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Ecological News

Punjab turns into a graveyard for farmers

Ground Reality - 13 hours 44 min ago

Pic courtesy: Tribune
Punjab, the food bowl of the country, is faced with a paradox of productivity. Ever since the launch of the Green Revolution in 1966, Punjab has been producing a record grain surplus year after year, and yet it has over the years turned into a graveyard of farmer suicides. There is hardly a day when reports of farmers committing suicide do not appear in Punjab newspapers.
Take a look at the food procurement figures for 2017-18 marketing year. Of the total wheat procurement of 308.24 lakh tonnes, Punjab had contributed 117.06 lakh tonnes, thereby providing more than 37 per cent of the country’s wheat requirement. In case of rice, for which the procurement season is still in progress; Punjab has already contributed 174.35 lakh tonnes till Nov 28. This is 67 per cent of the total rice procurement of 258.18 lakh tonnes. In other words, Punjab continues to be the top contributor to the national food kitty. Whichever year, and the extent of climatic aberrations, Punjab has dutifully delivered food for the country.
Now hold your breath. A bumper grain production year after year belies the grave tragedy that has been worsening with each passing year. According to a survey conducted by the Punjab Agricultural University, as many as 16,000 farmers and farm labourers have committed suicide in the past 17 years, between the year 2000 and 2017. This comes to an average of 900 suicides per year. Of these, 83 per cent committed suicide buried under mountain of unpaid debt, and 76.1 per cent owned less than 2 acres of land. Every third farmer is below the poverty line. Still worse, nearly 66 per cent of these farmers and farm labourers who took their own lives were young. Surely, like all young, they too had a dream. But what made them to abruptly put an end to their lives?
Take the case of these two brothers -- Roop Singh, 40, and his younger brother Basant Singh, 32. Both jumped into the Bhakra canal a few weeks back. They were residents of Patiala district in Punjab. Both the brothers together owned 2.5 acres of land and were cultivating another 30 acres on contract. But unable to generate any profits, the outstanding debt continued to swell. While the two sons ended their lives in November 2017, their father too had committed suicide some 10 years earlier, in 2008. Two generations of the family were consumed by the scourge of mounting farm debt.The tragedy that struck the family in Punjab symbolises the agony that the entire farming community is living with. Those who have refrained from taking the extreme step are no better. They continue to somehow survive, living in acute stress, mental agony, depression and surviving hoping against hope. Still, the bigger question that remains unanswered is how can the food bowl turn into a hotbed of farmer suicides? How can Punjab be in the deadly grip of an unending agrarian crisis?
That such a tragic serial death dance is being enacted in a state which is considered to be the most prosperous as far as agriculture is concerned tells us clearly that the crisis is the outcome of an inherently flawed high crop productivity linked intensive farming model. I have heard agricultural economists and policy makers often shift the blame to low crop productivity, failure to go for crop diversification and lack of irrigation. In a State which has 98 per cent assured irrigation and where the per hectare yields of wheat and paddy match international levels I see no reason why then farmers should be dying.
As per the Economic Survey 2016, the per hectare yield of wheat in Punjab stands at 4,500 Kg/hectare which matches the wheat yields in United States. In case of paddy, the average yield is 6,000 Kg/hectare, quite close to the paddy productivity levels in China. With such high yields and with abundant irrigation available why farmers should be dying? To say that these farmers are lazy, drunkards and do not spend the loans for the purpose they take cannot be true. If it was so, I see no way Punjab could have topped global crop productivity; how Punjab could feed the entire country with its grain surplus every year, and that too continuously for the past 50 years.
Punjab is in a terrible crisis because of the economic and development policies that encourages intensive agriculture. To meet its food requirements, erstwhile Punjab (including Haryana that later split) became the focal point of a highly intensive agriculture, beginning with wheat, rice and then followed with the shift towards cultivation of cotton as a cash crop. While intensive farming played havoc with soil fertility necessitating more application of chemical fertilizers; excessive use and abuse of chemical pesticides has contamination the food chain as well as the environment. The result is that Punjab is fast turning into a cancer hub. 
Still worse, as the PAU report points out, intensive cultivation of cotton subsequently turned it into a suicide crop. The genetically modified Bt cotton, and the resurgence of the white fly insect attack followed by the failure of the crop varieties to withstand pink bollworm attack, added to the mounting debt. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the farm suicides have taken place in predominantly the cotton belt, comprising the six districts of Sangrur, Patiala, Mansa, Bathinda, Barnala and Faridko. Incidentally, these six districts are also the constituency of the two political families – Prakash Singh Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh.
The tragedy is that we haven’t learnt any lessons. While the Ministry of Agriculture and Niti Aayog are pushing for the same policies for the rest of the states, wanting them to ape Punjab’s level of crop productivity, the resulting human tragedy is being simply glossed over. As if this is not enough, the effort now is to push Punjab deeper into the environmentally harmful web of agribusiness, which requires more intensive farming adding to more Greenhouse Gas Emissions. It’s like moving from the frying pan literally into fire.
What Punjab desperately needs is to move away from the intensive cropping system. If we have to save farmers, Punjab has to move towards an ecological sustainable farming system, implemented in a time bound manner. It requires a shift in the research mandate of the PAU accompanied by policies and programmes that encourages farmers to shift without suffering any economic loss. Addressing the sustainability crisis without providing an assured monthly income will be meaningless. Punjab must take the lead by setting up a State Farmers Income Commission, with mandate to work out a mechanism to provide a guaranteed income linked to agro-ecological farming practices. 
Categories: Ecological News

These Species Should Be ‘Endangered’ But Aren’t Due to Political Horse Trading, Report Reveals

Environews.tv - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 18:03

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(EnviroNews Colorado) — Special-interest politics — not sound science — decides the fate of species on the brink of extinction in the U.S., according to a new expose’ from the Endangered Species Coalition.

The report, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species (Suppressed), profiles ten species of animal, insect, and plant — including Mexican wolves, ocelots, north Atlantic right whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles – the survival of which remains uncertain, thanks to industry meddling with politics surrounding the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“[We] are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump Administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition.

The greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), North American wolverine (Gulo gulo), dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), and Hermes copper butterfly (Lycaena hermes) are species that the report says are in desperate need of listing under the ESA, yet all have been denied this protection.

Once 16 million strong across 11 states, greater sage grouse numbers have plummeted to approximately 208,000 after half of the species’ historic sagebrush habitat was destroyed by oil, gas, and coal extraction, grazing, real estate development, and other threats.

Suppressed notes the wild bird’s “extreme sensitivity to oil and gas development,” citing a paper that documented a reduction in numbers after drilling wells within a few miles of a lek, or mating location.

Greater Sage Grouse — Sage Hen Hollow, Utah — Photo by: Emerson Urry — for: EnviroNews

In 2011, the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy recommended that no oil and gas leasing, no mining, and only limited energy infrastructure development should occur on priority habitats if the species is to be preserved.

Yet, the Suppressed report found that “after pressure from state governments and oil and gas officials,” local resource management plans allowed up to 70 percent habitat destruction in critical areas. Suppressed also highlights other development loopholes, and reveals wells drilled up to 0.6 miles away from leks in some states.

Today, even the weak protections that do exist are being undermined by Department of Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, according to the Endangered Species Coalition and other conservation groups.

“Secretary Zinke has signaled an intent to relinquish federal responsibility for sage grouse habitat conservation, and instead focus on scientifically discredited practices like captive rearing and predator control, which pander to ranching interests but do nothing for sage grouse, and will likely worsen their declines,” Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, told EnviroNews Colorado.

“Under Secretary Zinke, science is taking a back seat to political considerations when it comes to wildlife protections,” Huta said to EnviroNews. “Since long-time industry officials and opponents of endangered species are now in leadership positions in the Department of Interior, is it really any wonder that science isn’t guiding decisions on greater sage grouse [and] Mexican wolves?”

Where the sage grouse is concerned, aside from energy extraction, livestock grazing reduces vegetation, making it difficult for birds to hide from predators and keep their nests safe, while hunting is still allowed in eight of the eleven states where the species resides.

Adding insult to injury, invasive cheatgrass is displacing native plants and creating fuel for wildfires, which can negatively impact grouse habitat. West Nile virus has also taken a toll on the bird. Without Endangered Species protection, conservationists worry the future of the greater sage grouse looks bleak.

The prospects for the North American wolverine aren’t much better. Thanks to trapping and habitat loss, the total number of animals has dwindled to between 250 and 300, remaining in just a few regions in the continental U.S, scattered throughout the Northern Rocky and Cascade Mountains. The loss of essential snowpack due to climate change is now one of the predator’s biggest threats.

North American Wolverine

Also in dire straits is the dunes sagebrush lizard, which lives only among shinnery oak trees in the Mescalero and Monahan Sand Dunes of New Mexico and Texas. Energy development from the solar, wind, oil and gas sectors, coupled with off-road vehicles, and sand mining (for fracking), continue to whittle away this reptile’s remaining habitat.

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

Another unlisted species, the Hermes copper butterfly, lives in small colonies in San Diego County, California and Northern Baja California, Mexico. Of 57 known historic populations, only 17 remain – again, thanks to habitat loss from human encroachment and ravaging wildfires.

Hermes Copper Butterfly (Lycaena hermes) — Photo by: Douglas Aguillard

Unfortunately, even listing a species under the ESA doesn’t guarantee a happy ending. The following organisms are technically “protected” under the ESA, yet haven’t received enough safeguards for recovery, according to the report:

• Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) — With only 53 of the wild cats remaining in Texas and a meager handful in Arizona, Trump’s proposed border wall would likely impair this species’ connectivity with populations in Mexico.

• Mexican wolf (Canis lupis baileyi) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan ignored its own scientists’ recommendations for minimum numbers and range required to rebound this subspecies of gray wolf.

• Pacific leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) — This long-distance swimmer struggles to survive against driftnets, egg harvesting, boat propellers, and plastic pollution.

• Pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) — Dams on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have cut off the chances for this rare fish to repopulate its native waters.

• San Jacinto Valley crownscale (Atriplex coronata var. notatior) — This annual plant grows only in the floodplains of Riverside County, California, and remains at risk from agricultural and real estate development.

• North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glaciali) — Thanks to entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, seismic surveys, military sonar, and pollution, only about 450 of these majestic sea mammals remain.

Science is supposed to rule the day when it comes to the Endangered Species Act. However, Suppressed: How Politics Drowned Out Science for Ten Endangered Species makes a strong case that the energy, real estate, ranching, hunting, fishing and other industries are the real power behind the throne.

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Categories: Ecological News

India should blame itself for WTO deadlock over public stockholding

Ground Reality - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:51

A stitch in time saves nine. That is exactly what India failed to do. The deadlock over a permanent solution to the issue of public procurement of food is the outcome of repeatedly postponing a legal protection measure that India needed the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to put its stamp on.If only India had acted—when it was required to act—there would have been no room for any “deep disappointment” at this stage.At the root lies the temporary reprieve granted under the ‘Peace Clause’ provision that restricts any country to challenge India’s procurement of staple foods for its food insecure population. The ‘Peace Clause’ that was affirmed in July 2014 does provide India an exemption for all times to come, but will for all practical purposes ensure that a sword of Damocles keeps on hanging for perpetuity. Finding a permanent solution to the critical issue was therefore a necessity.The United States has refused to oblige. It is increasingly under pressure from its 30 farm commodity export groups, which have time and again, expressed concerns at India’s “price support programmes that have more to do with boosting farm incomes and increasing production than feeding the poor”. The US is, therefore, keen to see that India dismantles its food procurement operations or is forced to freeze the procurement prices so as to keep it within the prescribed limits. A low price to Indian farmers will be a serious disincentive resulting in a short-fall in domestic production. The US farm export groups see a huge market here. The US has nothing against feeding the poor under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) but want India to source supplies from the US instead.In other words, it takes away India’s right to buy food for the disadvantageous populations from its own resource poor small and marginal farmers at the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Nearly 99.15 per cent of India’s 600 million farmers fall in the category of resource poor.Since India has already exceeded the limit prescribed under the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) for developing countries that treats the procurement price beyond the permissible de minimis level of 10 per cent of the total value of production as agricultural subsidy, India is under pressure to prune its procurement prices. Although India claims that it is still far away from breaching the 10 per cent level, when it computes the agricultural subsidy in the terms of US dollars, the US also knows that when presented in terms of Indian rupees, India has already breached the de minimis level by a whopping 24 per cent in case of paddy and is fast inching the threshold level for wheat.These US farm commodity export groups, which ironically receives monumental federal support every year, have questioned the need to provide any relaxation in current discipline even on a temporary basis. Accordingly, such an exemption will result in more subsidy outgo and result in further damage to US trade interests. There is no denying that the US had more than doubled its subsidy from $61 billion to $130 billion between 1995 and 2010. Further, the US-based Environmental Working Group has worked out that the US paid a quarter of a trillion dollars in subsidy support between 1995 and 2009. These subsidies have not been reduced in the subsequent farm bills, which every five years makes a budgetary provision for farm support programme. Most of these subsidies are presented under the Green Box in WTO parlance that does not require any cuts to be made. India’s food procurement comes under the amber box provisions and requires to be drastically pruned.This was of course well-known. But at the Bali WTO Ministerial in 2013, the then Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma initially had insisted that the Trade Facilitation Agreement, a treaty that the developed countries were pushing aggressively, be taken simultaneously with public stockholding of food in India (along with some other developing countries under the G-33 banner).No trade facilitation without food security proposal. But at the final stages, for some strange reasons, Anand Sharma softened his stand and agreed to support the demand for trade facilitation. Although the WTO director general Roberto Azevedo had appreciated India’s position on food security and had agreed to work out a permanent solution in the next four years, by the XI WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires in Dec 2017, I see no reason why India should have given up so easily.Anand Sharma had made the right noises in the media but when the final moment came, he readily signed the trade facilitation agreement. All he could wrest in the bargain was a four year 'Peace Clause' for the food subsidy issue that is crucial for not only India's food security but also food self-sufficiency.The deadline for bringing each member country on board for a Trade Facilitation Agreement was July 31, 2014. The NDA government had taken over, and like it always has been, India made the right kind of noises but at the end signed on the dotted line.“India has made it clear that state-funded welfare schemes for the poor are non-negotiable, and it is willing to take the blame for delaying WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement rather than hurt the interests of small farmers,” the Hindustan Times (July 21, 2014) reported. India, in fact, was threatening to stretch the deadline for launching a new trade facilitation treaty to December 31, 2014, extending it by six months so as to seek an early solution to India’s food security needs in the meantime. Nothing like that happened. Empty warnings remained unheeded.Indian trade officials knew this was the only way to seek a permanent solution. In the same news report, trade officials were quoted as saying: “India’s concern is that once TFA is implemented, none of the developed countries is likely to come back to the negotiating table to discuss food subsidy or any other non-binding outcome of the Bali Ministerial,” Hindustan Times reported.Indian went to the Nairobi WTO Ministerial 2015, led by the then Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, affirming to seek a permanent solution for public stockholding programmes and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to protect small farmers from import surges. Again, loud noises before the conference, but at the end failing miserably to emerge out with some concrete outcomes. A news report in Mint (December 21, 2015) summed up the disappointment: “In the final analysis, it is clear that India failed in its objectives to secure credible outcomes on its demands for SSM, permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security... Perhaps this is the first time that India left a WTO ministerial meeting so diminished.”I am, therefore, not surprised to see India returning back from the XI WTO Ministerial empty handed, without a permanent solution for the critical issue of food security.It has all been the outcome of India’s own doing.#
Categories: Ecological News

