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Ecological News

Tougher laws needed to regulate food industry

Ground Reality - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 18:47
Only a few days back, the US government reached an out of court settlement with British Petroleum (BP) for a 2010 oil spill it had caused in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil major will pay $ 18.7 billion in damages.
Spewing 4 million barrels into the sea, the oil spill had caused 11 deaths and led to a massive destruction of the marine ecosystem. Instead of worrying about how the huge penalties will impact future investments, I remember US President Barack Obama saying soon after the oil spill happened: “Will make BP pay.”
And it did. This is how the world’s only superpower means business. 
While it may be perfectly right to feel outraged at the huge BP oil spill penalties when compared with the paltry compensation package of $ 470 million that Union Carbide was made to pay for the Bhopal gas tragedy, in which some 10,000 people had died, I thought over the past three decades India had learnt the lessons the hard way. The desperation of foreign investments will not be at the cost of human lives, food safety and the environment. After all, there had been heated debates on the questionable role of politicians, judiciary and the industry leaders in ensuring justice to the victims.  
But I was wrong. Following the recall of Nestle’s maggi noodles, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has accused the food regulator – Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – for inculcating an “environment of fear” in food industry. Her ire was obviously aimed at the food safety organization which had imposed a ban on maggi noodles in June. Addressing recently the regional CII office in Chandigarh, and later in a detailed interview with a newspaper, she criticized the spurt in food safety tests which she believes is hampering more investments to come in. Her man argument was that there is no testing protocol for quality check on processed food. She also blamed the return of ‘Inspector Raj’ that is haunting the food industry.
Mrs Badal’s outburst against FSSAI comes at a time when a US study has found sugary drinks responsible for 184,000 deaths globally every year. Considering that the consumption of sugary drinks has multiplied in India over years, and knowing the damming health impacts, including fatalities, it leaves behind, I expected the Food Processing Ministry to launch a massive nationwide campaign to educate people about the dangers of consuming colas, and at the same time directing the manufacturers to ensure that the sugary drinks being sold are completely safe for human health. For instance, the well-known food writer Vir Sanghvi has in a recent tweet asked Pepsico to explain why the beverage company is using Aspartme in sugary drinks in India whereas  completely blacking it out in America?
The Diabetes Foundation and the Centre for Nutrition & Metabolic Research has pointed to the continuous rise in consumption of sugary beverages, including energy drinks. With per capita consumption of sugary drinks rising from 2 lit in 1998 to 11 lit in 2014, these sugary drinks are being blamed for an increasing number of deaths and disabilities.  Considering that Swami Ramdev has been repeatedly warning people against using these sugary drinks claiming that these sodas as good as toilet cleaners, I had expected the Food Processing ministry to be extra vigilant.
The task to ensure processed food is undoubtedly safe becomes more onerous and urgent in the light of the report submitted by the US President’s panel on cancer. It estimates that 41 per cent of Americans living today will suffer cancer in their lifetime. The report warns against the pervasive use of chemicals in processed food – including pesticides, insecticides and synthetic ingredients in the processed food. Fighting cancer therefore requires tougher laws and strict implementation of food laws. If the US food industry was responsive enough, the country wouldn’t have faced a cancer epidemic. But still, the food industry does adhere to the quality standards in US/Europe. Much of the problem in the developed countries is because of lax quality standards in view of the aggressive lobbying by the industry.
Following the maggi noodles ban, the FSSAI has drawn samples from some of the major brands like Hindustan Unilever, Britannia, Nestle India, Heinz India, MTR, Haldiram and others. Quality test of food products for safety certainly warrants urgency considering that food adulteration and contamination has become rampant over the years. With nearly 80,000 food processing companies in operation, including Big Food, and with hardly any quality laboratories to check what goes inside, manufacturers have had a field day so far.
It took 16 months from the day the first maggisample was drawn to the final test report. Woefully lack of adequate testing laboratories all these years has therefore been an easy escape route for the food companies to manage getting Scott free. A Zee Business report showed how 75 per cent companies, whose samples were drawn, escaped being penalized because of gaps in quality testing. In the past five years, only 25 per cent of the 53,406 companies whose samples had failed to conform to quality standards, could be penalized. The penalties of course are too low which does not provide any deterrent.
It is alright to decry ‘Inspector Raj’ but unless the inspectors draw samples regularly how will the food processing industry be made to clean up its act? In China, there exists one food quality laboratory for 0.2 million people. In India, one lab is available for 88 million people. The thrust therefore should be to increase the number of quality testing labs at a phenomenal rate. And I am sure the Chinese labs are not only for decorative purposes but for testing food samples. If the food industry is perfectly comfortable with regular food testing in China why it should cry foul in India?

The need for investment therefore should not be compromised in the name of tougher food safety laws as well as environmental norms. India needs responsive business, and all investments must respect the rights of the people. The food industry must be asked to adhere to the safety laws, and if it is unable to do so, be directed to pull down the shutter. #
Food industry must sticks to safety laws. Hindustan Times. July 16, 2015.http://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/food-industry-must-stick-to-safety-laws/article1-1369661.aspx
Categories: Ecological News

Sarson Satyagraha against GM mustard launched from Rajghat with a prayer meeting

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 14:04

India GMInfo. 1st August 2015

Source: http://indiagminfo.org/?p=906

In a prayer meeting followed by pledge-taking at Rajghat, many organisations and individuals joined hands to launch Sarson Satyagraha against the entry of GM mustard in India, on July 31st 2015. The following is their letter to Prakash Javadekar, MoEFCC.

July 31, 2015

To:

Mr. Prakash Javadekar

Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change,

Government of India.

Dear Sir:

Re: Genetically Modified (GM) mustard of Delhi University – halt the R&D and further progress immediately – reg.

We have learnt from various media reports that Genetically Modified (GM) mustard developed by the Delhi University has completed Biosafety Research Level (BRL-II) trials recently and that the developers are now seeking to apply for permission for commercial cultivation. We have been able to gather information only indirectly about this GM mustard, as no data has been made available in the public domain. RTI queries are being refused/stonewalled.  This demonstrates intent by the regulators and the Ministry to hide biosafety data. This action is in violation of the both the Constitution and the Supreme Court order that all biosafety data including dossiers be made public.

We write to you to share our deep disquiet and serious concern about this GM crop (a detailed Briefing Paper is attached). While we are raising issues pertaining to GM mustard in particular, that disquiet also includes large-scale field trials of GM corn and the general secrecy shrouding regulation of GMOs in India.

As you are aware, GM crops are a highly contested and controversial technology. It is imprecise, unpredictable, irreversible and unsafe. There is no consensus on the biosafety of GM crops. There is ever-emerging evidence to show various adverse impacts from GMOs in our environment. While studies funded by the biotech industry may show no problems, many peer reviewed independent scientific studies have raised significant issues of safety. In India the regulators rely only on self -assessment by the crop developer. This is scientifically unacceptable.

A moratorium was imposed on Bt brinjal in 2010, based in part on the fact that scientific appraisals by independent scientists of the dossier of Mahyco-Monsanto found significant biosafety flaws and even cover-up.  The moratorium was endorsed by your party. In addition, your party had promised in its election manifesto that GM crop technology will not be used in the country without extensive research and independent evaluation.

However, events in the past one year surrounding field trial approvals of GM crops and processes (or lack thereof)  followed by the GEAC has given room for considerable disquiet  among concerned citizens, scientists, farmers and other segments in society.

GM mustard is a genetically modified hybrid mustard (Brassica juncea) (DMH 11).  It contains alien genes like the bar gene, which is the trait for herbicide tolerance and functions as a marker gene, and the barstar, barnase complex which is a GURT (Genetic Use Restriction Technology) i.e. male sterility and restorer genes respectively.

The claim of the promoters is that the GM mustard will increase yields by 25-30%.  This is untrue as there is no event in it to improve yield; the yield is due to the hybrid trait. Similar false claims were made in the case of Bt cotton too, and after 13 years of its commercial cultivation in India, we know the reality of Bt cotton not even decreasing the use of pesticides in cotton cultivation.

What the promoters of GM mustard are also silent on is that yield increase is possible through non-GM hybrids already in the market, or more importantly, through agro-ecological innovations like “System of Mustard Intensification”. What is unscientific is that GM mustard has not been tested against such alternatives, but only against a national check like Varuna. This GMO is essentially to facilitate seed production by seed companies. This technology is not for the farmer, the consumer or the nation.

The bar gene which confers herbicide resistance, also used as a marker gene, makes this GMO a herbicide tolerant (HT) crop. This is being obscured by the crop developer, ostensibly because agency after agency/Committee in India has recommended a ban on HT crops in the country; this aspect should not be overlooked by the regulator. It is unclear how this GMO has reached this stage of R&D without this aspect being addressed.

HT crops have been proven to be an unsustainable agri-technology. The empirical evidence is clear: no yield gains, numerous resistant super weeds on huge swathes of agricultural lands where these are grown (Canada, the US and Argentina for example), huge increases in use of herbicides and many adverse health impacts.

This HT crop will leave its adverse impacts on insect pollinators like honeybee as scientific evidence from elsewhere shows. This could have devastating consequences for Indian agriculture in general, in addition to affecting mustard growers. The decrease in honey bees in GM mustard will itself lead to decrease in yields, thereby negating the “claimed” advantage of this crop.

India is the centre of diversity for Indian mustard and to opt for GM technology in crops for which we are the Centre of Origin and/or Diversity is a misadventure that India should not undertake. The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of the Supreme Court, the Parliament Standing Committee (PSC) on Agriculture and the Swaminathan Task Force on Application of Agricultural Biotechnology have strongly and unequivocally recommended that GM research or commercialisation should not be allowed in crops for which India is  the Centre of Origin/Diversity.

Therefore, this event invites a bar on three grounds, which no regulator may overlook:

1.      Mustard DMH 11 is a GURT and barred from seed registration under the Indian PPVFRA.

2.      India is a centre of origin/diversity of mustard. Contamination from GM mustard is inevitable. GM crops in centres of origin or diversity have been barred by the TEC/PSC and the Swaminathan Task Force.

3.      The SC-appointed TEC has recommended a ban on HT crops. The concerns with HT crops are shared by the Swaminathan Task Force too.

Mustard is not only an oilseed but an important edible food crop in India – therefore it has to be treated as such and all tests carried out for its use as a direct vegetable crop. It also has considerable use in Ayurveda, and this was one of the reasons why Bt brinjal was placed under an indefinite moratorium. Mustard oil has deep cultural significance for the people of north, north western and north eastern India. It is used extensively in home remedies and for infants and the ailing.

We are not aware of any biosafety studies that have been conducted, which addresses all these issues, including the implications of the certain contamination of all our diverse varieties and wild species. Indeed these should already have been carried out before large-scale field trials were conducted, put in the public domain, open for healthy debate. More importantly, policy directives given by various committees some of which have been accepted by the government are being flouted again and again in regulatory decision-making. While this is bad enough, we also find that biosafety conditions for trials are unscientific and violations left unaddressed without any liability fixed on the crop developers or regulators for such violations.  The latest such violation from the field trial of GM mustard in Bathinda, Punjab, was documented and sent to the GEAC vide letter dated 16th June, 2015 (http://indiagminfo.org/?p=870 ), without any response as usual.

States like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where majority of mustard is grown in the country, and the state of West Bengal, which accounts for almost 50% of consumption of mustard oil, said no even to field trials in the past. This puts an added question mark as to how approval was given for these trials.

Keeping in view the various scientific, technical, regulatory, socio-cultural issues, and the fact that the need for this GM mustard has not been established, we urge you to immediately step in and halt any further processing of the GM mustard application. This is an application that should have been rejected long ago. In addition, we urge you to ensure:

  • Transparency in the GM regulatory system and processes, starting with making public all data on this GM mustard and other crops under advanced stages of field trials.
  • Independent investigation into possible contamination from the trial sites (recently, evidence was provided to the regulators on the violations of biosafety conditions imposed for open air field trials) and action against the developer and the regulator for regulatory lapses leading to contamination of our seed and food supply.

We look forward to a positive response in the national interest.

Sincerely,

On behalf of Sarson Satyagraha,

Kavitha Kuruganti – +91 9393001550

Umendra Dutt – +91 9872682161

Vijay Pratap – +91 99107 70263

 

CC: Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, Government of India.

Attachment: Briefing paper on GM mustard of Delhi University

 

Sd/-:

  1. Padma Bhushan Dr Pushpa Bhargava
  2. Padma Bhushan Dr Inderjit Kaur
  3. Padma Shri Dr Daljit Singh
  4. Padma Shri Rambahadur Rai, Senior Journalist
  5. Padma Shri Dr Norma Alvares, environmental lawyer
  6. Padma Shri Janak Palta McGilligan, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
  7. Padma Shri B Sugathakumari, Poet, Writer and Social Activist
  8. Padma Shri G Sankar, Architect, Habitat Technology Group
  9. Rajinder Singh, Magsaysay awardee
  10. Rashida Bee and Champadevi Shukla, Goldman Prize winners, Bhopal
  11. PV Rajagopal, Ekta Parishad
  12. Anupam Mishra, Gandhi Peace Foundation
  13. Surendra Koulagi, Freedom Fighter, Jamnalal Bajaj awardee, Melkote, Karnataka
  14. Laxman Singh, Indira Priyadarshini awardee, Rajasthan
  15. Justice (retd) K Chandru, Chennai
  16. Dr Devinder Sharma, Author and Agriculture Policy Analyst
  17. Dr Vandana Shiva, Environmental activist
  18. Dr Arun Kumar, Economist, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  19. Dr Atul Mehta, Plant Breeder and Cytogeneticist, AAU, Anand
  20. Dr Mira Shiva, Health activist, Delhi
  21. Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, Ecologist, Delhi
  22. Dr Claude Alvares, Goa Foundation
  23. Dr Debal Deb, Ecologist, Centre for Inter Disciplinary Studies
  24. Dr Ponnammal Natarajan, (retd) Dean, Anna University
  25. Dr Sudarshan Iyengar, Economist, Former Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad
  26. Dr Minoo Parabiya, formerly Head of Bio Sciences Dept, South Gujarat University, Surat
  27. Dr K R Natarajan, Retd. Professor of Biochemistry, AU, TN
  28. Dr A R Vasavi, Former Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Library; Infosys Award Winner
  29. Prof M K Prasad, Pro VC (Retd), Calicut University
  30. Dr V S Vijayan, Chairperson, Salim Ali Foundation and Former Chairperson, Kerala State Biodiversity Board; Founder Director SACON (a Centre of Excellence of GoI)
  31. Sanjay Parekh, Senior Advocate
  32. Basavaraj Patil, Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan
  33. Vijay Pratap, SADED, Delhi
  34. Sarvadaman Patel, President, Organic Farming Association of India
  35. Vimal bhai, Matu Jan Sanghathan, Uttarakhand
  36. Shalini Bhutani, Campaign for Conservation of Biodiversity
  37. Prabhakar Kelkar, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh
  38. Hemant Goswami, social activist, Chandigarh
  39. Tha. Vellaiyan, President, Tamil Nadu Traders Federations’ Association
  40. Nandita Das, Award winning actress
  41. Rabbi Shergill, well known Singer
  42. Kapil Shah, Jatan Trust, Gujarat
  43. Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance, Chennai
  44. Abhishek Joshi, Rural Ecology Policy Analyst
  45. Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab
  46. Rachna Arora, Public Awareness on GM Foods
  47. Sachidanand Bharati, Environmentalist, Garhwal
  48. Kanchi Kohli, Campaign for Conservation of Biodiversity
  49. Krupakara Senani – Wild life photographer and documentary film maker
  50. G.S. Jayadev, Social Worker, Chamarajanagar
  51. Prasanna, Desi, Karnataka
  52. Prof. Siddaramaiah SG, Poet and Former Chairperson, Kannada Book Academy
  53. Nagesh Hegade, Senior Journalist and Environmentalist
  54. Manas Arvind, Clean Food Activist
  55. Ritu Mathur, Organic Farming Consultant

 

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Seeds, Soil and Small farmers vital to the resurgence of Greece

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 18:26

By Dr Vandana Shiva – L’Huffington Post, 29 July 2015

Christos Tsoumplekas / Flickr

Sources [Italian]: http://www.huffingtonpost.it/vandana-shiva/semi-suolo-agricoltori-rinascita-grecia_b_7888156.html http://www.navdanyainternational.it/index.php/news/209-i-semi-il-suolo-e-i-piccoli-agricoltori-sono-vitali-per-la-rinascita-della-grecia

I am in Nigeria to visit Ogoniland which has been devastated by Shell on the 20th anniversary of the execution of Nigeria’s leading environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa .

