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Agriculture: Future Concerns

Shakti Kak

By Ian Scoones
Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2006, pp. 417, Rs. 795.00

Edited by Ashok Gulati, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, K.V. Raju
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 322, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 9 September 2008

The books under review deal with the important issue of the country’s agricultural development. Sustained growth of Indian agriculture is crucial for meeting food requirements, to supply raw material for industry and to provide a decent livelihood to millions in the country. The gains from the Green Revolution, though limited to certain regions and some crops, have not become widespread. As compared to advanced countries, yield levels for most of the crops remain extremely low and there is large regional variation in yields. Over the years, the growth rate in yield levels has also decelerated, while the cost of production of agricultural commodities has been steadily increasing. The neoliberal policies pursued under the pressure of the World Bank/IMF have resulted in deflationary policies where large cuts have been made in the areas of building rural infrastructure, agricultural research and development, extension services and other social sector expenditure. This has resulted in small-scale agriculture becoming unsustainable thus leading to misery and destitution and in extreme cases to suicides. While a small proportion of people have gained as a result of the policies of liberalization and globalization, large masses of people have experienced stagnant living standards or seen a further fall into poverty. It is in this context the issues studied in the above two books are extremely relevant for policy makers and researchers.   Ian Scoones in his study on the development of the biotechnology industry in India and its relevance to agriculture analyses the politics of policy making and the manner in which policy decisions get made in crucial areas that impact millions of people. The study is based on interviews with people working in industry, NGO workers, government officials, journalists, academics and farmers. The book contains interesting case studies of the biotech business in Bangalore, Bt cotton and the gene revolution. The book has clearly brought out the role of public agencies in giving a direction and finally disseminating the use of biotechnology. Comparing the scope of the start-ups, the established local companies and the multinational companies, the author points out that the big players, particularly the multinationals, have played a dominant role in the area which has ‘implications for what products will appear on the market’ (p. 169). As the role of the public sector research becomes limited or is driven by donor agencies, the small companies are able to survive only ‘as conduits for technologies’ owned by ...

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