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The Great Gene Robbery (First published by the Illustrated Weekly of India in its issue dated March 23, 1986 By Claude Alvares In 1982, Dr M S Swaminathan withdrew from his position as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SACC) and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission – he was also earlier secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture – and defected to join the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based at Los Banos in the Philippines as Director-General. The word ‘defected’ is used here on purpose: in no other country of the world, would a scientist in such a strategically important position, privy to all the country’s scientific secrets particularly of those related to food, be permitted to leave and overnight become the employee of an institution controlled by two private foundations so closely allied to American capitalism and US foreign policy interests. IRRI had been set up in 1960 as part of America’s efforts to control and direct rice research in Asia, even though American is hardly a rice eating country. A famous plant-breeder had once said, in regard to rice: ‘He who controls the supply of rice will control the destiny of the entire Asiatic orbit. The most important thing to the majority of the Asia is not capitalism or socialism or any other political ideology but food which means life itself, and in most of Asia, food is rice.’ Earl Butz, a former US Secretary of Agriculture, is notorious for one sentence that he uttered in a course of an otherwise utterly insignificant life: ‘If food can be used as a weapon we would be happy to use it.’ And today, as we near the end of the twentieth century, we have to admit that the research concerning the two major cereals that rule our lives – wheat and rice – is wholly directed and controlled by institutions set up under American imperialism. In many ways Dr Swaminathan’s appointment to IRRI would have been considered a demotion. While in India, he had lorded it over a scientific establishment that employed thousands of scientists, in the Philippines he would have not more than 200 scientists under him. The principal compensation, however, was the money, income tax free. Already this international institute, always run by American directors, was facing the collapse of its High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) strategy, as seed after seed fell victim to waves of pest epidemics. Urgently required was a massive expansion of IRRI’s rice germplasm, genes from which were essential for passing on resistance to the HYVs. The largest collection of rice varieties, of rice germplasm, remained in the Indian sub continent. Swaminathan’s appointment was critical to this quest. The IRRI is not a premier institute of science. It is a privately-controlled agricultural research centre. Even so, it is difficult to conceive of a man with Swaminathan’s record becoming its director general. Unless of course the person being appointed is known more for his ability to get things done than for his scientific work. Certainly no scientist with an equivalent scientific record would have found an appointment as director of, say, the Max
000 varieties of rice in the country. Such an immense preoccupation with rice would. so we find a bewildering number of techniques. there is variety called udan pakheru – because of its long. In the Jagannath Temple at Puri in Orissa. The most plausible answer was also the funniest. with its length of grain over 14 mm is the longest rice in the world and the variety Bhimsen has the largest width. insisted on coming to the institute with both his wife and his mistress. as its name signifies. freshly harvested rice is presented to the deity everyday. upon examination. some of which even today. tied to legends. Dr M S Swaminathan whom an article in the 1979 Yearbook of Science and the Future. Other varieties have fascinating names. one on top of the other. or the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). some Adivasis. which can be ground directly into flour and made into rotis. I ask knowledgeable people in the Philippines how Swaminathan could have been appointed to the post of director general of IRRI. The dhokradhokri. from West Germany. the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). the motichur and the khowa. the latter.20. There were apparently three applicants for the post. a vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation. adapted to different environments. I was told. eagerly husbanded by indigenous and non-formal science. and various varieties of rice. in a class far ahead of international science (see box). call forth its own brand of competence to grow it. and selected and evolved by farmers for specific human needs. put in the company of Paul Kammerer and Cyril Burt. published by the Encyclopedia Britannica. Rice is a critical component of a complex eco-system. with a single flame beneath the lowermost. In Chattisgarh region there is a rice variety called Bora. still cook simultaneously. These varieties are a product of nature’s desire for diversity. There may have been as many as 1. like the kali-mooch of Gwalior. placed in pots. if he got the job. . appeared white as snow. place Indian rice farmers. essential witness at religious ceremonies and rituals. featherlike structure. which is to be expected. The second candidate. used as symbol. was found. tastes like dried milk. In comparison. two of the leading scientific frauds of the twentieth century. The first. _____________________________ India is rice country.Planck Institute. not to have a degree that he had stitched on to his name.
writes Gangadharan.(Dr.’ . Gangadharan lists nine including earliness. for example. C. Dr R H Richharia took over as its director in 1959. mostly the result of pure line methods of selection. control of wild rice. concentrated on pure line selections. from 1912 to the 1950s. Gangadharan has placed the history of rice research in India into three major periods and the developments are highly suggestive. deep water and flood resistance. there was no problem of incompatibility between genes and the environment. had been working on the different problems associated with rice culture ever since it had been set up in the late 1950s. Gangadharan. were bred. at Cuttack. Japan had used chemical fertilisers from the beginning of this century and Japonicas showed a response under Japanese conditions whereas the Indicas had not been cultivated under high fertility conditions. The institute had also been working on Taiwanese and Japanese varieties. Since pure line selection is itself based on natural selection occurring over centuries. non-shedding of grain. a CRRI scientist had. and a number of competent scientists had come up with interesting work that sooner or later would converge into a strategy to produce more rice. a total of 445 improved rice varieties. R H Richharia) The Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI). dormancy of seed. and resistant to diseases and pests. disease resistance and higher response to heavy manuring. But what is interesting for our purpose and which starkly illuminates the major schism that would soon develop between indigenous science and ‘international science’ is the broad list of objectives of this early research. The first phase. The objective. Already in 1963. The work was slow because it takes time to discover which varieties are stable. and by the end of the period. lodging resistance. ‘was to transfer the high yielding ability and response to fertilisers that characterise the Japonicas into local Indica varieties which are adapted to local conditions of culture and to the prevalent diseases and pests. and therefore no pest problem. The second phase was less promising. produced a mutant variety that was short-statured and produced high yields. drought resistance. It involved the initially unsuccessful effort at hybridising the Japonica and Indica varieties.