The ruination of the fertile Niger Delta by the greed and irresponsibility of the oil industry has such strong parallels to the ruination of Greece by the greed and irresponsibility of banks and financial institutions.

Ken was protecting his homeland and the life of his people yet he was punished, and his life extinguished, while the polluters and Shell, which was committing crimes against nature and people, roam free. Shell is now expanding to the Arctic to drill for oil as the ice melts due to Climate Change, to which the corporation has contributed significantly.

The citizens of Greece voted a clear No in the recent referendrum on austerity, yet they are being punished with further austerity measures while the banks which gave bad loans are bailed out by the public financial institutions.

This so called bailout of Greece is but the perpetuation of a dysfunctional economic model which should end as Pope Francis has said so clearly in his encyclical.

During the crisis, it is the small farms of Greece which gave work to unemployed youth. It is the gardens in balconies and terraces that allowed people in Athens to eat while the banks closed and pensions dried up. And our partner Peliti in the Global Alliance for Seed Freedom has increasing demands for Seeds as people must turn to growing their own food to survive this financial war against Greece, just as victory gardens allowed the US and European citizens to survive during the 2nd World War.

Yet it is the farms that the European banks want to destroy. An article in the Financial times of 22nd July mentions that increasing taxes on farmers is one element of the new package of austerity measures. As wheat grower Panos Karambelas from the Larissa region said, “There are very few producers in our region who have the funds to pay what amounts to a quadruple tax bill compared to last year.”

This is beyond austerity, it is genocide.

It is beyond economics, it is the psychology of fear of everything alive and free, and rising from that fear, an urge to exterminate that freedom and life. The assault on the small farmers of Greece, the pushing of 300,000 Indian farmers to suicide, are symptoms of this war against life based on fear.

Our answer must be a passionate love for life and freedom. That is why we must defend or seed freedom and save seeds, we must defend our food freedom and grow our own food. In 2014 , the European Commission was forced to roll back its Seed Laws that would have locked Greece into seed slavery. The new recipe on taxes on farmers is an attempt to lock Greece into food and financial slavery.

Europe must be forced to roll back this demand. And as we have written in our Manifesto Terra Viva, it is time to create a new economy and new democracy with life and people’s freedom at the centre of the human enterprise instead of destruction of life, corporate greed, and governments undermining democracy.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Stemming the Tide Together: Soil, Not Oil

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 03:16

By Dr Vandana Shiva and Nnimmo Bassey – Nnimmo’s Reflections, 27 July 2015

Source: http://nnimmo.blogspot.com/2015/07/stemming-tide-together-soil-not-oil.html

Statement by Vandana Shiva and Nnimmo Bassey at a Media briefing held on 27 July 2015 at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, to mark the end of Dr Shiva’s visit to Nigeria

Gentlemen of the Press,

We are living in a changing and challenging world. The change that has become our reality has not come about by accident. This change has been carefully planned, organized and orchestrated and the price has been dire. The driving force of the change we speak of has been greed and the power to exploit peoples and Nature without any sense of responsibility and with continually constricting space for redress. We live in a world that is not only unipolar but one in which a handful of corporations and entities control the global supply of food, water and power. In the quest for absolute control these corporations strive to merge and turn into behemoths of absolute power. Some of these corporations are already playing God by claiming to invent seeds and thus holding patents on the gifts of nature.

Oil companies and others locking the world into extractivism refuse to heed the call for tackling global warming at source by allowing 80 per cent of known fossil fuels reserves to remain underground and rather deny that global warming is happening; and when they agree it is happening they present a false path for action. False actions presented include carbon capture and storage, genetically modified crops, carbon trading mechanisms such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) and geoengineering. These false solutions allow polluters to continue with their polluting acts and externalize the problems to vulnerable peoples and poor nations and communities through reckless pollution, land grabs and displacement of communities.

We are living in a chaotic, violent world. In history this violence has been marked by slavery, colonialism and imperialism. These continue today under different guises and are sugar-coated with the cloak of neoliberalism. Naked exploitation and despoliation remain the creed. Wars are prosecuted, nations are destroyed and people are massacred all for the purpose of securing access to oil, other fossil fuels and other resources to maintain an unsustainable lifestyle in a finite world. No wonder we see the sudden spike in interest on planets in other galaxies and universes that no human can expect to reach.

The Social and Ecological Destruction of Oil

Yesterday we were at Erema in Egi, Rivers State. Before then we had visited Ogoniland and seen the dastard pollution at Goi – a forgotten and totally deserted village. The people are groaning under severe oil pollution and loss of land. We shared ideas on environmental monitoring and protection, on the value of soils and the need to preserve our seeds and food systems. The interesting thing at Egi was that the cardinal request is that the Federal Government should enlist the help of the United Nations Environment Programme to conduct a forensic audit of their environment in a way similar to what was concluded on the environment of Ogoniland in 2011. They are not entrapped by current infrastructure politics. They simply want their soil back! We heard similar demands during the interactions at the Right Livelihood Lecture held at the University of Port Harcourt. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a fellow Right Livelihood Awardee (1994). We are here to pay tribute on the 20th anniversary of his execution, and to commit ourselves to continue the struggle for which he gave his life. We also the martyrdom of other Ogoni leaders who stood for justice and community rights.

The Egi people see their problem clearly as a human right issue. And they are right. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights declares that All Africans shall have a right to a safe and satisfactory environment in which to develop. The Egi people were quick to add that they want both the audit and clean-up of their environment to be undertaken expeditiously and not left to gather dusts on some shelves as has been the case of the Ogoni environmental assessment- four years after submission of the report.

The 2011 UNEP assessment of Ogoni environment showed incredible levels of pollution caused by the activities of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). The report highlights that in over 40 locations tested in Ogoniland, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of 5 metres and that all the water bodies in Ogoni land are polluted. It also reported that in some places the water was polluted with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels 900 above World Health Organisation standards. With life expectancy standing at about 41 years, the clean up of Ogoniland is projected to require a cumulative 30 years to clean both the land and water. Meanwhile weekends in Ogoniland are marked by carnivals of funerals of people in their 20s and 30s.

Soil, Water and Climate Wars

It has been estimated that with rising global warming and shrinking water resources violence may increase in Africa by 54 per cent by 2030. Lake Chad is a major example of what looms ahead. The lake has diminished in size to less than 5% of what it was by 1960. The lake shrunk from 22,772 square kilometres in size to 15,4000 square kilometres between 1966 and 1973. Satellite images showed that the size stood at 2,276 square kilometres by 1982 and at a mere 1,756 square kilometres by 1994. The presence of invasive species over about 50 per cent of what is left of the lake further compounds the problem. This has led to the displacement of farmers, fisher folks and pastoralists that depended on it for their livelihoods. Although soil degradation and the management of the river systems that recharge the lake may be a contributory factor to its shrinkage, it is estimated that climate change and extreme and extended droughts triggered by it contributes at least 50 per cent to the current deplorable situation. If this is so, then ecological degradation and climate change are factors in the diverse manifestation of insecurity in the area, including the scourge of Boko Haram as analysed in the Manifesto Terra Viva, Our Soil, Our Commons, Our Future which we have collectively drafted. Care for the Earth is the best antidote to the rise of insecurity, violence and terrorism.

Food and Agriculture

It has been acknowledged that smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding the world. They also hold the key to cooling the planet because the agro-ecological food production enriches the soil rather than destroying it as industrial agriculture does. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has just issued an illuminating report Agroecology to Reverse Soil Degradation and Achieve Food Security that buttresses this fact. We cannot afford to be drawn into a system that promotes genetically engineered seeds and organisms, and chemical fertilisers that do not deliver on any of their promises but rather have yielded a harvest of pains, deprivation and deaths. While these costly inputs make super-profits for giant corporations, they destroy our soils, and trap our farmers in dependency and debt. With over 300,000 farmers suicides already recorded in India, the harmful nature of this agricultural model is without doubt.

The pressure on Africa to adopt uniform seed laws such as those promoted under African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) is all aimed at seed colonization of Africa and must be resisted. The same goes with the promotion of GMOs through the weak Biosafety bills such as the one signed into law in Nigeria in the last week of the previous presidency. The unrelenting attack on our staple foods, including our cassava, cowpea (beans), corn and banana must be halted. The planting of genetically modified cotton in Burkina Faso was held up as a great success, yielding bumper harvests and enriching farmers. Recently Burkina Faso stopped planting Bt. Cotton. What example will they bring up next? Will Nigeria walk into that trap with her eyes open?

Soil, not oil is not a slogan but a statement of reality. Oil is a wasting resource and has wasted lives and now threatens the Planet. Oil economy is subject to political manipulation as we see with current price crash and the exposure of our countries to deep shocks. The oil economy is a negative economy on many levels. Our call today is that we must recover our sovereignty over our political structures, over our resources, over our food systems and over our lives. Soil, not oil. The soil is our life and our true wealth.

- Ends –

Related post

Nigeria Tour for Soil Not Oil

Related Calendar Event

Soil Not Oil: Vandana Shiva to speak in Nigeria                           
Categories: Ecological News

Rural India has to be the pivot of Skill India. Start with farmers

Ground Reality - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 16:03
In the midst of all the excitement generated over the launch of an ambitious ‘Skill India’ initiative, I find two news reports to be particularly disturbing. These reports are a reflection of the worsening job scenario, with or without specially acquired ‘skills’.  
In Madhya Pradesh, 362,685 people applied for the jobs of peon/guards in 58 State Government departments. Of these 14,000 were either post-graduates or engineers. They all sat for a written examination. I wonder what kind of special skills are required to be a peon/guard that they need to go through a written test. Anyway, another news report tells us how a Mumbai-based post graduate, with four degrees in hand, including an MA in globalization and labour from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, is working with the Mumbai Municipal Corporation cleaning the city’s garbage. An MBA was among those who had recently applied for 26 jobs of peons in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh.
While the ‘Skill India’ initiative to provide particular skills to 400 million people by 2020 is certainly welcome, I don’t know whether we already have an over-skilled work force or we have a long way to catch up with some of the developed countries record in providing skills. For instance, if India were to just categorise its 52 per cent farming population as skilled workforce, it will immediately move into the developed country category with over 50 per cent skilled manpower. Farming being a skilled profession, farmers have been deliberately treated as non-skilled workers. Categorising farmers as skilled workforce has financial implications, including ensuring minimum wages, paying health expenses and also providing post retirement benefits. That’s why farmers are kept out.
Similarly, I find one of the biggest employment generating sectors – temples/churches/gurdwaras – to be outside the purview of skilled workforce. Those who join these religious institutions are also skilled, even if they don’t require an ITI diploma.
The definition of what constitutes a ‘skill’ therefore has to change. I see no reason why farmering, which employs 52 per cent of the population, should not be included as part of the skilled workforce. At the same time there is a dire need to launch a skill improvement programme for young farmers with adequate financial and institutional support to enable them to become start-ups and entrepreneurs. There is a much greater possibility to turn the young workforce in rural areas to learn avocations that can make them self-employed. This is specially required considering that nearly 81 per cent of the land holdings are below 2 acres, which means the young members of the small and marginal farm families need to be trained to supplement their income from non-farm activities.
Besides shifting the thrust of public investments to rural areas, what is also required is to provide proper incentives for bringing about a required change. A poor woman in a village who wants to rear a goat for creating a viable livelihood option too needs to be given incentives that are given to big industrial houses. She needs to borrow Rs 8,000 for buying a goat which comes from a Micro-Finance Institute (MFI) charging 24 per cent rate of interest. On the other hand, big industrial houses are often given credit at 0.1 per cent interest. If only the poor woman was to get the loan for buying a goat at 0.1 per cent I am sure she would be driving a Nanocar at the end of two years. Similarly, Farmer Producer Companies, which enables farmers to get into entrepreneurship, have to pay an interest of 30 per cent on the profits generated. Why can’t it be brought down to 15 per cent to begin with? 
Therefore, there is a dire need to change the focus of skill development programme. It cannot be only aimed at meeting the requirement of 30-crore cheap labour -- dhari mazdoors -- that the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) estimates the construction sector will require by 2022. Only a fraction of the jobs in the construction sector would need the kind of skills that the ITIs are known to train them for. More than 95% jobs in the construction industry are simply of daily wager workers.  Also, an ICRIER study shows that automation and increase in labour productivity destroyed 11.8 million jobs in the manufacturing sector in post reforms period. That’s a warning that cannot be ignored. #

*Rural India has to be the pivot of Skill India: Start with farmers. ABPLive.in July 19, 2015
http://www.abplive.in/author/devindersharma/2015/07/19/article655531.ece/Rural-India-has-to-be-the-pivot-of-Skill-India-Start-with-farmers?fb_ref=Default
Categories: Ecological News

See Neil Young’s Monsanto-Themed Mini-Documentary ‘Seeding Fear’

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 01:32

The story of a 4th generation farmer and seed cleaner who went toe to toe with Monsanto.

