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1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and Current Status

1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and Current Status

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4 The Indian Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act 2001: A. . .

For example, in the Arthashastra,9 a text dated at around the fourth century BC,

principles of agricultural practice and production are laid down in great detail. The

text details practices vis-a-vis land distribution, ownership, taxation, cropping

systems and cropping patterns, methods of collecting and storing seeds, methods

and timing for irrigation, methods and principles for the preparation and storage of

natural manures etc.10 Indeed, a great deal has been written about the cropping

patterns and cropping systems of India, including those followed in the Indus

Valley Civilizations as well as during the centuries that followed. These texts

contain, inter alia, a rich description of the land holding patterns11 as well as the

variety of crops grown in various regions of India and its neighboring countries. In

the Indus Valley civilizations, for example, crops as diverse as barley, pearl millet,

finger millet, various types of rice, pulses (including lentils, Bengal gram, field

peas, green and black gram), mustard, sesame, various species of wheat, fruits and

vegetables were grown.12

Works of scholars from a diversity of backgrounds also discuss the importance,

not only from a historical or informative perspective, but also from the perspective

of modern day needs, of traditional Indian agricultural practices. For example, the

traditional system of inter-cropping adopted not only by Indian farmers but also by

farmers in other parts of the globe, has been shown to help sustainably increase crop

yields while also maintaining soil fertility and productivity.13

Agricultural R&D in Pre-independence India

The robustness of traditional Indian agricultural practices is further evidenced by

their survival well into the twentieth century. In fact, well before the British

government in New Delhi established the Indian Council for Agricultural Research

(ICAR) in 1929,14 agricultural scientists, including scientists visiting India from


L.N. Rangarajan (ed), Kautilya’s Arthshastra, 1.

Anil K. Pandey et al., ‘Agricultural Knowledge Systems in Ancient India and its Relevance to

Sustainable Development,’ 752. Also, Vanaja Ramprasad, ‘Manure, Soil and Vedic Literature:

Agricultural Knowledge and Practice on the Indian Subcontinent over the Last Two Millennia’ in

Richard Jones (ed) Manure Matters: Historical, Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives

(Surrey, Ashgate 2012).


Lallanji Gopal, ‘Ownership of Agricultural Land in Ancient India’ (1961) 4(3) Journal of the

Economic and Social History of the Orient 240, where the author argues, based on evidence from

ancient Indian texts, that peasants, and not the King were the owners of land and ancient India.


Anil K. Pandey et al., ‘Agricultural Knowledge Systems in Ancient India and its Relevance to

Sustainable Development,’ 749.


Donald Q. Innis, Intercropping and the Scientific Basis of Traditional Agriculture, 19, where the

author says: “Traditional farmers in India have long practiced continuous cropping without

noticeable detrimental effect to soil, probably because crop mixtures are used.”


It was originally named the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, and is a registered

society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in pursuance of the report of the Royal

Commission on Agriculture. .


4.1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and. . .


oversees, studied farming practices of native Indians over large periods lasting up to

25 years or more. Their studies reached the conclusion that ‘in India. . . the natives

with the healthiest crops and animals were those who eschewed chemical fertilizers

for natural manures.’15 A 19-year period (1905–1924) of research at the Pusa

Institute had led these scientists to a finding that has been proved by modern

science16 to hold true even today17:

The full possibility of the improvement of the variety can only be achieved when the soil in

which the new types are grown is provided with adequate supply of humus. Improved

varieties by themselves could be relied upon to give an increased yield in the neighborhood

of 10 %: improved varieties plus better soil conditions were found to produce an increment

up to 100 % or even more. An addition of even 10 % to the yield would ultimately impose a

severe strain on the frail fertility reserves of the soils of India and would gradually lead to

their impoverishment, plant breeding to achieve any permanent success would have to

include a continuous addition to the humus content of the small fields of Indian cultivators.

