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Ecological News

Outsourcing Pulses and Oilseeds Production to BRICS Partners. Forgetting that Importing Food is like Importing Unemployment.

Ground Reality - 15 hours 28 min ago

At a time when the country is faced with a massive unemployment crisis, the decision to invite BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa – to cultivate pulses and oilseeds and ship it to India will only end up pushing more and more farmers out of agriculture.
Agriculture scientist Dr M S Swaminathan had once remarked: ‘Importing food is like importing unemployment.’ I had thought this was a loud enough warning and government would at least be careful in not deliberately destroying the tremendous potential agriculture has in creating gainful employment. With a minus 0.43 per cent drop in job creation in the last quarter April-June 2016, India continues to be in the grip of what is called jobless growth.
But agriculture doesn’t seem to be an area of concern for the government. Only a fortnight back, addressing the BRICS farm ministers meeting in New Delhi, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said ministers from these countries have agreed to promote production of pulses and oilseeds in their respective countries after India asked for help in meeting its shortfall in domestic production. This offers huge business opportunities to the BRICS countries, he added. Earlier, the Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had also acknowledged India’s efforts to woo Brazil into cultivation of pulses to meet the growing domestic demand. Since Brazil has not been growing pulses, India even offered to provide improved seeds of pulses varieties.
The move to outsource the production of oilseeds and pulses to the BRICS countries comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had about two months back signed an agreement with Mozambique from where an import of one lakh tonne of pulses will hopefully begin in two years time. He had promised to procure every grain of the legume that farmers would cultivate in Mozambique and at a price which would not be lower than Minimum Support Price (MSP). India had also been searching for a possibility to grow pulses in Myanmar and some other African countries like Ethiopia, Uganda.
As if this is not enough, the government has slashed the import duty on potatoes from 30 to 10 per cent; on wheat from 25 to 10 per cent; on import of crude palm oil from 12.5 to 7.5 per cent and on refined oil from 20 to 15 per cent. Lowering the import duty means opening the floodgates to cheaper imports. Although reduction of import duties is justified in the name of taming food inflation but when cheaper imports come in, it is the small and marginal farmers who are forced to abandon agriculture.
The growing reliance on cheaper (and highly subsidized) imports of agricultural commodities, including pulses, edible oils, wheat, apple, rubber, coconut, silk, fish, a horde of fruit products and juices, are linked primarily to the policy imperative that aims to drive farmers out of agriculture. I have time and again said that this approach follows a directive from the World Bank way back in 1990s wanting India to move 400 million people from the rural to the urban areas by 2015. To achieve this, successive governments have been systematically squeezing public investments in agriculture and by denying farmers a fair and remunerative price kept farming impoverished.
Cultivation of pulses is a classic example. Although the area under pulses cultivation has increased in Kharif by a whopping 29 per cent, and the production in 2016-17 is estimated to go up to a record 20 million tones, there still would be a shortfall by 3 to 4 million tonnes. Although the government has hiked the MSP for some of the pulses, the fact remains that it is the volatility in prices that discourages farmers to take up pulses cultivation. If the government can provide an assurance to farmers in Mozambique and in Brazil that it will procure whatever is produced I fail to understand why the same assurance cannot be given to Indian farmers? It is the lack of assured procurement that is the primary reason why farmers have been reluctant to take up pulses cultivation.
Instead of helping the domestic farmers, the government is now outsourcing pulses production to Africa, Brazil and Russia.
After India lost the WTO dispute with America over the import of chicken legs, the poultry industry should be ready for a hit. The dairy industry too is under pressure to open up to cheap imports from European Union, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, some mainline economists have been openly vouching for it. They even want the sluice gates to be lifted for vegetable and fruit imports, endorsing the demand that European Union is making under the Indo-EU Free Trade Agreement. Already apple imports are coming in from 44 countries.
While on the one hand India is expected to protect its food security concerns as well as farm livelihoods at the international negotiations, the autonomous liberalization that goes unheeded at the domestic policy level is likely to inflict a much bigger blow to the future of Indian agriculture. For a country which has 600 million people dependent upon agriculture, and given that urban employment opportunities are fast drying, the challenge should be on how to make farming economically viable. Contrary to the dominant economic thinking, agriculture alone has the potential to reboot the economy. Outsourcing food production to BRICS countries, and opening up to cheaper imports, will not only destroy food self-sufficiency but once again make India to stand with a begging bowl. 
Importing Pulses is a Bad Idea, Even if From India's BRICS Partners. The Wire. Oct 16, 2016http://thewire.in/73335/importing-pulses-bad-idea-even-indias-brics-partners/