Neil Young took on the corporation Monsanto, which manufactures genetically engineered seeds for agriculture, on his recent record The Monsanto Years.

Now he has released a 10-minute short, Seeding Fear, which tells the story of a farmer named Michael White, who with his father Wayne, took on the corporation in court. The film was released by Shakey Pictures and co-executive-produced by “Bernard Shakey,” Young’s pseudonym.

A Kings Point Production
Presented by Shakey Pictures
Directed/Produced by : Craig Jackson
Edited by : Justin Weinstein and Craig Jackson

See Neil Young’s Monsanto-Themed Mini-Documentary ‘Seeding Fear’

By Kori Grow – Rolling Stone, 23 July 2015

Source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/see-neil-youngs-monsanto-themed-mini-documentary-seeding-fear-20150723

Ten-minute clip examines fight between farmer Michael White and GMO corporation

Neil Young releases documentary attacking Monsanto

The Guardian, 24 July 2015

Neil Young … ‘Family farms have been replaced by giant agri corp farms across this great vast country we call home.’ Photograph: John Locher/AP

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/24/neil-yooung-releases-documentary-attacking-monsanto

Singer puts out Seeding Fear on the same day as the House of Representatives passes bill to block compulsory labelling of GM foods

                          
Categories: Ecological News

How Monsanto wrote and broke laws to enter India

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 07/25/2015 - 01:47

By Dr Vandana Shiva — 21 July 2015

Source: http://vandanashiva.com/?p=260

Citizens of the United States are being denied the right to know what they are feeding their families. Despite the fact that 90% of American citizens want GMO labelling on their food, big business is doing everything it can to prevent people from accessing their rights. Representative Pompeo’s bill, popularly known as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), has been written almost entirely by the biotech industry lobby. While American citizens are advocating for their rights to knowledge and healthy, affordable food, Monsanto’s legal team is busy on every legislative level trying to prevent this from happening.

Monsanto’s subversion of democratic legal processes is not new. In fact, it is their modus operandi, be it the subversion of LA’s decision to be GMO free by amending the California Seed Law—equating corporations with persons, and making seed libraries and exchange of seed beyond 3 miles illegal— or suing Maui County for passing a law banning GMOs.

Decades before there was a “debate” over GMOs and Monsanto’s PR and law firms became the busiest of bees, India was introduced to this corrupting, corporate giant that had no respect for the laws of the land. When this massive company did speak of laws, these laws had been framed, essentially, by their own lawyers.

Today, Indian cotton farmers are facing a genocide that has resulted in the death of at least 300,000 of their brothers and sisters between 1995 and 2013, averaging 14,462 per year (1995-2000) and 16,743 per year (2001-2011). This epidemic began in the cotton belt, in Maharashtra, where 53,818 farmers have taken their lives. Monsanto, on it’s own website, admits that pink bollworm “resistance [to Bt] is natural and expected” and that the resistance to Bt “posed a significant threat to the nearly 5 million farmers who were planting the product in India”. 84% of the farmer suicides have been attributed to Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, placing the corporation’s greed and lawlessness at the heart of India’s agrarian crisis.

There are three outright illegalities to Monsanto’s existence in India.

First, Monsanto undemocratically imposed the false idea of “manufacturing” and “inventing” a seed, undermining robust Indian laws—that do not allow patents on life—and by taking patents on life through international trade law. Since 1999, Monsanto has had the US government do its dirty work, blocking the mandatory review of the Monsanto Law in TRIPS (the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement implemented through the WTO).

Second, since they do not have a patent for Bt-Cotton, Monsanto’s collection of royalties as “trait value” or as a “fee for technology traits” (IPR category that does not exist in any legal framework and was concocted by Monsanto lawyers to work outside of the laws of the land) is illegal. These illegal royalty collections have been collected from the most marginal farmers, pushing them to take their own lives.

Third, the smuggling of a controlled substance without approvals (and thus Monsanto’s very entry into India) is a violation and subversion of India’s Biosafety Regulations. This includes the illegal introduction of GMOs into the food system in India, which poses grave risks to the health of ordinary Indian citizens.

Illegal entry of Bt Cotton into India

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex body constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, is solely entrusted with the responsibility of approving field trials of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). India’s biosafety framework — one of the strongest in the world — is governed by The Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells (notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986).

Article (7) of The Rules stipulates:

Approval and Prohibitions etc.

(1) No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms of genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.

On 10 March 1995, MAHYCO (which became Monsanto-Mahyco in 1998) imported 100 grams of cottonseed that contained the MON531-Bt Gene into India without approval from the GEAC. MAHYCO, under undisclosed circumstances, had obtained permission from the RCGM (Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)), which does not have the authority to approve such an import. Without the approval of the governing body responsible for the approval of the import (GEAC) Monsanto had smuggled a controlled substance into India.

Article (4) of The Rules stipulates:

(4) Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)

This committee shall function as a body under the Department of Environment Forests and Wildlife for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. The Committee shall also be responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment.

Open field trials are a deliberate release of GMOs into the environment and, under the above Indian law, require approval by the GEAC. Eager to get to market and establish a monopoly in the cotton sector of India in 1998, Monsanto-Mahyco, without the approval of the sole agency allowed to grant permission for open field trials – the GEAC – started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt Cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states of India.

The eventual clearance, long after the commencement of these field trials, came once again from the Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), which is not authorised to grant clearance for field trials. RCGM’s mandate is restricted to guidelines for lab research. Without approval from the GEAC, Monsanto’s open field trials of Bt Cotton in 1998 were blatantly illegal and an act of biological warfare against India through genetic pollution.

Furthermore, no post harvest management and safety was ensured in these trials by Monsanto-Mahyco. Monsanto was not concerned with the findings of the trials at all; they just wanted GM seeds to be introduced into Indian soil and they did so without due process. GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled. In fact, genetically engineered cotton was sold in open markets. In some states, the trial fields were replanted the very next season with crops including wheat, turmeric, and groundnut, violating Para-9 on “Post harvest handling of the transgenic plants” of the Biosafety Guidelines (1994), according to which,the fields on which GMO trials were conducted should be left fallow for at least one year.

It was in the face of these violations of Indian laws and the risks of genetic pollution India faced, that the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India in 1999 against Monsanto and MAHYCO. Clearly, Monsanto and MAHYCO had violated the 1989 rules for the use of GMOs under the Environmental Protection Act (1986). The government had allowed Monsanto to carry out field trials without the mandatory scientific biosafety tests.

Without waiting for the outcome of the petition pending in the Supreme Court – around President Bill Clinton’s visit to India – in March 2000 the Department of Biotechnology gave biosafety clearance to Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, and in July 2000 the GEAC cleared large-scale field trials of Bt Cotton despite the pending Supreme Court case. This was two years after Monsanto first started illegal trials. CD Mayee, Co-Chairman of the GEAC, also became the first Indian board member of ISAAA, a biotech evangelist group, in 2006. He is the chairman of the sub-committee on Bt Cotton of the GEAC, and interestingly, also sits of on the Agriculture Ministry’s Committee on Endosulfan, an insecticide with acute neurotoxin properties developed by Bayer CropScience, which is a major funder — along with Monsanto — of ISAAA.

Monsanto Bt Cotton seeds had not yet been cleared for commercial release. While the RFSTE case against Monsanto was still in the Supreme Court of India, Monsanto reported to the GEAC, in 2001, that Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd., a company in Gujarat, was selling Navbharat 151 seeds, which had the MON531 Bt gene. This was not a cowboy company selling on the black market. This was a company with enough Bt Cotton seeds for the 10,000 Hectares of Navbharat 151 planted at the time. On Monsanto’s complaint, the GEAC started an investigation, carried out by the two-member team of CD Mayee and T.V. Ramanaiah (from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT)), who found Bt traits in the cotton. A case was filed in Gujarat against Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd.

Post investigation, the GEAC ordered all standing crops of Navbharat 151 to be uprooted and destroyed along with seed production plots due to the major risks posed by Bt. In a submission to the court, the GEAC stated:

“12 (i) The crop which is standing may pass to the soil that modified genes which it contains. The effect on soil microorganisms can not be estimated and may cause an irreversible change in the environment structure of the soil. It is a standard practice to uproot crops which pose such a threat. The destruction by burning is to ensure safety to environment and human health and to obviate any possibility of cross-pollination.

(ii) The destruction of the cotton produce as well as seeds harvested from this plant is also equally necessary. The cotton which has been produced is genetically modified cotton, the effect of which i.e. allergenicity and other factors on mammals are not tested. The precautionary principles would require that no product, the effect of which is unknown be put into the market stream. This cotton which in appearance is no different from any other cotton will intermingle with ordinary cotton and it will become impossible to contain its adverse affect. The only remedy is to destroy the cotton as well as the seeds produced and harvested in this manner.

(iii) Since the farmers are being put to a loss, the further process to determine the compensation payable to farmers, who have unwittingly used this product has to be determined and undertaken.

13. I would respectfully submit that every day of delay in this matter poses a threat to the environment.”-

Having just concluded that Bt was dangerous and all of it had to be uprooted and burned, a few weeks later the GEAC approved the commercial release of Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech (MMB) Bt Cotton.

The national farmers unions made a joint petition to the GEAC and asked for an inquiry committee to be set up and liability and compensation fixed on the basis of the “polluter pays” principle. Since Monsanto-Mahyco is admittedly the source of the GM pollution, they, along with Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd, which has further spread the pollution, are jointly liable for the pollution caused.

Monsanto’s Bt Cotton has also found its way into edible vegetable oils in India.

In a government document, the Department of Biotechnology states:

cotton seeds can be toxic if ingested in excessive quantities because of the presence of anti-nutritional and toxic factors including gossypol and cyclopropenoid fatty acids.

but then goes on to say in the next sentence:

the oil and linters are used as premium vegetable oils and as cellulose dietary additives for human consumption, respectively. Traditionally, whole cotton seed is used as cattle feed in India. However, the increase in demand of edible oils has necessitated processing of cotton seed for its oil. Therefore, cotton seed oilcake/meal after extraction is now used as cattle feed.

Monsanto’s Bt Cotton, without the support of necessary precautions and scientific studies, has illegally found its way into the Indian food chain, endangering the health of 1.26 billion Indians. The health effects of Bt Cotton seed oil in “premium vegetable oil”(as the DBT calls it) must be investigated, and the damage to people’s health must be compensated by Monsanto.

Monsanto’s illegal collection of super-profits as royalties

India’s laws do not permit patents on seeds and in agriculture. But that hasn’t stopped Monsanto from collecting close to USD 900 million from small farmers in India, pushing them into crushing debt. This is roughly the same amount of money Monsanto spent buying The Climate Corporation — a weather big data company — in a bid to control climate data access in the future.

Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech Ltd collected royalties for Bt Cotton by going outside the law and charging “technology fees” and “trait value”. These are just clever names for royalty collection. In 2006, out of the INR 1600 (per 450 grams) price tag, INR 1250 — almost 80% — was charged by MMB as the trait value. Compared to Bt Cotton, local seeds used to cost INR 5-9 per kg before Monsanto destroyed alternatives, including local hybrid seed supply, through licensing arrangements and acquisitions.

In January 2006, the Andhra Pradesh Government filed a complaint with the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) against Monsato-Mahyco Biotech (MMB), accusing MMB of overpricing genetically modified Bt Cotton seeds. The Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology had to intervene in the MRTPC case. In its submission, the Andhra Pradesh Government pointed out that Monsanto charged only about INR 400 for the same packet of seeds in China and only about INR 200 in the US – 9 times less than the amount they were forcing Andhra Pradesh farmers to pay. MMB said the royalty it charged reflected its research and development costs for Bt Cotton, admitting that they were charging Indian farmers royalty and that for some reason, Indian farmers owed them more for their research and development than farmers in the US.

On 10 May 2006, the MRTPC ruled in favour of the Andhra Pradesh government and directed MMB to reduce the trait value it was unfairly charging the farmers of Andhra Pradesh. Following this, on 29 May 2006, the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Commissioner fixed the price of Bt Cotton seeds at INR 750 for a 450-gram packet, and directed MMB and its sub-licensees to comply with its order. Monsanto challenged the Andhra Pradesh Government and the MRTPC’s decision in the Supreme Court, saying that the government’s move was illegal and arbitrary. The Supreme Court did not stay the MRTPC’s order, but while the appeal was pending before it, five states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh (now Maharashtra as well)— followed Andhra Pradesh’s lead and ordered that Bt Cotton should be sold at a reduced price, dealing a blow to the inflated profits Monsanto was taking from Indian peasants and repatriating to their headquarters in St Louis.

To side-step price control measures and avoid any regulation that had been applied to Bt Cotton, which was marketed in India as Bollgard, Monsanto introduced Bollgard II, its apparently ‘upgraded’ version with two Bt proteins. Monsanto’s intentional scientific ignorance (despite the availability of scientific studies at the time) is obvious. GMOs which release the Bt toxin in high doses in every cell of every plant are highly toxic to pollinators and friendly insects and are a recipe for creating super pests through the emergence of resistance. The pink bollworm underwent what every intelligent being does – it evolved – it became resistant to Bt. On it’s website, Monsanto admits, “Measures to delay resistance are critically important” and “application of insecticide sprays during the crop season, and proper management of crop residue and unopened bolls after harvest will help limit insects in cotton fields”. What are farmers being made to pay for if normal bollworm control measures are still required, they are still expected to buy and spray insecticides, and 80% of the cost of the seed goes for failed R&D?

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/india-pink-bollworm.aspx

-

Monsanto admitted that the pink bollworm was resistant to Bollgard and claimed Bollgard II, with it’s two Bt proteins would control the bollworm epidemic. This allowed Monsanto to continue looting marginalised small farmers. By claiming Bollgard II was better technology than the first version, Monsanto was able to mislead farmers and charge even higher prices. (Oblivious to it’s earlier Bt failures, Monsanto is currently working on a 3-protein Bt variety to continue it’s looting)

And Monsanto still claims Bt Cotton is resistant to Bollworm, and have all their hired mouthpieces claim that there is reduced pesticide usage due to this inherent trait. In reality, requirements of pesticide increase every year with Bt Cotton. Clearly misrepresenting their lacklustre product, the only reason for the existence of Bt Cotton is royalties. Monsanto itself is on record at the 52nd Meeting of the GEAC (held on 4 March 2005) saying that Bt is not resistant to Bollworm.

