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  1. M. S. Swaminathan
  2. Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan is an Indian geneticist and international administrator, renowned for his leading role in India’s Green Revolution a program under which high-yield varieties of wheat …Wikipedia
  3. Born: August 7, 1925 (age 89), Kumbakonam


Updated: September 29, 2010 03:48 IST

Farmers’ enthusiasm needs to be revived, says M.S. Swaminathan

COMMENT (4)   ·   PRINT   ·   T  T
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh releases a new book, “From Green to Evergreen Revolution: Indian Agriculture: Performance and Challenges”, by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan (left) in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh releases a new book, “From Green to Evergreen Revolution: Indian Agriculture: Performance and Challenges”, by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan (left) in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday the country was close to achieving 3.5 per cent growth rate in the farm sector “but could, and should, do more,” eminent agriculture scientist and Rajya Sabha member M.S. Swaminathan pointed out that farmers’ enthusiasm today “was not in good shape and needed to be revived.”

Dr. Singh was speaking to a distinguished gathering after releasing a book of essays on agriculture — From Green to Evergreen Revolution – Indian Agriculture: Performance and Challenges — by Dr. Swaminathan.

The Prime Minister said the country was close to achieving an agriculture growth rate of nearly 3.5 per cent this year despite the challenge of food inflation, as against a “long term average of no more than 2 per cent.”

A Core Group of Central Ministers and Chief Ministers had been set up to deal with the rise in prices of essential commodities and address the issue “without hurting agriculture growth.”

He lauded the role of Dr. Swaminathan in ushering in the Green Revolution and contributing to the processes of nation building. “Our agriculture owes a deep sense of gratitude to him.”

Dr. Swaminathan highlighted the four pillars of agriculture growth as — technology, services, public policy and farmers’ enthusiasm. “When the hybrid wheat variety was introduced, Punjab farmers took to it like fish to water and demanded a ‘triple hybrid’ variety. Such was their enthusiasm. But farmers’ enthusiasm today is not in very good shape and needs to be revived.”

“Scientists can develop a technology, but whether it reaches farmers will depend on public policy,” he pointed out, while recalling his association with the former Ministers, C. Subramanian and Jagjivan Ram, who rose to the occasion several times to help farmers at critical times of political and social evolution.

Dr. Swaminathan profusely thanked N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, and “The Hindu family” for giving him permission to publish articles in his book from the annual agriculture review that the newspaper brings out.

The book has been published by Academic Foundation.

Keywords: M.S. Swaminathanagriculture growth

M. S. Swaminathan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
M. S. Swaminathan
Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan - Kolkata 2013-01-07 2674.JPG

Dr. Swaminathan at the 100th Indian Science Congress, Kolkata.
Born 7 August 1925 (age 89)
Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency, British India(present-day Tamil Nadu, India)
Residence Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Citizenship Indian
Nationality India
Fields Agricultural science
Institutions MS Swaminathan Research Foundation
Alma mater H H M University College Thiruvananthapuram
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Known for High-yielding varieties of wheat in India
Influences Dr. Norman Borlaug
Notable awards Padma Shri (1967)
Ramon Magsaysay (1971)
Padma Bhushan (1972)
Albert Einstein World Award of Science (1986)
Padma Vibhushan (1989)
World Food Prize (1987)
Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1991)
Volvo Environment Prize (1999)
Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration (2013)

Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan (born 7 August 1925) is an Indian geneticist and international administrator, renowned for his leading role in India’s Green Revolution a program under which high-yield varieties of wheat and rice seedlings were planted in the fields of poor farmers.

Swaminathan is known as “Indian Father of Green Revolution” for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India. He is the founder and chairman of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.[1] His stated vision is to rid the world of hunger and poverty.[2] Swaminathan is an advocate of moving India to sustainable development, especially using environmentally sustainable agriculture, sustainable food security and the preservation of biodiversity, which he calls an “evergreen revolution.”[3]

From 1972 to 1979 he was director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. He was Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture from 1979 to 1980. He served as Director General of theInternational Rice Research Institute (1982–88) and became president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1988.