Categories: Ecological News

Global Hunger Index: India's dismal performance in combating hunger

Ground Reality - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 12:43

This has become an annual ritual. The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) releases its Global Hunger Index ranking countries in proportion to its population living faced with hunger and under nutrition. India ranks 97 among the 118 developing nations, faring worse than all its neighbours except for Pakistan.
In the first such index prepared eleven years back in 2006, India had ranked 96 among 119 countries. So this year, when the GDP growth rate is being claimed to be among the highest in the world, India had fared worse than where it stood 11 years back.
I am not surprised. A day or two after the report is released the media performs the ritual of diligently reporting about India’s abysmal ranking in hunger. It’s then all but forgotten, picked up again when the latest report is released. You will see the same kind of editorials; the same kind of commentary pieces. Once the issue fades away, it is back to business as usual. Not only the media, policy makers too forget about hunger and move on to better the economic growth prospects: more six-lane highways, more mega irrigation projects, more airports at mofussil towns, provisioning for infrastructure projects, privatization of forests and natural resources.
Removing hunger has never been on the priority list.
Every Prime Minister has talked of fighting hunger and poverty. To name a few: Indira Gandhi had launched the Garibi Hatao programme; more recently Dr Manmohan Singh had gone to the extent of calling malnourishment “a national shame”; and an emotional Narendra Modi had dedicated his government to the poor when he addressed for the first time the BJP Parliamentary party meeting at the Central Hall. And yet, hunger has remained robustly sustainable. One forth of world’s estimated 800 million hungry continue to live in India. In fact, India’s track-record in fighting hunger and child mortality is worse than that in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For 11 years at least, since the Global Hunger Index was launched in 2006, India has little to show when it comes to elimination of mankind’s worst scourge. I am aware that minimizing hunger quite a complex and challenging task. But it certainly is not impossible. But despite the pious intentions of our successive Prime Ministers, the task of designing appropriate and suitable economic policies is left to the mandarins in the bureaucracy, who unfortunately are in the clutches of corporate economic thinking that views poverty eradication only from the prism of failed ‘trickle down’ theory.
In the public debates at the time when the National Food Security Act was being discussed in 2013, I recall the strong opposition that came from mainline economists who only viewed the expenditure to feed 50 per cent poor in the urban and 75 per cent poor in rural areas to be nothing but wasteful expenditure. They had argued against the proposed outlay saying that it would only add to the country’s huge fiscal deficit. Whether it is the budgetary outlay for MNREGA or for agriculture, the effort has been to restrict it to bare minimum. Dismantling pivotal social security nets like public sector education and health has further added on to rural and urban poverty.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi therefore has a great opportunity at hand to take the bull by the horn, in this case launch a frontal attack on eliminating poverty and hunger. Knowing that all past efforts have failed, the monumental task would need a fresh and holistic approach. If the government can be seen making an effort on month-to-month basis on improving its Ease of Doing Business ranking, I see no reason why India’s ranking in the Global Hunger index cannot be turned upside down. All it requires is a strong political will. # 
Take bull by its horns & launch frontal attack to end hunger games. New Indian Express, Oct 16, 2016. http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/2016/oct/16/take-1528283.html
Categories: Ecological News

An overtime for farm workers? California grants it.