“To a query on whether the Bt variety is resistant to bollworm complex or only effective against American Bollworm it was clarified that Bt cotton is tolerant to Bollworm and not resistant.”

Source: Minutes of the 52nd meeting of the GEAC

www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/geac-52.doc

This ruthlessness is central to the crisis Indian farmers are facing. Farmers leveraged their land holdings to buy Bt Cotton seeds and the chemicals it demanded, but the golden promise of higher yield and lower input costs failed to deliver. They were left with no option but to take their own lives. (Incidentally, CD Mayee was the chair of the GEAC subcommittee on Bt Cotton, which still monitors the performance of Bt Cotton, and his reports on the performance of Bt Cotton were, and still are, very different from the real experiences of the farmers driven to suicide by failed harvests and inferior quality cotton yield.)

In 2007 Andhra Pradesh was forced to introduce the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds Act to control the price of cottonseed, since Bollgard II prices were still astronomically high due to a majority royalty component.

The following Act of the Andhra Pradesh Legislature received the assent of the Governor in August 2007:

ACT No.29 of 2007

Short title and commencement

Definitions

An Act to Regulate the Supply, Distribution, Sale and Fixation of Sale Price of cotton seeds and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Whereas, cotton seeds of certain varieties are not notified under section 5 and consequently no sale of such seeds are regulated under section 7 of the Seeds Act, 1966;

And whereas, cotton seed is not an essential commodity within the meaning of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 as amended by the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2006;

And whereas, the provisions of the Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 issued under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 are not applicable in so far as they relate to the cotton seeds w.e.f. 12.2.2007;

And whereas, there is no provision in the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 to regulate the supply, distribution and sale of transgenic and genetically modified cotton seed and to control the sale price of such cotton seed in the State;

And whereas, the traders in cotton seed including transgenic cotton seed are exploiting poor farmers by collecting exorbitant prices;

And whereas, there is no provision to regulate the supply, distribution, sale of cotton seeds and to control the sale prices of such cotton seeds in the State;

And whereas, it has become imperative on the part of the State to regulate the supply, distribution and sale of cotton seeds by fixing the sale price in the interests of the farmers in the State;

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Andhra Pradesh in the Fifty-eighth Year of the Republic of India as follows :- 1. (1) This Act may be called the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds

(Regulation of Supply, Distribution, Sale and Fixation of sale Price) Act, 2007.
(2) It shall be deemed to have come into force on and from the 28th June, 2007.

This restriction on their profits did not sit well with Monsanto, which then challenged the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds Act. The Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology had to intervene in the case once more, which is still before the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

While Monsanto does not have a patent on Bt cotton in India, it goes outside the law to collect royalties as “technology fees”. Most of the 300,000 farmers suicides in India since 1995 (when the WTO came into force) are concentrated in the cotton belt. And 95% of the cotton in India is controlled by Monsanto.

Out of India’s 29 states, those with Bt Cotton have the highest suicide rates.

Source: http://ebrary.ifpri.org/utils/getfile/collection/p15738coll2/id/14501/filename/14502.pdf

Correlation is the first step to understanding causation. Monsanto does not see the above correlation because the next logical step would be to plead guilty for the deaths of all the farmers whose lives have been reduced to numbers on a table, or a bank account in St Louis.

Additionally, Monsanto knows that Bt Cotton is dependent on irrigation. Despite this knowledge, Monsanto has pushed its Bt Cotton into regions that depend solely on rainfall, as opposed to irrigation. These include Vidarbha in Maharashtra, where most cotton farms are less than 1 hectare and are dependent solely on rainfall. The costs of Bt cottonseed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton. The criminal negligence of knowingly setting up marginal farmers – who can’t afford to irrigate, and whose options for obtaining seeds have been acquired by Monsanto – for dire failure, cannot be ignored.
A recent research paper published by Environmental Sciences Europe concluded:

“[The] inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills. Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs). High-density short-season cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton. Policy makers need holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development.”

“Fourteen years after US multinational Monsanto brought the genetically modified (GM) Bt Cotton (Bollgard) to India, there is no clarity on the discovery having ever been patented in the country,” states a recent Times of India article. India does not recognise patents on life, including seeds. The royalties Monsanto has collected over the last fourteen years are based on a patent that does not exist, and is therefore, quite simply, theft. Monsanto is robbing the people who have the least, of the very last thing they can give – their lives.

Illegal patents on life through Monsanto’s laws in the WTO

In 1980 the US Supreme Court heard a case that is now famous for being the point in world history where life forms were first allowed to be patented – not only in the US, but through the WTO, in many other parts of the world. Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, a General Electric employee, had applied for a patent for a process of producing a bacterium capable of eating crude oil spills, and on the bacteria itself. The claim was rejected by the US Patent office, but on appeal, was granted by a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court.

“The decision of the Supreme Court in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303, 206 USPQ 193 (1980), held that microorganisms produced by genetic engineering are not excluded from patent protection by 35 U.S.C. 101

4. “This is not to suggest that § 101 has no limits or that it embraces every discovery. The laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas have been held not patentable.”

5. “Thus, a new mineral discovered in the earth or a new plant found in the wild is not patentable subject matter. Likewise, Einstein could not patent his celebrated law that E=mc2; nor could Newton have patented the law of gravity.”

Source: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2105.html

Genetic engineering has not been able to deliver on its promises – it is just a tool of ownership. Bt Cotton is not resistant to Bollworm, RoundUp Resistant varieties have only given rise to super weeds, and the new promises being made by biotech corporations of bio-fortification are laughable. There is no benefit to things like Golden Rice. By adding one new gene to the cell of a plant, corporations claimed they had invented and created the seed, the plant, and all future seeds, which were now their property. Monsanto does not care if your cotton field has Bollworm infestations, just so long as the crop can be identified as theirs and royalty payments keep flowing in. This is why the failure of Bt Cotton as a reflection of bad science does not bother them – the cash is still coming into St Louis. At its core, genetic modification is about ownership.

In 1981, shortly after the precedence of life forms being patented had been set in the US, Monsanto, which was a chemical company at the time, decided – as it lays out on it’s own website – that biotechnology would be its strategic research focus in the future. Selling chemicals requires raw materials that eat into profit. Intellectual Property, on the other hand, just pays. In the decade and a half since 1981, with this new “strategic research focus” and all the R&D dollars you can imagine, Monsanto has only been able to produce failures – failures that pay royalties from all across the world.

Monsanto saw that by claiming ownership of life forms, especially seed – the first step in the food chain – and destroying alternatives or making them illegal, would allow them to charge royalties for the source of food, fibre and fuel. It was easy money, and a lot of it. The limited achievements of Monsanto’s research focus have not given us better cotton, corn, canola or soya – they’ve merely made it all theirs.

Monsanto required new forms of property rights, inspired by the US Supreme Court, to be able to claim as an invention that which is not invented by them – seed and life forms. This was achieved through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), working closely with the US Government and with the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.
Patents are granted for inventions, and give the patent holder the right to exclude everyone from the use or marketing of a patented product or process. Over the last two decades, patent laws have taken a different direction under the influence of corporations like Monsanto, from protecting the interests of genuine inventions and ideas to ownership of life and control over survival essentials like seed and medicine.

James Enyart of Monsanto is on record illustrating just how deeply the TRIPs agreement is aligned to corporate interest and against the interests of nations and their citizens:

“Industry has identified a major problem for international trade. It crafted a solution, reduced it to a concrete proposal and sold it to our own and other governments… The industries and traders of world commerce have played simultaneously the role of patients, the diagnosticians and the prescribing physicians.”

Corporations defined a problem – farmers saving seed – so that they could forcefully open the market. In turn, they offered a solution, and the solution was the introduction of patents and intellectual property rights on seed, making it illegal for farmers to save their seed. This is how the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement of the WTO was born. For the US Government, with an economy where the manufacturing industry was slowing, the idea of royalties coming in to fuel the economy was perfect.

Article 27.3 of the TRIPs Agreement states:

3. Members may also exclude from patentability:

(a) diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals;

(b) plants and animals other than micro-organisms, and essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes. However, Members shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof. The provisions of this subparagraph shall be reviewed four years after the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement.

This is the Monsanto Law of the TRIPS Agreement. Drafted by Monsanto lawyers and riding on the US taxpayer’s dollar, it bulldozes the world leaving behind nothing but royalty liabilities.

Section 3(b) of Article 27 is what is cleverly designed to be a trojan horse and to prohibit the free exchange of seeds between farmers, threatening their subsistence and their ability to save and exchange seeds. Shooting a gene into an organism through a gene gun is not a biological process. A seed growing into a plant that gives seed is a biological process. But the non-biological process of the insertion of a gene is patentable according to Article 27.3(b). Genetic engineering has been defined as “non-biological” and/or “microbiological” by the same lawyers that put the Monsanto Law into the TRIPS agreement, allowing the patentability of seeds and other life forms through genetic manipulation.

Objections to the Monsanto Law were raised owing to the basic idea that life cannot be patented.

India, in its submission, stated:

Clearly, there is a case for re-examining the need to grant patents on lifeforms anywhere in the world. Until such systems are in place, it may be advisable to:- (a) exclude patents on all lifeforms

The African group stated:

The African Group maintains its reservations about patenting any life forms as explained on previous occasions by the Group and several other delegations. In this regard, the Group proposes that Article 27.3(b) be revised to prohibit patents on plants, animals, micro-organisms, essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals, and non-biological and microbiological processes for the production of plants or animals. For plant varieties to be protected under the TRIPS Agreement, the protection must clearly, and not just implicitly or by way of exception, strike a good balance with the interests of the community as a whole and protect farmers’ rights and traditional knowledge, and ensure the preservation of biological diversity.

Due to the strong objections raised at the WTO it was decided that the Monsanto Law (TRIPs clause on patents on life) would be due for a mandatory review within the first 4 years of the WTO – by 1999. The review of the clause on patents on life has been blocked and subverted for the last 16 years by Monsanto and the Monsanto-friendly government of the United States, to protect the royalties that are moving money from impoverished farmers world over to the United States of America.

This is not for the benefit of the US as a nation. The illegal royalties collected do not benefit citizens of the US. In fact, the liberties and basic human rights of the citizens of the US are being restricted by this royalty-hungry monster, just like those of the Indian cotton farmer. There is an attempt, in the US, by Monsanto and the aiding US Government, to deem all non-patented seed illegal – even the tomato you have in your garden. And all this is being done in the name of “protecting and maintaining the food sources of America.”

Since 1991, when the draft text of the WTO agreements was leaked, the National Working Group on Indian Patent Law worked with Parliament and the government to ensure that public interest was protected in any amendment made in India’s patent laws in order to make India’s IPR regime TRIPS-compliant. Methods of agriculture and plants were excluded from patentability in the Indian Patent Act to ensure that seed, the first link in the food chain, was held as a common property resource in the public domain and farmers’ inalienable right to save, exchange and improve seed was not violated. And only process patents (patents on processes) were allowed in medicine.

When India amended her Patent Act, safeguards consistent with TRIPS were introduced based on a scientific definition of “invention”.

Article 3 defines what is not patentable subject matter.

Article 3(D) excludes as inventions “the mere discovery of any new property or new use for a known substance”.

This was the article under which Novartis’s patent claim to a known cancer drug was rejected. This is the article that Novartis tried to challenge in the Supreme Court and lost.

Article 3(J) excludes from patentability “plants and animals in whole or in any part thereof other than microorganisms; but including seeds, varieties, and species, and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals”.

This was the article used by the Indian Patent Office to reject a Monsanto patent on climate resilient seeds and is also why farmers in India are, at the very least, safe from Monsanto lawyers, unlike the thousands of farmers across the world like Bowman, Steve Marsh and Percy Schmeiser being sued by Monsanto for being farmers.

India’s patent laws, based on good science and drafted by conscientious people, get in the way of Monsanto’s royalty collections, if only on paper. The US Government, under the influence of Monsanto, has been pressurising countries like India to change their patent regimes to fit into Monsanto’s plan, meanwhile subverting the review of the Monsanto Law, though it has legally been obligated to do since 1999.

In 1996 the US Government brought a case in the WTO against India due to the “alleged absence of patent protection for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products in India.” It was to ensure protection of Monsanto’s royalties on seeds and its carcinogenic Glyphosate molecule. Monsanto was attempting to subvert the democratic laws of India using the US Government to strong arm India, as it is doing even today. US President Obama’s recent trip to meet Indian Prime Minister Modi in India was, aside from a show of wardrobe, intended to pressurise India into changing its IPR regime to better suit American industry. The proposed changes are in no way designed to foster innovation within India, for which Indian laws are quite good.

India’s sovereignty is under attack by Monsanto. American citizens’ rights to garden in their backyards with seeds they freely exchange with one another are under attack by Monsanto. African farmers’ livelihoods are under attack by Monsanto. The world’s food system is under attack by Monsanto. Hundreds of thousands of Indian cotton farmers have died under attack from Monsanto. It is a war being waged to profit from every grain of corn and soya, rice or banana you eat. The citizens of the world are victims of this war, from the US and Argentina to India, across the Pacific through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and across the Atlantic through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

If a country other than the US was blocking and subverting the review of the Monsanto Law, that country would have been bombed by drones a long time ago. It is time to tell the US Government to stop being a Monsanto Government writing laws on behalf of Monsanto at home and imposing them worldwide. It is time for the US government to stop being a rogue nation and stop blocking the mandatory review of TRIPS, the International Monsanto Law – even if it’s 16 years late. It is time to tell the US government to stop criminalising farmers who save seeds or whose seeds are contaminated by Monsanto.

Monsanto should be tried for its smuggling of a controlled substance into India and allowing genetically modified cottonseed oil into the premium vegetable oils of India, a country where GM is not allowed in the food system.

