So how was your visit to India? What do you like most here?
My visit to India was very nice. I was pleasantly surprised by the optimism and the resilience of the people despite the poverty. There is for sure enough vision on Agriculture present in India, but they need to speak them out, they need to formulate their needs to the world.
How do you see the agricultural scenario of India as compared to other foreign countries?
The development of a sustainable agriculture is very important. However, the first priority in India should be to better assist the small, often poor, farmers. These farmers need assistance; so that they know and are able to grow the best locally adapted varieties, to grow good varieties and to increase the yield. Sustainable agriculture is very important, but organizing good assistance for the local farmers should be the first priority. Very important is also the overpopulation in India, and in the families of poor farmers. These farmers need also higher incomes, and there is also more available information needed about birth control.
What is the role of latest sci-tech in agriculture in the present era, and especially in the context of developing countries like India?
Green biotechnology is very important in agriculture, and for sure in developing countries. Within the coming years, the population will keep growing, much more food will be needed, and this has to be produced on less available land, climate changes will lead to different yields, different growth conditions, etc. It is important that each country, including India, will be able to grow his own food and feed, and that also small farmers will have good seeds that will give rise to plants with high yields.
What is the global food security scenario at present? What is the status of India?
The Global Food Security is a high concern of the UN and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Very important to obtain this Food Security, also for India, is good governance, investments in good roads and transport facilities. Farmers should have access to insurances and credits should be accessible via very cheap loans: If all of this is achieved, the farmer will have access to good quality seeds, and this will give rise to secure food. The Indian Farmer works a lot, but as important is education on agriculture to obtain more and safe food. Scientists and plant science innovation centers from abroad should assist the schools of agriculture, one should organize extension services, training, provide new techniques. However, before this can be done, the needs of the farmers should be known.
What could be the sustainable agriculture solutions for India?
In India, Bt cotton is now grown routineously. With the incorporation of the Bt gene, giving rise to the Bt protein, the plant is capable of producing its own pesticide. In that way, not only the chemical pesticide use is decreased, but also the yield increased enormously.
How much you are concerned to nourish two billion more people by 2050 in a changing climate?
In 2050, 9 billion people will live on this planet and by then we will have an enormous shortage of food. Currently almost 2 billion people are hungry and if we also need to feed the 2 billion additional ones by 2050, the amount of food that must be produced between 2014 and 2050 will be equal to the amount grown in the last 2013 years. To obtain this enormous quantity of food the agricultural production as seen today will not be enough. More arable land and water will be needed, climate changes will have an enormous impact on agriculture and changing diets of people in the western world will even demand more food.
What should be done to meet this challenge?
As already indicated above, by 2050, much more ( 2 billion more) people will live on this planet, and much more food will be needed. However, this large amount of food should be produced on less available land, so the yield of the plants should increase dramatically. Also climate changes will have an enormous impact on agriculture.
What are the sustainable solutions needed for the pressing food security problems of the future?
In the coming years, more total agricultural production will be needed. This needs to be obtained with: (1) a decrease in (greenhouse) gas emissions; (2) a decrease in biodiversity loss; (3) less available land; and (4) a decrease in water pollination. Therefore, we need plants that give rise to higher yields that are drought resistant, etc.
In terms of agriculture sector what are your future plans?
It is very important that the public and governments realize the importance of GM technology, that we really need GM technology if we want to feed the world in 2050. We also need a sustainable agriculture, and this can only be achieved if the best characteristics of plant breeding are combined with green biotechnology. Additionally, the knowledge that we have in the Western world about GM technology and how it can help us should reach all farmers in developing countries. Therefore, I travel around the whole world to talk with governments, academic people, scientists and the public to inform them about the GM technology.
How India can gain access to the latest plant biotechnology developments? And how should we stimulate our research institutions to become self reliant?
For this, I refer to UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization). UNIDO is a specialized agency of the UN that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive organization and environmental sustainability in developing countries and economies in transition. With their help, India could further develop its own agribusiness.