Agronomy Notes for UPSC IAS Exam [Part 3]

GM Crops
Top 10 Genetically Modified Crops

Concern about GM crops

• Impact on human health not known. – GM corn in US as fodder but was consumed by humans who became ill

• Pests can develop resistance and attack again. Eg- pink bollworm

• GM crops can need more inputs even if they have high yield

• Impact on biodiversity and environment in general • Terminator seeds and soil monopolies • Impact on soil and soil organisms not known.

• IPR issue due to Monsanto issue.

• Politicuzation.

Differentiate between consumption and non-consumption crops, bring biotechnology regulatory authority that can regulate, GEAC should be under it and not be influenced by political considerations, awareness program to dispel concerns, no ad-hoc measures like cotton seed price control order.

No-objection certificate(NOC) norms on GM crop –
  • In 2009, NOC was introduced to be given by states for performing tests on GM crops.
  • This has hindered the process of research as states are not giving permissions.
  • The permissions were to be given on strictly scientific reasoning but has been caught by politics.
  • The genetic engineering appraisal committee has given go ahead in many cases.
  • Since research is mainly going on in food crops and oilseeds which are important for food security of India, govt has discontinued the NOC norm. The entire NOC issue had come up during the controversy of using Bt Brinjal.
  • It was argued that since agriculture is a state subject, it must be left for states to decide about the trials.

• Anti-GM lobby argues that their introduction might result in growth of pesticide resistant weeds and also destroy the local biodiversity.

• Even an SC panel had suggested having a 10yr suspension on GM crop trials in 2012. Even a moratorium was imposed on selling of Bt Brinjal for 2yrs.

• Trials for GM crops have been halted due to protests by certain farmer orgs.

• Even the Seed Bill is halted which had provisions of selling GM seeds.

• Commercial cultivation of Bt Cotton is open but in 2010, a moratorium was imposed on cultivation of Bt Brinjal due to safety considerations.

• MS Swaminathan talks of bio srcurity being given to GM crops.

• Controversy on genetically modified mustard when knoeing that it is the most important edible oil after groundnut. Also, our oil imports from rapeseed and soyabean are GM but no one protests against it.

• GM crops face another hurdle – being a signatory to Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety that restricts the import and export of GM crops.

Impact of GM crops on biodiversity
  • Resistance of an ecosystem to sudden environmental shocks exists due to genetic biodiversity among food crops.
  • By introduction of single GM crop, the entire ecosystem is at risk if that particular GM variety crashes. Eg- bollworm for Bt Cotton destroyed crops in Punjab.
Monsanto issue –

It sells Bt cotton seee packets under the peemission granted to it in 2009. Beingba patented product, it charges trait fees over and above the selling price to its sub-lixensees who sell the packets. Excessive use of fertilizers and insecticides have created resistant species like pink bollworm tyat has now infected the Bt cotton variety by Mahyco Mosanto Biotech India ltd. This has caused large scale failure of Bt cotton crops all over India. 45 million packets have been sold annually. Thus, to beat this, the Agri ministry has brought the Cotton Seed Control Order giving it the control to even manipulate the trait prices. This is causing reduction in profit. Secondly, due to pink bullworm, DIPP has sent a notice to Mosanto to explain why their patent shouldnt be revoked. On the other side, govt has promised to align it’s IPR policy to the international standards and exercise caution in giving compulsory licenses CL. So the issue is about government commitments and actions. Any such order will increase litigations which will ultimately tarnish India’s ease of doing business plan.

Cotton revolution started in 2002. Since then, India’s production increased from 14 million bales to 39 million bales till 2014-15 with 84% increaee in productivity. We used to be importer of cotton and now we export raw cotton. All due to BT cotton. It has saved key foreign exchange.
Thus, India doesnt want patented companies to sell at high price but also is not ready to openly carry out GM trials and develop indegenous and cheap cotton seeds


Focus areas of irrigation program –

• Recharging of groundwater
• Creation of irrigation potential at farm level with help of check-dams and irrigation tanks
• Regular maintenance of irrigation sources like de-siltation program of Andhra called Mission Kakatiya
• Water is available but can’t be taken out due to no power. Feeder seed like Gujarat and usage of solar pumps
• Irrigation potential and actual irrigation gap be reduced by efficient management of canals
• Focus on micro irrigation. It is a proves of delivering low volume of water through a network of pipes at low pressure and high frequency.

Pradhanmantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana under Integrated Watershed Management Programme. The scheme aims at providing water for protective agriculture. The plan is to bring 29 lakh hectares under irrigation.

Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program

• Started in 1996, its main purpose was to give central assistance to the states in form of loans. Since 2006, it was converted into grants.

• The states plug in the rest of money. Maharashtra, AP, Orissa have benefitted the most.

• First the assistance was only for 1000th plus projects but later on the focus was on small projects to also attract the smaller states.

Protected Cultivation-

• It involves usage of greenhouse effect to grow plants under a protected environment to get high yield even in adverse climatic conditions.

• It involves managing 5 parameters of light, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and nutrients. Greenhouses, Net houses and tunnels are used here.

• Advantages- round the year production of fruits and vegetables, optimum use of water and nutrients, premium prices to farmers for their produce and suitable for small land holdings.

• Drawbacks- highly costly and requires good managerial inputs and logistics.

• This type is being practiced in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, AP, Karnataka, etc. This is the future of India because it is suitable for small and marginal farmers in an era where disease, pests and unreliable climate are the major problems.

Privatization of Water Supply

• It increases efficiency

• Less wastage

• Revenue generation in times when water is limited resources.

• Disadvantages include less accountability, transparency, realisation of revenues, higher tariffs, no socio-economic goals.

• Case study- Nagpur gave water control to French company but had to take back over due to corruption.

• Overall, water is crucial for living and should not be privatized. Instead, use private sector for crucial technology input.

Agriculture Seeds-

• Seeds are the most important component of agriculture that carries forward the new technology. Availability of quality seeds at the right time is crucial to decide about productivity. It is estimated that the quality of seed accounts for 20 to 25 per cent of productivity

• The organized seed sector is handled by public sector companies like National Seed Corporation and State Farms Corporation of India. Their main duty is to make available quality certified seeds to the farmers at the right prices.

The seeds are of three types-

• Breeder seeds – this stage is the primary stage of production. ICAR, NSC, SFCI, etc carry out the production of breeder seeds. While the stock of breeder seeds is enough for cereals, fodder, etc there is shortage for pulses and oil seeds.

• Foundation seeds- this is the next stage. Apart from the government orgs, foundation seeds are distributed to private players too for rapid multiplication.

• Certified seed is the final stage which is given to the end user.

Seed Banks – They store all three types of seeds and are managed by the above corporations. The main purpose is to meet any contingency arising out of shortage.


• In the form of inadequate research inputs for development of new seeds

• High cost of seeds for small and marginal farmers.

• Shortage of supply of quality seeds.

• Non-resolution of issues related to adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) crops.

• Inadequate number of players restricting competition.


Includes meat, fish, eggs, leather, milk and dairy products, etc.

• Livestock contributes to almost 4% of India’s GDP and around 25% of agri GDP.

• India has the largest livestock population, in fact more than required. However, lthe productivity is less.

• The contribution would increase if usage of cattle as a source of energy in farms and usage of their dung is considered. However, with increasing mechanization, farm animals are used less while usage of chemical fertilizers has reduced usage of dung.

• Through the decades due to increasing urbanization, there is a large demand for food from livestock, be it milk or meat. Thus, non-food usage of livestock has reduced

• It is a source of income for more than two thirds of the rural population. Rearing animals has become a second source of income i.e diversification of income in case of crop failure or natural calamity. The growth of livestock has been nearly twice of that of agriculture in past decade thus making it critical as a cushion for agricultural calamity.

• It is also interesting to note that out of the total workforce, women are involved in livestock rearing more than men.

• Source of livelihood for tribals

• Cattle require grazing areas and pastures. India has the lowest pastures per unit cattle than any part of the world. Plus, frequent droughts have led to our animals being subjected to malnutrition.