In 1999, Time magazine placed him in the ‘Time 20’ list of most influential Asian people of the 20th century.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Swaminathan’s family was among the most important in the village of Moncombu. Generations before, the rajah of Ambalapuzha had travelled to the neighbouring region of Tamil Nadu. He had been very impressed by the scholars at the Thanjavur court and requested that one such scholar be sent to his province. Enji Venkatachella Iyer, Swaminathan’s ancestor, was chosen to move to Ambalapuzha. The rajah was so delighted and struck by Venkatachella Iyer’s knowledge of the scriptures that he gave him acres of land comprising the village of Monkombu. They came to be called the Kottaram family (‘kottaram’ means palace).

M. S. Swaminathan was born in Kumbakonam on 7 August 1925. He was the second son of surgeon Dr. M.K. Sambasivan and Parvati Thangammal Sambasivan. M.S. Swaminathan learnt from his father, “that the word ‘impossible’ exists mainly in our minds and that given the requisite will and effort, great tasks can be accomplished.” Surgeon M.K. Sambasivam, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, took the lead in Kumbakonam in “burning his foreign clothes,” a symbolic act in support of the Swadeshi movement: which emphasized the use of Indian rather than foreign-made clothes, and handloomed rather than mill-spun cloth. The political purpose of the swadeshi movement was to free India from dependence on foreign imports and to protect village industry. His father led in opening the temples to Dalits, part of the temple entry movement of the Indian independence movement in Tamil Nadu, and in eradicating filariasis in Kumbakonom, an area long infected with the dread disease. The sense of service to one’s fellow man was thus ingrained in him early.

After his father’s death when he was 11, young Swaminathan was looked after by his uncle, M. K. Narayanaswami, a radiologist. He attended the local high school and later the Catholic Little Flower High School in Kumbakonom, from which he matriculated at age 15.[5] He then went to finish his undergraduate degree at Maharajas College in Trivandrum, Kerala (now known as University College,Thiruvananthapuram). He studied there from 1940–44 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology.

Swaminathan then decided to pursue a career in agricultural sciences. He enrolled in Madras Agricultural College ( now the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University ) where he graduated as valedictorian with another Bachelor of Science degree, this time in Agricultural Science. He explained this career decision thus: “My personal motivation started with the great Bengal famine of 1943, when I was a student at the University of Kerala. There was an acute rice shortage, and in Bengal about 3 million people died from starvation. All of our young people, myself included, were involved in the freedom struggle, which Gandhi had intensified, and I decided I should take to agricultural research in order to help farmers produce more.”[6]

In 1947, the year of Indian independence he moved to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi as a post-graduate student in genetics and plant breeding. He obtained a post-graduate degree with high distinction in Cytogenetics in 1949. He wrote the Union Public Service Commission exam and qualified for the Indian Police Service.[7]

He chose to accept the UNESCO Fellowship to continue his IARI research on potato genetics at the Wageningen Agricultural University, Institute of Genetics in the Netherlands. Here he succeeded in standardising procedures for transferring genes from a wide range of wild species of Solanum to the cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum. In 1950, he moved to study at the Plant Breeding Institute of the University of Cambridge School of Agriculture. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in 1952, for his thesis, “Species Differentiation, and the Nature of Polyploidy in certain species of the genus Solanum – section Tuberarium.” His work presented a new concept of the species relationships within the tuber-bearing Solanum. His Cambridge college, Fitzwilliam, made him an Honorary Fellow in 2014.[8]
Swaminathan then accepted a post-doctoral research associateship at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Genetics to help set up a USDA potato research station. Despite his strong personal and professional satisfaction with the research work in Wisconsin, he declined the offer of a full-time faculty position, returning to India in early 1954.[9]

Professional achievements[edit]

Swaminathan has worked worldwide in collaboration with colleagues and students on a wide range of problems in basic and applied plant breeding, agricultural research and development and the conservation of natural resources.