Monsanto must compensate farmers for royalties collected on the basis of an imaginary patent, and the reparations due for the hundreds of thousands of farmers it has killed by collecting illegitimate and illegal royalties. Life is priceless. Monsanto can never return the father or the husband it pushed to suicide. Corporations like Monsanto will never really understand the value of life unless we put a dollar figure to the debt the widows and the children of the dead are owed. Insurance statisticians have put the life of a “prime aged worker”, in the US, at a median value of USD 7 million. 84% of 300,000 suicides, 252,000, are directly attributed to Monsanto’s Bt-Cotton. By this calculation, Monsanto, in addition to the illegal royalties collected, owes the families of ‘prime aged’ working farmers in India an amount of USD 1.764 Trillion. We must ensure reparations are made and Monsanto does not shrug it’s responsibilities by changing it’s name, buying Syngenta, or any other corporate tax evasion/liability reducing tricks it’s lawyers conjure up.

Internationally Monsanto must be tried for its crimes against nature, people, science and knowledge, freedom and democracy. Our governments need to start working for their citizens instead of Monsanto, and the mandatory review of the Monsanto Law of the TRIPS agreement must be done if the US values ‘freedom’.

We need to have reverence for nature and ecological justice must be served. Reparations, for the genocide in India, in accordance with International Law, are due.

VII. Victims’ right to remedies

11. Remedies for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law include the victim’s right to the following as provided for under international law:

(a) Equal and effective access to justice;

(b) Adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered;

(c) Access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.

We must end Monsanto’s colonisation, it’s enslavement of famers – for whom the only escape from the Monsanto treadmill is suicide. We must not allow Monsanto to profit from the loss of innocent lives. Private enterprise cannot be allowed to profit from global public risk. Real lives are more valuable than fake patents. This illegal takeover of our food, our seeds and our democracies, and the killing of farmers must be stopped.

Sign the Declaration on Seed Freedom

And you can sign the open letter to President Obama and PM Modi here.

Further information:

DARK Act

Food Sovereignty

Seeds of Doubt Monsanto never had Bt cotton patent

Price Control on Bt Cotton Seeds in India: Impact on Seed Providers

Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India – Reviewing the Evidence

MRTP Verdict against Monsanto hailed.

Behind India’s ‘Epidemic’ Of Farmer Suicides

Chronology of Bt Cotton in India

Bombay HC upholds Maharashtra Seed Act, delivers blow to industry

Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides

How India became a Bt Cotton Country

Farmers suicide rates soar above the rest

UCLA – 300,000 Farmers Suicides

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Vandana Shiva — Why Do I Care about Climate

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 15:08

On the occasion of the Summit of Conscience, July 21 in Paris, Dr Vandana Shiva shares her commitment to the fight against global warming.

Webpage with more details: https://www.whydoicare.org/en/temoignage_view?temoignage=07d8e73f45d74badad5f13adc7c5d1ad

Taking part in the Summit of Conscience, which was held on July 21st in Paris, several well-known personalities share why they care about climate. Why get mobilized for it? Why is it important for them?

Find all videos on https://www.whydoicare.org/en/home and share the reason why you do care too.

#WhydoIcare

Learn more


The Summit of Conscience in 3 minutes

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Video: the Summit of Conscience

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July 21st in pictures

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Categories: Ecological News

Farmers suicide statistics is a reflection of the terrible agrarian crisis that prevails in India

Ground Reality - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 10:33


Despite all efforts to paint a rosy picture, the latest compilation of farmer suicide statistics for 2014 by the National Crime Record Bureau clearly brings out the dark underbelly of Indian agriculture. With 12,360 farmer suicides recorded in 2014, it only shows that one farmer commits suicide somewhere in the country every 42 minutes.
Although the NCRB has made a valiant effort to segregate the farm suicides figures into two categories – farmer, and agricultural workers -- to show that farm suicides rate has fallen by 67 per cent, the fact remains that historically farm labourers have been counted as part of the farming category. Adding both the figures – 5,650 farmers and 6,710 agricultural workers – the death toll in agriculture for 2014 comes to 12,360, which is higher by 5 per cent over the 2013 farm suicide figures.
The serial death dance on the farm is a grave reflection of the terrible agrarian crisis that continues in farming for several decades now. While every successive government – both at the centre and in the States – have made tall promises to resurrect agriculture, the swing in farm suicide figures shows the callous and deliberate neglect of a sector that employs 60-crore people. Farmers have been very conveniently used for only two political purposes – as a vote bank and as a land bank.
Not showing any signs of petering off, a renewed spurt in suicides is now been witnessed in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana for the past few months.
In 2014, the NCRB data tells us that a third of the total suicides – 4,004 – took place in Maharashtra, followed by Telengana with 1,347 suicides. Reading between the lines, it becomes apparent that there is a visible effort to downplay the suicide figures by almost all states, including Punjab, the food bowl of the country. This follows a trend that Chhatisgarh started in 2011 when it started showing zero farm suicides. After record zero suicides for 2011, 4 in 2012 and again zero in 2013, Chhattisgarh now shows a sudden jump in farm suicides to 755 in 2014.  
In Punjab, as per NCRB data, only 22 farmers committed suicide in 2014. Add agricultural workers, and the final suicide toll comes to 64. This is a gross under-reporting of the real situation that exists. Panchayat records in just four villages of Sangrur and Mansa districts in Punjab show 607 suicides in past five years, with 29 deaths recorded between November 2014 and April 2015. Similarly, in Maharashtra, the Vidharbha Jan Andolan Samiti has contested the NCRB data. Several gaps in the counting methodology, including difficulty in putting women deaths in the farmer category since the in most cases the land is not in their names has time and again been brought out.
Indebtedness and bankruptcy (22.8 per cent) tops the reasons behind these suicides; followed by family problems (22.3 per cent) and 19 per cent because of farming related issues. Growing indebtedness of course has been considered to be the major reason behind the serial death dance being witnessed on the farm. According to a study conducted by Chandigarh-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) – the average farm debt has multiplied 22 times in the past decade in Punjab. From 0.25 lakh per household in 2004 it has gone upto Rs 5.6 lakh in 2014. Chhattisgarh tops the chart with an average debt of Rs 7.54 lakh, followed by Kerala with Rs 6.48 lakh household debt.
The total debt that farmers carry in Punjab is almost 50 per cent higher than the State’s GDP from agriculture. At the same time, another study by CRRID shows that 98 per cent of rural families in Punjab are indebted, and the average debt is 96 per cent of the total income a household receives. If this is the situation in Punjab, imagine the plight of farmers elsewhere in the country.
Why farm indebtedness has been steadily on a rise has never been studied beyond find out how much lending is coming from the moneylenders who are known to charge exorbitant interests. While lack of institutional finance is a limitation, it is the declining agricultural income that remains the major reason for growing indebtedness. Let me illustrate with a cost analysis of a typical farmers from Uttar Pradesh. As per the latest estimates of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), the net return from cultivating wheat in Uttar Pradesh has been worked out at Rs 10, 758. Since wheat is a 6-month crop, sown in October and harvested in April, the per month income for a farm family comes to Rs 1,793. If this is the level of income of a wheat farmer, I wonder what kind of livelihood security we are talking about when it comes to farmers.
I looked for more details. If the other crop farmer is growing is rice, the average net return for it has been computed at Rs 4,311. Add for rice and wheat, the total that a small farmer from a hectare earns is Rs 15, 669 or Rs 1,306 per month. With such meager incomes I can understand why a large number of farmers commit suicide at regular intervals. Those who are not so courageous either sell-off their body organs or prefer to abandon farming and migrate to the cities looking for a menial job as a dehari mazdoor.
This augurs well with the findings of the socio-economic survey which states that 67-crore people in the rural areas are surviving on less than Rs 33 a day. Several other studies have shown that roughly 58 per cent farmers go to sleep hungry, and close to 62 per cent hold a MNREGA card. Instead of pushing under the carpet the grave agrarian crisis that persists, the NCRB data should actually help the government to formulate policies to reverse the suicide trends. If 1,000 suicides in the armed forces could prompt the Defence Ministry to take a series of steps to ameliorate the situation, I wonder why a human toll of close to 3 lakh farmers taking their own lives in the past 20 years has failed to shake up the successive governments? #
Categories: Ecological News

Why are Karnataka farmers being driven to suicides? Just look at their income levels from farming.

Ground Reality - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 13:07
When Chief Minister Siddaramaiha pleaded: “I beg farmers; I touch your feet and request you not to commit suicide. We will help you in all ways,” he was not only making a political statement but simply showing his exasperation at an unending serial death dance on the farm.
In what appears to be an unprecedented reflection of the severity of a continuing agrarian crisis, more than 50 farmers (and still counting) have taken their own lives since June. In fact, self-immolation by some farmers, a few of them even jumping in the burning sugarcane fields, is seen as an expression of extreme indignation against the apathetic and farmer-unfriendly agricultural policies of the state. Such has been the pace and spate of suicides that Karnataka has suddenly joined the category of farm suicide hotspots of the country.
Karnataka agriculture has always been on a boil. The bubble had to burst sooner or later.
Ignoring warning signals, successive governments had merrily pursued macro-economic policies wherein agriculture had simply disappeared from the economic radar screen. Repeated crop failures, growing indebtedness, and falling incomes had failed to draw attention to the worsening plight of the silently suffering farming community. While the simmering discontent brewing on the farm was very conveniently brushed under the carpet, Karnataka became a hub for emerging technologies and sophisticated equipments.
That such a pitiable situation should exist in a state which has given the country an idea to integrate the existing APMC markets through a common e-platform, defies economic logic. If establishment of a Rashtriya e-Market Services Private Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture with NCDX Spot Exchange, was helpful indeed I fail to understand why Karnataka farmers are not getting the right price for their produce. Already 55 of the 155 main market yards have been integrated into a single licensing system.
To understand why Karnataka farmers continue to be pushed into the never ending cycle of mounting indebtedness, I tried to take a deeper look to know the economic cost of production and incomes for some major crops. The best detailed cost analysis is provided by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) which has a countrywide mechanism to collect, aggregate and analyze agricultural statistics. What is shocking to know is that the net return for many crops is actually in the negative, which means farmers will only end up harvesting losses.
The latest CACP reports for 2014-15 Rabiand Kharif marketing seasons has tabulated gross and net returns based on average of actual costs incurred between 2009 and 2012. Accordingly, the net return from cultivating bajra per hectare is minus Rs 2,669; ragi is minus Rs 9,017; Groundnut minus Rs 843; and for Sunflower it is minus Rs 629. If the farmer is destined to harvest losses, given the low market price available in the absence of an assured procurement structure, I wonder what kind of technological and financial support can bail them out. Giving them more credit, even if it comes from institutional agencies/banks, will push them further into a death trap.
For other crops too, the economics does not look to be attractive enough. Let us first look at sugarcane, a crop for which outstanding cane arrears in Karnataka amount to a staggering Rs 1,300-crore. According to CACP, the net return from cane cultivation in Karnataka is Rs 86, 156 per hectare. This is the highest net income for cane recorded in the country. But sugarcane being a yearly crop, the net return is for a 12 month period, which comes to Rs 7,180 per month. When even this low income is not being paid in time considering the huge cane arrears; the farmer is left with little choice but to end his life. 
In case of cotton, the net income in Karnataka is Rs 14,700 per hectare. For paddy, the net income per hectare has been computed at Rs 10,835; Maize Rs 6,992; jowar Rs 1,604; Tur Rs 9142; for Gram Rs 3,699 and for Safflower Rs 57 only. Cotton is a 6-month crop, which means net income per month is hardly Rs 2,450.  Similarly, net income per month is very low for other crops. These low incomes compare well with the findings of the latest socio-economic survey 2011, which concludes that 67 per cent of the rural population lives on less than Rs 33 a day. The challenge for the state government therefore is to augment farm incomes just like it did for ragi. Providing a higher procurement price of Rs 2,000/quintal (Rs 500 more than the Centre), the state has procured 14 lakh quintals of ragi.
Since the Chief Minister is keen to do everything possible to help farmers, I have two immediate suggestions: 
1. Karnataka should set up a Farmers Income Commission with the mandate to work out a monthly assured income package that a farming family must receive given the geographical location of the farm as well as its production. Farmers are actually carrying the burden of providing cheap food for the population. This has to change. If a chaprasi can get an income of Rs 15,000 per month why a farming family should be made to survive in Rs 3,000 or less in a month?2. Just like for ragi, the procurement system needs to be expanded for other crops. Karnataka should make investments for setting up APMC markets in 5 kms vicinity of every village. Investments are also required for creating non-farm activities in the rural areas. This means shifting the policy focus to rural investments.   
Farmers deaths: Ire against apathetic, unfriendly agri policy. Deccan Herald, July 21, 2015.http://www.deccanherald.com/content/490426/farmers-deaths-ire-against-apathetic.html 
Categories: Ecological News

The Day My Food World Turned Upside Down

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 03:06

By Suzi Amis Cameron – Huffington Post, 10 July 2015

Bunches of carrots, broccoli and asparagus tied with string, still life (Luka via Getty Images)

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-amis-cameron/the-day-my-food-world-turned-upside-down_b_7740468.html

You might think you’ve reached the pinnacle of healthy, sustainable eating when you have your own small herd of goats. For 26 years, I’d paid close attention to what I was feeding myself and my family, on a mission to ensure that the people I loved the most had the best nutrition and healthiest food possible. We purchased grass-fed meat and free-range eggs, enjoyed plenty of fruits and vegetables from our organic garden, and even had fresh goat yogurt from our well-loved goats. We are incredibly fortunate to have the life we have, and I feel grateful every single day — yet I also wanted to make sure we were living a life of vibrant health.

The Turning Point
Then, about three years ago, a friend told me about the documentary Forks Over Knives. I watched it alone one afternoon, and for 96 minutes every truth I thought I knew about food and health unraveled. It gutted me on a physical and emotional level. One idea in particular shocked me: the revelation that we don’t actually need animal protein to be healthy. I was floored. I could hear the voice of my mother from childhood, “Drink your milk for strong bones, girls!” as we finished off a meal of meat and potatoes. For a girl raised in a big Oklahoma family, the idea that we didn’t need meat and dairy was a radical wake-up call and turned everything I thought I knew about healthy eating upside down.

And yet it was just the beginning. I learned that not only was it unnecessary for some people, but a diet based on animal products was linking to h higher rates of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

I felt betrayed by the misinformation I’d been fed — literally — for my entire life. I thought about how I’d been unknowingly urging these unhealthy foods upon my family for years, and I couldn’t wait for my husband, Jim, to see the film. Both of us have heart disease and cancer in our families, and I felt an urgency to share what I’d learned with him. My pulse was racing as we watched it together, Jim in complete silence the whole time. The stakes were so high, I felt, because it had literally changed the bedrock of my personal values, and I hoped that the information would hit him just as strongly.