because of its mixed population. to subscribe to caution of any kind. When these varieties were planted in the tropical environment. which was established formally in 1960 and began functioning fully in 1962. and its ability to provide accommodation. It is important to emphasise that whereas the CRRI had nine objectives governing its research. fertilisers and pesticides. and take over most of the outstanding talent simply because of IRRI’s ability to offer them salaries not only in dollars. The latter.Only four successes were reported from this programme. The introduction of the Philippines semi-dwarf varieties put an abrupt end to this line of research. they not only gave different but negative results. It was also the tremendous leverage that the Americans maintained over the Indian science establishment that enabled IRRI to ride roughshod over the protests of Indian scientists. the CRRI would be no match in an unequal battle all the way. IRRI had only one. Though the country was allegedly nonaligned in politics. Douglas Emswinger of the Ford Foundation once . but out of proportion to what they received in their own countries. The CRRI had. CRRI director. The contradiction stemmed from the fact that bureaucrats and politicians have little grounding in genetics: they did not seem to understand that seed tested after numerous adaptive trials over many seasons. Which brings us to the third phase inaugurated by IRRI. Without water. to import the new IRRI seed in bulk into India. most of its policies in science and economics were largely under the control of Americans. thus leading to losses. will contain seed carrying disease and which might be susceptible to pests. IR8 did not perform extraordinarily better than the older rices. as mentioned earlier. Distinctive of the plant was its ability to stand heavy fertilisation. and heavier yields. at the insistence of IRRI experts. By 1966. and science. and opportunities for educating staff children anywhere in the world. IRRI had come up with its first success. IRRI at that point of time was too keen to get its seeds grown on a large scale before decisions could be reversed. Dr Richharia. When the news arrived that the Indian government was planning. and also the subject of this investigation. without lodging. now Richharia was objecting to their import. Thus the community development programme originated with Albert Myers. temperate region of Japan. it had been informed by the CRRI that Taichung varieties could provide a breakthrough in rice production. The government seems to have found Dr Richharia’s advice contradictory: earlier. Later the CRRI imported seed from the milder. is radically different from seed imported in bulk from abroad. objected. the result of a cross between an Indonesian tall rice plant and a Taiwanese dwarf variety. The IRRI officials would literally buy rice scientists from different parts of Asia. From start to finish. and then selected and multiplied. IR8 was a semidwarf rice variety. The problem was that the Japonicas were both photo-period and temperature sensitive and additionally the seed had been brought from some of the coldest regions of Japan. IRRI was established on the basis of a note written by a Rockefeller official in 1959. been working with identical material and in fact had isolated dwarf varieties from Taiwan that were free from susceptibility to viral attacks. Both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations put up the money to start the institute. The disadvantage of the latter was solely that they tended to lodge when given extra nutrients. (It also inaugurated a vast market for American fertilisers all over Asia). This time the efforts were successful but IRRI’s control over the rice research programme would effectively keep these efforts out of circulation.
Variety IR26. The growing of varieties with a narrow genetic base (all with the same dwarfing gene. IRRI would naturally retain the lead. C. The first was economic: the oil price hike of 1973 effectively limited a fertiliser-based agricultural strategy. has admitted that he had never seen a rice plant when he took over as director of IRRI. director of IRRI. for the first time. released in 1969. taking it out of the hands of the peasants. An Adventure in Applied Science. outbreaks of brown plant hopper (BPH) and grassy stunt virus (GSV) in 1973 destroyed IR20 in most Philippine provinces. required credit. Robert Chandler. suffered from serious attacks of bacterial blight (BB) in 1968 and 1969. He writes: ‘It is difficult to develop a variety that has a useful life of more than five to six years in tropical environments unless genes for horizontal (more stable) resistance are identified and incorporated. Rice scientists from Asia. In 1976. it could produce a sizeable output of food that would be independent of the whims of the monsoons. arrived in the form of disease and insects. Chandler. released in 1966. and it replaced IR8 in 1971 and 1972. However. Once IR8 and TN1 had become fairly established within India and all rice research oriented solely in the direction of semi-dwarfs using these parents. dee-gee-wo-gen). thus new pest problems continuously arise. in the hands of government procurement agencies. with BPH resistance. well-endowed areas. had BB resistance and RTV tolerance. If the government concentrated its resources in a few. Yet. if they wished to make a career. Prof Claim. using the HYV package. offered an almost automatic method of raising food that would place it within the control of the administration. outbreaks of rice tungro virus (RTV) destroyed IR8 yields throughout the Philippines.boasted that he had better access to Pandit Nehru than any of the latter’s cabinet colleagues. in his recent account of the IRRI. In 1970 and 1971. thus violating the country's laws. based on expensive inputs. that the government decided to retire Dr Richharia. upset insect ecology and invented entire generations of pests. The IR20 variety. and could then be used to keep prices stable in the cities. with large doses of political clout and advertising to make up for shortfalls in science. and this assured the government that a good proportion of the grain thus produced would end up in the market. Subramanam. It would make Green Revolution inputs so expensive that they would have to be subsidised by Governments. it was at his instigation. Dr Richharia first came to know of his appointment to the director’s post at the CRRI from an American. a . was released in 1973 and became the dominant Philippine variety in 1974 and 1975. also irreversible. was that the latter. Two major developments totally ruined the prospect of a promised land overflowing with rice and honey. What weighed with the Government of India (and also former President Marcos of the Phillipines) in choosing to uncritically deploy IRRI technology. at that time one of the world's leading rice specialists. the very method of agriculture. The second major problem. Dr Swaminathan has himself made quite a shameless summary of the fate of IRRI varieties. if farmers were not to give up using them forever. One additional significant factor that seems to have made an impact on the government at the time were the disastrous harvests of 1965 and 1966. Variety IR8. reported directly to Agriculture Minister. and because he had been castigated once by Dr Richharia for bringing rice seed into the country without a quarantine certificate. Again. would have to support the IRRI research direction. in a recent issue of Mazingira. Dr. Year round rice cultivation causes disease and insect organisms to occur in overlapping generations and increases the chance of new races or biotypes developing.