The black hole of Indian economy

Ground Reality - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 14:40
Image courtesy: Newsfirst 
Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council chairman Bibek Debroy has stirred a hornet’s nest. Admitting that revenue worth 5 per cent of GDP is lost to corporate tax exemptions, he said unless these exemptions are eliminated, the tax-to-GDP ratio is not going to go up. 
And what kind of tax exemptions are we talking about? As per a reply given in Parliament, Rs 6.11-lakh crore of tax concessions was given in 2015-16 alone. In the 12-year period, between 2004-05 and 2015-16, the total tax concessions given to the industry, earlier clubbed under the category of ‘Revenue Foregone’ in the Budget documents, is almost equal to a whopping Rs 50-lakh crore.
Yes, you heard it right. Rs 50-lakh crore.
This is the black hole of Indian economy. I have still not added the revenue foregone figures for 2016-17 fiscal, simply because the sub-head Revenue Foregone has now been erased from the budget documents. This came after extensive lobbying by some well-known economists who wanted the Revenue Foregone category to go as it brought bad name to the industry. The Finance Ministry complied but it certainly does not mean that tax exemptions have been removed. This is clearly evident from what Debroy further states: “If these tax exemptions were eliminated, the tax-to-GDP ratio will be 22 per cent.” 
For several years now, I have emphasised on the urgent need to eliminate tax exemptions being doled out year after year to India Inc. Some economists had argued that these tax exemptions were necessary to provide an impetus to revive industrial growth, increase manufacturing, boost exports and create jobs. But the industry continues to slog, manufacturing is down and exports are being provided with more subsidies, only 15 million jobs were created in the ten year period 2004-05 to 2013-14, and another 6.5 lakh jobs added in the three year period between 2014 and 2017, India continues to be faced with jobless growth.
If these tax concessions were eliminated and the additional revenue generated was instead used effectively for social betterment programmes aimed at removing hunger, malnutrition and poverty, India could have made poverty history. If the removal of the entire annual subsidy on LPG cylinders, adding to Rs 48,000-crore, is being calculated as a massive financial saving good enough to remove poverty from the country for one year; using the same yardstick my analysis shows that Rs 50-lakh crore given as tax exemption was good enough to wipe out poverty for 100 years.
If even a fraction of the huge revenue foregone had been invested in agriculture; much of the grave agrarian distress that prevails could have been addressed. Agriculture continues to be starved of financial resources, and with each passing year the public sector investment has been on the decline. Of the 3.30- lakh farmer suicides across the country in past 21 years, Punjab alone has recorded 16,000 farmers suicide since the year 2000. While 98 per cent of the rural households in Punjab continue to live under debt, as many as 94 per cent of indebted households have more expenditure than income.
As a result, with incomes declining farm credit keeps on piling. With mounting indebtedness killing farmers, the demand for waiving outstanding loans is met with stiff resistance. Recall, a few months back the Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch had worked out that Rs 2.57-lakh crore of farmers’ loans expected to be waived-off in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, will amount to 2 per cent of India’s GDP. What Merrill Lynch computed was based on a hypothetical estimate, which in reality is not going to happen. So far only about Rs 80,000-crore of farm loan waiver have been promised in UP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, only a fraction of it has been actually delivered.
This year alone, Rs 55,356-crore of bad debt of India Inc was written-off in the first six months of the financial year. While Merrill Lynch never told us how much will the corporate tax exemptions add up to in terms of tax-to-GDP ratio, nor did the media hold prime time shows seeking waiver of the debt write-offs, the total corporate bad debts written-off by the state owned banks in 10 years, between 2007 and 2017 swelled to Rs 3.60 lakh. This works out 2.8 per cent of the GDP.
In addition, an estimated Rs 10-lakh crore, and that includes what is being written-off by banks, has been classified as stressed loan. These are being restructured and an appropriate ‘haircut’ is being allowed to settle the amount. A recent news report says that the Stressed Asset Stabilisation Fund, created in 2004, to recover IDBI banks bad loans for instance has settled certain cases with ‘haircuts’ of more than 90 per cent. Haircut basically means the stressed amount that the bank will not be able to recover. I don’t know why a similar haircut is not being allowed to small farmers in Punjab (with land less than 5 acres) who have been denied a loan waiver of Rs 2-lakh if their outstanding loan amount exceed this limit by even Rs 100.
To remove the inherent anomalies a beginning has to be made to restructure the economy. Removal of tax exemptions is the first step. #
Sinkhole in the tax landscape. DNA. Dec 12, 2017http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-sinkhole-in-the-tax-landscape-2566886
Categories: Ecological News

Gene drive extinction technology is a war against the planet and biodiversity

Navdanya Diary - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:37

Navdanya International, 7 December 2017

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested by U.S. Military, companies and foundations on gene drives, a highly controversial technology aimed at genetic extinction.

This is what emerges in The Gene Drives Files a set of over 1.200 emails, obtained by civil society investigators under Freedom of Information requests. The emails document how the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the largest single funder in gene drives technology, as demonstrated by a stunning financing of some 100 million dollars already invested on accelerating the research. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also heavily invested in the development of the technology with a $1.6 million payment  to the Public Relations firm “Emerging Ad”  aimed at influencing the discussions on the subject at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (see recent article by Jonathan Latham on “Independent Science News”), and at repealing a call by a large number of civil society ngos, including scientist and academic institutions, that the CBD impose an international moratorium in keeping with the precautionary principle. The emails throw light on how the regulatory process, originally meant to protect the environment and the genetic integrity of species on our planet, is deeply influenced by the hidden interesets of proponents of the technology strategically recruited by the Gates Foundation.

Once again we find far reaching decisions on the future of our ecosystems being made without transparency and through secretive and unethical practices.  Gene drives have the potential to dramatically transform our natural world and humanity’s relationship to it, wiping out entire species, irreversibly damaging the planet’s life-sustaining biodiversity and altering the genetic balance of the ecosystem. But again we see that ethical considerations and ecological consequences are of no import to those who stand to profit hugely from the development of such a technology, be it militarily as a covert war instrument, or materially in the agribusiness and big pharma worlds of power and profit.

A recent article of the New York Times reports that Dr Kevin M. Esvelt, who was among the promoter of Crispr technology at Harvard University, has recently “discovered an unacceptable risk”  as “altered genes might spread to places where the species isn’t invasive at all, but a well-established part of the ecosystem”.

The same mindset, which led to the stockpiling of chemicals of war in our fields with the Green Revolution, later developed today’s failed genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp ready soy and corn. But the same weeds that GM herbicide tolerant technology was supposed to control have been developing resistance to the extent that today approximately 92% of RR cotton and soybeans in the US south-eastern states are infested by superweeds like Palmer Amaranth.   In the meantime the consequent increased use of these chemicals in fields has led to  further contamination of our soils and the environment. Monsanto & Co – which includes investors, scientists, corporations, DARPA, and Gates Foundation – continues dogedly  to rely on this misguided ‘techno-fix’ approach, now with gene drives technology to solve the failures they have created themselves,  another tool on the path of unbridled profit and control.

This simplistic approach carries the risk of driving the whole Amaranth genetic population to extinction. The National Academy of Science of The United States, in its report titled “Gene Drives on the Horizon : Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”,  sponsored by the same DARPA and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, itself indicates the risks: “Gene drives developed for agricultural purposes could also have adverse effects on human well-being. Transfer of a suppression drive to a non-target wild species could have both adverse environmental outcomes and harmful effects on vegetable crops, for example. Palmer amaranth in Case Study 6 is a damaging weed in the United States, but related Amaranthus species are cultivated for food in Mexico, South America, India, and China.” Thus our food security and health are once again knowingly being put at risk through the same blind technological mindset which led to the failure of the Green Revolution. 

It’s clear that the value of Amaranth as a vital, nutritious, sacred and ancient food crop in many areas and cultures of the world is not considered relevant by the “militarised minds” of single-minded scientists who only see solutions to problems through the act of killing (see Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarised Mind, by Dr Vandana Shiva, July 2016) and who chose to ignore the potential consequences on food security and health in their narrow perspective.

Under the guise of doing good for humanity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to undermine the scientific debate on the dangers of gene manipulation. Through biased and pseudo ‘science’, disguising public relations as science and directly targeting decision-makers, they directly increase their influence and pressure on governments and institutions. Similar patterns we have seen in the glyphosate risk assessment debate, which last week led to a 5 years renewal of the license in the EU, in spite of the concerns about loopholes, conflicts of interest, corporate interference and pressure on regulatory bodies as described in the  ‘Monsanto Papers.’

The failed industrial agriculture model that has brought us poisons, weedicides, Round-up ready crops, superweeds, is now bringing us gene drives. Gene drives technology is a rough tool, based on an outmoded mechanistic and reductionist paradigm and vision of science, which ignores and denies the self organized, evolutionary potential of living organisms as well as their complex, dynamic evolution. It is sad times indeed when philanthropy embraces such a short-sighted approach, knowingly putting at risk our health and our environment. To quote Dr. Vandana Shiva: “The one who uses public relations disguised as science for driving species to extinction and robs people of their commons, is not practicing philanthropy, but ecocide”.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