His professional career began in 1949:

  • 1949–55 – Research on potato (Solanum tuberosum), wheat (Triticum aestivum), rice (Oryza sativa), and jute genetics.
  • 1955–72 – Field research on Mexican dwarf wheat varieties. Teach Cytogenetics, Radiation Genetics, and Mutation Breeding and build up the wheat and rice germplasm collections at Indian Agricultural Research Institute IARI.
  • 1972–79 – Director-General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), established the National Bureau of Plant, Animal, and Fish Genetic Resources of India.[10]
    Established the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (changed in 2006 to Bioversity International).[11]
  • 1979-80 – Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, Transformed the Pre-investment Forest Survey Programme into the Forest Survey of India.[12]
  • 1981–85 – Independent chairman, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Council, Rome, played a significant role in establishing the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources.[13]
  • 1983 – Developed the concept of Farmers’ Rights and the text of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (IUPGR).President of the International Congress of Genetics.[14]
  • 1982–88 – Director General, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), organised the International Rice Germplasm Centre, now named International Rice Genebank.
  • 1984–90 – President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources IUCN, develop the Convention on Biological Diversity CBD.
  • 1986–99 – Chairman of the editorial advisory board, World Resources Institute, Washington, D. C., conceived and produced the first “World Resources Report.”[15]
  • 1988–91 – Chairman of the International Steering Committee of the Keystone International Dialogue on Plant Genetic Resources,[16] regarding the availability, use, exchange and protection of plant germplasm.
  • 1991–1995 – Member, Governing Board, Auroville Foundation
  • 1988–96 – President, World Wide Fund for Nature–India WWF,[17] Organized the Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre.[18] Organize the Community Biodiversity Conservation Programme.[19]
  • 1988–99 – Chairman/Trustee, Commonwealth Secretariat Expert Group,[20] organised the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development,[21] for the sustainable and equitable management of tropical rainforests in Guyana. The President of Guyana wrote in 1994 “there would have been no Iwokrama without Swaminathan.
  • 1990–93 – Founder/President, International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (ISME)[22]
  • 1988–98 – Chaired various committees of the Government of India to prepare draft legislations relating to biodiversity (Biodiversity Act)[23] and breeders’ and farmers’ rights (Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act).
  • in 1993 Dr M. S. Swaminathan,headed an expert group to prepare a draft of a national population policy that would be discussed by the Cabinet and then by Parliament. In 1994 it submitted its report.[24]
  • 1994 – Chairman of the Commission on Genetic Diversity of the World Humanity Action Trust.[25] Established a Technical Resource Centre at MSSRF for the implementation of equity provisions of CBD and FAO’s Farmers’ Rights.
  • 1994 onwards – Chairman of the Genetic Resources Policy Committee (GRPC) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), development of policies for the management of the ex situ collections of International Agricultural Research Centers.
  • 1995–1999 chairman, Auroville Foundation
  • 1999 – Introduced the concept of trusteeship management of Biosphere reserves. Implemented the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust, with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
  • 2001 – Chairman of the Regional Steering Committee for the India – Bangladesh joint Project on Biodiversity Management in the Sundarbans World Heritage Site, funded by the UN Foundation and UNDP.
  • 2002 – President of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs which work towards reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats.[26]
  • 2002 – 2005 – Co-chairman with Pedro Sanchezof the UN Millennium Task Force on Hunger,[27] a comprehensive global action plan for fighting poverty, disease and environmental degradation in developing countries.
  • 2004 – 2014 – Chairman, National Commission on Farmers.
  • Over 68 students have done their PhD thesis work under his guidance.

Notable mentions[edit]

On the occasion of the presentation of the First World Food Prize[28] to Swaminathan in October 1987, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote: “Dr. Swaminathan is a living legend. His contributions to Agricultural Science have made an indelible mark on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world. By any standards, he will go into the annals of history as a world scientist of rare distinction.”

Swaminathan has been described by the United Nations Environment Programme as “the Father of Economic Ecology.”

He was one of three from India included in Time magazine’s 1999 list of the “20 most influential Asian people of the 20th century,” the other two being Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.[29]

Swaminathan was the featured speaker at the 2006 Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa on, 19 October 2006. He was sponsored by Humanities Iowa, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Swaminathan presented the “Third Annual Governor’s Lecture” and spoke on “THE GREEN REVOLUTION REDUX: Can we replicate the single greatest period of food production in all human history?”[30][31][32] about the cultural and social foundations of the Green Revolution in India and the role of historic leaders in India, such as Mahatma Gandhi, in inspiring the Green Revolution there by calling for the alleviation of widespread hunger. He talked about the links between Gandhi and the great Iowa scientist George Washington Carver.[33]

Swaminathan is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Italian Academy of Sciences.