Over time, a large network of research laboratories and State Agricultural

Universities (SAUs) linked with the ICAR were established, creating one of the

world’s largest agricultural research networks.18 During this time, another major

long term research was conducted by the noted agricultural scientist, Sir Albert

Howard, at the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore, India (during the years

1924–1931). His work led to the development of the ‘Indore Process for the

manufacture of humus from vegetable and animal wastes.’19 Based on his research

in Indore, Sir Albert Howard published an ‘Agricultural Testament’ in 1943. The

book, now considered by many to be the ‘bible’ of modern day organic farming,

detailed methods to promote soil health and increase crop yields using natural

manures and sustainable agricultural practices that closely mimicked the processes

of nature.20


Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament, 6 (Back Cover Note).

See generally, Paul Maăder et al., Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming.’ A number

of other studies also came out during this time: In 1911, for example, Franklin King published the

book “Farmers of Forty Centuries” based on his research visits to China, Japan and Korea. He

found that “organic manures in the East enabled more to be grown per hectare, and thus support a

higher population, than the contemporary methods used in the West which were becoming even

more reliant on artificials.” As quoted in Richard Jones (ed) Manure Matters: Historical, Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives, 3.


The findings of this research were published as: Sir Albert Howard and Yeshwant D. Wad, The

Waste Products of Agriculture: Their Utilization as Humus (London, Humphrey Milford Oxford

University Press 1931)

accessed October 29, 2014. Also see, Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament.


Today, the ICAR is one of the world’s largest agricultural R&D networks comprising 99 ICAR

research institutes and 53 agricultural universities across various States of India. See
icar.org.in/en/aboutus.htm> accessed October 29, 2014.


See generally, Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament.





4 The Indian Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act 2001: A. . .

Agricultural Policies and 5-Year Plans in Independent India:

An Overview

The government of independent India established the Planning Commission21 as a

statutory body consisting of experts from various disciplines. The Commission

formulates ‘5-year Plans’ for the systematic and planned development of India

under the leadership of the executive government elected by the Indian people once

every 5 years. These 5-year Plans contain plans for each of the major sectors of

India’s polity and economy, including agriculture.

It is noteworthy that despite the consistency of the research findings detailed in

the previous section of this chapter that confirm the robustness of traditional

agriculture and associated systems of crop and yield improvement,22 evidence of

their being taken into account by the newly independent India is visible only in its

first 5-year plan.23 In fact, in each of India’s ‘5-year plans’ (especially the first few

‘5-year plans’) as well as in Indian policy documents pertaining to agriculture, the

absence of any reference to the seminal works of Albert Howard and other scientists

engaged in similar work, is conspicuous for two reasons:

1. Albert Howard was a well-known agricultural researcher who conducted all the

scientific work that went into writing his ‘Agricultural Testament’, in India

(particularly, but not limited to, the Indore region of India)

2. Case studies cited in the book revealed that crop yields in large agricultural strips

of Northern India had tripled following the adoption of what Howard termed

‘Green Manuring.’ The resulting yields in sugarcane, for example, remain

unmatched even today24: Howard found that the yield per acre of sugarcane

rose from a mere 13 tons per acre to as much as 44 tons per acre. The

corresponding increase in sugar production was from 1 ton to 4.5 tons per acre.

In the empirical research conducted in Madhya Pradesh during the course of this

research, the maximum reported yield per acre, when using chemical fertilizers,

was 40 tons per acre. On an average, however, most sugarcane cultivators reported

a yield of only 25–30 tons per acre. While higher yields were recorded in the first

few years after the farmers adopted cane cultivation, they reported a declining

trend in productivity per acre in subsequent years. In fact, as of 2007, the world

average production of sugarcane was less than 29 tons per acre.25

See accessed October 29, 2014.

See generally, Donald Q. Innis, Intercropping and the Scientific Basis of Traditional Agriculture.


The five-year plans are written out and tabled on the floor of the Indian parliament every 5 years.

The first five year plan was from 1951 – 1956 (soon after India attained independence from the



Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament, 180–186.