When the dreaded Pink boll worm strikes back

Ground Reality - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 10:09

Pic: The Hindu
Former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha decision to lead the Kapus, Soyabean, Dhan (Cotton, Soyabean, Paddy) Parishad protest in Akola in Maharashtra, and the drama enacted over his ‘detention’ and release, has drawn attention to the damage inflicted by a tiny insect pest -- pink bollworm. This dreaded pest – the tiny wily worm that eats the cotton balls, has destroyed nearly 70 per cent of the standing crop in Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton grower, and another 20 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, besides causing extensive damage in Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat.
Pink bollworm resurgence has been so severe that reports of farmers unable to harvest even a kilo of cotton forcing them to uproot or burn the standing crop have poured in from several parts of the country. In Maharashtra alone, more than 80,000 farmers, till Nov 30, have sought and applied for crop compensation. With Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis having accepted Mr Sinha’s demand for compensation for the crop losses, the number is expected to swell in the days to come. Former Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar too has thrown his weight behind the beleaguered farming community, already reeling under a terrible agrarian crisis, to demand an adequate crop compensation package. 
Out of a total of 42 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation in Maharashtra, standing crop in 20.36 lakh hectares in 18 districts has been ravaged by pink bollworm. While the crop loss has been estimated to exceed Rs 15,000-crore, ginning mills too are finding it difficult to source cotton this year. Of the 150 ginning mills in Maharashtra, only about 100 are in operation and that too working at 50 per capacity. The bleak crop prospects have also hit cotton exports. According to industry estimates, the exports this year will be one-fifth less, coming down to 6 million bales (of 170 kg each) against the earlier estimate of 7.5 million bales.
Not only have a surge in crop losses, failure of genetically modified cotton to ward off insect pests also has taken a heavy human toll.  News reports of 50 farm workers succumbing to suspected pesticides poisoning, at least 25 lost their eyesight and another 800 admitted to various hospitals in Maharashtra had come in. Another 6 deaths and hospitalisation of a few hundred more have been reported from Tamil Nadu’s cotton belt – Perambalur, Ariyalur and Salem. The tragedy primarily occurred because the genetically modified Bt cotton crop had failed to resist the dreaded bollworms pests as a result of which farmers have been forced to resort to sprays of deadly cocktails to curb the insect menace.
First the pesticides treadmill, and then the noose thrown by genetically modified crop varieties, I find that like the legendary warrior Abhimanyu in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, cotton farmers are also being pushed into a chakravyuha from which there is no way out. Let me illustrate. Mahabharta tell us the story of valiant Abhimanyu who died fighting while trying to force his way through a chakravyuah. He had learnt the art of smashing through the seven layers of the human chain of the chakravyuah. But didn’t know how to come out. In lot many ways, I find the Indian farmer is also like Abhimanyu. He has been forced to get into a chakravyuah but does not know how to emerge out of it.
As a senior agricultural scientist had once told me: “In the early 1960s, only six to seven major pests were worrying the cotton farmer. The farmer today is battling against some 70 major pests on cotton.” The greater the attack of insect pests, the more is the use and abuse of potent chemicals.Just four years after its release in 2002 with much fanfare, Bt cotton became susceptible to the pest it was supposed to guard against. This was the first generation GM crop introduced by Monsanto-Mahyco. In 2006, the first generation genetically modified cotton was replaced by a still more potent Bollgard-II. As the area under Bollgard-II grew, the Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) first first sounded a warning bell. “There is resistance to Bollgard-II. We have collected some insects. They are eating up the cotton balls,” the then CICR Director Keshav Kranti had told the media. Instead of making an effort to take the farmers out of the chakravyuah thrown around by Bt cotton, the biotech industry is now ready with a still more potent Bollgard-III.  
Even prior to the failure of Bollgard-II recorded by CICR scientists, 80 per cent crop loss was reported in the cotton belt in Raichur in 2014, causing an estimated loss of Rs 40 lakh. In 2015, Bollgard-II failed to protect the crop in Karnataka resulting in a huge crop loss. Over the years, excessive use of chemical pesticides had upset the insect equilibrium as a result of which some of the minor pests turned into major pests. The devastation that followed was seen in Punjab (also in Haryana and Rajasthan) when whitefly destroyed two-third of the cotton crop causing an estimated loss of Rs 800-crore and leading to the suicide of 15 farmers.
Since the days of Bollgard-II, insecticides use has increased from 0.5 Kg per hectare in 2006 to 1.20 kg in 2015. The Cotton Advisory Board in India estimated the cost of cultivating cotton increasing by three times ever since Bt cotton was first introduced in 2002. Farmer suicides have also seen an upsurge in the cotton belt in the same period. But I find no sincere effort being made to emerge out of this chakravyuah.
There are two possible pathways to emerge out of the crisis. First and foremost, is the onus of the entire loss that farmers have suffered should be borne by the seed companies. Although Maharashtra has filed FIR against 5 seed companies that were supplying Bt seeds, the loss burden should not be with the state governments. I do not agree with Sharad Pawar when he says the State should compensate farmers. The makers of Bt cotton seed should pay for the losses. The seed Act also needs to make it abundantly clear.
Second, instead of introducing the third generation Bollgard-III varieties, and thereby compounding the existing crisis, the agricultural research focus should shift to alternative methods. Agricultural universities should be directed to stop any further research on GM cotton, and shift the focus to bio-control and integrated pest management techniques that sparingly use pesticides as the last resort. Already Burkina Faso has shown a remarkable jump of 20 per cent in cotton productivity after phasing out Bt cotton. Turkey too has shown excellent results with IPM techniques. Rejecting GM cotton, and restricting the use of chemical pesticides, Turkey has doubled its cotton yields. #
बीटी कॉटन के चक्रव्यूह से बाहर आना होगा Dainik Bhaskar. Dec 9, 2017https://www.bhaskar.com/news/ABH-LCL-bt-cotton-has-to-come-out-of-the-maze-5765023-PHO.html

Categories: Ecological News

Conservative Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Rips Steve Bannon a New One For His ‘Mormon Bigotry’

Environews.tv - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 18:28

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/120617-conservative-utah-gov-gary-herbert-rips-steve-bannon-new-one-mormon-bigotry/"; reddit_title = "Conservative Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Rips Steve Bannon a New One For His ‘Mormon Bigotry’"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Politics Desk) — Salt Lake City, Utah — Highly conservative Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert (R) fired back at Steve Bannon with a lingual assault Wednesday, after Bannon, Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, made religious comments aimed at Mitt Romney — a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormonism).

The battlefield Herbert chose for the war of words is social media, putting out statements on both his Facebook and Twitter profiles, lambasting Bannon for what he says are un-American values, and telling the freshly-resigned former White House Chief Strategist to President Trump, to steer clear of the Beehive State entirely.

“Steve Bannon, #stayout of Utah. We don’t need you. We don’t want you. You don’t line up with American values. You don’t line up with Utah values,” Herbert wrote on his Facebook page.

Bannon’s controversial comments came Tuesday night at a rally for controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women for being a child molester.

“And by the way, Mitt, while we’re on the subject of Vietnam and honor and integrity, you avoided service, brother,” Bannon said at the event. “Mitt, here’s how it is, brother: The college deferments, we can debate that — but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity.”

The reason Bannon attacked Romney to begin with was a Tweet the former Massachusetts Governor made about Moore where he said the country would loose “honor” and “integrity” if Moore reaches the Senate.

Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 4, 2017

Utah Republican Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch also came to Romney’s defense in their own social media rebuttals, standing up for Romney and defending his service to the country.

Senator Hatch’s response to Steve Bannon’s attacks on @MittRomney, his family, and our LDS faith— #utpol pic.twitter.com/kDJpiKL6ux

— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) December 6, 2017

Mitt Romney is a good man. Whether you agree or disagree with him on any matter of public policy, you can’t credibly call into question his patriotism or moral character—especially on the basis of his religious beliefs or his outstanding service as a missionary.

— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 6, 2017

People will now have to wait and see if Steve Bannon will fire back at the LDS politicians from Utah, and if he will take Senator Hatch up on his offer to read the Book of Mormon.

The post Conservative Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Rips Steve Bannon a New One For His ‘Mormon Bigotry’ appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Trump Just Shrank Grand Staircase-Escalante Ntl. Monument and He’s Already Been Sued, Bigly

Environews.tv - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 23:49

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/120417-trump-just-killed-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument-hes-already-sued/"; reddit_title = "Trump Just Shrank Grand Staircase-Escalante Ntl. Monument and He’s Already Been Sued, Bigly"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Headline News Desk) — Salt Lake City, Utah — Only hours after Donald Trump announced his administration would be significantly shrinking the boundaries for much of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, environmental groups filed a lawsuit, naming President Donald J. Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Brian Steed as the culprits, for what they say was an “unlawful” act.

On December 4, 2017, the President made the announcement official by signing two proclamations at a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, rescinding protections for nearly two million acres of federal land, in what USA Today called “the largest rollback of national monument designations in history.”

The move effectively eliminates Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and replaces it with three non-contiguous units called, “Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons.” One of the proclamations also rolled back protections on Bears Ears National Monument — a pristine area harboring many tribal artifacts and other indigenous ruins, designated by Barack Obama at the end of his presidency.

“This case challenges President Donald J. Trump’s unlawful December 4, 2017 proclamation that attempts to revoke monument status and protections from roughly half of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,” the lawsuit reads in its introductory statement.

The suit also claims Trump abused his presidential authority “under the U.S. Constitution and the Antiquities Act.” “[Trump] violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure,” the coalition added in a joint press release, further explaining, “The Antiquities Act does not [grant] presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors.”

The plaintiffs in the case comprise a broad coalition of conservation and environmental law organizations. Earthjustice is representing the alliance, which includes the Wilderness Society, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity (the Center), WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) and Western Watersheds Project. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are also listed as co-plaintiffs and are represented by in-house council.

“This is an act of looting of some of America’s most fragile and precious public land treasures,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, to EnviroNews. “The Trump Administration is showing a depraved disregard for the national monument conservation tradition begun by Theodore Roosevelt, and for the overwhelming majority of Americans who want these lands protected for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

In a statement to the White House Press Pool, the Administration acknowledged the myriad geological anomalies at Grand Staircase-Escalante, but quickly turned around and claimed President Clinton protected too much of the area under the Antiquities Act when he handed out the original designation on September 18, 1996, via Proclamation 6920.

The Administration stated:

Proclamation 6920 identifies the monument area as rich with paleontological sites and fossils, including marine and brackish water mollusks, turtles, crocodilians, lizards, dinosaurs, fishes, and mammals, as well as terrestrial vertebrate fauna, including mammals, of the Cenomanian-Santonian ages, and one of the most continuous records of Late Cretaceous terrestrial life in the world… Proclamation 6920 also identifies a number of unique geological formations and landscape features within the monument boundaries. These include the Grand Staircase, White Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, Kaiparowits Plateau, Upper Paria Canyon System, Upper Escalante Canyons, Burning Hills, Circle Cliffs, East Kaibab Monocline, Grosvenor Arch, and Escalante Natural Bridge, all of which are retained in whole or part within the revised monument boundaries.

As a justification for revamping and shrinking the boundaries of the monument, the White House wrote:

The Antiquities Act requires that any reservation of land as part of a monument be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic or scientific interest to be protected. Determining the appropriate protective area involves examination of a number of factors, including the uniqueness and nature of the objects, the nature of the needed protection, and the protection provided by other laws… The modified monument boundaries take into account [new] information [and], retain the majority of the high-potential areas for locating new fossil resources that have been identified within the area reserved by Proclamation 6920.

But environmentalists aren’t buying it. “President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump’s illegal actions.”

Trump on the other hand, said it was previous presidents who had abused the Antiquities Act. “These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of the people who actually live here, work here, and make this place their home,” Trump said in Salt Lake City. “With the action I’m taking today, we will not only give back your voice over the use of this land, we will also restore your access and your enjoyment. Public lands will once again be for public use, because we know that people who are free to use their land and enjoy their land are the people most determined to conserve their land.”

The plaintiffs say the President’s move isn’t really about the overreach of previous presidents at all, and that the real reason for the rollback is indeed good old fashion coal mining. “In mid-October, scientists airlifted one of the most complete tyrannosaur skeletons ever found out of Grand Staircase,” the coalition said. “These fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for coal mining that would wreak havoc on this dinosaur treasure trove.”

One area, shared contiguously by Grand Staircase and Capitol Reef National Park was eliminated entirely, with the White House saying it wasn’t “unique” at all:

The Waterpocket Fold [is] located mostly within the Capitol Reef National Park and the portions within the monument are not unique or particularly scientifically significant. Therefore, the boundaries of the monument may be modified to exclude the Waterpocket Fold without imperiling the proper care and management of that formation.

That may be the White House’s position, but the plaintiffs in the case share a different sentiment entirely. “Since its designation, 21 new dinosaur species have been unearthed by scientists in the monument, leading some to call these lands a ‘Dinosaur Shangri-la,’ and a ‘geologic wonderland,'” the coalition pointed out in the joint press release.

It’s not only the geology and paleontology that are unique at Grand Staircase either. It’s human artifacts — from indigenous peoples and Mormon pioneers too. But apparently, those archeological marvels weren’t unique enough to be protected either, with the White House saying:

Proclamation 6920 also describes Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan rock art panels, occupation sites, campsites, and granaries, as well as historic objects such as those left behind by Mormon pioneers, including trails, inscriptions, ghost towns, rock houses, and cowboy line camps. These are artifacts that are known to generally occur across the Four Corners region, particularly in southern Utah, and the examples found within the monument are not, as described, of any unique or distinctive scientific or historic significance.

The White House went even further, claiming that much of Grand Staircase-Escalante isn’t unique or significant at all:

Many of the objects identified by Proclamation 6920 are not unique to the monument, and some of the particular examples of those objects within the monument are not of significant historic or scientific interest. Moreover, many of the objects identified by Proclamation 6920 are not under threat of damage or destruction such that they require a reservation of land to protect them.

But the environmental groups say just the opposite, insisting that much of the area will be in danger of destruction and exploitation with federal protections lifted.

“We are appalled at this disgraceful act of sabotage against these national monuments, and are gearing up to fight back in court,” Molvar concluded to EnviroNews.

The post Trump Just Shrank Grand Staircase-Escalante Ntl. Monument and He’s Already Been Sued, Bigly appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Sioux Leader Tells Trump, ‘Leave The Office You Bought and Take Your Swamp Things With You’

Environews.tv - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 17:14

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/120117-sioux-leader-tells-trump-leave-office-bought-take-swamp-things/"; reddit_title = "Sioux Leader Tells Trump, ‘Leave The Office You Bought and Take Your Swamp Things With You’"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Politics Desk) — Washington D.C. — “Leave the office you bought and take your swamp things with you.” That was the demand put forth by Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, to President Donald J. Trump, following more controversial remarks about Native Americans, at an event organized to honor World War II Code Talkers from the Navajo Nation.

The episode took place November 27, 2017, at the White House, and it didn’t take the President long to ramp up the rhetoric with yet another restoration of his “Pocahontas” slur, taking one more political swipe at Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in what Frazier called a “disgusting” treatment of WWII veterans in the worst possible forum.

“The President of the United States had an opportunity to honor veterans and bridge gaps in the relationship Tribes have with the federal government,” Frazier said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “Instead, he chose to disgrace himself, his position and the nation he represents.”

Trump’s attempt at humor registered an epic fail as he told Code Talkers during the event, ″You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”

Here's the video: Trump calls Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' while honoring Native American code talkers: "You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas." pic.twitter.com/hjZ5MInDDf

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 27, 2017

Former Marine Michael Smith, whose father, Samuel “Jesse” Smith Sr., was a Code Talker, weighed in on the President’s remarks as well. “Isn’t that unfortunate that the legacy of these men can’t be paramount over the statement ― a derogatory statement, I felt ― that Mr. Trump made about a senator,” Smith told HuffPost.