Ground Reality - Sun, 10/16/2016 - 12:06

Will these farm workers ever get an overtime? 
An Overtime for farm workers? No, I am not kidding. California has become the first State in the United States to actually grant an overtime allowance to agricultural workers.
Not many in India will believe this. Farm workers too would laugh it off. But for the United Farm Workers of America, which sponsored the overtime bill, the historic legislation that was passed in September this year is a grand victory that came almost after 80-years fight to get the same dignity for farm workers which non-farm workers have been getting over the decades.Farm workers in California are now entitled to overtime after eight hours on the job or after having worked 40 hours in a week. This historic legislation has drawn a lot of appreciation, including the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
It may take some time for farm worker unions in India to understand the economic implications of such legislation. But I personally feel such legislation whenever introduced will be a major step forward in ensuring economic justice, the very foundation of inclusive growth. I have always felt dismayed seeing farm workers slogging for hours together, sometimes even into the night when threshing operations are in full swing, and getting paid literally peanuts in return. The fight for economic justice for these hapless millions has yet to begin.
I am aware that an overtime legislation India will throw up an angry protest from the farming community which already is faced with low availability of farm labour after the MNREGA legislation was implemented. The impact it will have on farmers, the government and the consumer prices will have to be factored in whenever a debate is initiated in this country. Even in America, the overtime bill took 80 long years, and that too after a fierce debate that followed all along.
“This is a historic day,” said Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the bill in California Assemble, adding: “They are finally going to be treated with the same dignity and respect as every hourly worker.” This is exactly what I have in mind. Why should farm workers, who work equally as hard as an industrial worker, not get the same benefits? Why should farm workers be treated with low dignity? They too need to be accorded the same dignity and respect.
In America, the agricultural community had lobbied hard against the provisions of the bill. They had said that the overtime payments would backfire on farm workers as the farmers who employ them will now be saddled with higher costs, which will eventually increase the food prices thereby hurting the consumers. To quite an extent, farmers are right. We will therefore have to work out mechanisms that make farmers not lose out in the process but be willing to help the farm workers economically. After all, farm workers are among the most vulnerable of the unorganized labour force and deserve a better future.
In India too, I can see a huge protest from the farmer unions. Considering that nearly 82 per cent of the farmers in India fall in the category of small and marginal, and knowing that more than 58 per cent farmers (in some States as much as 68-72 per cent farmers) have to depend on non-farm activities like MNREGA and working on other farms, they too would benefit from an overtime legislation. At the same time, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) which calculates the minimum support prices (MSP) for crops should also be directed to factor in the additional costs on account of the overtime charges a farmer has to pay.
Even in America, overtime for farm workers has been introduced in a phased manner. According to the Los Angeles Times it was in 1938 that the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act first announced minimum wages and overtime for workers but kept farm workers out. In 1941, another legislation in California kept farm workers out of the provisions of an overtime. But it was only in 1976 that the State Industrial Welfare Commission allowed overtime for farm workers. The entitlement was only applicable if the farm workers put in more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. But for other non-farm workers, the overtime entitlement was for 8 hours a day. It has taken 40 years for the anomaly to be removed.
Any provisioning for introducing overtime for farm workers has to be accompanied by setting up of a Farmers Income Commission, which should also work out the minimum daily wage that needs to be ensured to a farm worker. I see no reason why a farm worker should not be entitled to a minimum daily wage of Rs 9,100 per month that has been made obligatory for non-farm workers. Raising the farm workers wages has to be accompanied by raising farm prices. This becomes imperative considering that over 52 per cent of the farming community in India comprise of landless farm workers. In essence, this alone will ensure in reality what the Prime Minister desires when he says Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. #   
विदेश में खेतिहर मजदूरों को मिलेगा ओवरटाइम, ये सच्चाई है व भारत के लिए सीख भी. Gaon Connection, Oct 14, 2016.   
Categories: Ecological News

Prices Commission should be rechristened as: "Commission for Farmers Income & Welfare'