G€unther Fischer et al., ‘Land Use Dynamics and Sugarcane Production’ in P. Zuurbier, J. van de

Vooren (eds) Sugarcane Ethanol: Contributions to Climate Change Mitigation and the Environment (Wageningen Academic Publishers 2008) 37
Wageningen%20-%20Chapter%202.pdf> accessed October 29, 2014.



4.1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and. . .


Although the first 5-year plan of India contained within it a detailed chapter

dedicated to promoting organic farming including the use of organic manure to

ensure soil fertility and productivity,26 by the second 5-year plan,27 the focus had

visibly shifted to promoting the use of chemical fertilizers, with organic manuring

receiving only a passing mention.28 Although the emphasis on organic manuring

increased marginally in the 3rd plan,29 the significantly greater emphasis on

expanding the area under hybrid and improved (HYV) seeds made the need for

nitrogenous (chemical) fertilizer appear to be the more urgent and important task.30

According to experts, the zeal with which India was promoting the adoption of

‘modern’ chemical intensive agriculture was visible way down to the grassroots

among the Rural Agricultural Extension Officers (RAEOs) who were given the task

of demonstrating and promoting the adoption of formally improved seeds and

associated chemical fertilizers and pesticides on ‘mission mode.’31

In fact, the emphasis continued to be skewed heavily in favor of promoting

‘intensive agriculture’ and use of chemical fertilizers to obtain ‘optimal’ high yield

from hybrids and ‘improved seeds’ from the 4th till the 9th plan32; again, organic

manuring received only a passing reference.33 At the same time, reference to the

importance of maintaining and utilizing agrobiodiversity first appeared as late as in

See ‘Chapter 18: Some Problems of Agricultural Development’ in Government of India, 1st

Five-Year Plan (para 38)
html> accessed October 29, 2014. The plan also talks about the importance of promoting

cultivation of pulses (para 30), and highlights the importance of using chemical fertilizers only

in conjunction with bulky organic manures.


The second five-year plan was from 1956–1961.


See ‘Chapter 13: Programme for Agriculture’ in Government of India, 2nd Five-Year Plan (para



October 29, 2014.


The 3rd five-year plan was from 1961 – 1966.


See ‘Chapter 19: Agricultural Production’ in Government of India, 3rd Five-Year Plan (
planningcommission.nic.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/3rd/3planch19.html> accessed October 29, 2014.


Interview with M. Mahadevappa, Director, JSS Rural Development Foundation (Bangalore

14 March 2009), available with author.


In the 9th plan (1998–2002), for the first time a clear mention was made as to the impact of

chemical farming on soil quality (soil pollution). See ‘Chapter 4.1 Agriculture’ in Government of

India, 9th Five-Year Plan, vol 2
html> accessed November 1, 2014. The document states: “4.1.68 There are several possible

technologies and alternatives to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. These alternatives are

not perfect substitutes to chemicals but adoption of these can substantially reduce the adverse

impact on environment. Proper land and water management policies would reduce environmental

degradation. Community and village institutions will be encouraged to participate in protecting

natural resources from degradation. Programmes for regeneration of land and water resources will

be strengthened.”


Para 7.5.1 in the 4th five-year plan (1969–1974) contains the only reference to organic manure.

See ‘Chapter 7: Agriculture’ in Government of India, 4th Five-Year Plan
planningcommission.gov.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/index4.html> accessed October 29, 2014.



4 The Indian Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act 2001: A. . .

the 6th Plan,34 with greater emphasis on the same developing only by the 9th and

10th plans.

The developments that led the research findings of Howard and other ‘organic

farming’ experts to be overshadowed by scientific research and political support for

agriculture using ‘modern’ formally bred seeds and chemical supplements are

discussed in the following sub-section.