Forging a New, Plant-Based Path
After the film ended, we walked to our kitchen and without missing a beat, Jim said, “We have to get rid of animals products in our home.” I was thrilled. Within 48 hours, we’d banished meat, dairy, eggs and fish from our kitchen, and completely overhauled our family’s diet. I realize this was an extreme and sweeping response, and that’s kind of how we roll–maybe a bit unrealistic for most!–yet there was still a big learning curve ahead.

I went on a fact-finding frenzy. I watched everything I could get my hands on. I spoke to nutritionists, doctors, and scientists. I read stacks upon stacks of books and articles (I am bit of a learning junky!).

And through this discovery process, I had another shock: Animal agriculture is devastating to our environment, and a major factor in climate change, water and air pollution, biodiversity loss and deforestation. In the last year, the United Nations has called for a move away from the consumption of animal products to reduce these impacts. And for the first time in history, the USDA is considering making the link in their nutritional guidelines between health, diet and the environment.

As a strong environmentalist, this knowledge made me more passionate than ever about doing my part by committing to a plant-based diet and actively sharing what I had learned with others.

Fast forward three years from the moment that Jim and I got up from that couch and committed ourselves to a new life without animal products, and I can’t believe the difference in our family. Our energy and health are off the charts. My husband and I are as fit as we’ve ever been. My younger children are close to the land through gardening and witnessing the miracle of a healthy ecosystem. My oldest son has changed his life path and moved into sustainable farming. And Jim and I have started a new organization, Food Choice Taskforce, to show the impact of animal agriculture on climate change and the environment.

All of us feel more empowered knowing that our food choices are making a difference in the world. Every single meal is an opportunity to eat for a healthier planet. And what is really cool is the discovery that what is good for the planet is good for you and good for animals. So it doesn’t matter why you decide to go plant-based, it’s a win-win-win all the way around.

And what about our wonderful goats? They eventually joined another herd and went to work helping with weed abatement in Santa Barbara, a career change that seems to suit them just fine.
3 High-Impact Actions that Can Cut Your “Foodprint” in Half

1. Choose plant-based foods often for a healthy planet, healthy body.
2. Buy delicious plant-based foods at farmers’ markets, community farms, and plant-based restaurants.
3. Raise your voice with MyPlate MyPlanet to link a healthy diet with a healthy planet with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Related Articles

Eat local, By Dr Vandana Shiva

The Asian Age, 14 July 2015
Join the Food Revolution – Create Food Smart Cities!

Related video

Forks Over Knives – Official Trailer

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

New study points to accumulation of formaldehyde in GMO soy

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 03:21
Systems Biology Group, International Center for Integrative Systems: GMO Soy Accumulates Formaldehyde & Disrupts Plant Metabolism, Suggests Peer-Reviewed Study, Calling For 21st Century Safety Standards

Study Concludes FDA GMO Approval Process is Flawed, Outdated, and Unscientific

PR Newswire, 14 July 2015

Source: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/systems-biology-group-international-center-for-integrative-systems-gmo-soy-accumulates-formaldehyde–disrupts-plant-metabolism-suggests-peer-reviewed-study-calling-for-21st-century-safety-standards-300112959.html

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — A new study published today in the peer-reviewed journal AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES reveals genetic engineering of soy disrupts the plant’s natural ability to control stress, and invalidates the FDA’s current regulatory framework of “substantial equivalence” used for approval of genetically engineered food (GMOs).

The study, led by Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, Ph.D., an MIT-trained systems biologist, utilizes his latest invention, CytoSolve, a 21st century systems biology method to integrate 6,497 in vitro and in vivo laboratory experiments, from 184 scientific institutions, across 23 countries, to discover the accumulation of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and a dramatic depletion of glutathione, an anti-oxidant necessary for cellular detoxification, in GMO soy, indicating that formaldehyde and glutathione are likely critical criteria for distinguishing the GMO from its non-GMO counterpart.

Dr. Ayyadurai stated, “The results demand immediate testing along with rigorous scientific standards to assure such testing is objective and replicable. It’s unbelievable such standards for testing do not already exist. The safety of our food supply demands that science deliver such modern scientific standards for approval of GMOs.”

“The discovery reported by Dr. Ayyadurai reveals a new molecular paradigm associated with genetic engineering that will require research to discover why, and how much formaldehyde and glutathione concentration, and what other cellular chemicals relevant to human and animal health, are altered. We need the kinds of standards Dr. Ayyadurai demands to conduct such research,” stated Dr. Ray Seidler, a former EPA Senior Scientist. “Formaldehyde is a known class1 carcinogen. Its elevated presence in soybeans caused by a common genetic engineering event is alarming and deserves immediate attention and action from the FDA and the Obama administration. Soy is widely grown and consumed in the U.S., including by infants fed baby food products, with 94% of soy grown here being genetically engineered,” declared Seidler.

The study concludes the U.S. government’s current standards for safety assessment of GMOs, based on the principle of “substantial equivalence,” is outdated and unscientific for genetically engineered food since it was originally developed for assessing the safety of medical devices in the 1970s. The current criteria for assessing “equivalence” considers only basic nutritional and superficial characteristics such as taste, sight, smell and touch, for declaring GMOs safe for human consumption, allowing them to be fast-tracked to market without independent scientific testing. If formaldehyde and glutathione were criteria, then the GMO would likely not be deemed “equivalent” to its non-GMO counterpart. This finding calls into question the FDA’s food safety standards for the entire country.

The publication of the paper coincides with release of a bulletin by the Obama Administration on July 2, 2015, calling for “Improving Transparency and Ensuring Continued Safety in Biotechnology.”

Ayyadurai shares, “This is not a pro- or anti-GMO question. But, are we following the scientific method to ensure the safety of our food supply? Right now, the answer is ‘no’. We need to, and we can, if we engage in open, transparent, and collaborative scientific discourse, based on a systems biology approach.”

The full study can be read here.

Contact Information:
Nathan Nye: nnye@fenton.com, (910)876-2601;
Alison Channon: achannon@fenton.com, (202)789-7752

SOURCE Systems Biology Group, International Center for Integrative Systems

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Eat local

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 07/15/2015 - 21:15

By Dr Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 14 July 2015

Photo source: https://youtu.be/lmJfDf9ABkI (screenshot)

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/eat-local-008 (See also: http://vandanashiva.com/?p=252)

Rebuilding the broken food system, its ecological cycles and the broken links between the city and the countryside means creating food-smart citizens who know what they are eating

We have an epidemic in India of food and lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, infertility and heart attacks with the number of diagnosed cases of cancer jumping from 8.2 lakh in 2004 to seven lakh cancer related in 2012. In 2010 alone, India spent $32 billion on diabetes care. Increasing number of scientists blame high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) for the exponential rise in diabetes across the country.

We are what we eat and when we eat food full of toxic chemicals, we pay the price with our health. Many pesticides, including DDT, are oestrogenic, meaning they mimic the female hormone, oestrogen, and oppose the action of the male hormone, causing male infertility. Studies show that 51 per cent of all food commodities are contaminated with pesticides.

Cancer has seen an increase of 30 per cent in the last five years. At a treatment cost of `10 lakh per cancer victim, this multiplies to $300 billion, or Rs 18 lakh crore. Around 60 per cent of all herbicides are known to derange thyroid function. In extensive studies reported in Poisons In Our Food by Navdanya, elevated levels of pesticides like PCB, DDE and DDT have been found in the blood of women suffering from breast cancer.

The cancer epidemic has spread wherever there is intensive use of chemicals in agriculture and dumping of toxic material by industries. A recent field survey by Navdanya revealed that in a single village, Gangnauli (Baghpat district), there are about 100 patients suffering from various types of cancer. And the cancer train that runs between Bathinda and Bikaner bears testimony to the dual tragedy farmers face in Punjab — first, of getting trapped in debt and being driven to suicide because of the costs of the toxic chemicals, and second, becoming victims of cancer caused by the same chemicals that got them into debt. This is the legacy of the Green Revolution — agriculture that cannot exist without these chemicals.

India needs a “Food Revolution” — a revolution where we connect farmers and city-dwellers not merely through technology, but in reality.

While you spend Rs 10 for a 50-gram packet of Lays, PepsiCo pays the potato farmers in West Bengal only Rs 0.5-1 per kg of potato — 0.02 per cent of your Rs 10 spent.

Out of Rs 28-30 charged for a kilo of potatoes in Delhi, the farmer in Uttar Pradesh gets Rs 0.63-Rs 2 per kg. The farmer who grows potatoes gets only 10 per cent of the cost we pay for a kg of potato.

While you pay Rs 55 for white sugar, your sugarcane farmers have received no payments from the mills for the last three years.

While you pay Rs 50 for a kg of branded aata, your farmer only gets Rs 14 and has spent a large share of that on buying chemicals, earning only Rs 1,645 per month per acre or Rs 51.15 per day.

The daily legal wage for skilled worker is Rs 423. An unskilled worker’s minimum wage is Rs 348.

A farmer growing a wheat monoculture earns Rs 3,100 per bigha of land. Farmers in what was till recently the prosperous belt of the Ganga basin are earning less than Rs 50 per day. If wheat farmers shifted from monocultures to growing diversity, their net income would be 200-300 per cent more.

Food-related disease epidemics are another dimension of this crisis. Nutrition reports for India show nearly 39 per cent of India’s children are wasted and stunted. The poor are malnourished because they have no access to nutritious food. Even amongst Indians who are better off, child malnutrition is high. The malnutrition of the middle classes is rooted in nutritionally deficient diet, increasingly based on processed and junk foods.

The Green Revolution, forced on India by the US, removed all considerations for health and nutrition, and focused only on increasing the use of agrichemicals and the production of commodities. This resulted in increased production of nutritionally empty commodities, full of pesticides and toxics, and reducing the availability of nutritionally rich foods.

Organic food is free of toxic chemicals that destroy soil health as well as our health. When you eat organic food, you take care of your own health and the health of the planet. Healthy soil is the most effective way of removing carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere and undoing the climate damage caused by petrochemicals used in chemical agriculture.

Food transported to long distances requires processing, lots of chemical treatment, refrigeration and packaging that contributes to pollution, diseases and climate change. All of this packaging ends up as mountains of garbage near or in our cities. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from “food miles” and methane from garbage dumps are contributing to climate change and destabilising the planet.

Eating local and creating a sustainable and healthy foodshed for your city means reducing food miles and toxics in the food chain. Eating local means we are connecting directly with our farmers and helping them shift to agriculture that allows them to grow biodiverse, safe, healthy food that we can have access to.

Rebuilding the broken food system, its ecological cycles and the broken links between the city and the countryside means creating food-smart citizens who know what they are eating and where their food comes from.

Farmers have been committing suicide because they are spending too much on chemicals and seeds and do not receive a fair price for what they produce through their hard work.

Ensuring that a fair share of what you spend reaches your annadata, you can help end farmers’ suicides. You can rejuvenate your health while rejuvenating the agricultural economy and the earth.

Join the food-smart city movement. Become a food-smart citizen.

Food-smart cities are healthy, green and fair!

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Lesson from the Greek tragedy. How long will India continue to follow the flawed austerity measures?

Ground Reality - Tue, 07/14/2015 - 10:17


The spillover from the Greek crisis may not hit the Indian shores. But it has grave lessons for India, which too blindly follows the never-ending austerity measures.
In India, the term austerity is not commonly used. Instead, successive Finance Ministers, policy makers, mainline economists and TV anchors harp on reducing the worrying levels of fiscal deficit, the gap between government earnings and expenditures. Among a series of measures that are often talked about to bring in fiscal consolidation, the focus remains invariably on trimming the social spending.
Every time a panel discussion opens on any aspect of the country’s economy, the ire of the panelists is on the wasteful subsidies – the burgeoning food subsidy, fertilizer subsidy, LPG subsidies – and a horde of other subsidies like cheaper train fares, and public sector investments in public health, education, agriculture etc. The task therefore is two-prone. First, to drastically cut down the so-called wasteful subsidies. Secondly, to reduce the outlays for various social sectors that directly impacts the majority population.  
The primary thrust of economic reforms is to cut down on social spending and shift the resources to corporate welfare. It is generally assumed that more financial support for corporate will lead to increased industrial output, increase in manufacturing, and growth in exports eventually leading to more job creation. Basing its flawed economic thinking on the failed concept of ‘trickle down’ the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has used the macroeconomic strategies to tie its debt restructuring plans with austerity.
Greece has shown that neither the concept of ‘trickle down’ nor the stringent austerity measures have helped. In India too, the results of the Social Economic and Caste Census 2011, which was unveiled by Finance Minister the other day, has conclusively shown that economic reforms have bypassed 70 per cent of the country’s population. With the highest income in 75 per cent rural households not exceeding Rs 5,000 per month, and 51 per cent households working as dehari mazdoor for their daily living, rural India presents a grim picture.   
As if this is not enough, the outlays for social sectors have been slashed by Rs 4.39- lakh crore in Budget 2015-16. This includes a huge cut in budgetary provisions for Women and Child Development, Panchayati Raj, Mid-day Meal and Drinking Water and Sanitation sectors. Take agriculture, which engages 60 per cent of the rural population. The total outlay for agriculture is less than that of MNREGA. No wonder agriculture is faced with a terrible agrarian crisis.
While the poor are getting the boot, the thrust of the economic reforms is to move the resources for corporate welfare. Not only in Europe, In India too massive hidden subsidies, direct grants and tax breaks for the corporate are doled out by both the Central and State governments. Since 2004-05, Corporate India has been given tax concessions to the tune of Rs 42-lakh-crore. In addition, State governments have been providing more tax rebates every year. For instance, Punjab has in the past 4 years given tax concessions to the tune of Rs 900-crore to the industry. Regardless of such massive doles to the industry, the thrust of fiscal consolidation remains on cutting social sector spending.
Some economists say Rs 48,000-crore that goes as LPG subsidy, which they term as wasteful subsidy, is enough to remove poverty from India for one year. If that is true, Rs 42-lakh-crore could have wiped out poverty from India for the next 84 years !
Such massive tax concessions (I am not counting hidden subsidies and direct grants) were expected to boost industrial output, increase exports and lead to more job creation. Nothing of the sort happened. In the past 10 years, while economic growth has remained at an average of 7.3 per cent or more, only 1.5-crore jobs were created against a requirement of at least 1.2-crore newer jobs every year. And despite such massive tax concessions, industrial debt is higher than the debt of all the State governments put together. On top of it, the non-performing assets of the industry is also zooming with Rs 3.5-lakh-crore written-off as bad debt in the past five years. Moreover, privatisation of health and education is cutting a big hole in the pocket of the average citizen.

