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Cardinal mourns death of India's top agricultural scientist

Cardinal George Alencherry called M. S. Swaminathan 'a visionary force behind India's Green Revolution,' which transformed the nation

Swaminathan at the world summit on food security in Rome on Sept. 10, 2009.

Swaminathan at the world summit on food security in Rome on Sept. 10, 2009. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 29, 2023 10:08 AM GMT

Updated: September 29, 2023 10:48 AM GMT

Indian Cardinal George Alencherry has expressed condolences on the death of agricultural scientist and geneticist Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, known as the "father of the Green Revolution" in India.

“Swaminathan was a visionary force behind India's Green Revolution, transforming our nation from a food-deficit to a food-surplus country through his ground-breaking work in genetics and plant-breeding,” said Cardinal Alencherry, head of Eastern-rite Syro Malabar Church based in southern Kerala state.

Swaminathan, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1971) and the Albert Einstein World Science Award (1986) died at the age of 98 due to old age-related illness at his residence in the southern city of Chennai on Sept. 28. 

Swaminathan is widely credited with research on high-yielding rice, wheat, and potato varieties that saved India from the brink of famine and destitution.

The Green Revolution, spearheaded by him and supported by foundations and aid organizations based in Western nations at various levels, averted a humanitarian disaster in the subcontinent. 

“His development of high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice through the integration of chemical-biological technology revolutionized agricultural production in India,” the prelate added.

Alencherry said that Swaminathan ensured that India would never again face the specter of famine.

"This was the legacy of the Green Revolution,” the cardinal said.

Swaminathan bagged the first World Food Prize – the highest award in agricultural research – in 1987. 

Swaminathan was instrumental in setting up many national and global bodies of research. He headed the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the World Wildlife Fund.

He also reportedly received 84 honorary doctorates from the world’s top universities.

“Swaminathan’s legacy will inspire the nation to reach new heights in the field of agriculture and food security,” Cardinal Alencherry said.

Agriculture accounts for almost 60 percent of employment in India. Currently, the country is on a modernization mission of its agriculture.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to X (previously Twitter) to condole Swaminathan’s death.

“I will always cherish my conversations with Dr. Swaminathan. His passion to see India progress was exemplary. His life and work will inspire generations to come,” Modi wrote.

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, who often championed farmers' causes, said, “I have greatly benefited from his advice on many occasions and have been in touch with him till recently.”

Swaminathan is survived by his three daughters. One of them, Soumya Swaminathan, served as the chief scientist at the World Health Organization from 2019 to 2022. His wife, Mina Swaminathan, passed away in 2021.

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1 Comments on this Story
When I was hungry, you gave me to eat - says the Lord. Long live the memory of the contributions of the late M S Swaminathan. RIP Sir. Farewell.

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