Ground Reality - Fri, 10/14/2016 - 12:29

Why shouldn't a farmer expect an assured monthly income package? 
In September, the government raised the minimum wages for non-farm workers by 42 per cent. This enhanced the minimum wages from the existing Rs 246 a day to Rs 351 a day, bringing it to a minimum of Rs 9,100 for a month.
But if you have noticed, the rise in minimum wages the government announced is only for non-agricultural workers. Although the trade unions are not happy, and have been demanding a minimum statutory wage of Rs 18,000 per month for workers in the “C” category, the question that needs to be asked is why the prescribed minimum wages should not apply to farm workers? After all, farm labour works equally hard; often for more than 12 hours a day, and the best what they can earn is a MNREGA wage.
This is certainly not fair. Considering that more than 50 per cent farmers in India, as per Census 2011, are actually landless thereby meaning that they fall in the category of non-farm workers, they will remain deprived of the statutory minimum wage. And that makes me wonder if the average monthly income of farm households in 17 States as per the Economic Survey 2016, is Rs 20,000 a year, or Rs 1,667 per month, what the landless farmers would be getting. Perhaps, less than Rs 50 a day. Is that a living human wage?
This is primarily the reason why I have been demanding a separate Farmers’ Income Commission, which also works out the minimum wages for non-farm workers. I have been often asked to explain the rationale behind the need for a separate income commission for farmers when a price mechanism for providing a minimum support prices (MSP) already exists. More so at a time when farmer leaders across the country are demanding the implementation of Swaminathan Committee report that recommends a 50 per cent profit over the cost of production. Will this not be enough? Why the need for a separate commission then?
While I agree that farmers should definitely get 50 per cent profit as part of the MSP the government announces, the fact remains that only 6 per cent farmers in the country get the benefit of MSP. The remaining 94 per cent farmers remain at the mercy of the market forces. Moreover, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) making it abundantly clear that procurement prices cannot exceed the limit of 10 per cent of the total value of the crop, the option to further raise the MSP is getting restricted. Let’s therefore be clear. The time for ‘price policy’ is over. It has to be replaced by an ‘income policy’.
When I look at the way the procurement prices are calculated, I realize that it barely covers the cost of production plus a ten per cent profit and that too as a managerial cost. On the other hand, the minimum wages for non-agricultural workers are computed as per the recommendation of the Indian Labour Conference, 1957. Accordingly, the minimum wage should be based on the minimum human needs, for which a set of norms have been laid out:
1.  Three consumption units for one earner in a standard working family, with the earnings of women, children and adolescent in the family being disregarded.
2.  Net intake of 2,700 calories for an average Indian adult of moderate activity.
3.  Per capita consumption of cloth of 18 yards per annum, which would mean for the average workers family of 4 a total of 72 yards.
4.  Rent corresponding to the minimum area provided for under the Subsidised Industrial Housing Scheme for low-income groups.
5.  Fuel, lighting and other miscellaneous items of expenditure to constitute 20 per cent of the total minimum wage.
A report in Indian Express further added that a Supreme Court order in 1991 had laid out a set of six criteria for working out a minimum wage: children’s education, medical requirement, minimum recreation including festivals, ceremonies, provision for old age and marriage, should constitute 25 per cent of the wage. Further, the minimum wage includes a dearness allowance which is revised twice a year and is now being merged with the basic pay. 
I see no reason why the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which recommends the MSP for 23 crops every year, should not be incorporating the six minimum criteria as spelled out by the Supreme Court. When did you hear of farmers being given any of these allowances? Since MSP is the only way a farmer’s income is worked out, I see no reason why farmers should be deprived of these minimum human needs that need to be incorporated in the procurement price? 
I am not asking for 108 allowances that the central government employees will be getting under the 7th Pay Commission, all I am seeking is just four allowances to be given to farmers – educational, medical, housing, and travel. For 50 years in a row, ever since the Green Revolution was launched in 1966, farmers have been deprived of a need-based procurement price that includes the six criteria for a living human wage. No wonder, agrarian distress has been mounting with every passing year pushing more than 3-lakh farmers to the gallows in the past 20 years.
Farmer leaders must understand that demanding the implementation of Swaminathan Committee report will not do justice. First, Swaminathan report will only benefit 6 per cent of country’s farmers who are able to sell their produce at MSP leaving 94 per cent as losers; and secondly, since the MSP cannot be raised beyond the permissible limit laid out by WTO, the government will continue to deny farmers the real price. The need therefore is to set up a Farmers Income Commission that works out the minimum assured monthly income package that a farming family must get. Even Dr Swaminathan himself has been asking for a Farmers Income Commission.
The trade unions are demanding an amendment in the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, that also extends the privileges to contract workers. Farmer leaders should learn from the way the ten trade unions have come together to fight for workers rights. They too need to forge a common understanding about the prickly income issues and seek an amendment to change the terms of references of the CACP. The CACP should no longer compute only the cost of production for different crops but should be directed to work out a monthly income package based on the minimum human needs. The name of the CACP should therefore be changed to ‘Commission for Farmers Income & Welfare’. #
Categories: Ecological News