It’s Corporate India that needs austerity. Fiscal deficit can be wiped out simply by withdrawing the tax concessions to the industry. Instead, the need is to invest more in human assets. The sooner we learn this, the quicker will we be able to avoid a Greek tragedy. #
Will India be able to avoid a Green tragedy? ABPlive.in July 9, 2015.http://www.abplive.in/author/devindersharma/2015/07/09/article644574.ece/Will-India-be-able-to-avoid-a-Greek-tragedy?fb_ref=Default
Categories: Ecological News

Rural India is poor. More reforms is not the answer.

Ground Reality - Sat, 07/11/2015 - 12:52

Rural poverty in India -- AFP photo
In what appears to be a damming indictment of the 5-year plans, launched in 1951, as well as the economic reforms process that began in 1991, the first-ever socio-economic survey has painted a dismal picture of rural India.
What emerges clear from the survey is that for 70 per cent of India’s 125-crore population, which lives in rural areas, poverty is the way of life.   
Rural India is poorer than what was estimated all these years. With the highest income of a earning member in 75 per cent of the rural households not exceeding Rs 5,000 a month, and with 51 per cent households surviving on manual labour as the primary source of income, the socio-economic survey has exposed the dark underbelly of rural India. Whether it was Garibi hatao or Shining India, all the talk of development has not enabled rural India to emerge out of poverty.
Whether we like it or not, poverty has remained robustly sustainable.
This socio-economic survey, undertaken for the first time in the country, defies all the tall claims made by successive governments on poverty reduction. Whichever way you measure it, and whichever way you decipher the survey findings as well as the emerging social trends, the extent of rural poverty exceeds all projections. The reason is obvious. All these years, the effort of mainline economists and policy makers has been to sweep rural poverty under the carpet. In fact, we were never honest in accepting the extent of poverty that existed in the country.
It was in 2011 that Supreme Court questioned the very basis of counting the number of poor. Prior to that, no mainline economist had ever raised a finger at the artificially kept low poverty line. At that time, Planning Commission was treating those earning less than Rs 17 a day in urban areas and Rs 12 in the rural areas as living in poverty. Supreme Court’s questioning happened 60 years after Jawaharlal Nehru had launched the first Five-Year Plan in 1951. In other words, for 60 years Indian planners had drawn poverty eradication programmes, sinking in lakhs of crores of rupees, not even acknowledging the magnitude of rural poverty situation they were trying to address.
By keeping the poverty line deliberately low, planners were simply trying to ensure that the plan outlay for rural development was kept a bare minimum. I have always been saying that the unrealistic poverty line, later adjusted after a nationwide uproar to Rs 32 for urban and Rs 26 for rural areas, would not even be enough for rearing a pet dog in the cities. For the rural areas, I challenged if any farmer could domesticate a cow within a daily expenditure of Rs 26. With such an inhuman poverty line I questioned time and again the relevance and purpose of the massive plan outlays which are sure to go awry. The rope to pull poor out of a quagmire of poverty and deprivation has to be long enough to reach them.
It is primarily by keeping the rope short, which means by keeping poverty line too low, the 12 Five -Year Plans attempts to remove poverty had failed. It is therefore time to revisit the strategy and approaches that have been followed all these years. Let’s admit our mistakes, and make a fresh attempt.
Take the case of agriculture. With 52 per cent of the population engaged in farming, which means 60-crore people, the government provided just Rs 1-lakh-crore in the 11the Five Year Plan, and Rs 1.5-lakh-crore in the 12th Five Year Plan. In other words, in 10 years, public sector investment transforming agriculture thereby impacting the livelihood of 60-crore people has been a meager Rs 2.5 lakh-crore. Whereas in the past decade, the industry has been given tax concessions to the tune of Rs 42-lakh-crore. This huge subsidy to the industry, if recovered, and invested in rural development programmes effectively could have wiped out poverty for 84 years as some estimates have suggested. If poverty can be removed for 84 years, I am sure you’ll agree that for all practical purposes poverty becomes history in India.
Now let us look at the economic reforms. It is almost 25 years since India opted for economic reforms in 1991. In these 25 years too, rural poverty has refused to recede. Against all studies and reports that pointed to a significant reduction in poverty, the socio-economic survey openly calls the bluff. Against the expectation of the percentage of population living in poverty sliding to about 21 per cent in the past decade, this survey shows that rural poverty is much higher, exceeding 30 per cent. Even this is a conservative estimate knowing that even the revised poverty line – Rs 47 a day in urban and Rs 32 in rural areas – is not enough.
In a market economy it is generally believed that poverty comes down when growth picks up. This is not true. Poverty has not come down in India in the past 10 years when the growth rate remained high at an average of 7.5 per cent. Pushing people out of agriculture, and providing job opportunities in the form of dehari mazdoor in the cities to be employed as cheaper contract labour in infrastructure projects is not employment generation. Nor is it a plausible way to pull people out of poverty. Already 51 per cent of the rural population is dependent upon daily wages. They are looking for jobs which are non-existent. Take the case of Tamil Nadu. As per MNREGA public data portal, more than 63 lakh households demanded employment under MNREGA in 2013-14. This constitutes 9 per cent of the households who are employed in manual labour. In any case, in the past 10 years, only 1.5-crore jobs have been created throughout the country against the annual turnout of 1.2-crore people who become eligible for employment.

In an era of jobless growth, the findings of the socio-economic survey needs a proper assessment and an honest appraisal. To use it to justify the push for a higher economic growth as the way forward would be a grave mistake, a historic blunder. #
Categories: Ecological News

Moody's is wrong: Reforms is not the solution to raise rural incomes

Ground Reality - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 16:56
Ratings agency Moody’s has at least got the first part right. Farm distress is pulling down economic growth. “India’s farm sector expanded only 0.2 per cent in 2014-15, data released by the government in May showed, and thereby depressing rural income growth.”
This is absolutely right. But where Moody’s has gone completely wrong is its effort to link rural slowdown with the slow pace of economic reforms. In a report ‘Inside India’ which is based on a poll conducted by Moody’s global credit research, the rating agency pointed to “sluggish reform momentum”. Harping again and again on “disappointing pace of reforms’’ has therefore become a usual but overused expression, which is turning out to be a nothing but a cliché.  
The problem with creditors (and credit ratings agency are supposed to operate on their behalf) is that they cannot look beyond reforms, which means cutting down on social security in the name of containing fiscal deficit. Such austerity measures have already created a socio-economic upheaval in Europe, and the crisis in Greece emanates from such faulty prescriptions. Even the IMF has reluctantly begun to accept that the ‘trickle down’ theory, the hallmark of global economic reforms, does not work anymore.
“Rural income growth has been struck in the mid-to-low single digits in 2015 to date, well off the 20 per cent plus rates clocked in 2011. Given the rural consumer price inflation came in at 5.5 per cent year-over-year in May, this means that rural wages are actually contracting in real terms,” the Moody’s report said. This certainly is a correct assessment. The lower the rural incomes, the less would be the capacity of the rural people to increase consumption as a result of which the demand for industrial as well as FMCG products decline. The wheels of economy come to a halt when rural wages decline.
Instead of pushing what is generally meant by reforms, what is urgently needed are measures that raise farm incomes to a higher level and at the same time attract more public investments in rural areas. The best way to do so is to raise the minimum support price (MSP) for farmers. The subdued hike in procurement price of rice by a mere Rs 50 per quintal, an increase of 3.67 per cent, is less than the 5.5 per cent rural consumer price inflation that Moody’s report point to. Similarly, the hike in wheat MSP is by Rs 50/quintal, a jump of 3.27 per cent, shows how deliberately farm incomes are being kept low. With such low farm incomes how does Moody’s expect a revival in rural incomes to the levels achieved in 2011? I would have therefore expected Moody’s to make a strong plea for raising the MSP for farm produce. But perhaps I was expecting too much.
This assumes significance in the light of a recent studiy highlighting the mounting rural indebtedness over the years. In his book Rural Credit and Financial Penetration in Punjab, Dr Satish Verma, RBI Professor at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) in Chandigarh, clearly shown how rural debt has been multiplying. In Punjab, the food bowl, the average cash loan per cultivator household has risen by a whopping 22 times in a decade. In just 10 years, the average debt per farmer has risen from Rs 0.25 lakh to Rs 5.6 lakh.
Incidentally, Punjab, ranks third in the country as far as farm debt is concerned. Chhattisgarh tops the chart with Rs 7.54 lakh, followed by Kerala at Rs 6.48 lakh.
Loading the farmer with more credit would surely help the sale of farm machines and equipment, which would add to the country’s growth, but is no reflection of the extent of agrarian distress that prevails. It is easy to say that “a sustained soft patch or India’s rural economy would weigh on private consumption and non-performing assets in the agriculture sector, a credit negative for the sovereign and banks,” but difficult to spell out an economic gateway from where the indebted farmer can exit. Moody’s reforms (like other rating agencies) have only pushed 600 million farmers deeper and deeper into a vicious cycle of credit, indebtedness and suicides.
Moody’s report also includes highlights from the first annual Moody’s and ICRA Credit Conference held in Mumbai in May. Well, if you invite only the creditors/investors to such conferences you certainly will not get a complete picture. #
* Moody's report is disappointing: Reforms is not the solution to raise rural incomes. ABPLive.in July 2, 2015. http://www.abplive.in/author/devindersharma/2015/07/02/article637033.ece/Moody%E2%80%99s-report-is-disappointing-Reforms-is-not-the-solution-to-raise-rural-incomes
Categories: Ecological News

Why Punjab is exporting wheat and importing wheat flour?

Ground Reality - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 17:12
Punjab, the food bowl of the country, is a net importer of wheat flour (atta). With wheat procurement touching 100 lakh tonnes this year, and with wheat stocks lying in the open for want of adequate covered storage, reports of atta being imported defies any economic logic. Punjab is the biggest contributor of surplus food in the country to the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
Reading a news report in the Hindustan Times: "Remove existing disconnect between farmers and markets’ (July 3), what caught my eye was a statement by the Financial Commissioner Development, Suresh Kumar, wherein he said that “despite being the food bowl of the country, we are a net importer of wheat flour (atta).” He was addressing an outreach programme for agro and food processing industry at Chandigarh.
I had always feared this. Knowing that most urban households in Punjab opt for atta from Madhya Pradesh, which is generally perceived to be devoid of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, there were enough reasons to believe that Punjabis were relying more on atta imports. The MP wheat at your nearest chakki is priced around Rs 32 a kg against Rs 23 a kg for the Punjab wheat and yet the market for MP’s Sharbati wheat is growing. There is also a huge demand for packaged and branded attawhich too is largely coming from outside.  
Whatever the reasons, the fact that Punjab had relied more on import of atta to meet the basic food needs of its people points to a lop-sided industrial development policy. Forty-five years have passed since Punjab took the lead to usher in the Green Revolution, and still failed to provide incentives to create adequate processing facilities. There used to be more than 400 flour mills, of which hardly 60 to 62 are operational now.
If only Punjab had created adequate processing facilities, both in small and large scale, it could have not only reduced the burden of carrying excess stocks year after year but also cut on resulting environmental costs besides generating employment. The unnecessary transportation of food adds on to food miles, a term that denotes the distance food travels before it reaches your table. Some years back, FCI had estimated that food travels roughly 1,500 kms before it reaches a distant household. By allowing wheat unnecessarily criss-cross across borders only adds to unwanted food miles and thereby multiplies costs.
Well-known economist Dr S S Johl had sometimes back calculated that the by exporting 18 million tonnes of wheat and rice from Punjab in 2003-04, the State actually exported 55.5 trillion litres of water. On an average 3,000 litres of water is required to produce 1 kilo of wheat. Localisation of environmental costs therefore is very important especially at a time when all studies point to a bleak water future for the grain bowl. Also, food processing industry as a policy imperative must be set up in and around the production areas.
At the national level, most of the wheat processing mills are situated in southern India whereas wheat cultivation is confined to northern and central regions. It is primarily for this reason that there is a growing demand from food processing industry to import wheat from Australia and Europe. The landed price of imported wheat in Chennai for instance is much cheaper than the wheat transported all the way from Punjab.
This year, the food processing industry has already contracted for imports of 500,000 tonnes of wheat from abroad. The proposed ITC wheat processing unit in Punjab having a capacity of one million tonnes is therefore a welcome initiative. More such wheat processing units are required.
Since consumer demand is gradually shifting towards safe food, if the increasing demand for MP atta is any indication, Punjab also needs to redirect its policy focus. Not only urban consumers, even farmers are known to keep aside a patch of their land for their own consumption in which they don’t douse the standing crops with chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  By encouraging people to buy chemical free wheat grown within the State, Punjab will considerably lessen its burden of carrying stocks. I have two suggestions:
1.   1. Punjab must identify and encourage farmers to shift to non-chemical farming. This should be considered as part of the crop diversification strategy. Like a compensatory package of Rs 4,000 per acre to those who volunteered to shift from paddy to maize, Punjab should provide Rs 4,000 per acre to those farmers who shift from chemicals to non-chemical farming systems.

2.    2. Since it takes 3-4 years and even more for any chemically farmed land to get the status of organic, the need is to market the produce as pesticides-free in the initial years. Much of the MP wheat that is sold in Punjab is just on faith and goes by the claims of chakki owners. People are not looking for organic certificates. The task therefore is to begin rather than debate on how to provide for certification.  Newspaper ads inviting consumers who want pesticides free wheat to pay an advance fee is another way that has been successfully tried at a number of places. # 
     Exporting wheat, importing wheat flour. Hindustan Times Chandigarh, July 4, 2015.     
Categories: Ecological News

Stupidity and Intelligence: Science, GMOs and Our Food

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 23:41
How industrial-scale farming is actually becoming anti-science.

By Dr Vandana Shiva – Common Dreams, 29 June 2015

The intelligence of both human farmers and the natural world itself, writes Dr. Shiva, “is being thwarted by the false construction of the living Earth as dead matter, to be exploited limitlessly for human control, domination and greed.” (Photo: fossen_42/flickr/cc)

Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/06/29/stupidity-and-intelligence-science-gmos-and-our-food

“Science” is derived from the scire – “to know”.

Each of us should know what we are eating, how it was produced, what impact it has on our health.

The knowledge we need for growing food is knowledge of biodiversity and living seed, of living soil and the soil food web, of interaction between different species in the agroecosystem and of different seasons. Farmers have been the experts in these fields, as have ecological scientists who study the evolution of microorganisms, plants and animals, the ecological web and the soil food web.

