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‘Indian farmers need effective, environment-friendly, safer crop protection products’qrcode

−− The solution is to promote a science-based policy and regulatory ecosystem which incentivises innovation and R&D, says Asitava Sen, chief executive officer of CropLife India

Jan. 12, 2022

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Jan. 12, 2022

By Parthasarathi Biswas

QQ截图20220111133925.jpgProtecting crops from pests and diseases is a major concern for Indian farmers. However, the crop protection industry, which includes manufacturers of pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, has seen strong opposition from those working against the use of insecticides and fungicides owing to the poisonous effect of these chemicals.

As calls for non-chemical agriculture grows, Asitava Sen, chief executive officer of CropLife India, spoke to The Indian Express about various aspects of the industry.

What would be the research and development (R&D) budget for the development of new molecules for the sector? With pest attacks and diseases becoming more the norm than the exception, is it a race against time for R&D for the companies?

India has only 280 registered crop protection molecules (active ingredients) vis a vis a global portfolio of over 1,175 molecules. One of the reasons for lower agriculture productivity is the low use of crop protection. Indian farmers need newer products that are safer (with lower A.I. doses/ha), environment-friendly and more effective.

The solution is to promote a science-based policy and regulatory ecosystem which incentivises innovation and R&D. A new product/molecule takes over Rs 2,000 crore of investment in R&D over 10-12 years. CropLife India Member companies deal in cutting edge technologies and have an annual global R&D spend of US $ 6 billion (nearly 7.5 per cent of their revenues) that lead to newer and safer innovations for the farmers worldwide.

One of the key missing elements in India is the lack of legal provisions to support innovation and new products registrations – such as Protection of Regulatory Data (PRD). Without this provision, it will be challenging for the Indian farmers to get new products and more choices to fight pests/diseases and weeds. The availability of new crop protection brings in healthy competition and far greater choices to the farmers for fighting the pests.

Plant protection has always been blamed for making agriculture unsustainable. Given the usage of chemicals the risk factor many say increases. With growing awareness or noise about this, how do you address this issue?

India has vast agro-climatic diversity and limited farmland. It needs a wide range of crop protection products. Changes in climate and cropping patterns cause new pests and diseases. According to government sources, 15-25 per cent of Indian agriculture production is lost annually due to pests.

One of the reasons for lower agriculture productivity is the low use of crop protection. India has one of the lowest usages of crop protection per hectare (307 g/ha), compared to up to 13 kg/ha in the USA, Japan, China or other countries.

Crop protection, therefore, is a key enabler of the government’s objectives of food security, doubling farmer incomes and safer food through the introduction of newer and better products.

The Indian crop protection industry is also a net exporter and has the potential to become a major global supply hub, supporting the government’s objectives for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Go Global’.

Looking at the potential of the sector, the government has also declared the agrochemical sector as one of the 12 champion sectors, where India can be a critical player in the global supply chain.

The industry is also well-regulated by both central and state governments and checks and balances exist to regulate product quality, movement and usage. Bio-pesticides and bio-stimulants are also being promoted and have great prospects going forward.

There is no alternative but to continue with safe and judicious use of newer, safer and better chemical and non-chemical products, integrated pest management and promotion of better application technologies such as drones.

India has taken a stance against GM crops (barring cotton). Would the introduction of GM variants reduce the need for chemicals for crop protection?

New technology and innovation lead to enhanced productivity, improved quality and farmer income; GM is no exception. New technologies can co-exist and complement each other rather than cannibalise. For example, herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton can actually aid the application of certain categories of highly effective and popular herbicides to kill weeds in a labour efficient manner.

Read the full interview on The Indian Express.

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