Continuing Agrarian Crisis is Behind the Massive Silent Maratha Rallies in Maharashtra.

Ground Reality - Fri, 10/07/2016 - 18:19

A mammoth silent Maratha rally in Pune, Maharashtra. -- Pic from web
As the series of mega ‘Muk Morcha’ (silent rallies) by Marathas in Maharashtra continue to rattle the political leadership, and like the story of the elephant and the four blind men, policy makers and economists are desperately grappling for reasons that could be ascribed to such a mammoth human outpouring onto the streets. Call it by any name, the silent Maratha uprising has its roots in the continuing agrarian crisis.
It has been a slow and steady demise of agriculture. One way to understand the gravity of farm crisis is to see the rise in numbers of farmer suicides. Ever since I remember it has either been farm suicides in Vidharba or Marathwada region of Maharashtra that have donned the national headlines. Behind these numbers, what was being conveniently overlooked was that these suicides were only a symptom of a bigger malaise that prevailed. The dark underbelly therefore had somehow remained hidden.
The systematic destruction of agriculture is also the reason why the demand for reservation quota in government jobs is so high in priority for the caste-based protests that we have seen in recent times – Patidars in Gujarat, Gurjars in Rajasthan, Jats in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, Lingayats in Karnataka/Maharashtra and so on. But what makes the Maratha kranti morcha stand out is that unlike other caste based protests, the Maratha protests have been peaceful, and have so far been faceless. Even though the mobilisation is on caste basis, such mammoth outpouring on the streets cannot happen unless a wave of anger runs through the community. The rape of a Maratha girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district on July 13 this year may have been the trigger but the common factor that binds the protestors is the economic despair that prevails.
Since 90 per cent of those who committed suicide in Maharashtra belong to the Maratha community, and knowing that Maharashtra tops the farm suicides chart, let’s try to understand how devastating the economics of agriculture has been. To understand a little better, I looked at the latest report of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) to know of the farm income levels. Sugarcane occupies roughly 4.5 per cent of Maharashtra’s cultivable lands and guzzles roughly 71 per cent ground water; let’s look at how the remaining 96 per cent of the farmers are faring. In the case of paddy, the net return per hectare is Rs 966, which means if worked on a monthly basis it will come to less than Rs 300 a month. For Ragi, Maharashtra farmers actually incur a loss of Rs 10,674 per hectare; for Moong(minus Rs 5,873); for urd (minus Rs 6,663). Even for the much publicised cotton crop for which Vidharbha region is known, the net return is only Rs 2,949 per hectare. Considering that cotton is sown in June and its harvesting begins in October, with the pickings going on to November, December or even January, the average income per month from cultivating cotton comes to a paltry Rs 700 per hectare. With such low income levels, even lower than what MNREGA workers earn, I wonder how the Maharashtra farmers have been surviving all these years.
The Maratha anger therefore is surely justified. What is true for Maharashtra is also true for the rest of the country, including Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, which have recently witnessed mass protests for reservations. The glitter and power exhibited by 1 per cent or a miniscule section of the same Maratha, Jat, Patidar communities controlling politics as well as business, what remains hidden is the fact that a majority of the remaining 99 per cent somehow slogs along. Economic Survey 2016 makes that loud and clear. Accordingly, the average income of farming families in 17 States of India is just Rs 20,000 a year, which means the average monthly incomefor a farming family is a pathetic Rs 1,667.