A scientific paper in which Swaminathan and his team claimed to have produced a mutant breed of wheat by gamma irradiation of a Mexican variety (Sonora 64) resulting in Sharbati Sonora claimed to have a very high lysine content led to a major controversy. The case was discussed as a classic example of scientific misdemeanor and was claimed to be an error made by the laboratory assistant.[34] The episode was also compounded by the suicide of an agricultural scientist.[35][36][37][38][39] Recent workers have studied it as part of a systemic problem in Indian agriculture research.[40]

In a well-publicized campaign, in the 1980s, an environmental journalist Claude Alvares, accused Swaminathan of transferring the genetic wealth of rice of India, to the International Rice Research Institute. Alvares claimed that Dr. Richaria, an eminent genetic scientist and former director of Central Rice Research Institute, had objected to the transfer. Alvares also alleged that 19,000 varieties, assembled by Richaria at the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute (MPRRI), were transferred to the IRRI, over ruling Richaria’s objections. Richaria had claimed that he could produce varieties from traditional Indian subcontinental germ plasm, that could replicate or even increase the yield, as compared to the cross bred varieties introduced by IRRI.[41][42] Claude Alvares saw this transfer of genetic resources as a part of a larger pattern of Neocolonialism– on the part of the USA.

It can be claimed in defense of Swaminathan, that this decision to transfer the rice genetic resources to IRRI and receive cross bred varieties from IRRI in return: was a national Government of India policy. This decision had been overseen by the Planning Commission (India), with technical advise from the Ministry of Agriculture (India). The decision had the approval of an elected political leadership, headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Swaminathan was one amongst the many agricultural scientists, economists, bureaucrats and politicians in Delhi who were a part of this decision. The history of India–United States relations had seen the use of food aid to change Indian economic policies in the decade of the 1960s? The success of this Green Revolution strategy, was a national imperative then, for India to become economically independent?


Dr Swaminathan is a prolific scientific researcher and writer. He published 46 single-author papers between 1950 and 1980. Out of 118 two author papers, he was first author of 80. Out of 63 three-author papers he was first author of 15. Out of 21 four-author papers he was first author of 9. In total he had 254 papers to his credit, 155 of which he was the singleor first author. His scientific papers are in the fields of crop improvement (95), cytogenetics and genetics (87) and phylogenetics (72). His most frequent publishers were Indian Journal of Genetics (46), Current Science (36), Nature (12) and Radiation Botany (12).[43] Some of the papers are listed below.

In addition he has written a few books on the general theme of his life’s work, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture for alleviation of hunger.

Swaminathan’s books include

  • An Evergreen Revolution“, 2006.[44]
  • I Predict: A Century of Hope Towards an Era of Harmony with Nature and Freedom from Hunger“, (1999)[45]
  • Gender Dimensions in Biodiversity Management“, (ed.) (1998)[46]
  • Implementing the Benefit Sharing Provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity: Challenges and opportunities” (1997)[47]
  • Agrobiodiversity and Farmers’ Rights“, 1996[48]
  • Sustainable Agriculture: Towards Food Security[49]
  • Farmers’ Rights and Plant Genetic Resources: A dialogue.” (ed.) (1995)[50]
  • Wheat Revolution: a Dialogue” (ed) (1993)[51]

Research reports

He has published laboratory research results in several scientific journals and increasingly writes for a wider audience in environmental journals. Some of his publications are available online in abstract or full text.[52] and.[53]