Adding severity to the slap in the face was Trump’s choice of backdrop for the event: a portrait of President Andrew Jackson — a man despised by Native Americans across the board for his signing of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which led to the dismally tragic Trail of Tears. Jackson, nicknamed “Indian Killer,” is even said to have made horse reins from the skins of Native American men. Some Native Americans have boycotted the twenty-dollar bill entirely due to their disdain for Jackson, yet Trump seems to enjoy being photographed with ol’ “Indian Killer” behind him, as he has commonly used this theme in photo-shoots and keeps Jackson’s portrait right beside his desk in the Oval Office.


So far, Trump has remained silent in regards to the outpouring of condemnation following Monday’s event. While the President might be staying quiet, Warren isn’t, and responded to Trump’s comments on MSNBC in an interview with Ali Veshi saying, “It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur, but Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he’s going to shut me up with it,” Warren said. “It hasn’t worked in the past. It is not going to work in the future.”

WATCH: Elizabeth Warren responds to Trump's "Pocahontas" remark on @MSNBC:

"It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur." pic.twitter.com/au1QntxDzR

— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 27, 2017

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Warren’s response “ridiculous” adding, “I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.”

Frazier also took the opportunity to shine light on the recent and explosive revelations of widespread sexual harassment and assault, reminding people Pocahontas was herself a victim of this kind of abuse. “What happened to Pocahontas is still happening today to our women,” Frazier said. “Native American women continue to be victims of rape and exploitation by white men. The President of the United States is practicing that by exploiting native women as an insult for political machismo.”

Following the event, the National Congress of American Indians asked Trump “to refrain from using [Pocahontas’] name in a way that denigrates her legacy.”

“The President of the United States wanted to utilize an opportunity to honor native warriors who defended this land to make a political attack,” Frazier continued in his statement to HuffPost. “I have one for him, leave the office you bought and take your swamp things with you.”

Trump’s History of Racist Comments Against Native Americans

Below you may read Frazier’s full statement to the Huffington Post demanding Trump’s resignation.

I am deeply ashamed of the way the President of the United States has treated the veterans during an honoring ceremony at the White House. Veterans are brave heroes who sacrificed everything, despite the historical trauma to tribal nations, when asked to defend the United States. Absolutely nothing should have taken away from honoring the veterans for their contributions to the war that ensured the American way of life.

The President of the United States had an opportunity to honor veterans and bridge gaps in the relationship Tribes have with the Federal government. Instead, he chose to disgrace himself, his position and the nation he represents. It has been more than 200 years of living together yet the President of the United States knows nothing about us. We have been forced to learn the way of the American life. We have learned American religions, language, economy, politics and society. We all share in following the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A dream that all of those things we learn about, try to keep us from achieving. The President’s comments are another reminder that we are not allowed to participate.

Pocahontas was only a child when she became a victim of rape, kidnapping, imprisonment, and her forced conversion to Christianity. What happened to Pocahontas is still happening today to our women. Native American women continue to be victims of rape and exploitation by white men. The President of the United States is practicing that by exploiting native women as an insult for political machismo. Pocahontas is beloved by native people and is recognized as a victim of European colonialism. To use her name in that manner is disgusting and reflective of the President of the United States’ ignorance.

This President of the United States does not deserve to represent the American people if he cannot acknowledge the contributions of the people who make America great. The President of the United States has shown no responsibility when caring for American resources or the people. An apology is in order for the warriors that were present, to the native nations and the United States for his behavior. The President of the United States wanted to utilize an opportunity to honor native warriors who defended this land to make a political attack. I have one for him, leave the office you bought and take your swamp things with you.

The post Sioux Leader Tells Trump, ‘Leave The Office You Bought and Take Your Swamp Things With You’ appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

XI WTO Ministerial: An Uphill Task Before India to Protect Its Food Security

Ground Reality - Sat, 11/25/2017 - 10:07

India will have to negotiate hard at the XI WTO Ministerial, at Buenos Aires, to protect its mechanism of providing Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers Pic: The Hindu.  
At a time when angry farmer protests seeking an increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops is on an upswing, India faces an uphill task to protect its food procurement operations at the forthcoming Buenos Aires Ministerial of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) from December 10-13. At stake is the very mechanism of providing MSP to farmers.
The United States (US), European Union (EU), Australia, Japan and Pakistan are among the countries insisting on finding a permanent solution for public stockholding programmes in developing countries. At the Ninth WTO Ministerial held at Bali, in December 2013, India had managed to safeguard its MSP provisions under a temporary ‘peace clause’ provisions until a permanent solution is arrived at, by December 2017. The temporary reprieve that India got is now expiring. The interim ‘peace clause’ has enabled India to continue with its food procurement operations, wherein food crops like wheat and rice are procured from small and marginal farmers at an MSP so as to meet the food security needs of a significantly large food-insecure population. Under the ‘peace clause’, no country could initiate any action against India at the WTO for its food procurement operation even if it breached the subsidy ceiling of 10 per cent.
Developing countries were allowed a de-minimis ceiling of 10 per cent of agricultural subsidies under the Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS) provisions. According to the US, EU and some other countries, India had already breached the AMS limits on paddy, for instance, exceeding the upper limit by 24 per cent.
India has firmly conveyed its unwillingness to offer any further concessions for market access to protect its available policy space to purchase grain at MSP from farmers. On the other hand, the US, EU, Brazil, Uruguay and Pakistan have already made it clear that they would not accept any permanent solution on public stock holding unless it contains strong safeguards and incorporates transparency provisions. They are particularly keen that India is not allowed to export from the procured stocks as it distorts the international grain trade.
In addition, the developed countries desire India, and other developing countries, to provide more market access as well as to bring in transparency commitments which include an undertaking that it will refrain from including more crops in its procurement operations. Seeking an approval before adding any more crops to the public stockholding operations or enhancing the MSP, is also sought for.
The G-33 group of countries, which is actually a group of 47 developing countries, led by Indonesia, had already submitted a proposal seeking a satisfactory permanent solution to the vexed issues of public stockholding in developing countries. Its suggestion for not including public stockholding of grains under the AMS provisions has already been turned down by the US, EU and its allies.Therefore, it will be a very crucial WTO Ministerial for India in particular which is coming under increasing pressure to dismantle the procurement operations.
India will have to negotiate hard and scuttle all moves to cut down on public procurement operations. Failure to do so will be politically suicidal considering the terrible agrarian crisis that prevails and the growing demand for extending MSP to other crops. Although India announces MSP for 23 crops, it actually undertakes procurement for only wheat and rice, and to some extent in cotton and sugarcane.

Failure to play hardball at the time it was required has cost India an opportunity. At the Bali Ministerial in 2013, India had the option of seeking a permanent solution for its procurement operations had it not buckled under pressure to sign on the trade facilitation treaty. Bali Ministerial was an apt opportunity for India to get the world to agree to its proposal of keeping procurement operations outside the AMS subsidy commitments. But it failed.
The only silver lining, I see now, is the decision by India and China to jointly take up a counter-attack demanding to scrap the nearly $160 billion trade-distorting farm subsidies being provided by US, EU, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Japan and others. Although nearly 100 developing countries are backing the joint proposal, not many efforts to collectively take on the might of the rich and industrialised countries worked in the past. Nor has India ever been able to stand by its demand for reducing the trade-distorting subsidies of the rich countries.
Arm-twisting and economic allurements of the developing as well as least-developed countries, by the industrialised countries in the past, have seen many such collaborations split at the negotiating table. China has already reduced its grain prices for the first time in 10 years, and this does not augur well for the joint effort being put up at the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference.
A counter-offensive is certainly called for. For that, India will have to negotiate hard to at least ensure that ‘peace clause’ continues for perpetuity. It may otherwise be difficult to fathom the political storm back home if India gives in to more concessions while seeking a permanent solution. Any erosion of the policy space to safeguard food security will certainly have political repercussions, besides serious socio-economic implications.
Ploughing a Lonely Furrow. DNA. Nov 24, 2017. http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-ploughing-a-lonely-furrow-2562113
Categories: Ecological News

Keystone Pipeline Just Vomited 210,000 Gallons of Crude onto Land in South Dakota

Environews.tv - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 19:01

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/111717-breaking-keystone-pipeline-just-vomited-210000-gallons-crude-onto-land-south-dakota/"; reddit_title = "Keystone Pipeline Just Vomited 210,000 Gallons of Crude onto Land in South Dakota"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — On Thursday, November 16, 2017, operator TransCanada spilled 210,000 gallons of crude oil from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota. The spill brings more attention to a project fraught with controversy for years.

Work crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning while officials investigate the cause of the leak. The incident occurred about three miles northeast from the town of Amherst.

“This is the largest Keystone oil spill to date in South Dakota,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to CNN. There was a 16,800 gallon spill in South Dakota from Keystone in April of 2016, but Thursday’s spill is approximately twelve-and-a-half times larger.

At this hour, it is not known if groundwater was contaminated, or if any wildlife has been affected. “It is a below-ground pipeline, but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass,” Walsh said. “It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination.”

Image of Amherst incident taken earlier today by aerial patrol as part of our initial response. For more updates, visit https://t.co/8yWI1Oq2EM pic.twitter.com/uRNtYUdVjL

— TransCanada (@TransCanada) November 16, 2017

TransCanada says it is working with state and federal authorities and claims there is no pubic health threat and that no further impact on the environment has been observed. “The safety of the public and environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available,” the company said yesterday.

TransCanada ships bitumen crude from Alberta’s massive tar sands project to the lower-48 states via Keystone. Bitumen is an extremely viscous and toxic form of crude, containing at least twice as much climate-driving CO2 as conventional oil. The sticky substance has proven to be exceptionally hazardous to wildlife unfortunate enough to encounter the substance.

Another issue raising eyebrows is how close the spill occurred to the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate people of the Sioux Nation. Other Sioux bands were embattled for months in neighboring North Dakota, in the historic Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) fight in 2016 and 2017.

“The leak location is not on Sioux property, but it is adjacent to it and has historical value,” said Dave Flute to CNN. Flute is the tribal Chairman for Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe. “We want to know how long is it going to take to dig this plume of contaminated soil and how can we be reassured, without a doubt, that it has not and will not seep into the aquifer,” he continued.

The spill comes at a precarious time for TransCanada, happening just days before officials in Nebraska are slated to make a final decision on whether the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline, a conjoined project, will be allowed to move ahead.

Greenpeace says this spill is all the evidence needed to conclude the final leg of the project, the Keystone XL Pipeline, should be shuttered. “The Nebraska Public Service Commission needs to take a close look at this spill,” said Rachel Rye Butler, leader of the Democracy Campaign, for Greenpeace. “A permit approval allowing Canadian oil company TransCanada to build Keystone XL is a thumbs-up to likely spills in the future.”

The post Keystone Pipeline Just Vomited 210,000 Gallons of Crude onto Land in South Dakota appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Let me tell you a story of Vikram and Betal ...

Ground Reality - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:12

You have probably read the tales of Vikram and Betal. Pic courtesy: Dainik Jagran
Let me today tell you a story of Vikram and Betal. Before you ask me as to what is its relevance to the agrarian crisis, I suggest you first listen to the story.
Vikram was carrying Betal on his back. Betal, as usual asked him a question. “A father had three sons. The eldest was very intelligent and brilliant; the middle one was of ordinary intellect and therefore like any other common man; and the youngest was suffering from a deformity. The father had one rotiwhich he had to share among his sons. Now tell me in what proportion would he share the roti among his sons?”
This story was narrated by country’s well-know mythologist Devdutt Patanaik while in conversation with the famous journalist Shoma Chaudhury in Gurgaon a few days back. He asked the audience to think over the question when they are back home, but the interviewer Shoma Chaudhury was quick to reply: “Obviously, the father would share the roti in equal proportion which means everyone will get one third of the roti.” To this, Pattanaik response was: “No, I don’t think so. If the disabled gets one-third of the roti it will not be sufficient to meet his nutritional requirement, so no use. Similarly, if the eldest son gets one-third of the roti it isn’t enough to nourish his mental faculties. The father therefore has to make a very calculative decision.”
Devdutt Pattanaik explained that the theoretical assumption we make actually doesn’t work that way in reality. To achieve a purpose or a target, something has to be sacrificed. And then, he made a categorical statement: “If the objective is to promote the industry, agriculture has to be sacrificed.” You can’t say that I want to promote the industry and also make agriculture viable, he added. It doesn’t work that way, one of these sectors has to face the brunt. 
He is so right. Ever since the economic reforms were introduced in 1991, this is actually what the successive governments have been doing. Even internationally, agriculture has been sacrificed to build up the industry. In fact, I have often said that agriculture is being sacrificed to keep the economic reforms viable. And, economic reforms as you know, as industry driven. In a way, Devdutt Pattanaik therefore has only endorsed what I have been saying for long. Role of agriculture is only confined to provide cheaper raw material for the industry; make available land for the industry, including real estate and infrastructure; and to provide cheaper labour for the industry. For the policy makers, farmers have only two roles: they are either treated as a vote bank or as a land bank.
I don’t know what Vikram replied to Betal but if you ponder it over in your spare time you would agree that Devdutt Pattanaik had in fact delivered a very strong message. Let me illustrate how true he is by presenting two examples before you. In the early 1990s, when I was a correspondent with the Indian Express, I recall going through the kharifreport of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Every cropping season, the CACP brings out a report which works out the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops. It was clearly mentioned in that report that over the years cotton farmers were being paid 20 per cent less than the global market prices to keep the textile industry competitive. The same policy is being followed even now.
In other words, the cotton farmers are being paid roughly 20 per cent less to keep the textile industry viable. Internationally too, the cotton prices are low because of the massive subsidies that America pays to its cotton growers. In 2005, in a detailed study I did at the time of the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial, I had explained how the US subsidies actually bring down the international cotton prices as a result of which cotton farmers in India and also in West Africa appear to be inefficient producers. In a letter, entitled” Your Subsidies Kill our Farmers”,  published in the New York Times, heads of the State of four West African countries had actually made it abundantly clear as to how the US subsidies were playing havoc with cotton farmers in Africa. And how much subsidies we are talking about. Well, in 2005, the US provided $ 4.7 billion to just about 20,000 cotton farmers to produce a crop valued at $ 3.9 billion.
The massive cotton subsidies were primarily provided to keep the US textile industry viable. It was in reality not aimed at helping farmers but to actually serve as an incentive for the textile industry. The cotton subsidies in turn depress global prices, thereby pricing out farmers in India and in Africa. The cheap and highly subsidised textiles are then imported by countries like India, China and by other developing countries. Coming back to India, nearly 70 per cent of the farmer suicides actually happen in cotton. These farmers are a victim of a deliberate policy to deny them their rightful income so as to keep the textile industry afloat.
Farmers are being sacrificed at the altar of industrial development. The MSP that is worked out every year is actually less than the cost of cultivation. The CACP acknowledges the fact, but its role is to keep a balance between what the farmers are paid and the prices consumers have to pay. In other words, the MSP is kept low so as to ensure that the consumers don’t have to pay more. This means farmers are being deliberately kept impoverished so as to keep the consumers happy. Does it not mean that year after year the farmers are actually subsidising the consumers?
In a study that I and a team of researchers are in the process of finalising, Indian farmers have as a result been short-changed to the tune of Rs 12.60-lakh-crore every year. This is what they are being deprived off every year to keep the industry as well as the consumers happy. This is the extent of the economic sacrifice agriculture is making to keep industry viable. # 
उद्योगों के विकास के लिए खेती की बलि दी जा रही है ! Gaon Connection, Sept 3, 2017https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/indian-agriculture-sacrifices-for-growing-up-industries-weekly-column-by-devinder-sharma
Categories: Ecological News