Green Revolution and HYV Seeds in India

In 1942, the Rockefeller Foundation funded one of its first international agricultural

research efforts to look into means of creating new high yielding varieties (HYVs)

of wheat. The larger aim of these efforts, it was claimed, was to help address the

issue of famines and starvation in developing countries such as Mexico, India and

Pakistan.35 Based in Mexico and headed by Norman E Borlaug, the research led to

the development of the Mexican dwarf varieties of wheat, which were suitable for

various types of environments36 and gave yields that surpassed the yields of

traditional varieties by as much as 300 %, provided they were adopted with chemical fertilizer (and pesticide) supplements.37

However, the term ‘agrobiodiversity’ or ‘biodiversity’ was not expressly used in the 6th plan

(1980–1985). See ‘Chapter 20: Environment’ in Government of India, 6th Five-Year Plan
planningcommission.nic.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/welcome.html> accessed October 29, 2014. In

this plan, the importance placed on organic manures also increased, albeit only marginally. The

term biodiversity appeared for the first time in the 8th plan (1992–1997), in para 4.16.7. See

‘Chapter 4: Environment and Forests’ in Government of India, 8th Five-Year Plan, vol 2
planningcommission.nic.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/welcome.html> accessed October 29, 2014.

Thereafter, almost all 5-year plans contain a chapter dedicated to the Environment and/or ecology

and using the environment including India’s rich plant genetic resources for human benefit. In the

7th plan (1985–1990), the term ‘sustainable development’ featured for the first time. See

‘Chapter 18: Environment and Ecology’ in Government of India, 7th Five-Year Plan, vol.

2 accessed October

29, 2014.


More recent socio-political studies, however, claim that this stated aim (of development) was

merely a garb for “a new style of diplomacy”: “By asserting control over agriculture, nations

defeated their internal enemy and gained a degree of authority over resources, territory, and people

that colonial empires never had.” See Nick Cullather, The Hungry World: America’s Cold War

Battle Against Poverty in Asia (USA, Harvard University Press 2006) 3, 7. Furthermore, Rockefeller is one of the largest petro-chemical companies and petro-chemicals are a key ingredient of

chemical fertilizers. There was and is, therefore, a direct economic interest associated with

Rockefeller’s supporting research that increases sales of chemical fertilizers the world over.


In an interview, Norman E Borlaug stated: “We were consciously and very early – we were

doing it consciously – discarding those things that fit only one environment. . .. This was fundamental to being able to move thousands of tons of seed produced in Mexico to areas halfway

around the world.” As quoted in Nick Cullather, The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle

Against Poverty in Asia, 44.


D.S. Athwal, ‘Semidwarf Rice and Wheat in Global Food Needs’ (1971) 46(1) The Quarterly

Review of Biology 1.


4.1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and. . .


It is noteworthy that prior to the development of the Mexican dwarf varieties,

traditional rice and wheat varieties did not respond efficiently to chemical fertilizers. In fact, attempts to breed fertilizer responsive varieties were unsuccessful

(i.e. traditional varieties rejected artificial fertilizers) until scientists discovered the

Chinese rice Dee-geo-woo-gen and the Japanese wheat Norin 10 and used them in

breeding programs after considerable effort.38 This fact may explain why during the

field studies conducted for this research, it was observed that those traditional plant

species and varieties (notably pulses varieties) that have not been engineered to

‘accept’ or ‘respond’ to chemical fertilizers show reduced yield and even extinction

following the introduction of chemical fertilizers in the soils in which they are


The new HYVs of wheat were created by crossing high yielding varieties of

wheat (containing dwarfing genes) developed by Japanese farmers in the nineteenth

century, with popular US wheat varieties.40 The short stature of the resulting HYVs

conferred on them the ability to hold the large and heavy locks of wheat grain

resulting from the application of nitrogenous fertilizers (i.e. they were suitable for

intensive, fertilizer based agriculture).41 The taller traditional varieties were found

to experience ‘lodging’ due to the weight of the grain emerging from their stalks

following the use of such fertilizers.42 Dwarf varieties of rice were also successfully

introduced via the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), established in 1960,