’ noted a task force of eminent rice breeders. In the meanwhile. and the rice man set about his disrupted rice work once again. it had a different gene for resistance to the new BPH biotype and replaced IR26 within one year. The certified aims and objects for the institute merely talk of a collection of the . and provided ample proof of what Indian scientists are capable of. His assistants included two agricultural graduates and six village level workers. Swaminathan attended it as an ‘observer’. An attack of leaf blight that devastated the corn crop of the US in 1970. one of the most extraordinary living gene banks in the world. he had built up the infrastructure of a new rice research institute at Raipur. have the dwarfing gene known as dee-gee-wo-gen. taken from wild relatives of the rice plant and its traditional cultivars. etc. causing vulnerability to diseases and pests. All of a sudden it seemed critical that massive efforts be made to make as complete a collection of the older varieties: many of the traditional Indicas were found to be important donors for resistance. whore maggot. Within the space of six years.new BPH biotype attacked it and IR36 was released. situated in the neighbourhood of cooperative rice mills. practically out of nothing. The report of that workshop begins with the statement: ‘The founders of IRRI showed great foresight when in 1960-61 they planned the establishment of a rice germplasm bank. the Madhya Pradesh government had appointed Dr Richharia as an agricultural advisor. 20. he fought a legal battle that ruined his family. this extraordinarily gifted and imaginative rice scientist maintained over 19. He had redeemed his honour. 3). Its resistance to BPH has held till recently. in other words. required vast germplasm resources. The legal battle was successful. ‘has brought about a marked change in the status of insect pests like gall midge. again. if they are given proper encouragement. Most of the released varieties are not suitable for typical uplands and lowlands which together constitute about 75 per cent of the total rice area of the country. It is now the dominant variety in the Philippines. Gene incorporation strategy.000 per annum. brown planthopper. but it is now being threatened by ragged stunt and wilted stunt (both new diseases). Most of the HYVs are the derivatives of TN1 or IR8 and therefore.000 varieties of rice in situ on a shoestring budget of Rs. the latter drawing a salary of Rs. Here..’ The IRRI counter-strategy against the pests involved breeding of varieties. alone. and the continuous attacks on IRRI varieties.250 per month. the Court ordered his reinstatement as director of the CRRI. as well as by another new biotype of BPH (No. and which had resulted from the extensive planting of hybrids that shared a single source of cytoplasm. All of Dr Richharia's predictions had come true. with his usual zeal. for in 1970. and brought tremendous strains on his wife's health. disrupted the education of his children. Most of the HYVs released so far are susceptible to major pests with a crop loss of 30 to 100 per cent. with not even a microscope in his office-cum-laboratory. impelled IRRI to sponsor a Rice Genetic Conservation Workshop in 1977. After he had been retired from service at Chandler's insistence. In India. leaf folder. Richharia had gone to the Orissa High Court. Dr Richharia stood in the way. In India. The narrow genetic base has created alarming uniformity. with genes for resistance to such pests.’ Nonsense. where for three years. The recruitment of Dr M S Swaminathan would be instrumental in the task of collection. most of which were to be found in India. the situation was equally horrifying. Richharia had created. ‘The introduction of high-yielding varieties..