World Must Detoxify Its Toxic Farmlands: A 6-Point Charter.

Ground Reality - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 10:49
My plenary talk at the 19th Organic World Congress, New Delhi, Nov 19-11, 2017




Pic: Daily Mail

World Must Detoxify Its Toxic Farmlands
By Devinder Sharma* **
“Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us… this is a reality we have to face.”Xi Jinping, President of China
The evidence is all there. With soil fertility declining to almost zero in intensively farmed regions; excessive mining of groundwater sucking aquifers dry; and chemical inputs, including pesticides, becoming extremely pervasive in environment, the entire food chain has been contaminated. Further, as soils become sick, forests are logged for expanding industrial farming, erosion takes a heavy toll[1] leading to more desertification. With crop productivity stagnating thereby resulting in more chemicals being pumped to produce the same harvest, the farmlands have turned toxic. Modern agriculture has become a major contributor to Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) leading to climate aberrations.

As the population of bees continues to decline, the alarm bells had been ringing for quite some time. A recent study pointing to a 75 per cent drop in flying insects and that too inside a nature reserve, raises the warning of an ‘ecological Armageddon’ [2].

While Green Revolution has already run out of steam[3], leaving behind a trail of misery, the catastrophic consequences manifest in the form of farm suicides[4][5]. With input costs growing, and farm gate prices remaining almost stagnant, if not declining, farmer’s income is swiftly on the downward slide. In Europe, many farms would be unprofitable if European subsidies were to be removed[6]. In France, farmers’ mutual insurance association (MSA) believes that in 2016 “a majority of farmers may earn less than Euro 350 a month”[7]. In India, as per the government’s own Economic Survey 2016, the average income of a farming family in 17 states, which means nearly half the country, has been computed at a paltry Rs 20,000 ($ 307) a year. No wonder, while agribusinesses corporations rake in profits, a majority of the nearly a billion people globally who go to bed hungry every night comprise small and marginal farmers. 

There is something terribly going wrong.

To paraphrase President Xi Jinping, the harm industrial agriculture inflicted on the planet is eventually returning to haunt us ..   

And yet more of the same is being pushed as the solution. Every high-level Summit ends up with a call to remove poverty. World Food Summits have called for an urgent need to remove hunger, and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has often called for promoting sustainable farming. ‘Business as usual’ is not the right way forward, we are repeatedly told. The International Assessment for Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report[8], which was ratified during an intergovernmental plenary in Johannesburg, April 7-12, 2008, has been lying in limbo ever since.

Every disaster is an opportunity. But it invariably has ended as an opportunity for business. The rhetoric has been the same and the solutions have remained the same too: more aggressive push for industrial agriculture. Just to illustrate. To ensure that the world does not witness a repeat of the 2008 food crisis — when 37 countries faced food riots — the international community has been swift in proposing a roadmap (not one, but a plethora of similar privates-sector driven blueprints). Business leaders from 17 private companies had announced at the 2009 World Economic Forum the launch of a global initiative — New Vision for Agriculture — that sets ambitious targets for increasing food production by 20 percent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ton by 20 percent, and reducing rural poverty by 20 percent every decade[9].

The 17 agribusiness giants include Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International.

It is therefore quite apparent that at the global level both the political as well as the business leadership is looking at the business opportunities that the crisis offers. In reality, the more the world tries to change, the more the world ends up doing the same.

But there is hope. As we get ready to enter 2018, the script for an ecologically sustainable agriculture, which brings back the smile on the face of farmers, without leaving any scar on the environment, is being rewritten. Over the years, an emerging consensus has developed around agro-ecology, which alone has the potential of an inclusive approach, and has emerged as an alternative paradigm[10]. Among others, an ActionAid report points to the solution to the global food requirement in 2050 not in the ‘rush to increase industrial food products’ but in shifting the focus to ‘supporting sustainable farming practices among small scale farmers – particularly women in developing countries’[11]. Since 80 per cent of the food is produced and consumed locally, turning agriculture sustainable and economically viable holds the strings to detoxifying the farmlands and thereby ushering in sustainable and healthy living.

Again, the evidence is all there. All it needs is a global effort to upscale what is already known in sustainable farming, to mainstream the principles of organic or non-chemical agriculture or agro-ecology in measuring economic growth. It has to move from a mere glib talk to a more specific action-oriented programme at the local, national and the international levels.

Six-point Charter: 

Phasing out Chemical Pesticides: It took the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) three decades to realise the gravest mistake of Green Revolution - pesticides are unnecessary. Gary John, an ecologist with IRRI at that time had said: "The simple fact is that, in the rest of Asia, most insecticide use on rice is a waste of the farmers' time and money." That was in 2003[12]. But the finding didn’t make any difference in the application of pesticides on rice. None of the National Agricultural Research Programmes took up the advice seriously. If only rice growing areas across the globe, the staple food crop, had followed the IRRI prescription, the pesticides load would have come down drastically. For example, in India alone, more than 42 chemical pesticides are still used on rice[13].

More recently, a new report[14]presented to the UN Human Rights Council states that pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.” At the local level, the introduction on Non-Pesticides Management (NPM) under the Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) in Andhra Pradesh, India, had led to 3.6 million acres being presently under cultivation without the use of pesticides[15]. Strangely, the World Bank, which has funded this programme, does not promote it. Incorporating the local experiences to the global policy framework, the challenge is to ensure that chemical pesticides are dropped from the crop cultivation menu.

Towards Organic Crop Breeding: The photo-insensitive semi-dwarf high yielding varieties of wheat and rice were initially developed in response to the application of higher doses of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash (NPK) fertilisers. The higher plant population per square meter produced a higher biomass attracting a large percentage of insects and therefore the need to spray more chemical pesticides. Consequently, these varieties were adapted to a wide range of agro-climatic conditions with a higher input usage. The flip side was that the higher the yield, the higher was the drop in nutrients. Productivity was inversely correlated with nutrition.

With the crop yields stagnating[16]and the fertiliser response declining sharply, the research focus should now move to developing improved crop varieties in response to organic manure. While such a crop breeding programme will bring back the focus on restoring the plant nutrition, so crucial for nutritional security, it will also spearhead transformation towards integrated agro-ecological farming systems. Perfecting biological solutions to controlling pests, restoring soil fertility and moving away from water guzzling crops are required to achieve agro-ecological transition. 

Rediscovering Traditional Knowledge: Learning, education and knowledge are central to transforming agriculture towards sustainability.  As much of this knowledge is produced outside academia[17], it will largely depend on a participatory process of knowledge creation, or in other words learning from the communities. In effect, it will be like reversing the Lab to Land approach, which had led to deskilling of the farming communities. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) for instance vetted some of the traditional knowledge it could collate, in four volumes[18], but gathering dust on the shelves.

Although documenting traditional knowledge and its ownership (drawing proprietary control over it) has been a hot trade issue in international negotiations, the need to rediscover the wealth of knowledge, wisdom and innovation in the public domain remains central. It will remain a continuous process. Although a number of such ethical frameworks are available, a draft policy framework for traditional knowledge systems in India, with the underlying objective of rewriting the existing regime and formulating a culturally appropriate, ecologically benign, socially sensitive people’s policy provides a unique roadmap for assessing the wealth of knowledge available, and keeping it in public domain[19].

Rediscovering traditional knowledge, and putting it in a framework, which will bridge different knowledge systems and horizontally spread agro-ecological innovations is the need.

Redesigning Public Procurement: While India, China have jointly opposed the trade-distorting farm subsidies doled out by the developed countries under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), protecting the policy space for public procurement for foodgrains remains the primary objective. This is crucial for ensuring food security, so assiduously built over the decades on achieving food self-sufficiency. The same principles need to be extended to procurement of organic produce, which will help ensure an assured price to growers.

Procurement protocols need to be redesigned to meet the domestic requirement for food produced from agro-ecological farming systems. In India, for instance, as the demand for organic food grows, including that for wheat and rice, the need is to provide a high procurement price for the non-chemical produce. Punjab, the food bowl of the country, is also the biggest importer of wheat flour (atta) much of it coming in from Madhya Pradesh, in central India. The atta imports are considered to be organic (but there is no organic certificate available). If only Punjab was to provide a higher procurement price for organic wheat, the production of non-chemical wheat will see an upswing. Similarly, the north-east regions of the country have been declared as an organic hub, agriculture investment should come in the form of regulated public procurement for organics.

Green Direct Payments is another route to provide an assured higher income for specific roles a farmer must undertake. EU member states, for instance, should allocate 30 per cent of their direct payment budget to Green Direct Payments[20]. Similarly, farmers bringing organic produce in the regulated markets in the developing countries must receive an additional 30 per cent by way of price.

Evaluating Ecosystem Services: All these years, soil for instance was always taken for granted. In the sense that the economic value of the functions and services it provided was never considered. It was entirely overlooked in economic and financial transactions[21]. From this perspective, a logical solution consisted of clearly identifying and ranking the services provided by natural resources, estimating their values, and translating them into monetary amounts, which could ultimately be used by the financial sector to set up payment or compensation schemes. 

China launched the “Grain for Green” and “Grain for Blue” programmes in 1991, and 1998, respectively. Similar proposals were floated in Europe too. In the US Midwest, similar mechanisms for payment for ecosystem services so as to reorient farming practices towards sustainable agriculture were initiated. More recently, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) approach was suggested to work out the promise of a guaranteed income to farmers while prompting them to adopt sustainable farming practices[22]. It observed: “there are farmers who are contributing more ecosystem services than the average farmer because of farming practices such as organic farming. They should receive a higher payment than others who are not following natural capital asset enhancement through their farming practices.” Payment for ecosystem services should now become an essential part of economic research, as well as the public policy.

At the G-20: And finally, at a time when the world is literally feeling the heat from climate change; when the world is staring at a jobless growth; and when the world is faced with an ‘ecological Armageddon’, will the G-20 leadership wake up to the urgent need to detoxify its farmlands? Unless the farmlands are detoxified, and the focus of economic growth shifts to organic agriculture, I don’t see much hope in either the climate crisis being addressed to the core nor an everlasting solution found for job creation.

