DYNAMICS OF AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (R&D) SYSTEM IN INDIA
- Dr. Shiv Kumar - Senior Scientist, National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), Dev Prakash Shastri Marg, Pusa, New Delhi-110012
- Dr. Kanika - Senior Scientist, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB), LBS Building, Pusa, New Delhi-110012
In the past, science has navigated its way through rival ideas about its appropriate role and location in or outside of- society. It has run the gauntlet between competing claims for autonomy and integration, excellence and efficiency, scientific curiosity and relevance towards societal challenge. The modern age is the age of science, technology, knowledge and information. All these are interrelated and different aspects of the same thing. When science is transformed into physical form for the use of society then it becomes technology. Technology is a set of new ideas that man has conquered space and time. Technology is essential in our lives in order to continue to maintain our needs and wants. With changing needs, preferences and lifestyle of people, technology has commensurately evolved in order to better suit our requirements. The ‘system of innovation' within which these technologies are developed, produced, and marketed are based on collaboration between scientists and industrialists, and depend on interaction between policy makers. The rate at which technology is growing has been able to bring distant locations closer and theoretically made the world a smaller place to live.
Science' growth, its changing role, and the mounting concern with its legitimacy, uncertainty, and associated risks fuelled the relationship between science, technology, and society. This has brought science and technology as an increasingly important policy field in modern science. Our technology policy is comprehensive and well thought out. It aims at developing indigenous technology to ensure efficient absorption and adoption of imported technology suitable to national priorities and availability of resources. Its main objective is attainment of technical competence and self-reliance, leading to reduction in vulnerability in strategic and critical areas. Government came to recognise the need for regulation as well as coordination between science policies and other policy areas. In the context of liberalization and globalization and the transition towards knowledge based economies, science must enhance national competitiveness.
Given the large populations to be fed in the face of growing resource scarcities, improving agricultural productivity has consistently remained one of the main objectives of agricultural research and development (R&D). Sweeping changes in agriculture after World Trade Organization (WTO) have been layered upon each other, affecting agricultural research management systems, R&D funding systems, quality control systems, and incentive structures, and transparency, accountability, efficiency and productivity have become important objectives of agricultural (science) policy. It shapes how specialized skills and resources are developed, how agribusiness opportunities are perceived and deployed, and how resources are mobilized in rapid and efficient ways to create a greater ‘public comfort' with agricultural science. Agricultural R&D has impacted within the rapidly unfolding economic, social, institutional and policy context in a complex way. Agricultural research impact is also affected by the policy and institutional environment which influences the spread and absorption of new technologies. The national agricultural R&D system has made several important adjustments over the years. In the Sixties, the government took multi-dimensional initiatives to strengthen agriculture. Research and development programs were launched; new technologies, especially the seeds of high yielding rice and wheat varieties were procured and adopted. Beginning in the 1980s, the private sector, which had already been active in research on pesticides, fertilizers, and agricultural machinery, began to expand into crop improvement research (Evenson et al; 1999). For example, across Asia, the private sector has captured more than 89 % of the maize seed market largely through the production of hybrid rather than open-pollinated varieties (Gerpacio, 2003). Investment into seed research and developments are bound to increase with rapid developments in agricultural technologies, and evolving national seed policies. National seed policy has allowed importation of seed materials. The government also provides tax break for private research expenditures. Standard format of transfer of plant genetic materials (germplasm) agreement between users of different interests (public and private sector) needs to deciphered and developed and should become a base of ownership. Ethical model needs to be established which scrutinizes the commercialization of scientific results and the regulatory measures using lenses of risk rather than economic growth alone. This would help in reducing burden of litigations in dispute of technology ownership.
