India must encourage agriculture R&D and sustainable farming

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Published: June 5, 2019 2:44:31 AM

While India had insisted at Paris that it shouldn't be made to bear the costs—in terms of foregoing development—of anthropogenic climate change because it had contributed little, historically large polluters continue down a high-emission path.

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The University of Minnesota’s Institute on Environment says the production of barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane, and wheat has fallen globally due to climate change.

South Asia, along with Europe, and North and Central America, are the worst-affected. In India, where food security is already a concern, rice and wheat production fell by 2.1% and 0.7%, respectively, between 1978 and 2008 due to climate change.

Given these grains are both staples and important agri-export items—India exported 7% of its non-basmati rice and 0.3% of its wheat produced in 2017-18—these numbers are alarming. Falling production because of climate change will intensify rural agrarian distress and contribute to hunger. The costs that this imposes on the future get compounded since children are the group most vulnerable to poverty-induced hunger, chronic malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiency.

While India had insisted at Paris that it shouldn’t be made to bear the costs—in terms of foregoing development—of anthropogenic climate change because it had contributed little, historically large polluters continue down a high-emission path.

So, even if India and a handful of other nations adopt climate-sensitive growth strategies, there is no avoiding the unfolding climate crisis. Against such a backdrop, the government must back agri R&D, apart from encouraging innovative and sustainable agricultural practices.

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