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EDITORIAL REVIEW: M S Swaminathan - Man of Science & Humanity


  • Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (MS Swaminathan), an Indian agronomist, agricultural scientists, plant geneticist, administrator and humanitarian, passes away at the age of 98 in Chennai on 28 September, 2023.


  • He was born on 7 August, 1925 in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu and started his career in 1949 researching on the genetics of potato, wheat, rice and jute.
  • He played a crucial role in developing high-yielding varieties of paddy that helped to ensure low-income farmers produce more yield in India.
  • He headed the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and later became the Director General of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
  • He was awarded the first World Food Prize in 1987, which was incidentally set up by Norman Borlaug. The prize money was used to set up the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

  • He also was conferred the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan for his outstanding contributions.
  • He also received several other awards like Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Award, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award and the Indira Gandhi Prize
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has called him "Father of Economic Ecology".
  • He also served as the principal secretary of the Minister of Agriculture in 1979.
  • In 1988, he became the President of International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
  • He was named one of the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century by Times magazine.

Major Contributions:-

Green Revolution:

  • He is most widely known for working with Norman Borlaug to lead in the Green Revolution in India in mid 1960s, when India was facing back-to-back droughts.

  • At a time, India was already termed as "ship to mouth" economy and when the then Prime Minister Shri Lal Bahadur Shashtri called the nation to "skip a meal in a week".
  • Then, it was MS Swaminathan who worked hard to import 18,000 tonnes of seeds of high-yielding disease-resistant dwarf wheat varieties, Lerma Rojo and Sonora-64, from Mexico, in order to address India's grain shortage. 

  • This was the biggest seed shipment in history at that time where the seeds had to be indigenized to local conditions to suit Indian conditions as well as he trained Indian farmers in their cultivation
  • In Punjab alone, the wheat yield increased five-fold in five years, from 1.91 million tonnes in 1965-66 to 5.15 million tonnes in 1970-71.

  • Thus, with Kalyan Sona and Sonalika, India changed its agricultural paradigm under Swaminathan's leadership and experienced a wheat and rice revolution.
  • It was Swanimathan's efforts that helped India to emerge as significant exporter of cereals. 
  • In the years 2020-21 to 2022-23, India exported 85 million tonnes of cereals contributing to global food security.

National Commission on Farmers:-

  • He chaired National Commission on Farmers (NCF) constituted in 2004 and submitted five reports.
  • His efforts to improve productivity and profitability in agriculture went beyond technology.
  • One of the key recommendations was to have Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for farmers based on the cost of production plus 50% return.

Source - The Indian Express
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