Ibid. Also, see ‘Green Revolution’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica (Online Edition)
britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/245058/green-revolution> accessed October 29, 2014, which

states: “The new [high yielding] varieties require large amounts of chemical fertilizers and

pesticides to produce their high yields, raising concerns about cost and potentially harmful

environmental effects. Poor farmers, unable to afford the fertilizers and pesticides, have often

reaped even lower yields with these grains than with the older strains, which were better adapted to

local conditions and had some resistance to pests and diseases.” Also see, Government of India,

Seed Review Team Report (Government of India 1968) 4, which states that in 1965, India started

the process of multiplication for the first dwarf, highly fertilizer-responsive rice variety. And also,

‘The Start of the CGIAR’ [online video] interviewing Norman E. Borlaug and Robert McNamara

accessed October 29, 2014.


The author of this study could find no scientific research proving or disproving this observation.

Further and detailed scientific research is necessary in this regard. However, in the regions of

Madhya Pradesh where surveys and interviews were conducted with farmers for this research, it

was reported that the seeds of the traditional ‘Gulabi Chana’ (pink chickpeas) had slowly stopped

giving yield and eventually had to be completely discarded by farmers following the adoption of

chemical fertilizers for growing other crops on the same soil in one or the other of the two major

growing seasons.


For a detailed description of the route through which the Japanese dwarf varieties reached the US

and other modern wheat varieties in various parts of the world, see Katarina Borojevic and Ksenija

Borojevic, ‘The Transfer and History of “Reduced Height Genes” (Rht) in Wheat from Japan to

Europe’ (2005) 96(4) Journal of Heredity 455.


Katarina Borojevic and Ksenija Borojevic, ‘The Transfer and History of “Reduced Height

Genes” (Rht) in Wheat from Japan to Europe.’


Ibid., 455.



4 The Indian Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act 2001: A. . .

once again, as an initiative of the Rockefeller (and Ford) foundations.43 These

varieties were also suited to multiple climatic conditions and responded well

(in terms of yield increase) to heavy doses of chemical fertilizer.

In India, the ICAR introduced its first formal crop improvement program in 1957

(corresponding with India’s 2nd 5-year plan). It was titled the ‘Co-ordinated Maize

improvement program’ and was also started in collaboration with the Rockefeller

Foundation. The Foundation also supplied the ICAR with equipment needed to

establish its first ‘fully equipped seed-testing laboratory.’44 Close at the heels of

these developments, the ‘Co-ordinated Sorghum and Millets improvement program’ was started in 1960.

India had suffered from shortage of food and periodic famines during the period

of British colonization45 as well as soon after independence due to war like

situations in India following the India-Pakistan partition. Nevertheless, the international media declared that food shortages and famines in India were the inevitable and predicted46 consequence of India’s ‘low-key’ adoption of modern

agricultural technologies.47

In order to address its food crisis,48 the Indian government had requested the

United States to supply subsidized wheat under its Public Law 480 (PL 480)


A semi-dwarf rice variety called Taichung Native I had already been created in 1956 in Taiwan,

but was not very popular. The IRRI variety of semi-dwarf rice called IR8, released in 1966, was

however, a great success, especially in the Asian tropics. See D.S. Athwal, ‘Semidwarf Rice and

Wheat in Global Food Needs,’ 1. The IRRI was established using funds donated by the Rockefeller

foundation in order to create more such varieties for popular use in developing countries.


Government of India, Seed Review Team Report, 3.


For e.g. the great famines in Bengal 1943–44, in Orissa in 1866 and Bihar in 1873. PR

Greenough Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 1943–1944 (Oxford University Press 1982).


‘Facing Starvation’ Time Magazine (04 May 1959) citing a report submitted by American

agricultural experts to the Indian government (prepared at the request of the Indian government)

which, inter alia, predicted that India would suffer widespread famine by 1966.