Considering that 50 per cent of the 130-crore population of the country is directly or indirectly is engaged in agriculture, continuing neglect and apathy had created a simmering discontent. With farming becoming economically unviable, accompanying rural enterprises too remained in gloom. In addition, with public medical, health services and education replaced by the private sector, as a result becoming prohibitively expensive, rural India has silently faced the brunt of economic reforms. Numerous studies show how many reasonably well to do rural families have slid into poverty when someone in the rural family suffers a medical emergency. At a time when public health services are being starved of resources, the biggest financial burden of privatisation of health services is being borne by the poor.
Education too has gone beyond the reach. In a suicide note left behind by a 22-year-old graduate student, Gopal Babarao Rathod, son of a small farmer from Yavatmal in Maharashtra, who died in the last week of August, a question he asked reminds us of the flawed economic policies. In his letter he explained how the rural youth, like their lucky counterparts in the cities, too carry an aspiration. But he asks: “A teacher’s son can easily afford to pay a fee of Rs 1-lkh to become an engineer but tell me how a farmer’s son can afford so much fee?” He then goes on to say “why is it that the salaried employees get dearness allowance without even asking for it whereas farmers are denied adequate compensation for their produce?”
The penetrating questions that the young student left behind cannot be ignored for long. The economic security that a government job provides, whether it is of school teacher or a village patwari, the revenue worker, is what drives the demand for reservation. If a chaprasican get a minimum basic salary of Rs 18,000 per month along with other allowances, a farmer has all the reasons to ask why is he being deprived of parity in income. The Maratha uprising therefore should also be seen as an outcome of the widening inequality that has been knowingly created.
Despite the silent protests, the warning it carries is too loud to be brushed aside. The mass protests witnessed from time to time across the country, including the Maratha uprising, have all the ingredients to snowball into a major socio-economic crisis. We can afford to ignore it at our own peril. # 
मराठा आंदोलन के पीछे छिपी कड़वी हक़ीक़त Dainik Bhaskar, Oct 6, 2016http://www.bhaskar.com/news/ABH-bhaskar-column-news-hindi-5433172-NOR.html
Categories: Ecological News

To reduce edible oil imports, India needs to relaunch 'Yellow Revolution'

Ground Reality - Fri, 09/30/2016 - 12:54
As India gets closer to the commercial release of its first genetically modified food crop – GM mustard – with the promise that the transgenic mustard will boost production thereby cutting on the huge import bill of edible oils, it has now become clear that the claims are largely unfounded. Five existing hybrid varieties outperform the transgenic variety DMH-11 developed by Delhi University, for which an approval is pending. 
Among the five higher yielding mustard varieties are three in the same DMH series. The productivity of DMH-1 is higher by 11.35 per cent; DMH-4 by 14.70 per cent and DMH-3 by 3.54 per cent (see the chart below). No wonder, civil society groups under the banner of Coalition for GM Free India that made a presentation before the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency whose clearance is obligatory, had rubbished the productivity claims of 26 per cent higher yield being claimed for GM Mustard. They had accused the developers of falsifying the data and comparing the yield performance of GM Mustard with some of the useless varieties. 