It is only sustainable agriculture that can create and strengthen livelihoods; it is only the return to agro-ecological farming that can detoxify the farmlands, underground water and rivers; it is only healthy nutritious food that can pull the world out of the disease epidemic it is in grip of. It’s only agriculture that can reboot the global economy. Will the G-20 leadership ever wake up to the only silver-lining? #
-----------------  *Devinder Sharma is an Indian author, writer and a well-known food and trade policy analyst.  His blog: Ground Reality (http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com) is read in 196 countries.Contact Email: hunger55@gmail.com; Twitter: @Devinder_Sharma **Plenary talk at the 19th Organic World Congress, New Delhi, Nov 9-11, 2017

Notes

[1]Nearly 75 billion tonnes of soil is lost to erosion every year, with damages costing $ 400 billion per annum. An ETC (2017) report “Who will feed us?” brings this out very lucidly. In another report, published in Scientific American, a UN official was quoted as saying that if the current rate of degradation continues, the world’s top soil would be gone in 60 years.   [2]Three quarters of flying insects in a nature reserve in Germany have vanished in past 25 years, says a University of Sussex study published in the journal Plos One (Oct 18, 2017)[3]“In 1980s, farmers used to produce 50Kg of wheat by using 1 kg of NPK fertilisers. Now farmers are producing only 8 Kg by using 1 kg of NPK fertiliser”, Dr Mangla Rai, a former Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) stated. ‘Agriculture in a crisis. Let’s be clear, farmer’s won’t keep still’.  The Tribune, Sept 21, 2017.  [4] In France, a farmer commits suicide every two days, Australia reports one suicide every four days, in UK the farm suicide rate is double than the country’s average, and India yearly reports 17,627 farmer suicides every year, Terezia Farkas (2014) had said in an article “Why farmer suicide rates are highest in any profession” in the Huffington Post, quoting a Newsweek 2014 report.   [5] Falling incomes and increased vulnerability to financial risks is forcing French farmers into the suicide trap. Paola Tamma (2017) analyses a French study in her article “Suicides plagues French farmers, study shows” published  in EURACTIV.com[6]Michel Pimbert (Coventry University, UK) has been quoted in a FAO report of the Regional Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable agriculture and Food Systems for Europe and Central Asia, Budapest, Nob 23-25, 2016.  [7]See Paola Tamma’s article above. [8]This three year international collaborative effort (2002-2005) was initiated by the World Bank, and joined by a host of international organisation, including UN. This was the outcome of a major initiative involving 900 scientists from 110 countries. [9] The ‘New Vision for Agriculture’ uses the same language and approach. It promises to involve almost 600 and at a global level, it has partnered with the G7 and G20, facilitating informal leadership dialogue and collaboration. At the regional and country level, it has catalysed multi-stakeholder partnerships in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, including Grow Africa and Grow Asia, states WEF[10]FAO Report of the Regional Symposium on Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, for Europe and Central Asia, Nov 23-25, 2016. [11]ActionAid report: Rising to the Challenge: Changing Course to Feed the World in 2050’[12]In an article ‘Pest, Pesticides, and Modern Science’, published in Indiatogether web site, I had analysed this based on an IRRI press release. The same combination of corporate interest and agricultural science that led to mindless use of insecticides is now turning to genetic engineering.  [13]Personal correspondence with Jayakumar, Country Director, PAN India. [14]Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Jan 24, 2017[15] A farming model to sustain the world. (2010). That’s how I called the success of the non-pesticides management (NPM) programme in Andhra Pradesh, India. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2010/01/farming-model-to-sustain-world.html [16]In China, rice yields have stagnated on 50% of the rice area over 1980 and 2010. Study published in the journal Plos One (July 12, 2016) . http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0159061[17]See 10[18]Farm Innovators-2010, a publication of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi. [19] A draft policy framework for Traditional Knowledge Systems India, 2009, was prepared by a group of civil society actors, which was at one time considered to being formalised as rules under the Biodiversity Act. This draft is available at: http://thanal.co.in/resource/view/the-protection-conservation-and-effective-management-of-traditional-knowledge-relating-to-biological-diversity-rules-2009draft-45050006   [20]Cross-compliance and Green Direct Payments (Box:6) in the Chapter on Public Policies to develop agro-ecology and promote transition, FAO report of the Regional Symposium on Agro-ecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems for Europe and Central Asia, 2016.   [21] A review article published in Frontiers in Environmental Sciences (June 7, 2016) provides a critical appraisal of soil ‘ecosystem’ services and natural capital. The flurry of literature and the growing interest in the subject has led to a “Soil Directive” proposal which remained in negotiations between EU members in 2006 and 2014. [22]Guaranteed Farm Incomes and Sustainable Agriculture, (EPW, April 29, 2017) wherein the authors suggest payment for ecosystem services as a novel way to incentivise sustainable farming practices. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2017/05/payment-for-ecosystem-services-can.html

Categories: Ecological News

Cultivating losses

Ground Reality - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 13:09


In the absence of any dedicated procurement of market produce, the promise of providing farmers with an assured Minimum Support Price (MSP) covering at least the production cost is turning out to be nothing more than a bi-annual ritual. Except for wheat and rice, and to some extent cotton, the announcement of a higher MSP (including bonus) for both the rabi and kharif seasons has simply become meaningless.
While the Centre has announced an increase of 6.4 per cent to 10.8 per cent in the MSP for crops grown in the forthcoming winter season, there is no assurance that the farmers will actually receive the prices that have been announced. If the past experience is any indication, farmers have not only failed to realise their cost of production but have invariably ended up selling their crop harvest at a much lower price, often a drop of 25 to 40 per cent on an average.
Let me illustrate. In Porbander, Gujarat, the price of groundnut oscillated between a minimum of Rs 2,675 per quintal to a high of Rs 2,750 per quintal, with the modal price (which is the average price derived from a day’s sales) being Rs 2,710. These were the prices prevailing in the five day period between Oct 17 and Oct 21. Two days later, on Oct 23, groundnut price in Hanumangarh in Rajasthan was Rs 2,900 per quintal. While the modal price looks to be a much better price that the farmers have got, it actually is a distress price. Compare this with the MSP for groundnut at Rs 4,450 per quintal, and it becomes clear that farmers have in reality been forced to incur a net loss of Rs 1,740 per quintal.
In Rajasthan, the price of moong (green gram) on Oct 6 in Ajmer district mandis prevailed at a modal price of Rs 3,900 per quintal in the Beawar and Bijay Nagar markets. The same day, the modal price for moong was Rs 4,150 per quintal in the Madanganj and Kishanganj mandis. The modal price was approximately 25 per cent less than the MSP for moong. Against the MSP of Rs 5,575 per quintal, farmers earning was in the negative, a loss of more than Rs 1,600 per quintal on an average.
Interestingly, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) admits that the moongMSP was fixed lower than its production cost that works out to Rs 5,700 per quintal. In Madhya Pradesh too, the market prices of urad, moong and groundnut had prevailed low.
In September too, the prices had remained low. Let us compare the prices that prevailed on Sept 27 across the country’s mandis to get an idea of the price blow the farmers are subjected to. For soyabean, the modal prices in Harda and Mandsaur mandis in Madhya Pradesh prevailed at a low of Rs 2,660 and Rs 2,880 per quintal against the MSP (plus bonus) of Rs 3,050 per quintal, a loss of Rs 400 to Rs 500 on the sale of every quintal. For urad dal, against the MSP (and bonus) of Rs 5,400 per quintal, the price in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh was Rs 3,725; at Kota in Rajasthan at Rs 3,850; at Rs 4,180 in Bidar, Karnataka and Rs 4,410 at Akola in Maharashtra.  The average loss urad farmers had to suffer across the country varied between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,800 per quintal.
Given the huge losses that farmers have been incurring over the years, it has become crystal clear that the announcement of MSP neither helps in setting a floor price nor does it guarantee an assured price for farmers. The mandate for CACP, which works out the MSP for various crops, is not only to provide an assured price to farmers but also to ensure that it does not lead to inflationary pressures. The prices therefore are deliberately kept low, and in many cases are actually less than even the cost of production that the farmers have to entail. I have therefore maintained that when the farmers cultivate crops, what they don’t realise is they are in reality cultivating losses.
In any case, the high-level Shanta Kumar Committee had made it abundantly clear that only 6 per cent farmers get MSP since they are able to bring their produce to the mandis. Lack of logistics and adequate infrastructure has deprived the remaining 94 per cent farmers of even seeking a claim over MSP. After all, only those who bring their produce to the regulated mandiscan get the benefit of MSP. This is primarily because there are only about 7,600 regulated APMC regulated mandisin the country, which is awfully low. To ensure that a mandi is available within a 20 km radius, India needs a network of 42,000 mandis.
The economic priority therefore should be on making adequate investment in the construction of APMC market years. This assumes importance given the scale and magnitude of the agrarian distress that continues to prevail. Instead of deputing 50,000 party workers to convince farmers of the government’s intent behind doubling farmers income, the focus should urgently shift to setting up 42,000 market yards in the next five years. That’s where the answer lies. #
Cultivating poverty in farms. DNA, Nov 10, 2017http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-cultivating-poverty-in-farms-2558929
Categories: Ecological News

Colorado’s Controversial Black Bear, Mountain Lion Killing Plan, Defanged in Federal Court

Environews.tv - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 17:11

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/110817-colorados-controversial-black-bear-mountain-lion-killing-plan-defanged-federal-court/"; reddit_title = "Colorado’s Controversial Black Bear, Mountain Lion Killing Plan, Defanged in Federal Court"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Colorado) Denver, Colorado – Good news for wild critters and those who love them, as a federal court has temporarily blocked a controversial plan to kill mountain lions (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) on public lands in Colorado. The ruling marks the most recent in a string of victories for environmental groups against the federal government.

The joint motion, handed down November 6, 2017, by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, stems from a lawsuit launched in April by conservation groups WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) and the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center) against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services (WS) program for green-lighting a plan that would cull predators to study whether such actions would increase mule deer populations.

Wildlife Services is an arm of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and contracts with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Conservation groups have long criticized Wildlife Services for its practice of killing important keystone predators as a form of “management.” In 2016 WS killed a total of 2.7 million animals, including 1.6 million native species.

The agency must now put its predator control practices on hold in parts of the state until August 2018, at which point it is required to submit a new Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to determine the overarching ecological impacts of the plans.

CPW’s Piceance Basin Predator Management Plan and Upper Arkansas River Predator Management Plan would eliminate between 15 and 45 mountain lions and 30 to 75 black bear over a period of three years on Colorado’s Western Slope and over half of the mountain lion population in a 2,370-square-mile area in south-central Colorado.

The temporary ban also blocks the deployment of M-44s — spring-activated devices containing poisonous sodium cyanide capsules used to kill coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs.

In 2016, APHIS reported 60 coyotes intentionally killed by M-44s in Colorado along with three foxes and two ravens unintentionally killed.

“Our ultimate goal with challenging this Environmental Assessment is that we really want Wildlife Services to take a hard look at what they’re doing and the effects on the environment,” said Stuart Wilcox, Staff Attorney for WildEarth Guardians, to EnviroNews in a phone interview.

“In the meantime we have some interim protections against some particularly egregious practices that they carry out,” Wilcox continued. “We mark this as a partial win and we hope that it leads to bigger changes when they redo this analysis.”

Banning of the M-44 ‘Cyanide Bomb’

M-44 cyanide injectors are registered as pesticides with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and may only be used for “control” of coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs that are “vectors of communicable diseases or suspected of preying upon livestock, poultry, and federally designated threatened and endangered species.”

In March, a 14-year-old boy and his dog were sprayed by an M-44 near Pocatello, Idaho, injuring the boy and killing the dog. In response, the conservation group Western Watersheds Project sent a petition to Jason Sukow, Director of Wildlife Services Western Region, calling for a ban on the lethal gadgets.

On April 10, Sukow replied with a letter explaining the agency had launched an inquiry into the incident and, in the meantime, would remove all existing M-44s from state lands and place a moratorium on deploying any new ones. The agency also promised to provide a 30-day notice if and when it decides to use the devices again.

A lawsuit initiated by the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote/Earth Island Institute, and Animal Welfare Institute against Wildlife Services in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, yielded an October settlement where the agency agreed not to use pesticides, traps, or M-44s nor conduct aerial shooting in “wilderness areas” in 16 counties across Northern California until 2023 while they put together a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In June, Wildlife Services issued implementation guidelines for M-44s detailing where they can and cannot be placed. The contraptions may be set within seven miles of a ranch where livestock has been killed by wild canines or “can be reasonably expected to occur,” yet not in areas where “exposure to the public and family and pets is probable.”

M-44s cannot be set within a half mile of a residence without permission from a property owner, nor in national forests, national or state parks (with exceptions for protecting threatened or endangered species), wildlife refuges or wilderness areas.

Maximum density of M-44s is not to exceed 10 devices per 100 acres of pastureland or 12 within a square mile of open range.

Lastly, all cyanide injectors must be inspected weekly and warning signs must be prominently placed, with the agency acknowledging “most people know nothing about M-44s and their hazards.”

Recent court rulings indicate that Wildlife Service’s long-standing predator control practices might need to be revamped. The courts seem to corroborate what conservation groups have been saying all along, namely, that the agency ignores the best science and turns a blind eye to the ecological impacts of its wildlife management practices.

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Tribals Are Mankind's Living Vault

Ground Reality - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:04
This tribal region was earlier called "Bhooki", a clear cut reflection of the extent of hunger that prevailed. I am told Acharya Vinoba Bhave had travelled through the region, and was instrumental in getting land transferred into the hands of quite a significant proportion the landless tribals. I could see the transformation that has come about several decades later when I decided to visit some tribal families in Anandpuri block of Banswara district in southern Rajasthan. Along with the neighbouring districts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, Banswara is part of a predominant tribal triangle in central India. 


Shankar
I wanted to meet small and marginal farmers of the region. My first visit was to meet Shankar, 55, in village Bodiya Talau, some 58 kms from Banswara. He owns 2.15 acres of land, has three cows, 2 bulls and 1 goat. All animals are the desi breed. The cows hardly give 500 grams of milk per day. When asked why is he keeping them, his reply was that the cows are not kept for milk but for manure. He cultivates maize, tur, paddy, tomato, wheat, chilli, turmeric and remarked: "I grow everything at home, except for salt and sugar." He was satisfied with what he was doing after having transformed his almost barren land into a green patch. Has planted a number of trees, including cashew. Shankar is certainly more enterprising than his fellow Tribals.

I then met Chetan Pargi, aged 35, from Ummed Pura village. He is into rope weaving besides doing farming in 4 bigha land. He said he was able to make a decent living , and his land provided enough for his family throughout the year. I didn't believe him looking at his frail health. But he insisted that his land gave him enough. But is that enough, enough? That's the question. But their undying spirit of hospitality is what amazes me. At a time when the people in cities have turned selfish and are not willing to offer even a cup of tea to visitors, Chetan Pargi, despite his visible level of subsistence, wanted me to have food with him. When I politely declined, he said: "bare Saheb log kahan hamare jaise logo ke haath ka khana khate hain' (Why would the sahebs like to eat with us). I had to tell him that as per the schedule, I was already eating with another farmer in the next village.    