Development in frontier areas are creating new opportunities which require inter-disciplinary approaches for realising these opportunities. Intellectual labour will become more increasingly more important relative to physical labour. If there are technological spill-over, the technologies may not be readily accessible due to increasing intellectual protection of privately owned technologies. Those technologies that are available through spill-over will require substantial local modification and adaptation which is again a costly affair. The process of R&D involves discovery and innovation, which is incomplete without adaptation, adoption and diffusion of new technologies and its translation into production and consumption. All sorts of innovation emanating through agricultural R&D process are penetrating the tiniest pores of overall agricultural production and management. Contracts and royalty benefit- sharing arrangements around technology and innovation become increasingly more common at the market place. This highlights the importance of strengthening intellectual property rights over research products (Pal and Byerlee 2001) and enforcement of bio-safety regulation.
Pos-WTO reforms relating to institutions for management of natural resources, management of IPR, regulation of private R&D, markets and trade, etc have been made in agriculture. The post-GR period has seen profound changes in the economic situation and evolving challenges for the agricultural R&D system. In 2006, entry of different players like NGOs, private sector etc, and their active involvement have led to a much more diverse set of actors and agendas in agricultural R&D. The priorities have changed from a narrow focus on the productivity of food grains to a need for more work on NRM and sustainability issues; increasing the productivity and quality of high-value crops. Many improved technologies and NRM practices are also win-win, in that way they halt or reverse environmental problems while increasing yields and /or reducing modern input use and cost. The mix of research players has also changed, leading to more complex interplays between research organizations. Sometimes this leads to collaborative undertakings; sometimes it leads to competition driven by different motives (e.g private versus public) or conflicting research paradigms (e.g. low or no input versus green revolution technologies). The idea is that we should put enabling institutions in place to accelerate the flow of technology to farmers, protect the interest of smallholders and accelerate overall agricultural development.
The most direct way in which R&D can impact on productivity is through yield levels and yield variability. Some studies showed that rice and wheat yields generally become more stable in the 1990s. But other pathways are also important. Crop improvement research can shorten growing periods and reduce plant sensitivity to day-length, both of which enable more crops to be grown on the same land each year. Yields of wheat and rice have continued to rise on average but despite continuing improvement in crop varieties, annual growth rates are slowing. Possible reasons for this slow down are: diminishing returns to irrigation and fertilizers, intensive mono-crop systems, deterioration of soils and build-up of toxins, pest and diseases infestation. Research on NRM including water management, can enhance as well as sustain the productivity of key natural resources. Larger areas of major cereals are still planted to relatively few modern varieties, concern remains about the risk of possible genetic uniformity, making crops vulnerable to catastrophic yield losses from changes in pests, diseases and climate. Crop genetic uniformity has been counteracted by spending more on conserving genetic resources and making them accessible for breeding purposes; through breeding approaches that broaden the genetic base of varieties supplied to farmers and by changing varieties more frequently overtime in order to stay ahead of evolving pests, diseases and climatic risks. Maintenance breeding research to provide national system with new germplasm on a timely basis in response to emerging new pest, disease and climate risks is the need of an hour. As pest resistance starts emerging, researchers have greater attention to the development of crop varieties that have good resistance to important pests and biological and ecological pest control methods. This led to the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Technology has been used effectively as a tool and instrument of national development and yet much remains to be achieved in order to make its benefits reach the masses. Scientists in the country will have to strive hard to take technological developments to people's doorsteps. Innovation is one thing and reaching of the technology to the farmer is another. Both are very important. For achieving higher productivity and efficiency in different facets of Indian Agriculture, the partnership strengths of public and private sectors are leveraged. Public-private sector partnership (PPP) is a new institutional innovation to bring in synergy, mobilize resources, generate, validate and transfer technologies. On the one hand, public sector has highly skilled and efficient manpower in agriculture and on the other hand, private has excellent managerial resources. One big advantage of PPP of the Technology is that achievement can be taken to the farmer very rapidly. In case of development of new seeds, the private partner can arrange seed production to reach the farmer, as he is very keen to earn profit on his investment. If it is basic research then the private firm can work with the results for application research. Technology commercialization in the context of agriculture and rural development in India would encompass whole range of issues and activities, from stage of need identification, development of appropriate technology, demonstration, creating demand and rolling out package for wider adoption on commercial terms. Today, PPP is a reality and a compulsion. But certain problems relating to trust, credibility, work-culture, clear-cut business rules and legal framework, are to be immediately addressed if fast progress is to be achieved.