  • First author: Swaminathan MS.
    • CHOPRA VL, BHASKARAN, Cytological aberrations observed in barley embryos cultured in irradiated potato mash.“, Radiat Res. 1962 Feb;16:182-8.
    • Murty BR., Aspects of Asynapsis in Plants. I. Random and Non Random Chromosome Associations.“, Genetics. 1959 Nov;44(6):1271–80.
    • NINAN T, MAGOON ML. Effects of virus infection on microsporogenesis and seed fertility in Capsicum.“, Genetica. 1959;30:63-9.
    • MURTY BR., Effect of x-radiation on pollen tube growth and seed setting in crosses between Nicotiana tabacum and N. rustica.“, Z Vererbungsl., 1959;90:393-9.
    • GANESAN AT., Kinetics of mitosis in yeasts.“, Nature. 1958 August 30;182(4635):610-1.
    • Nature of Polyploidy in Some 48-Chromosome Species of the Genus Solanum, Section, Tuberarium.“, Genetics. 1954 Jan;39(1):59–76.
  • Second author
    • GANESAN AT, SWAMINATHAN MS., “Staining the nucleus in yeasts.“, Stain Technol. 1958 May;33(3):115-21.
    • NATARAJAN AT, SWAMINATHAN MS., “Chromosome spreading induced by vegetable oils.“, Stain Technol. 1957 Jan;32(1):43-5.
    • HOWARD HW, SWAMINATHAN MS., “The cytology of haploid plants of Solanum demissum.“, Genetica. 1953;26(5–6):381-91.
    • PRAKKEN R, SWAMINATHAN MS., “Cytological behaviour of some inter-specific hybrids in the genus Solanum, sect. Tuberarium.“, Genetica. 1952;26(1):77–101.
  • Third author
    • NIRULA S, BHASKARAN S, SWAMINATHAN MS., “Effect of linear differentiation of chromosomes on the proportionality between chromosome length and DNA content.“, Exp Cell Res. 1961 Jun;24:160-2.
  • Fourth author
    • Latha R, Rubia L, Bennett J, Swaminathan MS., “Allele mining for stress tolerance genes in Oryza species and related germplasm.“, Mol Biotechnol. 2004 Jun;27(2):101-8.
    • PAI RA, UPADHYA MD, BHASKARAN S, SWAMINATHAN MS., “Chromosome diminution and evolution of polyploid species in Triticum. Chromosoma.“, 1961;12:398–409.
    • Siddiq EA, Kaul AK, Puri RP, Singh VP, Swaminathan MS., “Mutagen-induced variability in protein characters in Oryza sativa.“, Mutat Res. 1970 Jul;10(1):81-4.

Environmental articles

  • First author: Swaminathan MS.mssrf
    • Nutrition in the third millennium: countries in transition.“, Forum Nutr. 2003;56:18–24.
    • Bio-diversity: an effective safety net against environmental pollution.“, Environ Pollut. 2003;126(3):287-91.
    • CGIAR statement on UN treaty.“, Nat Biotechnol. 2002 Jun;20(6):547.
    • Ecology and equity: key determinants of sustainable water security.“, Water Sci Technol. 2001;43(4):35–44.
    • An evergreen revolution.“,Biologist (London). 2000 Apr;47(2):85-9.
    • Science in response to basic human needs.“, Science. 2000 January 21;287(5452):425.
    • The ecology of hope.“, People Planet. 1999;8(4):6–9.
    • Convocation address.“, IIPS News. 1998 Jul;39(2 3):2–8.
    • “Farmers’ Rights and Plant Genetic Resources.”“, 1998.[54]
    • Forward: Regional Workshop on the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs“,[55] 1997
    • Perspectives for crop protection in sustainable agriculture.“, Ciba Found Symp. 1993;177:257-67; discussion 267-72.
    • DNA in medicine. Agricultural production.“, Lancet. 1984 December 8;2(8415):1329–32.
    • Nutrition and agricultural development: new frontiers.“, Food Nutr (Roma). 1984;10(1):33–41.
    • The age of algeny, genetic destruction of yield barriers and agricultural transformation.“, (1968).[56]
  • Second author
    • Kesavan PC, Swaminathan MS., “Managing extreme natural disasters in coastal areas.“, Philos Transact A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2006 August 15;364(1845):2191-216.
    • Sanchez PA, Swaminathan MS., “Hunger in Africa: the link between unhealthy people and unhealthy soils.“, Lancet. 2005 January 29 – February 4;365(9457):442-4. 5: Sanchez PA, Swaminathan MS., Public health. Cutting world hunger in half.“, Science. 2005 January 21;307(5708):357-9.
  • Third author
    • Raven P, Fauquet C, Swaminathan MS, Borlaug N, Samper C., “Where next for genome sequencing?“, Science. 2006 January 27;311(5760):468.

Honours, awards and international recognition[edit]

Swaminathan has received several outstanding awards and prizes. These prizes include large sums of money, which has helped sustain and expand his work.