Meeting Mani Lal in the same village confirmed how severely undernourished these Tribals are. Reverting to farming, I was impressed the way he was trying to get into composting, amrit pani and understood why he wanted to keep chemical pesticides away. "Sir, yeh to jehar hai (Sir, this is simply a poison) he told me.  




Mani Lal
What comes as a shock is to know how some of them are being deprived of their ration quota just because they have not completed constructing toilets in their houses. Among various things that I learnt from them, I found Mani Lal's wife Babli Bai's effort to preserve the seeds of cucumber and lemon by gluing them on the Sagwan leaves and hanging the dry leaves to be an interesting way to keep seeds.There were several other traditional ways that farmers were adopting which I found it worth documenting, and learning from 




Babli bai
All this became possible when I accepted the invitation to addressing thousands of Tribals at Banswara in southern Rajasthan in a Janjati Krishi Swaraj Sammelan (Tribal Conclave). As I said earlier, these Tribals came from the tribal belt in the triangle of a region formed between Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. They had walked through some 100 villages for about a fortnight before the march culminated into a Tribal Conclave. Organised by the Banswara-based NGO, Vaagdhara, I must acknowledge that it was an amazing experience to speak before such a large audience of Tribals, something close to 7,000 and 8,000. They came dressed in all colours, and in all their glory. In my talk I urged them not to let go of their farming techniques and practices. They alone hold the future as far saving sustainable farming practices are concerned. The farming practices they preserve hold the key to save the world from climate change. I sought their cooperation in protecting their agriculture from getting polluted and environmentally devastated. Three things they must do: 1. Stop using chemical pesticides. 2. Phase out the application of chemical fertilisers. 3. Conserve and protect desi cattle breeds/seeds. 

They took a pledge to follow the directions.






It will certainly be a grave tragedy if the Government tries to introduce modern farming techniques in these villages, and thereby destroy the synergy that Tribal agriculture preserves. Linking nature, environment and religion, the Tribals have preserved over centuries what is truly a sustainable farming system. It is high time a separate plan is prepared for the Tribal regions, wherein the effort should be to  not only conserve but also improve upon their traditional practices, ensuring that these Tribals are paid a premium for the monumental role they have played in preserving and conserving the natural resources. This is a small price the society needs to incur for what could turn out to be the ultimate saviour of mankind's future. With global warming already pushing the world to a tripping point, the Tribal regions (all over the world) may turn out to be society's last refuge. Like the Doomsday vault in the Arctic, where the effort is to preserve crop seeds for posterity, these are the Living Vault that mankind needs to protect for its own future. #

Further reading: The Forgotten Foods. Ground Reality. Mar 7, 2014
http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2014/03/the-forgotten-foods.html?view=flipcard
Categories: Ecological News

‘Big Victory’: Fed. Gov’s ‘Cruel’ Wildlife Killing Program Stopped in Court Again, This Time in NorCal

Environews.tv - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 20:27

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/110217-big-victory-fed-govs-cruel-wildlife-killing-program-stopped-court-time-norcal/"; reddit_title = "‘Big Victory’: Fed. Gov’s ‘Cruel’ Wildlife Killing Program Stopped in Court Again, This Time in NorCal"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews California) — San Francisco, California — Wildlife Services — from the sound of it, one might think it’s a program that would be supportive or in “service” to wildlife. But environmental and conservation groups say the century-old agency is anything but helpful to animals — especially if you happen to be a bear, wolf, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote or other predatory mammal. Last year alone, the program culled some 2.7 million animals, including 1.6 million native specimens — all with your hard-earned tax dollars — that is, if you are a citizen of the United States. But on November 1, 2017, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said no more, and approved a settlement that puts the brakes on Wildlife Services in 16 counties in Northern California.

Wildlife Services (WS) is an ancillary arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) and has been killing America’s critters and creatures since 1895. While the agency’s website maintains that its goal is to “provide federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist,” wildlife advocates and conservationists say the agency’s primary modus operandi is to appease the livestock and agricultural industries by wiping out predators at their behest.

These same critics say WS uses unusually cruel, unscientific and indiscriminate methods of slaughtering its targets too — techniques like aerial gunning, den fumigation, steel-jaw leghold traps, strangulation snares, and M-44 “cyanide bombs” which often accidentally deploy when pets, unintended species, or even children encounter them.

The November 1 settlement came after a multi-pronged legal attack was forged and filed jointly by several environmental and animal advocacy organizations in June. The plaintiffs include the NGO non-profit groups WildEarth Guardians (Guardians), the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center), Western Watersheds Project, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote/Earth Island Institute, and the Animal Welfare Institute. In the original complaint, the groups contend Wildlife Services violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) “by failing or refusing to supplement its NEPA analysis regarding wildlife damage management activities in California’s North District.”

“This is a big victory for California wildlife targeted by this federal program’s horrifically destructive war on animals,” stated Collette Adkins, an attorney on the case for the Center, in a press release. “We’ve saved hundreds of animals that would have suffered and died in traps set by Wildlife Services over the next several years. That feels really good.”

As part of the court order WS must stop executing animals in designated “wilderness areas” by way of pesticides, aerial gunning, traps, den fumigants, M-44s and lead ammunition. “Traps” are further defined as “body-gripping traps, glue traps, [and] spring-powered harpoon traps.”

The counties affected by the agreement are Butte, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba. Effective immediately, WS must now stop the aforementioned killing practices in wilderness areas and must also complete a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) by 2023, concerning how its killing activities affect the ecosystem at large.

The order also demands that WS implement several measures to protect the area’s endangered gray wolf (Canis lupus) population from snares and devices intended for other animals.

“Wolves are just starting to return to their native habitats in Northern California, and this settlement provides needed interim protections to protect wolves while a detailed environmental study examines whether lethal wildlife ‘management’ options should even be on the table,” said Kristin Ruether of Western Watersheds Project. “It is long past time that federal agencies stop the killing of native wildlife at the behest of the livestock industry, and ultimately we hope that the added public scrutiny will force a shift to nonlethal options.”

The “public scrutiny” Ruether is referring to means feedback from citizens in the way of comments, because the process accompanying the studies for the 2023 EIS will also include “robust public commenting opportunities,” according to the joint press release published by the coalition of groups on November 1.

Wildlife Services: A ‘Secretive,’ ‘Rogue’ Agency off the Rails?

WS has been called “secretive,” “clandestine” and “rogue” by lawmakers, scientists, journalists and investigative reporters alike. The agency operates almost entirely in the dark, failing to maintain social media accounts, activity feeds and other correspondence with the public, while deliberately thwarting attempts at transparency from both politicians and the press.

In 2016, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told Harper’s Magazine, “I’ve served on the Homeland Security Committee, and Wildlife Services is more difficult to get information from than our intelligence agencies.”

“They’re very resistant and very much protected by the Department of Agriculture,” DeFazio explained to EnviroNews earlier this year.

After authoring a report on WS for Harper’s Magazine titled, “The Rogue Agency: A USDA program that tortures dogs and kills endangered species,” investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham told NatGeo‘s Wildlife Watch:

These are not people who are forthcoming about information. I spent a year working on this story, and contacted Wildlife Services multiple times to ask to go out in the field with a trapper to observe their lethal control operations. They never granted me that request, claiming it would endanger me. Then I sent them a list of 35 questions, almost none of which were directly answered. If they’re not going to a respond to an informational request from a senior congressman in the House, do you think they’re going to answer a reporter?

Regarding the November 1 settlement, Michelle Lute, wildlife coexistence campaigner with Guardians, chimed in on WS’s secretive ways as well saying, “Wildlife Services’ lethal ‘control’ is ineffective, wasteful and cruel,” adding, “We are changing this clandestine government program state-by-state until wildlife and people are safe on our public lands.”

Wildlife Services: A Long Track-Record of Losing in Court

The Center for Biological Diversity boasts a 93 percent success rate on wildlife cases against the federal government, while many other organizations including WildEarth Guardians, Earthjustice and Western Watersheds Project are racking up the victories as well. Time and again, EnviroNews has published reports on legal battles between conservation groups and various branches of the federal government, and time and again judges across the country have sided with conservation coalitions and America’s iconic wilderness and wildlife. To be more precise, judges are frequently ruling to enforce NEPA, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other protective laws.

In 2017, lawsuits against WS from some of the same plaintiffs featured in the November 1 settlement, yielded victories in several places, including the banning of cyanide bombs in Idaho and other places.

In another case in late 2016, a “landmark settlement” between WS and WildEarth Guardians “[changed] the rules across the board and [put] a stop to WS’s critter-killing endeavors on over six million acres of public land,” EnviroNews reported at the time.

“This settlement is just one of the many ways we are holding Wildlife Services accountable to the public and wildlife it should be serving,” Lute told EnviroNews today. “Historically, the program has enabled unsustainable welfare ranching and kept so-called wildlife management in the dark ages, complete with medieval torture devices. Cyanide bombs, traps and aerial gunning are unscientific, unethical and unacceptable.”

Wildlife advocates can now tally up yet another legal victory against Wildlife Services — this time in the Golden State. The only question now: where, and for what, will Wildlife Services be sued next?

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Categories: Ecological News

It is agriculture that needs an economic stimulus package.

Ground Reality - Sun, 10/29/2017 - 10:05
Agriculture is crying for an economic stimulus package. Instead, money is being incessantly pumped in constructing roads. - NDTV picture
First take a look at this. Since the Kharif crop came in to the mandis, the prices have crashed. Farmers across the country are unable to realise even the production cost. There is hardly a week when we don’t read of farmers protest in one part of the country or the other. While farmer suicides show no sign of ending, agricultural distress continues to mount.
In September-October, the prices had remained low. Let me give you an example so as to compare the prices that prevailed on Sept 27 across the country’s mandis to get an idea of the price blow the farmers are subjected to. For soyabean, the modal prices in Harda and Mandsaur mandisin Madhya Pradesh prevailed at a low of Rs 2,660 and Rs 2,880 per quintal against the MSP (plus bonus) of Rs 3,050 per quintal, a loss of Rs 400 to Rs 500 on the sale of every quintal. For urad dal, against the MSP (and bonus) of Rs 5,400 per quintal, the price in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh was Rs 3,725; at Kota in Rajasthan at Rs 3,850; at Rs 4,180 in Bidar, Karnataka and Rs 4,410 at Akola in Maharashtra.  The average loss urad farmers had to suffer across the country varied between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,800 per quintal. This trend continues to prevail. 
Year after year, farmers have toiled hard to produce a bumper harvest. But little do they realise that when they cultivate a crop, they actually cultivate losses. 
Just a few days back, the International Food policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released its annual Global Hunger Index. India slips in the global hunger index (GHI) by three steps to perform even lower than North Korea and Bangladesh, ranking 100 among 119 nations and has been placed in the ‘serious’ category. This comes at a time when a survey conducted by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau brings out a stark reality that the country doesn’t want to know. Rural India is eating less than what it used to 40 years ago. According to a report: “On average, compared to 1975-79, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories and 13 gm protein, 5 mg iron, 250 mg calcium, and about 500 mg less vitamin A. If rural India, home to 70 per cent of India’s population, is eating less and remains undernourished, it is a clause for an alarm.
Children below the age of three are consuming, on average, 80 ml of milk per day instead of the 300 ml they require. This data explains, in part, why in the same survey, 35 percent of rural men and women were found to be undernourished, and 42 percent of children were underweight. A national household expenditure survey tells us that 80 per cent rural, and 70 per cent urban population is unable to consume the required 2,400 calories a day to meet the basic nutrition requirement.
But if you heard the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at a press conference in New Delhi unveil the massive financial stimulus package to boost economic growth, you would have noticed that he didn’t even use the word ‘agriculture’ during his one and a half hour press conference. He presented a Rs 6.92 lakh economic stimulus package to build 83,677 kms of roads, and provided a massive bailout of Rs 2.11-lakh crore for the banks. Basically the idea being to give banks enough money to write-off the pending bad loans of the corporate. In other words, at a time when agriculture is in a dire crisis, employing roughly 60 per cent of the population, it does not even figure in the economic thinking of the government.
Appalling levels of hunger exists in a country which projects itself to be in a growth trajectory, does not even worry the mandarins in the Finance Minister. Farmers dying in the countryside every other day do not even prick the conscious of the mainline economists. For them, economic growth only means building more infrastructures. They haven’t read a study by Harvard University which says that investing in agriculture is fine times more effective in removing poverty and hunger than investing in infrastructure. Imagine, if Rs 6.92 lakh crore stimulus package that has been given to constructing 83,677 kms of more highways was instead given to agriculture, it would have served not only as booster dose but given a rocket dose to the economy. It would have strengthened millions of livelihoods; pulled millions out of hunger; and perhaps could have reduced the spate of farmer suicides.
Arun Jaitley announced a massive recapitalisation of Rs 2.11-lakh crore for the public sector banks ostensibly to provide them more money so they can write-off the huge bad debt of companies. If only he had instead announced the massive bail out for the banks to be targeted to the outstanding farm loans across the country, the sagging economy could have been brought back on the rails. Writing-off the outstanding farm loans in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh alone could have benefitted nearly 1.8 crore farming families. These 18 million families would have created demand, and that would have ignited the wheels of the economy.
The fundamental problem actually lies in the flawed economic thinking that has been created over the past few decades. Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian had sometimes back stated unabashedly that writing-off corporate debt is economic growth. This is how economic growth is perceived. But when it comes to writing off the farm loans, the Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel had said it is a moral hazard and would upset the national balance sheet. Farm loan waiver adds on to fiscal deficit but the Rs 2.11-lakh crore that the banks have been given does not figure in the fiscal deficit calculations.
Perhaps the Finance Minister is not aware that the world is now increasingly beginning to discard the market economy mantra. The 37-year-old newly elected Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern has in her first interview said: “Market economy has failed our people .. If you have hundreds of thousands of children living in homes without enough to survive, that’s a blatant failure.” The measures of economic growth will have to change. Ms Ardern has pledged her government will increase the minimum wage, write child poverty reduction targets into law, and build thousands of affordable homes. I am waiting for the day when India’s Finance Minister too measures economic growth in terms of how many people have been pulled out of poverty, how many more hungry people have been fed, tells us the decline in number of farmer suicides, and how many more jobs have been created. #
कृषि पर भारी कॉरपोरेट. Amar Ujala, Oct 28, 2017http://www.amarujala.com/columns/opinion/heavy-corporate-on-agriculture

Categories: Ecological News

Celebrating Seed Freedom and Agroecology – Indonesia

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 21:11


In October 2017, commemorating World Food Day, Navdanya and JAGA Indonesia organized an agroecology mobilization tour in collaboration with local partners in continuation to the mobilization kicked off in 2014 with Dr. Vandana Shiva’s visit to  Indonesia and subsequently in 2015, when eleven people from Indonesia attended the “A to Z of Agroecology and Organic Food Systems” course at Navdanya Earth University.

