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Remarkable Rice
Indian Farmers Are Innovators in Action

If, as the saying goes, you reap what you sow, then Indian farmers are some savvy sowers. Thanks to new drought-resistant strains of rice, along with more efficient farming techniques, farmers are enjoying larger crop yields, even under adverse weather conditions. The WSJ reports:

Two decades ago, a bad monsoon could cut India’s annual economic growth rate in half. Today, however, new seeds and advances in drip irrigation and other agricultural technologies are helping to cushion farmers and the economy. […]

In Haryana, farmer Ishwar Dayal says this year he planted a hybrid basmati rice known as Pusa 1509 that grows faster and needs less water than other types. “Groundwater levels in our village have plunged and monsoon rains have become increasingly unpredictable,” Mr. Dayal said.

The new rice, and an earlier drought-resistant variety, Pusa 1121, have drastically improved farmers’ yields and incomes, Mr. Dayal and his neighbors in this grain-bowl northern state say.

It’s never wise to bet against human ingenuity, especially as the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. For consumer electronics, that means more powerful tablets and phones and watches and glasses, while for agriculture, innovation entails something altogether more important: crops with higher yields, resistant to droughts, heat waves, pests, floods, etc. Did that last litany of natural disasters sound familiar? Environmentalists like to trot them out as consequences of human-caused climate change, and yet, bizarrely, those same people have no problem with attacking genetically modified foods as “unnatural,” and therefore not worth our time. Somehow, greens can decry a dystopian future while dismissing out of hand one of the brightest hopes humanity has for adapting to these changes.

Green bigotry against GMOs says a lot about the movement in general—quick to diagnose the problem, but loathe to pursue any kind of workable solution. We’re going to need every iota of human ingenuity at our disposal if we’re to meet the challenges of a changing climate in the coming years, and to that end, we need an environmental movement capable of putting aside emotional biases and assessing options dispassionately. Gaia deserves much better advocates than she’s been getting.

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  • Verinder Syal

    Is it just me or is this a reality? The article seem to be getting harder hitting and to the point. The absence of political correctness is a welcome change. Please continue.

    The green revolution (food related) in India started in the 1960’s thanks to the work done by scientists in the U.S. It allowed India to go from a perpetually state with food shortages to actually exporting grains periodically. This is a continuation of the same efforts. Good for them.

    • El Gringo

      India certainly stands to benefit immensely from GMO technology. However, some much-needed policy changes could do far more in a shorter amount of time.

      Infrastructure development, including cold-storage facilities, could help market the nearly half of all produce that rots before it reaches stores. Allowing large-scale retail, such as Walmart, to operate would help immensely in this kind of development and decrease the cost of food. Finally, getting rid of the ludicrously small land ownership caps would create far greater efficiencies than GMO ever will.

      • Verinder Syal

        Agreed, that there are many things India could do including reducing corruptions. But the GMO issue has become a religion for some people and their demands for it to be the doctrine harms many poorer countries.

  • Duperray

    “and to that end, we need an environmental movement capable of putting aside emotional biases and assessing options dispassionately”. We all agree of course.
    But better substituting “aside emotional biases” with “ideological blindness” or with “faked humanity, but indeed obscure money targets”.

  • gabrielsyme

    The Green ideology is based on an “all or nothing” mentality. Either you’re for us or against us; no technology that does not promise near-perfection in their eyes is acceptable (witness the opposition to nuclear power among greens), and any “corruption” of nature (GMOs, geoengineering) is anathema even if it would address their broader concerns.

    The Greens are captive to a rigid and doctrinaire ideology that, sadly, often ends up causing more harm than good to the world’s environment.

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