‘India: The Threat of Famine’ Time Magazine (03 December 1965). What was overlooked,

however, was that these food shortages were likely to have been caused, in significant part, by

recurring natural calamities, such as the floods and droughts in Bihar in the year 1966. Man-made

calamities such as the Indo-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir that had progressively worsened since

India’s independent from the British, and culminated in war between the two nations in 1965, may

also have contributed to making the situation of agriculture more vulnerable to neglect by the

authorities. The war was on the cards since Indian independence in 1947 and the India-Pakistan

divide soon after, which led to extreme political tensions between the two nations, particularly in

relation to the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. The impact of natural calamities in specific parts

of a country, coupled with national emergency situation of war in a country as a whole, on the

overall agricultural productivity of a newly independent country is perhaps worth studying in a

systematic matter. Such a study, was, however, not undertaken as part of this research as it lay well

outside its scope. However, see generally, Paul R. Brass, ‘The Political Uses of Crisis: The Bihar

Famine of 1966–67’ 45(2) Journal of Asian Studies 245, 246–247.


The then Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, requested the people of India to grow

food in their backyards and skip one meal every week. See ‘India: The Threat of Famine’ Time

Magazine (03 December 1965).

4.1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and. . .


program to India in 1956. These requests were renewed almost annually thereafter.49 Large quantities of wheat were exported to India by the US during the years

1956 to 1966 following continuous and considerable political discussions and


In 1965, a renewal of requests for the PL 480 wheat by the Indian government is

reported to have been initially denied by the President of the United States. Later,

the denial was reversed on the following terms: In addition to requiring India to

agree to various political compromises that suited the US foreign policy at the

time,51 in the words of the Former US Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara,

President Johnson agreed to a ‘package deal’ whereby, the US would supply

wheat to India, ‘if [India] will agree to use some of the proceeds to start the

application of these new agricultural techniques, which has this potential for

tremendous increases in production.’52

Mounting political pressures from the United States in connection with the

wheat supplies had shaken the Indian government’s trust in oversees sources of

food and made it reconsider its reliance on foreign food aid.53 However, India

accepted the US suggestions to ‘reform’ its agricultural policies and accepted

modern capital and chemical intensive agricultural technologies as it was promoted

as the fastest means of achieving self-sufficiency in food.54 What followed is

popularly referred to as the Green Revolution.55


“Beginning with August 1956, India entered into a series of agreements with the United States

providing for the import of surplus agricultural commodities, chiefly wheat, under the United

States Public Law 480. Beginning with the middle of 1956 to the end of 1962, which is the period

covered by this study, India imported Rs. 6860 million worth of agricultural commodities under

these agreements.” See Nilakanth Rath and V.S. Patvardhan Impact of Assistance Under PL

480 on Indian Economy (Gokhale institute of Politics and Economics, Asia Publishing House

1967) v (Foreword) accessed November

2, 2014.




It is reported that the US government introduced its PL 480 program to “coax recipient nations

towards wiser economic policies.” In the case of India, these policies included a commitment to

introduce modern farming technologies. On a more political note, however, it is said that the US

decision to supply wheat came after India agreed to a compromise on the Kashmir issue. ‘India:

The Threat of Famine’ Time Magazine (03 December 1965). Also see, Nilakanth Rath and

V.S. Patvardhan Impact of Assistance Under PL 480 on Indian Economy, ix (Foreword).


See ‘The Start of the CGIAR’. That the US wanted India to ‘reform’ its agricultural policies in

favor of adopting these new chemical intensive technologies is also evidenced by the writings of

some scholars. See for example, Paul R. Brass, ‘The Political Uses of Crisis: The Bihar Famine of

1966–67,’ 253.


Nilakanth Rath and V.S. Patvardhan Impact of Assistance Under PL 480 on Indian Economy, v



See ‘The Start of the CGIAR’.


The term ‘Green Revolution’ was coined by US Agency for International Development

(USAID) administrator William Gaud. Nick Cullather The Hungry World: America’s Cold War

Battle Against Poverty in Asia, 7.