  • H.K. Firodia award for excellence in Science & Technology
  • Four Freedoms Award for demonstrating achievement of the principles of Freedom of speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from want and Freedom from fear, 2000
  • Planet and Humanity Medal of the International Geographical Union awarded “in recognition of his unique success in outstanding scientific research and its application, leading to Asia’s Green Revolution. His endeavors to combat hunger and food shortages by promoting new seed varieties and applying these with ecologically sound principles and sustainable agriculture are all part of his profound humanitarian ethos, which reminds scientists and politicians worldwide of their responsibilities for stewardship of nature and humanity on our common Planet Earth.” 2000
  • UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize Laureate for outstanding contributions to the
    protection and management of the environment. Co – winner with Paul and Anne Ehrlich 1994, $200,000 prize.[57]
  • The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement “in recognition of life-long contributions to increasing

biological productivity on an ecologically sustainable basis, and to promoting the conservation of biological diversity”1991

  • Honda Prize,[58] for achieving outstanding results in the field of ecotechnology, 1991
  • Padma Vibhushan 1989
  • World Food Prize for advancing human development through increased quantity, quality or accessibility of food, 1987
  • Golden Heart Presidential Award of the Philippines, conferred by president Corazon Aquinoin recognition of his contribution in resolving a wide range of problems in basic and applied genetics and agricultural research and development in the Philippines, for his accomplishments in the area of agricultural science and research highly beneficial to Filipino farmers, and for having expanded considerably the International Rice Research Institute’s capacity for upstream research to bring the fruits of recent advances in science and technology to Asian rice farmers.“1987
  • Albert Einstein World Award of Science as a recognition for his contributions to plant genetics and his influence on international agricultural development. 1986 [59]
  • Borlaug Award, given by Coromandel Fertilizers in profound appreciation of his catalytic role in providing deep insights and inspiring fellow scientists to set goals … for evolving a strategy for agriculture rooted in science, but tempered by a concern for ecology and human values 1979
  • Padma Bhushan 1972
  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership 1971
  • Padma Shri 1967
  • Foreign Fellow of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences[60]

He holds more than 50 honorary Doctorate degrees from universities around the world.

National Awards
He has been honoured with several awards in India for his work to benefit the country.

  • Karmaveer Puraskaar Noble Laureates, March,2007 by iCONGO- Confederation of NGOs.
  • Dupont-Solae Award for his contribution to the field of food and nutrition security 2004[61]
  • Life Time Achievement Award from BioSpectrum 2003[62]
  • Indira Gandhi Gold Plaque by the Asiatic Society for his significant contribution towards human progress. 2002
  • Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Developmentfor his outstanding contribution in the domain of plant genetics and ensuring food security to hundreds of millions of citizens in the developing world.” This prestigious award honours those outstanding global citizens who have made a significant contribution to humanity’s material and cultural progress. 2000
  • The Indian National Science Academy awarded him Millennium Scientist Award 2001, Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Award for 1999–2000, Shatabdi Puraskar award in the field of Agricultural Sciences 1999, Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award 1992, B.P. Pal Memorial Award of the 1998, Meghnad Saha Medal 1981, Silver Jubilee Commemoration Medal for contributions to genetics and agricultural research 1971.
  • Lokmanya Tilak Award by the Tilak Smarak Trust, in recognition of his contribution to the green revolution in India and for his outstanding scientific and environmental works. 2001[63]
  • Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in recognition of creative efforts toward promoting international peace, development and a new international economic order; ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity, and enlarging the scope of freedom. 2000
  • Millennium Alumnus Award by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University 2000
  • Prof P N Mehra Memorial Award 1999
  • Legend in his Lifetime Award by the World Wilderness Trust- India 1999[64]
  • Dr. B.P. Pal Medal for unique contributions to agricultural research and development of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, India 1997
  • V. Gangadharan Award for outstanding contributions to National Development 1997
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri Deshgaurav Samman 1992
  • Dr. J.C. Bose Medal, Bose Institute 1989[65]
  • Krishi Ratna Award for “devotion to the cause of agroscience, and for being the benefactor of the farming

community,” instituted by the Bharat Krishak Samaj (Indian Farmer’s Society)/World Agriculture Fair Memorial Trust Society, and presented by president Giani Zail Singh of India 1986

International Awards
He has been honoured with recognition from several international organisations for spreading the benefits of his work to other countries.

  • UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Gold Medal for his outstanding work in extending the benefits of biotechnology to marginalised and poverty-stricken populations in developing countries and in securing a sound basis for sustainable agricultural, environmental and rural development 1999
  • Henry Shaw Medal awarded by the Board of Trustees of the Missouri Botanical Garden in consideration of important service to humanity through emphasis on sustainability in agriculture – USA 1998
  • Ordre du Merite Agricole, Govt of France to honour services of the highest quality rendered to the cause of agriculture 1997
  • Highest award for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, Govt of China for outstanding contributions to the lofty cause of environmental protection and development, and for his signal accomplishments in the field of international cooperation 1997
  • Global Environmental Leadership Award “for encouraging village-level responses to environmental issues” by the Climate Institute 1995
  • World Academy of Art and Science 1994
  • Asian Regional Award by the Asian Productivity Organization APO 1994
  • Charles Darwin International Science and Environment Medal 1993
  • Commandeur of the Order of the Golden Ark of the Netherlands 1990
  • The VOLVO Environment Prize for his outstanding research and devoted work in turning Indian food production from a deficit to a much increased supply. 1990.[69]
  • Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) international award for significant contributions to promoting the knowledge, skill, and technological empowerment of women in agriculture and for his pioneering role in mainstreaming gender considerations in agriculture and rural development 1985.[70]
  • Bicentenary Medal of the University of Georgia, U.S.A. 1985
  • Bennett Commonwealth Prize of the Royal Society of Arts for significant contributions to Household Nutrition Security 1984
  • Mendel Memorial Medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences for contributions to Plant Genetics 1965


Despite these awards and honours, the credibility of Swaminathan and his promotion of biotechnology remains open to question by some. His record retains some controversy. There are cases of scientific fraud and scandals involving the suicide of a fellow scientist at the ICAR.[71] The first among those who came to expose many of the claims made by MS Swaminathan was Claude Alvares. In his article The Great Gene Robbery 23 March 1986 The Illustrated Weekly.[72] Alvares provided arguments to show that most of the research that was initiated by him and the International Rice Research Institute was not original.[73] Shiv Vishwanathan in an EPW[74] article wrote he is a sociological phenomenon. He is paradigm, exemplar, dissenter, critic and alternative. …..Swaminathan always assimilates the new. Claude Alvares gives a different picture:

Strangely, he has become more and more akin to HYV of the seeds he sells. Like them, he is capable of high-yielding varieties of phrase and word. At a Gandhi seminar, he will speak of the relevance of Gandhi. At a meeting in Madras on the necessity of combine harvesters. At another meeting on appropriate technology, he will plump for organic manures. At a talk in London, he will speak on the necessity of chemical fertilizers. He will label slum dwellers ‘ecological refugees’, and advertise his career as a quest for ‘imparting an ecological basis to productivity improvement.’ This, after presiding over, and indiscriminately furthering, one of the ecologically most devastating technologies of modern times – the HYV package of the Green revolution.[75]

Current work[edit]

  • He currently holds the UNESCO -Cousteau Chair[76] in Ecotechnology at the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, India.
  • He is the chairman of the National Commission on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security of India (National Commission on Farmers).[77]
  • He is currently spearheading a movement to bridge the Digital divide called, “Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre”.[78][79]
    • Bruce Alberts, President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences said of Dr. Swaminathan: “At 80, M.S. retains all the energy and idealism of his youth, and he continues to inspire good behavior and more idealism
      from millions of his fellow human beings on this Earth. For that, we can all be thankful

Further reading[edit]

  • Biodiversity and Poverty – Natural Resources and the Millennium Goals“, M.S. Swaminathan speech and a discussion, University of Berne, Auditorium Maximum, Wednesday, 24 August 2005.Speech, Full text:
  • An insightful biography, “M.S. Swaminathan – One Man’s Quest for a Hunger-Free World” was written in 2002 by Gita Gopalakrishnan, Education Development Center (EDC), Sri Venkatesa Printing House, Chennai, pp. 132 ISBN 81-7276-260-7 Full text:.
  • To learn the most about M. S. Swaminathan, the book to read is: “Scientist and Humanist: M.S. Swaminathan” by R.D. Iyer,
    Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2002. pp. 245 Excerpt with photos
  • The Man Who Harvests Sunshine – The Modern Gandhi: M. S. Swaminathan.” Andréi Erdélyi. Tertia Kiadó, H-1158, Budapest, Kubelsberg Kunóu36,

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