In industrial agriculture the knowledge of living systems is totally missing since industrial agriculture was externally driven by using war chemicals as inputs for agriculture. Soil was defined as an empty container for holding synthetic fertilizers, plants were defined as machines running on external inputs. This meant substituting the ecological functions and services that nature and farmers can provide through renewal of soil fertility, pest and weed control, and seed improvement. But it also implied ignorance of the destruction of the functions by the toxic chemicals applied to agriculture.

This complex knowledge of interacting, self-organizing, self-maintaining, self-renewing and self-evolving systems that farmers have had is now being confirmed through the latest in ecology. At the agricultural systems level, agroecology, not the mechanistic and blind paradigm of industrial agriculture, is the truly scientific approach to food production.

At the level of organisms, epigenetics and the new knowledge that cells are in constant communication with each other is leading to the emergence of a new paradigm of life as communication and intelligence. Living systems are not dead matter, assembled like a machine.

Yet in recent times only one kind of knowledge, the Mechanistic Reductionist paradigm based on seeing the world as a machine, and reduction of a system its parts, has been elevated to the status of science.

The emerging sciences of complexity and connectedness expose the oceans of ignorance in which the mechanistic fundamentalism is steeped. Because living systems are self-organized complexity—and not machines— knowledge of a small fragmented part in isolation of its relationships with the rest of the system, translates into not-knowing.

This epistemic violence is now being combined with the violence of corporate interests to viciously attack all scientific traditions, including those that have evolved from within Western Science and transcended the mechanistic world view.

Industrial-scale farming, in this way, is actually becoming anti-science.

No where is this more evident than in how reductionism has  been used to colonise the seed. Seed is self organized intelligence – it reproduces, it multiplies, and it constantly evolves. Farmers, specially women, have combined their intelligence with the intelligence of the seed, and through breeding as co-creation, they have domesticated wild plants, increased diversity to adapt to diverse climates and cultures. Additionally, they have improved both nutrition and taste as well as increased resilience, which is the evolutionary potential of the seed. Seeds have been improved on the basis of ecological and social criteria.

The rhetoric for taking over food systems and seed supply is always based on “Improved Seed.” But what is not mentioned is that industrial seeds are only “improved” in the context of higher dependence on chemicals, and more control by corporations.

The latest in the anti-scientific discourse of industrial agriculture is by reducing everything to “GMOs.”

Genetic Engineering is used to redefine seed as a corporate “invention” to claim patents and collect royalties. Farmers suicides in the cotton belt of India are directly related to the extraction of super-profits from farmers as royalty. And this is illegal since Monsanto never had a patent on Bt cotton.

It is claimed the GMOs will increase food production but the technology does not increase yields.

It is claimed that genetic engineering is a precise technology. This is false for four primary reasons. First, genetic engineering is based on the false assumption that one gene gives rise to one trait. Second, it is so imprecise that antibiotic resistance marker genes have to be added to even know if the gene was actually introduced in the cell of the plant and genes from virulent viruses have to be added to promote the trait being introduced. Third, because the genes come from unrelated organisms, and include bacterial and viral genes, there are unknown impacts on the organism and the ecosystem in which it is introduced. This is why there are multidisciplinary sciences involved in Biosafety, and an international UN law to regulate GMOs for their Biosafety impact called the Cartagena Protocol to the Convention on the Conservation of Biodiversity.

Fourth, the anti-scientific claim that GMOs are accurate and selection and conventional breeding are inaccurate ignores the intelligence of plants and of farmers which is at play in evolution. In fact, the emergence of antibiotic resistance indicates the intelligence of bacteria to evolve under the pressure  of antibiotics. Bacteria, as intelligent beings, are remaking themselves in response to antibiotics. The emergence of superpests resistant to Bt toxin in plants, and superweeds resistant to Roundup with the spread of Roundup Ready GMOs indicates the intelligence of insects and plants to remake themselves under the pressure of toxins associated with GMOs which are designed to kill them. But it is precisely on the denial of intelligence of humans and other species that the edifice of mechanistic reductionism is based.

“Intelligence” is based on the Latin inter legere – “to choose”. From the slime mold and bacteria, to plants and animals, including humans, intelligence is the choice we make to evolve in order to respond to changing contexts. Life is a cognitive system, with communication constantly taking place in a network on non-separable patterns of relationship. Living beings innovate all the time to deal with environmental challenges that face them. As evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin says, “The characteristic of a living object is that it reacts to external stimuli rather than being passively propelled by them. An organisms life is constant mid-course corrections.”

As a species, we as humans are falling behind the slime mold and bacteria to make an intelligent response to the environmental threats we face. And our intelligence is being thwarted by the false construction of the living Earth as dead matter, to be exploited limitlessly for human control, domination and greed.

The mid-course correction we need is to move beyond the mechanistic paradigm, and beyond exploitation which is manipulating not just living organisms, but knowledge itself.

It is claimed that the Bt toxin in GMOs degrades, but it has been found to survive in the blood of pregnant women and fetuses. It is claimed that Roundup and Roundup Ready crops are safe for humans because humans do not have the shikimate pathway. This is outright violence against science. Ninety percent of the genetic information in our body is not human but bacterial. Out of the 600 trillion cells in our body only 6 trillion are human, the rest are bacterial. And bacteria have the shikimate pathway. The bacteria in our gut are being killed by Roundup leading to serious disease epidemics, from increasing intestinal disorders to neurological problems such as the increase in occurrence of autism and Alzheimers. The soil, the gut and our brain are one interconnected biome – violence to one part triggers violence in the entire inter-related system. The US Centers for Disease Control data shows that on current trends one in two children in the US could be autistic in a few decades. It is not an intelligent species that destroys its own future because of a distorted and manipulated definition of science.

As Einstein had observed: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

What needs to be done in boosting domestic production of pulses

Ground Reality - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 13:12


As dal prices go on an upswing, a harried government is trying to focus on increasing domestic production. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon farmers to grow more pulses to reduce the dependence on imports, he was not only voicing concern over the rising import bill, but also wanting the country to become self-sufficient in pulses production.
Prime Minister is right. All efforts to increase production of pulses in the past few years have not borne fruit to the extent desired. Although domestic production had reached a high of 19.25 million tonnes in 2013-14, falling to 17.38 million tonnes the next year in 2014-15, but still India’s import of pulses continues to hover around 4 million tonnes. This is primarily the reason why the trade finds it convenient to raise prices at every given opportunity.
In the past one year, a 64 per cent hike in the prices of pulses has been observed with most common pulses available at a price exceeding Rs 100/kg in the retail market. Much of this jump in prices has been seen in the past 3-4 weeks after reports of an impending drought in kharifbecame more pronounced. To add fuel to the fire, the statement by Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, assuring the nation that the government will import large quantities of pulses to meet any shortfall expected in the markets, is expected to send international prices soaring.
The same mistake was earlier committed by the former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.  Some years back when he publicly stated that India will import sugar to offset domestic shortfall in production, international prices had swung to a record high. Consequently, the import bill on sugar grew. This is also true for India’s import of chemical fertilizers. India’s demand for fertilizer is instrumental in keeping international prices high on an expectation of increased imports. In fact, how much will be India’s fertilizer import is something that has been monitored by the global trade very meticulously.
Ever since the weather forecast indicated an overall fall of 12 per cent in monsoon rains, prices of pulses – both nationally and internationally – have gone up drastically. According to reports, the future prices of tur from Myanmar had gone up from $ 800/tonne to $ 1150/tonne. Similarly, the futures prices for chanain Australia swung from $ 550/tonne in March t $ 775 tonne in June. Much of India’s imports are from Canada, Australia, Myanmar, Russia and Ukraine.
Although the government has raised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of some of the important kharif pulses, price alone may not be enough to raise production in the long run. While the price of tur and urad have been raised by Rs 275 and of moong by Rs 250 per quintal, the idea being to give a message to farmers to shift more area towards pulses, I have always felt that unless the government launches an assured procurement programme for pulses, there is little hope. What has been achieved in wheat and rice is what exactly needs to be done in case of pulses.
Augmenting production of oilseeds and pulses in 60,000 villages, with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) holding 6,000 crop demonstrations over the years, is certainly welcome. But what is required is a two-pronged approach if the government is anywhere serious in boosting domestic production of pulses:  
1.   1.  Pulses attract zero per cent import duty at present. As long as import tariffs are not raised substantially, imports will continue to act a dampener against any move to raise production. The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices had recommended raising the import tariffs to 10 per cent, and the Ministry of Agriculture had been toying to hike it to 20-30 per cent. It is high time the import tariffs are raised substantially.

2.    2. The hike in import tariffs has to be accompanied by a nationwide programme to ensure procurement of pulses by the State agencies. What deters farmers from undertaking cultivation of pulses is the volatility in market prices and the lack of an assured market. If only the State governments were to step in and purchase every grain of legume that flows into the markets, India will witness an unprecedented jump in pulses production. #
      *What needs to be done in boosting domestic production of pulses. ABPNewsTV. June 29, 2015      https://twitter.com/abpnewstv/status/615482660715016192/photo/1
Categories: Ecological News

Why India does not need GM Mustard

Ground Reality - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 12:29

A child in a mustard field - pic from web
Comes winter, and I crave for sarson ka saag. As far as I can remember, even when I got my first job, my mother would send me a container full of saag that would last me for a week or so. I could eat saagwith every meal, or at least once a day, a habit that I have not given up since I was a child. But why am I sharing this insight into my culinary taste and preference is because I fear I may soon have to give up on one of my favourite foods.
With the Ministry of Environment & Forests reportedly considering granting a commercial approval to genetically-modified (GM) mustard, I certainly wouldn’t like to take a risk anymore. Knowing the health risks associated with GM foods, I would like to keep away. I am sure millions of north Indians, who are known to have a taste for makki ki roti and sarson ka saag, too would be greatly disappointed. After all, there is no desperate reason to genetically modify a food crop that has traditionally been a part of the daily cousine. Moreover, there is no way to segregate the GM mustard from normal mustard that I can be sure what I am eating is not genetically modified.
Five years after the Ministry of Environment & Forests had in 2010 imposed a moratorium on Bt brinjal, which if approved would have been the first food crop in India to be genetically modified, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency that grants approvals, is getting ready to give a green signal to Delhi University’s GM Mustard variety DMH-11. The claim is that this GM Mustard gives 20-25 per cent higher yield, and also improves the quality of mustard oil. It is time to examine the veracity of these claims.
Claims notwithstanding, it is also time to first understand how easily our food is being tampered in the name of increasing crop productivity. The fact of the matter is that there is no GM crop so far across the globe that increases productivity. Even in GM Mustard, the increase in yield that is being claimed, is simply because of the hybrid variety in which the three alien genes have been inserted. Which means if you grow one of the popular mustard hybrids already available in the market, you will hardly have any yield advantage.
It is being repeatedly said that India imports edible oils worth Rs 60,000-crore every year, and therefore with an increased productivity of GM Mustard, the import bill will be reduced. For those who do not know the real situation, this looks to be a worthwhile proposition. But what is not known is that the huge imports are not because of any shortage of technology or because farmers are unable to produce more. It is simply because successive governments have allowed import duties to be drastically cut from the applicable rate of 300 per cent to almost zero now. As a result, India has been inundated with cheaper imports.
It was in 1985 that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided to launch an Oilseeds Technology Mission to raise the productivity of oilseed crops, including mustard, so as to reduce the import bill. In 1985, India was importing approximately Rs 15,000-crore of edible oils, which was roughly 50 per cent of our domestic requirement. This was the third biggest import bill –after petrol and fertilizers – that Rajiv Gandhi was keen to curb. The result was that ten years after the launch of the Oilseeds Mission, in 1993-94, India became almost self-sufficient in edible oils. With only 3 per cent imports, 97 per cent of edible oils began to be produced within the country.
The cut in import tariffs was not as much from WTO directive but more because of autonomous liberalisation. As per WTO norms, India’s import tariffs for edible oils are bound at 300 per cent. But for reasons that do not kmake any economic sense, India’s import tariffs have been gradually brought down to almost zero. With cheaper imports coming in, farmers stopped cultivating oilseeds and also much of the processing infrastructure for oilseeds lies redundant. The best way to increase oilseeds production therefore is to raise the import tariffs and provide enabling environment to farmers. They will do the rest.
Mustard is one of the many oilseeds crops that are grown in India. Over the years, its productivity and production has been on an upswing. In 2010-11, a record mustard production of 81.8 lakh tonnes was harvested.  From 9.04 quintals per hectare in 1990-91, average mustard yield has increased to 12.62 quintals in 2013-14, with Gujarat recording 16.95 quintals per hectare. There is no shortage of mustard in the country. Mustard yields can still be increased further if farmers are paid a remunerative price and an adequate mandi infrastructure is created to procure the harvest every year. Since almost 70 per cent of the mustard crop is cultivated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, the problem farmer’s face is that of over-production and lack of buyers. In Rajasthan particularly, the central agency Nafed has been pressed into service time and again to procure mustard when prices crash at times of an unmanageable glut. 
Mustard oil is one of the healthiest of the edible oils available. It contains one of the lowest levels of saturated fatty acids. But the problem mustard oil faces as far as quality is concerned is its large scale contamination with cheaper cottonseed and palm oils. To provide pungency, some popular brands, add a solution of red chilies. Improving the quality of mustard oil therefore does not require genetic modification but a clean-up in the processing industry and checking unethical trade practices. It needs a crackdown on the oilseeds trade to ensure that quality oil is made available. 
Increasing production of oilseed crops like mustard therefore requires adequate policy initiatives. Raising import tariffs to ensure that cheaper edible oil does not flood the market, and providing an economic price for the produce can bring back self-sufficiency in edible oils. There is no reason why India should be spending Rs 60,000-crores on importing edible oils that can be produced within the country. Since oilseeds are a crop of the drylands, encouraging oilseeds production will benefit the domestic farmers living in the harsh environs. Even the Shanta Kumar committee has in its report on ‘Restructuring FCI’ dwelt on this issue and recommended trade policies to be in tune with country’s food self-sufficiency. There appears to be no plausible reason why GEAC should be so keen to push another unwanted, unhealthy and environmentally damaging GM crop. #
1. Conspiracy Against Mustard. DNA Mumbai, June 26, 2015http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-conspiracy-against-mustard-2098894
2. सेहत पर एक और खतरा, Dainik Jagran, June 27, 2015http://www.jagran.com/editorial/apnibaat-another-threat-to-health-12526858.html
Categories: Ecological News
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