but also the tendency to lodge. indicated that the germplasm problem was becoming important only now. enclosing two sets of material as requested by T. On June 4. the IRRI liaison officer. It responded with the necessary mutations. addressed it care of Ford Foundation. for this could only mean giving up his uncontaminated varieties for IRRI's susceptible ones. Research Highlights for 1983. Madhya Pradesh's chief secretary who was not a trustee. rendering even the strategy of gene incorporation. And then. The World Bank contributed Rs. the main advantage they had against the older cultivars. The distinctive success of the HYVs lay in their being short stemmed. The workshop. He was decidedly against any proposal for ‘exchange’.4 crores. particularly for rice. of temporary utility. wrote to P S Srinivasan.world's literature on rice. Sukhdev Singh.000 varieties at the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute (MPRRI). since it would lead to a ‘duplication of work. Ergo. nature herself now jumped into the ring. Chang of IRRI: ‘First set (264 accessions) is from our early duration collection and second set (170 samples) is part of those varieties which were identified to be popular with the farmers of Madhya Pradesh and Dr R H Richharia. rice breeder. Scientists were sent to IRRI for training in germplasm transfer. able to stand heavy nitrogen applications without lodging. IRRI's covetous gaze fell on Richharia’s 19. JNKVV. and began to lay low the new pest resistant varieties. was present. modern varieties began to lose their non-lodging character.’ But with Richharia out of the fray. Not only had Richharia now uncovered a fascinating world of traditional rices. IRRI staff members journeyed to Raipur and asked for his material. New Delhi. in a fashion that only those with some respect for nature's awesome ways would understand. T. The condition laid down was: close down the MPRRI. Richharia's rooms and took away all his research papers. whose vice-chancellor. they locked Dr. His extension work among the farmers would soon begin to pose a direct challenge to IRRI itself. After the workshop. former director of MPRRI. 1982. observes: . also joined the IRRI board of trustees. The incorporation of more and more genes from traditional cultivars not only passed on resistance characters. and Richharia's team was disbanded. being held 17 years after the establishment of IRRI. it delivered the coup de grace.’ At a special meeting of the MPRRI Board. A resolution was passed closing down the Institute. Still moulded in the old scientific tradition. purified them and recommended replacing originals with these purified versions. He had been earlier connected with the Ford Foundation. an IRRI publication. Dr M N Shrivastava. when compared with the older varieties. and the rice germplasm passed over to the Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV). This time too. some of which produced between 8-9 tonnes per hectare – better than the IRRI varieties – he had also discovered dwarf plants without the susceptible dwarfing gene of the IRRI varieties. he refused because he had not studied the material himself. So the IRRI did the next best thing: it got the MPRRI shut down! The ICAR floated a scheme for agricultural development in Madhya Pradesh.
It is only in the eighties that the IRRI has begun to acknowledge the true worth of the older varieties. the maximum security installation in the US. which reduces yields.31 tonnes was achieved with HYV per hectare. This is a relatively small accomplishment which could have been easily achieved even without the expensive HYV programme and its infrastructure by making better use of village-based resources. Therefore. Has such science achieved any of its declared aims? Bharat Dogra summed it up: ‘Starting from just five million hectares in 1970-71. since the HYV was not closely adapted to any environment. compared to the increase in the area under HYVs and the increase in fertilisers and irrigation. additional secretary in the ministry of agriculture. we get an increase in production of about 4 million tonnes as a result of extension of HYVs programme to nearly 13 million hectares of land. an increase of 0. What a curious circle of events! The IRRI inaugurated the revolution in rice by holding in ridicule the basis of traditional agriculture – the traditional cultivar. without the permission of the Indian government). the production of rice has gone up from 42. Is there a way out: how can such a state of science exist nearly 40 years after independence? Why does the director of the CRRI continue to remain as a trustee of the . What then have been the ‘achievements’ of such corrupt and politically naive science? (One set of all IRRI germplasm has been sent to Fort Collins. itself the result of close trial and error experimentation by farmers over decades – and sought to displace it with its own product. In other words. Millions of hectares of rice are now routinely devastated by BPH and other pests and no compensation is available to farmers who are induced to take to such ‘modernised’ agriculture.‘Modern rices produce high grain yields with large amounts of applied nitrogen. it required extensive support. However. The IRRI officials knew what they were doing. lodging resistance has tended to decline. and they did it for the cheap objective of wanting to assert IRRI primacy. as hundreds of priceless traditional varieties have been lost to mankind.23 million tonnes to 46.. the HYV. heavy applications increase lodging. hasty introduction of HYVs of seed has led to genetic erosion of tremendous proportions.. However. During the period mentioned above (1970-71 to 1982-83). this crop must have received a substantial share of the benefit of the overall increase in irrigation and the increase in the overall consumption of NPK fertilisers. The unmonitored. which at the time of HYV propagation. Additionally. over 18 million hectares or nearly half the area of (rice) has now been brought under the HYVs programme till 1982-83. as higher levels of insect pest and disease resistance have been bred into modern semi-dwarf varieties. However.48 million tonnes.’ A 33-member official working group headed by K C S Acharya. Protection could only come from the same traditional cultivars. has determined that the growth rate of rice production after the Green Revolution has been less when compared with the pre-Green Revolution period. having attracted pest infestations on a mass scale. Assuming the production of non-HYVs did not experience any increase at all and all the difference in rice production was on HYVs land. the production of rice has increased to a lesser extent.’ The green revolution in rice had begun to involute. Such pest infestations have been introduced into the Indian environment. had been loaded with abuse.