4 The Indian Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act 2001: A. . .

In keeping with the government’s commitment to promoting the use of chemical

intensive ‘modern’ agriculture using improved and hybrid seeds, a high yielding

Mexican dwarf wheat variety (named Gaines) which was fully developed and ready

for dispersal in 1961,56 came into India in the form of a bulk import of 250 tons of

the variety in 1965. Although a smaller shipment had reached Indian testing

grounds already in 1963,57 it was only following the adoption of the ‘package

deal’ that the government of India distributed 18,000 tons of the dwarf wheat seeds

among Indian farmers in 1966.

The overshadowing of Albert Howard’s work by chemical-supplement dependent seeds of the Green Revolution suggests, undoubtedly, that efforts directed

towards engineering and adoption of crops that responded well to (and indeed

needed) chemical fertilizers to perform, were supported at the political level over

and above efforts directed towards natural and sustainable methods of increasing

yields as suggested by Albert Howard and others. Incidentally, large-scale production and supply of these chemical supplements had started in technologically

advanced nations in the late nineteenth century and increased considerably during

the twentieth century, especially after the Second World War.58

The available data clearly shows how, in the decades following the Green

Revolution (coupled, to a smaller extent with increase in cropped and irrigated

areas), India became increasingly self-sufficient in agricultural production. In fact,

at the time the PPV&FR Act was passed, Indian agricultural production, particularly in relation to important staple foods, was sufficient to feed the entire population of India, while also contributing 15–20 % of the total value of India’s exports.59

India was (and is) also an active participant and contributor to international

agricultural R&D efforts, including international research efforts in wheat, maize

and rice.60 These achievements, however, are not without significant associated

costs: India’s net import of agricultural fertilizers has been increasingly annually.

D.S. Athwal, ‘Semidwarf Rice and Wheat in Global Food Needs,’ 1.

Government of India, Seed Review Team Report, 3.


See Richard Jones (ed), Manure Matters: Historical, Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives, 1–3, where the author traces the history of the development of chemical fertilizers to the

year 1796, when Richard Kirwan published his treatise on manures which stated that plant vitality

depended on the uptake of chemicals rather than on biological inputs. By the 1840s, the first

artificial fertilizer factory had opened in Deptford (south-east of London). Later, in 1926, the

Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI) was founded – the largest agrochemical producer of the world

during its time. Also, D.S. Athwal, ‘Semidwarf Rice and Wheat in Global Food Needs,’ 3.


Bijaya R. Sahay and Mohan P. Shrivastava, National Agricultural Policy in the New Millennium,



For example, Indian scientists have recently created a drought resistant variety of rice called

Sahbhagi Dhan that can survive 12 days without rain. According to news reports, “Sahbhagi Dhan,

which means rice developed through collaboration, is the result of 15 years of joint effort by

scientists at the Manila-based IRRI and Central Rainfed Upland Rice Research Station (CRURRS)

in Hazaribag town [Jharkhand, India].” Geeta Pandey, ‘India’s Drought Resistant Rice’ BBC News

(Hazaribag, 5 August 2009) accessed November

2, 2014.



4.1 Indian Agriculture and Associated Agricultural Policies: History and. . .


Even in recent years (2010–2012), reports indicate that the ‘import of fertilizers in

volume and value has increased 30 %’ and ‘import dependence is rising.’61 These

costs are in addition to the costs of intensive agriculture using chemical inputs as

discussed in Chap. 3, namely, the short and long-term costs associated with the fast

and alarming depletion of productive agricultural land, and increasing instances of

farmer suicides.62

Seed Act, 1966 and the Seed Review Team Report, 1968

While investigating means of increasing yields using the traditional and sustainable

means, (as recommended by scientists such as Albert Howard) at least as a

complement to adopting the new HYV and hybrid seeds, may have been prudent

in the light of recent scientific research,63 India commenced on a one focus and one

way track of systematically adopting policies and measures that took plant and seed

related improvement and innovation out of farmers’ fields and into the fields of

formal plant breeders and modern agricultural scientists.64 One of the most important laws adopted in this direction was a new Seeds law in 1962 that aimed at

‘regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale, and for matters connected therewith.’65 The law was passed by the Indian Parliament as the Seeds Act, 196666

(hereinafter, ‘Seeds Act’).

