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Indian agripolitics

Government heavyweights line up at food innovation summit

By RJ Whitehead , 11-Jan-2013

Speaking at an industry event in Haryana, the Indian minister for state for agriculture and food processing stressed that finding new ways to detect emerging food pathogens was crucial for the domestic economy’s “sunrise sector”.

Tariq Anwar, who was addressing the first international conference on on innovations in food processing, value chain management and food safety at National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management in Kundli, said: “It is of utmost importance to provide hygienic food to the consumers in India as well abroad.”

To tackle this, he said providing farmers with ways to assess risks and pathogens would be key as they were at the starting point of the value chain.

The UPA government is in the midst of a charm offensive towards the agriculture sector to allay criticism that its policies, especially following the passing of last year’s major FDI legislation, have been geared towards corporations while ignoring farmers.

And to placate the latter group, Anwar stressed that producers must benefit from various levels of food processing as “the sector has the potential for employment and income generation.”

Pawar to appear

Today, the high-profile agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar will appear at the event on the back of dismissing a parliamentary panel’s suggestion to halt field trials of GM crops.

In August, a standing committee on agriculture recommended to the government that it stop all open-field trials of transgenic crops until it develops a better system of oversight.

However, Pawar said the government could not take the “luxurious decision” of banning such agriculture as GM farm research was important for ensuring food security.

"We are not supporting [the panel's recommendations]. Ultimately, food security is the important issue for a nation like India and here we cannot take this type of luxurious decision of banning field trials," Pawar said.

Communists speak out

However, the minister is likely to come under attack from one of the several influential communists taking part in the Haryana event for his views on the GM cause.

They have already been outspoken about government policies, and yesterday the Centre was heavily criticised by the veteran CPI leader, AB Bardhan, for its position on food security. 

Addressing a seminar on the “agrarian crisis”, Bardhan called for a means to make sure all rural workers were given adequate staples and asserted his belief that farmers had been badly let down by broken government promises.

He said: “There is an urgent need to implement a universal public distribution system to supply every family with 35kg of rice at Rs2 per kilo every month. The prevalent BPL and APL system is misleading, as both categories are divided by a fraudulent line

And taking a swipe at the UPA’s supposed pro-corporate stand, he added: “The rise in farmer suicides in recent years exposes the anti-poor mindset of the Centre.”

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