Third. since germplasm is part of our national heritage. ever since Indian politicians decided to back IRRI science. for that is the only sure guarantee of the funds it needs. After he submitted it. the IRRI has no new ideas. It has still vital access to hundreds of indigenous cultivars (a recent count of rice collection centres indicated that there were about 44. he heard no more about it. and its preservation is enjoined by the Constitution in the chapter on Fundamental Duties. While we do not agree with the hybridisation programme or in the use of chemicals that was part of Dr. As per his estimation. but not defeated Dr. the CRRI germplasm unit does not have even a jeep to operate its collection of rice cultivars. aptly described as ‘seeds of imperialism’ and ‘seeds of sabotage. steps should be taken to gradually replace IRRI varieties. the CRRI should be upgraded to international standards. This is already happening in the Philippines: farmers are exchanging old varieties with each other. He documented and collected an amazing 19. wasteful. Government hastily set about attempting to find some funds to ask the latter to resume his work. the rest is history.Crushed. Now that proposal has been scotched by the same forces that once got the MPRRI to close down. which he has been since 1979? To continue and deepen the dependence? The IRRI has no future. Richharia's story . environmentally unsound. whereas the IRRI has 70. Today. Richharia came in their way. As far as research is concerned.the first was his work with indigenous rice varieties. and which it has been deprived of. Richharia's work. Second. .000 varieties. the indigene is still the best gene. After an article by Dom Moraes on Richharia. India was home to 200. had asked Dr Richharia for a rice production increase plan.’ There seems to have been some awareness at the level of the government that the rice revolution had been grounded. Richharia's story .IRRI. Dr. Richharia's career was however cut short and he was treated very unfairly by the government in India because he stood up to the International Rice Research Institute's machinations in the country. The sorry and sad record only serves to underline the principle – despite our continuing mesmerisation by western science – that for genuine development of any worthwhile kind. P. the M. The CRRI has ample talent to match Chinese science. politically. but not defeated The late Dr. there are two aspects in his story which are noteworthy . the next frontier in rice yield enhancement. and Filipino farmers and scientists had already begun to demand its closure. with productive indigenous varieties in the fields. and all those having IRRI parents. flirtation with the exogene.000 rice varieties during his career. all further export of rice germplasm to IRRI should be banned. and also as far as research is concerned. Mrs Gandhi.000). Politically. disowning IRRI seeds. Dr.Crushed. R H Richharia was one of the leading experts on rice in India. and is now eagerly visiting China to learn Chinese techniques of growing hybrid rice. What then should be done? First. due to environmental and economic factors. its future was tied to former President Marcos. The late Prime Minister. and the second was the role "foreign powers" and large corporations play in agribusiness and the business of feeding the world. More than 25 years have passed in this costly.000 varieties of rice. Dr.
Richharia's collection of 19. Philippines.000 varieties. about the achievements in his research and the various obstacles he had to overcome to continue it. A local newspaper "leaked" the story and the resultant outcry in the local media forced the University to cancel the agreement. Chhatisgarh. Syngenta was to have marketed new rice varieties developed by it using this genestock and paid royalties to the university. but not defeated Few scientists in India have been treated as shabbily as Dr R H Richharia. Which. his breakthrough irked the foreign-funded International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Crushed. Unfortunately. On these pages. A sordid saga of injustice to Dr Richharia followed. a post from which he was ignominiously transferred. Richharia that appeared in ‘The Illustrated Weekly of India’ in 1986. one of the leading rice experts in the country. certain rice varieties which gave the highest yield and were free from the usual pests. In 2002. essentially controlled by USA to support their commercial interests in agriculture and food systems. Syngenta. titled 'Crushed but not defeated'.000 rice varieties is today in the hands of the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University (IGAU). . which has since then added (only) another 5. Raipur. We repeat that we do not support the hybridisation programme or the use of chemicals in agriculture . tried to stifle his research efforts. Director of the Central Rice Research Institute at Cuttack. Claude Alvares talks to the eminent agricultural scientist who became a victim of an international conspiracy. for a collaborative "research" agreement that would have entailed the transfer of this rice germplasm collections from the university to the corporation's laboratories.this interview is reproduced to relate the role played by the Government and the International Rice Research Institute. with its influence with the Government of India.000. IGAU signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the multinational agribusiness corporation. It is also relevant to point out here that Dr. The official number of samples existing with IGAU is therefore 24. he developed.We are reproducing in full an interview of Dr. for the first time in India.