The Seeds Act is the current law regulating the sale of seeds in India and

establishes a comprehensive seed certification program. It does not mandate seed

certification. Instead, it establishes a regime whereby seed sellers have the option of

either having their seeds certified by the machinery established under the Act, or

themselves attaching a ‘truthful label’ on their seed bags indicating that the ‘seed

conforms to the minimum levels of germination and purity’ specified under the

Seeds Act and the associated rules and regulations.67

Furthermore, soon after the Seeds Act was passed, and before the notification of

rules and regulations for the implementation of the Act, the government of India

established the Seed Review Team in October 196768 to review the status of quality

‘India to Foot $8 bn for Coal, Fertilizer, Scrap Imports’ Business Standard (India, 21 May 2013)

accessed September 14, 2014.


See this chapter above for more details.


See generally, Paul Maăder et al., Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming.’


Keith Aoki, ‘“Free Seeds, Not Free Beer” Participatory Plant Breeding, Open Source Seeds, and

Acknowledging User Innovation in Agriculture,’ 2275.


See Preamble of the Seeds Act, 1966.


Act No. 54 of 1966 dated 29.12.1966.


See §§ 6, 7 of the Seeds Act, 1966 and Part V of the Seed Rules, 1968.


Government of India Resolution No. 20/11/67-Seeds (Dev.) dated 10th October 1967. It is

noteworthy that these efforts also commenced after India’s acceptance of the ‘package deal’

offered by President Johnson.



4 The Indian Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act 2001: A. . .

seed availability in India and to recommend means to further hasten the ‘increase in

agricultural production under the new strategy of hybrids and High Yielding

Varieties.’69 The specific terms of reference for the team were as follows:

1. to assess the existing arrangements for the production of breeder, nucleus,

foundation and certified seeds of varieties, hybrids, composites etc.

2. to evaluate the progress made in scientific processing, packing and storage of

seeds and the indigenous manufacture of processing and storage equipment for

achieving self-sufficiency

3. to consider steps required for the effective quality control of seeds and specific

arrangements for seed certification and enforcement of the Seed Law

4. to review the development of marketing of seeds at all stages

5. to assess the credit facilities required for seed production, seed processing and

seed marketing

6. to identify the role of various agencies of the Union and State Governments,

co-operatives and private agencies in seed production, processing and distribution

7. to consider steps to be taken for making available superior varieties to the

farmers immediately after their approval and release

8. to consider and recommend steps so that the seed production takes place in all

the States and there is no lopsided development of the industry

9. to recommend measures necessary for the rapid development of healthy seed


The team visited six countries and held detailed discussions with all stakeholders

associated with the formal seed production, testing and marketing process in these

countries. The six countries visited were: the Netherlands, Sweden, the United

Kingdom, USA, Japan and the Philippines. It is perhaps worth noting that most of

the countries visited were countries that already had advanced (and in most cases

also international) seed production, distribution and trading systems in place.71 Not

surprisingly therefore, the two key recommendations made by the Team that are

relevant to the scope of this research continue to be controversial in India even

today. Several stakeholders are of the view that such recommendations are not and

never were in keeping with the continuing reality of Indian agriculture as discussed

below (see the next sub-section).


See the cover letter dated 14th June 1968 by Mr. I.J. Naidu (leader of the Seed Review Team) to

Mr. B Sivaraman (Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Food, Agriculture and

Community Development), in Government of India, Seed Review Team Report. It is noteworthy

that research done by Albert Howard and other scientists that emphasized the importance of adopting

traditional farming methods along side the adoption of improved seeds appears to have either taken a

back seat or largely ignored by the agricultural extension officers. In fact, during the farmer surveys

conducted as part of this research, it was noted that animal waste, which forms a key ingredient in the

formation of natural manures has been done away with in areas of India where “modern” agriculture

is now the norm. In fact, these regions neither breed nor utilize any farm animals.


Government of India, Seed Review Team Report, 1–2.


Ibid., 13.

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