Nature of emerging technologies in the field of agriculture and their implications on R&D strategy: First type of technology includes products of biotechnology (GMOs or transgenics). Plant varieties with gene for resistance to biotic (e.g, Bt cotton, Bt corn, herbicide tolerant seed) and abiotic (salt tolerance varieties) stresses, varieties with gene for better product quality (e.g. golden rice), planting material developed by tissue culture technique, animal health vaccines etc. These technologies are significantly different in their biological characteristics, application management and market differentiation for farm produce, bio safety issues etc. These technologies are knowledge intensive and offer scope for appropriation of the benefits by the private sector. Second type of technology includes open-pollinated varieties and hybrids developed using conventional breeding methods. This will continue to be important vehicles for increasing and sustaining crop productivity on a vast proportion of agricultural lands in the country. The significant deviation more likely is that hybrid technology would be available for even more crops, including rice and wheat. Hybrid rice is now a reality in India also. Besides hybrids, better plant types e.g super rice also have potential for yield advantages. These technologies may attract the participation of the private sector. Third type of technologies relate to improved crop and resource management methods based on system approach. There is a considerable scope for realising potential of technologies such as watershed development, integrated crop management, precision and protected farming, micro-irrigation etc. Most of these technologies require greater skill for their adoption. Fourth category of technologies includes improved and value-added inputs (such as biofertilizers, treated seed for tolerance to biotic stresses or nutrient supply), better products for plant and animal health, post harvest processing and value addition etc.. The private sector would find delivery of these technologies attractive and some of them can even be imported. These technologies provide scope for participation of the private sector in their development and dissemination. Further, most of the future technologies will be knowledge intensive, and therefore specific efforts should be made to disseminate information about the attributes of these technologies to farmers. This is particularly important when information flow in the technology system and commercial input market is inadequate (Tripp and Pal 2001). Agricultural R&D organizations, institutions governing them and technologies are simultaneously evolving and managing change in Indian agriculture. In a more knowledge intensive society, knowledge production has become the most important wealth creating activities. Normative targeting of research and innovation needs to be ensured towards the ‘right impacts' in the forms of ethical acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products. Knowledge producing institutions are expected to link their work more closely to the needs of the economy and society in a process where industrial, political and academic institutions are more closely interwoven. Appropriate policy interventions and enforcement of the institutions can shape this healthy trend for catering to R&D needs of the country. Moreover, implementation and enforcement of new IPR regime (patent act amendments and plant variety protection act) has attracted private investment. This has shown path of globalization of Indian agricultural R&D. This sign of globalization and modernization could be visualized with emerging trend of new alliances, mergers or acquisition of private companies under the new IPR regime. Agricultural R&D in crops/spices of commercial importance would be dominated by technology rich companies. Agricultural R&D system must respond to the needs and ambitions of society, reflects its value and be responsible. Our duty as policy makers is to shape a governance framework that encourages responsible agricultural research and innovation.
References (if any)
1. Suresh Pal and Derek Byerlee (2001), "India: The Funding and Organization of Agricultural R&D - Evolution and Emerging Policy Issues " , International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC.
2. Pal, Suresh, Mruthyunjaya, PK Joshi and Raka Saxena (eds) (2003), "Institutional Change in Indian Agriculture", National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi, India.
3. Gerpacio, R.V. (2003), "The Roles of Public Sector versus Private Sector in R&D and Technology Generation: The Case of Maize in Asia" , Agricultural Economics, 29 (3): 319-330.
4. Evenson, D. P., Jost, L. K., Marshall, D., Zinaman, M. J., Clegg, E., Purvis, K., de Angelis, P. And Claussen, O. P. (1999), "Utility of the Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay as a Diagnostic and Prognostic Tool in the Human Fertility Clinic" , Human Reproduction. 14, 1039-1049.
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