So. you were the real experts in rice. . (TN 1). Here I started work with 67 rice types from Taiwan and discovered that there were two or three lines which were showing dwarf plants. two or three cultures of dwarf types and one of them was identified as Taichung Native 1 (TN 1). susceptible to disease and pests and some viruses also. one lot to be maintained at CRRI and the other lot to go to the Coordinated Rice Research Centre at Hyderabad. whoever came and met me. Dr Chandler returned to Delhi and informed the authorities concerned at the Government of India and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) that TN 1 and IR 8 have given the highest yield and therefore rice production can be revolutionised in India. The selection I made is different. we found in those 67 varieties. In this way I collected enough rice variability while in Bihar upto 1959 and when I came to Cuttack (Orissa) in the same year. The IRRI had started by 1962 and he then visited CRRI. A number of scientists from Philippines came for the seminar and were my guests. ‘I am not a party to that and I would not recommended its import from there. He just made a note of it. After handing over the rice material (311 varieties). director of IRRI. I was asked by Dr Pal to allow him (Dr Cummings) to attend that special meeting. we have already done it and we will confirm it. so he could carry it. I requested him to give me some samples of rice. At one place we stopped and I pointed out some plants and said: "This variety will give you the highest production—a record yield in the world. As I was getting into the car. Chandler was leaving that day and I was to drop him at the aerodrome. How is it that the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was able to steal a lead on the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI)? After all.Could you begin by giving us some idea of your involvement in rice in the late fifties? It has been my hobby throughout life to collect rice material from whatever source possible and maintain and study it for genetic variability. New Delhi—and Dr B P Pal sent a message that he wanted to meet me during the lunch hour.’ How often did Chandler attempt to interfere with your work? On another occasion he brought samples of 311 varieties to CRRI. He said. to locate that and I felt we should multiply that material and make suitable selections. I said. I said. This was when we were holding a seminar on rice at the CRRI. of over 9000 lbs/acre and it is completely free from the usual pests: Taichung Native 1. That mistake I made—I should have told him my selection number and not its origin. I was the first person. TN 1 had been given to them by Dr Chandler of the IRRI and they had to accept it and introduce it. he instructed my staff member to divide them into two. During that period I was chairing the rice committee at Krishi Bhavan. Dr Pal. ‘but how can you stop it—they are sending it by air in tonnes as a gift’. and he had brought one half because Dr Freeman (who was in charge of the Hyderabad station) was also gong by the same plane. I showed him around. whereas if you grow the general one (bulk seeds). I said. a plot of which can be seen even today. if these two varieties are grown. We were interested in these dwarf varieties because if the rice crop does not lodge and at the same time can stand heavy manuring. and handed them over to one of my staff members without my knowledge. and Robert Chandler. and naturally as an innocent scientist. Rice being my special subject. He said. you are committing a great mistake. had not even seen a rice plant when he was appointed to that post? Dr Chandler was known to the institute at Cuttack. that would be an ideal condition to get more production. Dr Cummings (Rockefeller Foundation) was also attending that meeting although he was not a member. This is how I learnt of the virus-susceptible rice material received without my knowledge from the IRRI. it is all full of viruses. with my assistants. One of the selections made proved to be resistant to diseases and pests and was high yielding. it is all full of diseases and pests. you will be a mystic man if you can achieve that. I continued the same policy. a staff member came to me saying that he had been given a parcel with the material and he had divided the material into two. as desired by Dr Chandler. I went to meet Dr Pal and he said that. all susceptible to diseases and pests.
" He did not have the certificate and left. They say they did it. "After all.00 am the next day. This is how they stole my institute's work. He said. Now you are opposing it. Sivaraman advised me to go and meet Subramaniam. just to get a lead in the rice world. "I refuse. sir. you have to accept it. and fungicides. at New Delhi and told him that if I continue as director of the institute. Only one man was dusting and cleaning the place. allocated material on the instructions of an outsider? Anyway I then asked him whether he had got the quarantine certificate for the material. half of which are to be given to Dr Freeman for Hyderabad." He replied. I learnt later that Chandler went straight to the minister for agriculture. divided. I phoned his PA and was told to come to his residence between 6. spreading diseases in our innocent indigenous varieties. They knew about it because they were also experts. the then cabinet secretary—he was earlier the agriculture secretary—who was a great friend of mine. The minister. We can't ask him to retire. But first I want the quarantine certificate from you. no foreign seeds and plant material can be allowed into the country without the quarantine certificate. "First you say that Taichung is a good variety. C Subramaniam. "I understand you have passed on a number of rice cultures to a staff member of my institute. because according to the rules. Dr Richharia has done so much work and built up the entire institute (CRRI) in its present form. Introduction of Tungro virus and the like are more dangerous. I went there early next morning. I said. The material which I have selected is different. (one or two) the IRRI was getting all the information from the CRRI. I don't want to be blamed later on. What is the susceptibility due to? Due to the special characteristics of the variety which is related to its gene. so that if there are any eggs of insects or any mycelia and spores of any disease. If you introduce the bulk material directly imported. The best way is to transfer him as director of the Rice Development Council which we are just commencing". But Sivaraman. alternate hosts of which may exist in our surrounding wild flora here. I am only asking for the quarantine certificate. And what was the difference between the Taichung variety that you had and the one that came later? . It is you who are saying so. I then asked Dr Chandler directly. it is very susceptible to new diseases and pests. no. The material has been brought." What is the problem when you import seeds in bulk? They cannot be free from diseases and pests. So. if someone wants to know who was the director who recommended its introduction. "You mean to say I am gong to introduce virus into your country?" I said. But even if they did it. I told him I had an appointment with the minister.30—7. they would not co-operate. ordered that Dr Richharia should be asked to retire. because we cannot import any plant material without a quarantine certificate. they are all killed." I said "I was telling you about the selection that we have made. advised the minister not to do this. That is the concept. "I have never raised the question of virus. So then the rice crop will get affected. You can import in quantities. Everything was silent. So it is possible to bring in a certain variety which is known to be susceptible to a certain virus? And this is what they have done in the case of IR-8 and TN-1. but they must be treated with certain chemicals. my staff were already being bribed or won over and through some of them. I was called in Subramaniam said. He went and told the minister.I rebuked my staff member: how had he accepted. Now that the Rockefellers have sent the material. it will create havoc in the country and all our existing varieties will also be affected by virus and other diseases and pests." He said: "I don't know all this.