I therefore can’t understand how will a GM variety with low productivity eventually help in cutting down on edible oil imports? In any case, the reason why India turned into world’s second biggest importer of edible oils over the years is not because of any shortfall in domestic production but because the country had encouraged cheaper imports by lowering the import tariffs.
Thirty years back, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundations of what was later called as Yellow Revolution. The Oilseeds Technology Mission he launched in 1986 converted India -- from a major importer to become almost self-sufficient in edible oil production -- in 1993-94, in less than ten years. In 1993-94, India was producing 97 per cent of its edible oil requirement within the country. Only 3 per cent of its edible oils need was being imported.
And then began the downslide. India happily bowed to World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressures to kill its Yellow Revolution. In fact, the demise of the Yellow Revolution is a classic case of how a promising domestic edible oil sector was sacrificed at the altar of economic liberalisation. Severe cuts in import tariffs brought in a flood of cheap imports thereby pushing farmers out of cultivation. Import duties – from a bound level of 300 per cent were slashed to almost zero – in a phased manner. As a result, farmers abandoned cultivation of oilseeds crops and the processing industry too pulled down the shutters. India today imports more than 67 per cent of its edible oil requirement costing a whopping Rs 66,000-crore.
Let us therefore be clear. It’s not because of any shortfall in oilseeds production that India imported Rs 66,000-crore of edible oils in 2015. It’s simply because we wanted imports to be encouraged that the country is finally saddled with a huge import bill.
Although the sub-committee of the GEAC has cleared three varieties of GM Mustard (including DMH-11 and two parental lines) as being ‘safe’, the fact remains that the safety data is being kept hidden. This had prompted the Central Information Commission (CIC) to direct the GEAC to share safety data with the public. The safety data has since then been partly uploaded on the GEAC website and people have been asked to travel to New Delhi, seek permission, if they want to view the complete dossier. In addition, public comments are sought in a period of 30 days and too in a truncated manner in a Performa that has been posted on the net.
Interestingly, the GEAC members are not at all perturbed that GM Mustard will increase the usage of chemical herbicides. They agreed that technically speaking DMH-11 is a herbicide tolerant mustard crop which means it will require the application of only one brand of herbicide to eradicate weeds but they feel that herbicide being expensive will not be used by farmers. In fact, what is not being explained is the clever stacking of herbicide tolerant genes in GM Mustard favouring the herbicide being sold by a multinational company, Bayer.
Even Bt cotton had increased the application of chemical pesticides, Regardless of what the industry claims, the fact remains that the usage of pesticides has gone up in India. According to Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), in 2005, Rs. 649- crore worth of chemical pesticides was used on cotton in India. In 2010, when roughly 92 percent of the area under cotton shifted to Bt cotton varieties, the usage in terms of value increased to Rs. 880.40-crore. In China, where Bt cotton was promoted as a silver bullet case, farmers apply 20 times more chemicals to control cotton pests. In Brazil, which has recently taken over Argentina as far as the spread of GM crops is concerned, pesticide usage has gone up by 190 percent in the past decade.
At a time when cotton farmers in India have moved away en bloc from the genetically modified Bt cotton after the 2015 debacle with whitefly attack and the crop becoming susceptible to bollworms, I thought the Ministry of Environment would have learnt a lesson. The harmful impacts of GM food for human health and environment notwithstanding I see no reason why the controversial GM technology be introduced in food. There is no shortage of mustard in the country and if the government is keen to reduce the import bill of edible oils it needs to bring back the policies and approach that helped India launch the Yellow Revolution. Raising import tariffs to at least 70 per cent and providing farmers with an attractive procurement price is what will help India turn the corner.  
To increase oilseed production, relaunch 'Yellow Revolution'. Deccan Herald, Sept 29, 2016http://www.deccanherald.com/content/572990/to-increase-oilseed-production-relaunch.html
जीएम-सरसों की उत्पादकता मौजूदा किस्मों से कम, इसकी आवश्यकता क्यों? Gaon Connection, Sept 15, 2016goo.gl/2ZJlLi
Categories: Ecological News

Indian cattle breeds are also high yielding.