• Small farm households hold the maximum advantage of poverty reduction because they control almost half of the total livestock in the country.

• Our milk productivity is only half of the global average. Cross breeding of livestock is not that successful due to non availability of research labs. The frequent outbreak of cattle diseases has also weakened them (Gujarat model of reducing cattle diseases, even cataract treatment). Livestock gets hardly 12% of total public expenditure on agriculture.

• Dairy India reports that proportion of cross bred cattle will increase at the expense of indogenous cows and buffaloes.

• Drawback of cow vigilantism and bills- cattle markets making losses. Loni market went below 50cr

Dairy farming-


• Large variety of milch cattle

• Rapid urbanization

• Growth of food processing industry

• Strength of cooperatives

• Dairy Development Board and use of improved cow breeds.

Advantages of Dairy Industry

• Dairy farming is profitable because the prices of milk don’t fluctuate like other commodities.

• Milk is available all-round the year and is taken out daily unlike crops that are harvested after months.

• Daily expenses can be thus met easily including payments to moneylenders.

• Milk cooperatives like Amul have introduced direct payments to farmers which will also increase their creditworthiness and ease of bank loans.

• Lastly, small farmers can also take it up thus making it pro-poor


National Dairy Development Plan. Rashtriya Gokul Mission, Dairy Infrastructure and Development Fund of Rs 10000 crore


• International competition from New Zealand that controls 25% of world trade

• Restrictions from countries- Australia classifies India as foot in mouth disease hit

• Most sector is unorganized

• Infra issues

• Agricultural distress and drought leading to less nutrition

• Barring Amul, very few cooperatives or private companies are successful

• Milk and Skimmed Milk Powder prices have crashed leading to huge unsold stocks in India amd supply since 2014 has outstretched demand

Land Reforms-

Historical background – zamindari system and indebtedness of farmers leading to selling land to non-agri people or becoming landless laborers.
The National Agricultural Policy 2000 talks of land reforms through land holding consolidation

Scope of Land Reform-

• Abolition of intermediaries

• Tenancy reforms for landless, sharecroppers, etc.

• Ceiling on land holding and redistribution of surplus land

• Consolidation of scattered holdings through collective farming, coop soc.

• Protection of tribal lands from encroachment.

• Access of women to land assets.

Compensation to intermediaries-

Compensation provided for intermediaries. Many court cases have been fought in HC and SC by zamindars for just compensation. The courts have directed the government to provide such compensation. The compensation however was to be provided in cash or bonds of long terms.

What are the different types of tenancy?

Tenants are of three types –permanent tenants who are occupants of that land and have no problem legally, temporary tenants or tenants at will include labours, sharecroppers, etc and third is sub-tenants. Te temporary and sub-tenants are the most deprived sections because they get no compensation from the landowner.

What’s Land Ceiling?

Oral or hidden tenancy – Such kind of tenancy has no legal sanction and no legal agreement. This type is seen in many places and is used as an effective way of nullifying land reforms.

The NITI Aayog has proposed a Model Act for freeing up of farm land through leasing of land between farmers and farming cooperatives to boost farming.

• The Act provides recognition to farmers cultivating the agricultural land on lease to enable them to access loans through credit institutions, insurance, disaster relief

• It also protects the land rights of the owners

• It also seeks to remove the clause of adverse possession of land in the land laws of various states as it interferes with free functioning of land lease market

• It also suggests legalizing “land leasing in all areas to ensure complete security of land ownership right for land owners and security of tenure for tenants for the agreed lease period.

• It also proposes the automatic resumption of land after the agreed lease period without requiring any minimum area of land to be left with the tenant even after termination of tenancy

Impact of land ceiling

• It will create security among landowners to lease-out agricultural land.

• It had the potential to put to use millions of hectares of fallow land in the country.

• It will also provide landless poor, small and marginal farmers a means of livelihood and protection through access to bank credit and insurance cover.

• It would encourage large land owners to lease out land without fear of losing their land ownership rights and invest in non-farm enterprises.

• It will encourage contract farming which will ultimately increase the income of the farmer.

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