crossed with all our renewed rice variety available in the rice region of India. their progeny will be mixed—good and bad.e. as I was aware of the fact that being the senior most. That means it entered the country with the Green Revolution? It has come simultaneously under the garb of the Green Revolution and I was the first to discover and realise that the mass/bulk import and introduction of seed would interfere with our productivity and once introduced. So first they approached the Government of India to hand over the Central Rice Research Institute to the Rockefeller Foundation Trust to establish an International Rice Research Institute. and working to develop non-lodging types and work connected with green manure crops and plant nutrition. next to next director general. This is how. the Government of India was also of the same opinion. i. Now the dwarf genes of exotic origin in rice have become a permanent feature in India. So they retired you permanently? They game me three months notice in 1966 when the CRRI was being transferred under the ICAR. diseases and pests. There were two . Bulk seed is heterogeneous. It is instructive to note how a country like the US with very little involvement in rice. If you use the bulk. I would take over as the next director general. which means that unless you use the blood from IR 8 or Taichung Native 1. so that I would not be able to opt for ICAR although I had filled up my option form for working under the ICAR after March 31. broke you. they promoted you and if you opposed it. and retire honourably’. to be converted into high yielding dwarfs. all of a sudden these programmes were all modified and workers' activities were directed towards evolving HYVs. you cannot get HYVs. The man behind this strategy was Dr Robert E Chandler. In those days. these viruses (Tungro virus. They went to the extent of saying that in the existing rice germplasm of India. utilising radio isotopes etc but all these activities met with an abrupt end. responsive to high fertilisers with the dwarfing gene from the dwarf rice variety TN1 and IR8. then they (the IRRI) were nowhere and the purpose of pouring in millions of dollars into the IRRI would be defeated. which is not a fact. out of thousands of Taichung plants. however. etc). So my advocate who had filed a case at the Orissa High Court against the ICAR and Government of India (ministry of food and agriculture) argued. If the CRRI came up. They were in search of a place where they could control the rice research in respect of introducing varieties or whatever they wished to do. transitory virus. forgetting at the same time that such genes are also available in the indigenous rice varieties. Out of that bulk. on March 31. who. If you spoke in favour of this strategy. could end up controlling rice research. that ‘you should give the reason why you have asked my client (Dr Richharia) to retire in such a hurry. This is how they won. would be difficult to eradicate. as they succeeded in breaking me. What wrong was being done to the nation if he was allowed to continue a few months more. and then multiplied them. and the destiny of millions. The ICAR yielded to this pressure which I had opposed. after all. 1966.. making germplasm collections from indigenous rice varieties which could give you 30-40 per cent higher yield.What I had was a selection resistant to viruses. Naturally the three months' notice was handed over to me on January 1. I did not favour this transfer and I argued that to establish an international organisation on the soil of India would be unhealthy because we would not have any control. After this. somewhere in 1960. I had selected a few. we can select individual plants to fit our purpose. were a private concern. 1966. I had then just joined the CRRI. They had no answer. they announced the establishment of an International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Good work was being carried out by the Central Rice Research Institute in this country. When the subject was discussed with me. I felt that the Central Rice Research Institute should function an independent institution and should not be handed over to the Rockefellers. We were also evolving varieties which would be responsive to high fertilisation. they (ICAR) demoted you. dwarf genes do not exist.
they were collecting rice types from various places and through the ICAR. So I appealed to my advocate that he must tell the Chief Justice of the great injustice that is being done to me by the opposite parties in delaying returns. you can work". when it became intolerable. Cuttack. They said. I am not going to part with the material until I study it: how can I pass on something about which I know nothing? One or two persons from ICAR came and met me personally. and took a State Bank loan again. So all these projects on rice. I have not got them till today. I refused. I said. Dr Swaminathan. including the departments. I had made it clear to them that . ‘Please yourself. I had to leave Cuttack. At that time there were three dates fixed for the case. At one stage. How long could I continue in that institute in the director's bungalow? After a certain time they would charge penal rent and take police action. the fourth and more passed by. I had to go to Cuttack and at one stage nothing was left with us. their man. So many corrupt people go to FAO’. who took over charge from me. I said to Padmanabhan. Then they especially sent papers to me for my signature at Bhopal. my room was double locked. When I handed over charge and proceeded on leave. So I accepted my wife's advice. So my advocate advised me to leave that place and go home. They called me there at CRRI. were all under him. they would allow me to go to FAO. Two years. Second. Then finally they sent the replies. people will say that Dr Richharia must have been involved in some corruption. All my papers were locked. but let me tell you one thing. All my research materials and scientific papers were confiscated. that for one month I will work in this room. I said I will not join now. He agreed and said: "Yes sir. That is why in the end he reconciled. I joined as agricultural advisor and I continued and built up this rice germplasm bank at Raipur in Chhatisgarh (MP). functioning under the ICAR. ICAR did not consider Dr Richharia to be a scientist and therefore did not like to accept his option! I won the case. withdrew the case and went to FAO. if I am removed. Through the ICAR. We had to maintain our children also. so that it soon had the richest material available including that from Abhujmad of Bastar.aspects to my case—with one stone you kill two birds—if I retire on that particular date. Then naturally the judgement had to be implemented. If you go away. She said. So I asked my wife what we should do. and on the other side I handed over charge. We do not consider Dr Richharia to be a scientist and therefore we asked him to retire from ICAR. They were not justified in giving me three months' notice. They wanted to collect all the rice material. went to Cuttack for three weeks. they were collecting rice types from various places and through the CRRI. Yes sir. Then they came to me. becomes the director general. The next morning when I went to the institute. They had sent me word that if we withdrew the case. the desired information should be returned. Notice was then issued to the Government of India and ICAR that by a certain time. I agreed with her. Tell me how did this second institute also get shut down? Why was the World Bank interested and what was Swaminathan's role in this? Swaminathan was already interested in the IRRI and then he was made secretary and vice-chairman of the ICAR. water connections were stopped and I was humiliated in many ways which I do not wish to narrate. then they were free to introduce high yielding varieties of rice of any type and in any way they liked. "What objection do you have to parting with your material when they also want to give you some in exchange? The IRRI representative had also very tactfully told me that they wanted material in exchange. paid the advocate his fees and the advocate explained my case to the Chief Justice. Then I took over as director. When did the MP government ask you to start the Rice Research Institute? In 1971. three years.