The initiative “Celebrating Seed Freedom & Agroecology” took place in three cities: Jember (October 28th-29th, 2017), Jogjakarta (October 31st, 2017) and Bali (November 4th, 2017). The Navdanya team consisted of Ruchi Shroff, of Navdanya International, Darwan Singh Negi, Navdanya’s Farmers’ Training Co-ordinator and Neha Raj Singh, of Navdanya Trust, India.

The rich dialogues, exchanges and presentations  with farmers, policy makers and citizens laid the ground for a transition towards an agroecological food system for food sovereignty, nutrition, climate resilience and economic security.

Of major importance to the success of the tour were the 3 agroecology practical training workshops which covered, among other practices, seed saving, natural seed treatment, soil fertility management and natural pest management. Using traditional knowledge Mr. Negi showed how in any natural environment it is possible to find the resources and ingredients to both control pests and weeds, as well as to regenerate soil fertility. As he stated: “We don’t need poisonous chemicals to kill pests and weeds, we have enough knowledge to control them”.

The first event was coordinated by Jaga Indonesia local team and held at Jember University with the participation of students, representatives of the academic community and of local farmers’ organisations. The core theme and title of the panel debate was “Local Food Sovereignty based on Farmers’ Self-Reliance”. Our team highlighted how the dominant industrial agriculture and food system is failing in addressing the multiple crisis we face today. This model, based on large scale monocultures, hybrid or transgenic seeds and a very high use of chemical inputs, is polluting the soil, air and water, eroding biodiversity, killing pollinator insects, increasing greenhouse gases emissions, giving us nutritionally empty food, pushing farmers off their land and disrupting the social fabric of local communities.

The agricultural food systems and policies that we need should not be based merely on the industrial goal of high production of commodities. As Navdanya’s studies and work show, a Biodiversity-based organic agriculture provides the answer to the issues which should instead be at the centre of the discourse regarding the future of our food – a model that works in harmony with the Earth, increases soil fertility and biodiversity, provides diverse, nutritious and poison-free food, contributes in mitigating and stabilizing climate change, as well as improves farmers’ livelihoods and revives the economy of local communities.

The program schedule at Ekoliterasi Jogja in Jogjakarta saw two days of intense capacity building workshops and inspiring discussions on “Seed: Threats, Challenges and Hopes” with some of the most committed activists, farmers and movements of the region. Representing the local group affiliated to Jaga Indonesia, activist Satriya Wibowo presented a workshop on the loss of biodiversity in Java following the green revolution.

As part of the effort of building networks to share knowledge on the importance of local seeds, the group based their survey and research on asking old farmers from the villages of the rural area of Java about how their farming methods and the varieties of plants they used had been developing and changing from the 1960s’ onwards. It resulted that, for example, in 1960 they used to have 43 carbohydrate sources which have now been reduced to 9, among which only 2 are local varieties and seven are new varieties. In the same year the number of vegetable sources was up to 29, which now have been reduced to 16, mostly hybrid varieties produced by companies that come with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Also, the 10 varieties of legumes present in 1960 have now been reduced to only 4.

In relation with the work which has been carried out with Mantasa and with other international partners on network building for Seed Freedom, Navdanya’s presentation was focused on showing the vision and achievements of the Global Movement for Seed Freedom and how support in solidarity with each other and timely intervention is vital to stop the corporate hijack of our seed and food, while protecting the Earth, our biodiversity and the well-being of our local communities. Discussions took place and knowledge was shared across different small working groups, from the comparison of the roots of the agrarian crisis in India, Indonesia and other parts of the world, to the importance of connecting citizens movements with farmers who cultivate diversity and of taking care of seeds and traditional knowledge as a community.

The third event was held at the Subak Museum in Bali, also to pay a tribute to the millennial tradition of Subak water system distribution in Bali, which well represents the invaluable importance of protecting and defending traditional knowledge. The panel discussion was coordinated by JAGA Indonesia and several other local organisations and saw the participation of farmers, students and local producers. Navdanya was represented both by Neha Raj Singh, of Navdanya Trust, India and Ruchi Shroff, of Navdanya International. The example of Navdanya’s program with farmers in India, and how keeping seeds, biodiversity and traditional knowledge in people’s hands as commons, has proven to be the basis to generate livelihoods both for farmers and local communities, as well as empower the ability of facing extreme climate change related events. In India the network of more than 122 community seed banks established by Navdanya was able to save more than 6000 climate resilient, salt tolerant, drought tolerant local farmers’ varieties of seeds, which were also used to meet the needs of areas hit by extreme floods and/or droughts.

Along the same lines, Navdanya’s team brought examples on how the Green Revolution and its development into large scale industrialised agriculture has generated a deep crisis in farmers’ livelihoods in India, as well as in Indonesia and in other parts of the world. This agriculture model is mostly hitting small farmers, who still are those who provide 70% of the food we eat globally and who hold the knowledge of seed breeding which was developed over millenia and has brought us the diversity of edible crops we know today. Those who promote this “agricultural transformation” of the ‘Green Revolution’ are often supported by government subsidies for farmers and come with promises of good outcomes. When farmers stop breeding their seeds, cultivating diversity and taking care of the soil by replacing these practices with a sponsored package of commercial hybrid seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, they start depending on the market as they no longer produce for their own needs and their communities, but  instead for the demands of the global market. Besides loosing seed and food sovereignty – and therefore their freedom, the consequences can also be seen in the impact that this system has on people’s health, on the environment, and on the future of our children. The work of Navdanya in the last 30 years has been about uncovering the underlying lies lies of the green revolution, backed by the richest corporations of the world, and claiming the power back into the hands of the farmers, as well as promoting the alternatives that are actually in the hands of rural communities. Farmers all over the world are realising the reality of what is happening, and they are organizing and fighting back. They are claiming back their seeds, their lands, their traditional knowledge and implementing ecological agriculture based on preserving biodiversity and soil fertility.

The event also featured a group of Balinese speakers, academics, policy makers, activists and farmers’ groups representatives. Many local producers, farmers and local organisations displayed their products and work at stands and demo stations in the dedicated market area.

It can be said that each event turned out to be highly motivating, rewarding and inspirational for all participants, including the organizing teams. The tour represented a unique opportunity to bring local and institutional organizations and initiatives together, to stimulate public awareness, including local authorities,  of the importance of agroecology to achieve sustainable food systems in the country, to fortify and broaden the practices and existing network of agroecology, including the local seed movement, to help define and support specific programs to build agroecology as the foundation of future food systems.

Related Campaigns and Publications

 

Poison Free Food and Farming

The Toxic Story of RoundUp: Freedom from the Poison Cartel through Agroecology

Seeds of Hope, Seeds of Resilience: How Biodiversity and Agroecology offer Solutions to Climate Change by Growing Living Carbon

Also read

Our biodiversity, our life, our future

By Dr Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 6 October 2017

How agricultural chemicals are poisoning our world. And all the (false) myths about them

By Ruchi Shroff – Lifegate, 18 September 2017

Food and farming: Two futures

By Dr. Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 12 July 2017

The Farmers’ Crisis

By Dr Vandana Shiva, 5 July 2017

Seeding the Future, Seeding Freedom, One Seed at a Time

By Dr Vandana Shiva, 8 February 2017

                          
Categories: Ecological News

The widening India-Bharat divide.

Ground Reality - Wed, 10/25/2017 - 05:02
We all know that we live in a country which is divided in two parts -- India and Bharat. While India resides in the metropolitan cities, with its 6-lane highways, high-rise buildings, swanky cars and you name it; Bharat lives in 6.40 lakh villages, with its dusty roads, tractors and bullock carts dotting the landscape and of course millions of poor hapless people, mostly farmers.
You will ask me why I am talking about India and Bharat. After all, we all know of the massive disparities that exist between India and Bharat. Well, the reason why I brought this up is because I feel there is huge disconnect that prevails between urban and rural India, called Bharat. And it is only growing. People living in the cities have gone too far away from the rural landscape, they don’t even have an inkling of the life in the villages. They feel as if rural Bharat is a different country, located somewhere in Africa or very far away. Even Bollywood doesn’t talk of Bharat anymore.
I feel so disgusted at times. Whenever I tweet about the spate of farmer suicides, the reply I get is not only shocking but appalling. Some write back to me saying these people should have any way died; they are a burden on the country. Some others would say that farmers are parasites and they have been sucking the blood of the country. Many say that farmers are living on government doles. They in any case need to pay the price for not graduating to become entrepreneurs.
The disconnect is so huge that many people who respond on social media actually write to me saying that it is time I stop talking about farmers, I should focus on the upward mobile urban population. They feel no remorse when I talk of floods hitting the north-eastern farmers or a severe drought ravaging central and south India. When prices crash, when farmers throw tomato onto the streets, and when some farmers die of heart attack or commit suicide not able to withstand the price crash, I am told this is a routine story of rural India, I should not bother.
While I listen to all this rubbish what worries me is that how come the rift between urban India and the farmers has grown so deep. How come the farmer leaders have allowed this gap to become so wide? Why wasn’t any effort made to ensure that the urban population remains connected to the rural countryside? I don’t have the answers but what I feel strongly is that somewhere the farmers too have to take the blame for not reaching out to the urban society? Why have the farmers always confined their battle, their struggles to only the farming community? Why wasn’t an effort ever made out to reach to other sections of the society?
Take the case of schools and colleges. A farmer does not figure anywhere in their thoughts, in the education they receive. Whatever is written in the textbooks, and which is not very glorious, is all that the students know. Why is that I have very rarely come across interactive sessions between students and farmers? Why on the annual fetes or on various other extra-curricular activities platforms I rarely see a discussion between students and farmers? Even when we have youth programmes, the chances are that it is about the urban youth, the rural youth does not figure on the scene. It’s all about urban India, as if Bharat does not exist.
The other day I was speaking at a private university in New Delhi. I began by asking how many of them had ever been to a village. In a class of 60 plus, only three hands went up. And the three of them had happened to pass through a village or a tehsilheadquarter while on the way to attend a marriage or had accompanied her mother who went to a village to see the grandparents. When I told them that they had to just drive 40 kms outside Noida and they would be in a village, they were not even amused. For these youngsters, their life remains confined to the urban centres. That’s where they belong to.
These are the educated youth who will one day be in the bureaucracy or in a multinational or in some other decision making body. They have no or little idea as to how the rural India, comprising 70 per cent of the country’s population, looks like. Why blame them, even the present lot of decision makers, including the well-known economists who appear every other day in TV discussions or write regular columns in English language newspaper have little direct contact with the villages. In an article in Indian Express I was aghast when an economist, who is now part of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory committee, wrote to justify his argument about farmers by saying his knows for sure since his wife is a part-time farmer cultivating mushrooms. His understanding of agriculture was therefore only limited to what he learnt from his wife, and urban elite who would grow mushrooms as a part time hobby.
It doesn’t end here. Whenever I talk of the agrarian distress and the spate of farmer suicides, the troll asks me were the suicides not happening in the Congress regime? When I talk of drought hitting farmers, I am asked whether Narendra Modi is responsible for the rains failing? Public debate has become so polarised now that everything, including the floods and drought, are seen through the prism of electoral leanings.
Even market economy has become a religion. Those who believe in it are even willing to go to the extent of defending the corporate defaults of the nationalised banks. Even the Economic Advisor had said that writing-off of corporate loan is economic growth whereas writing-off of farmers loan is perceived as leading to credit indiscipline and spoiling the national balance sheet. Not only the bank defaults, which run in hundreds of crores every year, talk to them with facts and the chances are they will try to brand you as a socialist if not out rightly calling you a communist. This is how the branding has been cleverly done.
Will this bridge be ever abridged? 
शहर के लोगों काे न खेती की चिंता है न किसानों की.  Gaon Connection, Oct 23, 2017https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/indian-farmers-farming-in-india-urban-india-rural-india-indian-villages-farmers-suicide-village-life-social-media-trolls-loan-waiver-article-by-devinder-sharma
Categories: Ecological News
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