food security system to exploit regions such as eastern India with untapped production potential.

“The future of our food security system will depend upon the progress we make in assisting farm families in this region to produce more in an environmentally sustainable manner.” Pointing out that the food security initiative, believed to be the world’s largest social protection measure against hunger, would make access to food at an affordable cost a legal right to over two-thirds of the country’s population, Mr. Mukherjee expressed the hope that the ongoing Parliament session would endorse the Bill, which seeks to replace an ordinance.

“Every Indian can be proud of this transition from the days of the Bengal Famine of 1943, in which over 3 million people died, to the implementation of the Right to Food with our own home-grown food.” Noting that land was a shrinking resource and that the only option was to produce more from less land and with less irrigation water, Mr. Mukherjee said this was where the farmer participatory research programme as well as the farmer-to-farmer learning institutions like farm schools promoted by the MSSRF were invaluable.

The President complimented MSSRF founder-chairman M.S. Swaminathan on initiating the concept of “nutri-farms” to address the hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiencies and on his valuable recommendations as Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers for converting the green revolution into an evergreen revolution.

Dr. Swaminathan said while the Foundation was started to fill critical gaps in research and extension efforts in the field of agriculture and development with a special focus on technological and skill empowerment of rural women, the 25-year-old institution was looking forward “to meet new challenges such as reaping the demographic dividend, biodiversity loss, climate change and widespread prevalence of malnutrition.”

Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah; Agriculture Minister K. Damodaran; FAO Assistant Director-General Hiroyuki Konuma; the former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and MSSRF senior trustee N. Ram; the chair, MSSRF Board of Trustees, Madhura Swaminathan; and MSSRF executive director Ajay Parida were present.

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