because he held all the power—how it will be organised.we were not interested in their material as it would come from the virus belt. He knew all about our rice wealth. So I said. They used to come at least once in two years to see my work at Raipur and nothing remained hidden. no objection. By that time I had already given out disease and pest resistant rice types in Chhattisgarh. which is now in charge of technical staff trained by them for the purpose. I would have learnt a lesson. by utilising vegetative propagation technology which constituted a direct challenge to the dwarf plant type technology concept. They also knew that there was something in my material. Did your people also have their own ideas? I had proposed that hybrid vigour exploitation is possible in India. They took the material but they never sent me the information. I would introduce my indigenous rice HYVs. He knew everything about India's food secrets and all its statistics. and in their books they have mentioned the work of the MPRRI. here it was the ‘World Bank’) for continuing rice research but since there will be a duplication of research work because of MPRRI activities. Then they learnt that I had not changed. It was the state government that had financed it and also my age old efforts. Was the ICAR chief in league with the IRRI? He was behind it all. going well out of their way. They will now spread that objectionable and susceptible rice material all over India to reduce rice production. I'll part with this material after I have researched it. and I was not happy to part with the material because neither had they financed the MPRRI nor the ICAR. I told the scientist from IRRI who came especially to see me for this purpose. so they approached me to forward the material. He was the all in all. that if my rice material can do good to the South east Asian countries. we will give Rs. I said. So the institute was shot down? I did not refuse point-blank to part with my indigenous rice germplasm. They felt I was not coming round. 4 crores (naturally through some recognised agency. He was taken there to take advantage of his knowledge and experience on India's food policy. They therefore. how half will go to Delhi and from there to the IRRI. They hoped that after the amount of suffering caused by them. ‘I’ll certainly give you the material after I have studied it’. how much will remain with the CRRI. was there a credible alternative to increasing rice production in India? You have spoken of the Adivasis and their techniques. that institute should be stopped. I have been fighting to show that we have got better material in India where rice originated. I am sure the government never put up any scheme like this. . that whatever investigations you do with my material. But the energy and intellect of our rice scientists was wasted and now attempts are being made to channelise their energy through other futile lines. And I did give a few samples to them including some dwarf varieties which I had collected and bred. and they succeeded in depriving me of my material and records and rendered me helpless. wanted to get this material. They said. This they had to block. you must send me a copy of the results achieved with special reference to dwarfing genes. They agree. the rice bowl of MP. Dr Richharia. They felt that if I continue with my work. Moreover he was the secretary to the government and also the director general of the ICAR. do take it—on one condition. That HYV dwarfs are no good has been proved beyond doubt and there are authoritative recommendations on this subject. Where the material is. thus creating scope for the consumption of pesticides manufactured by their companies. So they thought of plan. whereas my rice material represents resistance. simultaneously replacing it by susceptible material (dwarfs). Underlying aim being to grab all the material first in the germplasm form. That is why they wanted to get this material. and who are the people working on it etc.
What next? Well. why don't you exploit the hybrid vigour through clonal propagation which insures the economic production of crossed seeds from F1 plans for full normal crop from the F2 population (hybrid vigour persists in later generations also). Basmati must also have male sterile lines. It requires time and good material and yet success is not assured. It will be indeed unfortunate if we get our scientists involved in that exotic material instead of our own indigenous types. March 23. as done in China. and at the same time. so they (IRRI) have worked out another strategy which involves exploitation of hybrid vigour in India. thus diverting their attention and energy from their own line of work. it will not be possible to maintain such quality varieties as Basmati with the same aroma and increased productivity. it may not. why are we not taking this seriously? Source : The Illustrated Weekly of India. It may be possible. On the other hand. 1986 . To develop stable male sterile lines and restorer systems is not an ordinary business. on which I have been working for years and which I have been working for years and which I have developed. We would be committing a big mistake if we import those lines from China as it will involve a big risk as was done with TN 1 and IR 8. but all these scientists must work only to find out whether you get it or not. But my question is. I said. I think the plant breeders of India are free to go ahead in their own way and develop their own methods. And I doubt if those lines would thrive well under variable Indian agroclimactic environments. They suggested using male sterile lines.