Ground Reality - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 10:13

For quite some time we are being told that Indian desi breeds are unproductive. I always used to question this quoting from M S Randhawa's four volumes of 'History of Indian Agriculture' wherein he tells us how the domestic breeds were revered by Kings in Indian history. What happened after independence that Indian breeds became unproductive and we had to import Jersey and HF to crossbreed? 

After several years of understanding the way political economy works, I find that running down Indian breeds, crop varieties and even products has become a usual practice whenever the imports have to be justified. The import lobbies know that the acceptance among liberals, who think they are highly educated, becomes so strong when they try to give an impression that the particular exotic breed is needed to improve the domestic availability. Pepsico ran down the Indian tomato varieties finding it unsuitable for processing when they were trying to seek entry by way of agriculture, into India. It is however another matter that the tomato varieties they eventually began to use were from a Bangalore-based private company. I can give you several examples to illustrate this. 

I have always said If we had built on our domestic breeds, the Indian cows wouldn't have been roaming on the streets. Take a look at this cow in the picture enclosed. Named BANDEIRA (meaning FLAG), this is a purebred Gir cow in Brazil. Gir as you know is a desi breed originating from the Gujarat region. With a milk yield of 85.16 Kg/day it holds the world record in milk production among Gir cows. No wonder, Brazil has become the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows. 

I am not in favour of turning cows into a milch machine. All I am trying to show with this picture is the yield potential that exists in the Indian domestic breeds. Here is one of my earlier articles on how Brazil has turned into the biggest exporter of Indian breeds of cows: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2012/07/brazil-is-biggest-exporter-of-indian.html
Categories: Ecological News

India's major farmer and fisherfolk unions/organisations come together under the banner of Kisan Ekta.

Ground Reality - Sat, 09/17/2016 - 19:03

Farmer leaders at the 4th National Convention of Farmer Organisations, held at Akola, Sept 12-14

In August 2015, we took the initiative of bringing together the major farm unions of the country onto one platform. It was a difficult task and not many believed that this will eventually happen. But I persisted, and so did my colleagues from the farming unions/organisations. Within a year and a half -- Kisan Ekta -- the banner under which the collective has come together, held its 4th National Convention of Farmer Organisations, at Akola, in Maharashtra, Sept 12-14, 2016. 

The three earlier conventions were held at Chandigarh, Bangalore and Shimla.

In my understanding there are some 65 major farmer organisations in the country. I am pleased to inform that 62 are formally members of Kisan Ekta. Together, they represent some 400 million farmers of this country (including their families). Some of the member organisations are: Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal); BKU (Haryana); BKU (UP); BKU (Asli); Shetkari Sanghatana; Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha (KRRS); Tamilnadu Farmers Association; Bhartiya Kisan Sangh; Bhartiya Kisan Morcha; Gujarat Khedut Samaj; South India Sugarcane Farmers Association (SISFA) Tamil Nadu; Red Gram Growers Association, Gulbargha; Joint Action Committee (JAC) from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Aam Kisan Union, Madhya Pradesh; Fruits, Vegetable & Flowers Growers Association (Himachal Pradesh), Krishak Biradari (Chhattisgarh); Dharthiputar Bachao Sanghatan (Rajasthan); Orissa Nari Samaj, Bhubaneshwar; All India Kisan Sabha (CPI); Indian Sugarcane Farmers Association, Bangalore; Bharat Krishak Samaj and so on. 

In the last convention that was held at Shimla, Kisan Ekta also took the initiative to reach out to the fisherfolk unions/organisations in the country. Two major fishermen unions, from Manipur and Bengal, joined the Shimla convention. I am now hoping that most of the fisherfolk unions will be part of Kisan Ekta as the year 2016 ends. We then plan to reach out to the tribals and finally to the farm workers. 

This coming together of some of the largest but also warring unions of farmers is being watched very keenly by not only the political outfits but also the media and academia. The mere fact that Kisan Ekta was able to hold its 4th Convention and that too within a year and a half, and without getting any external financial support, is indicative of the merit farmer organisations see in this initiative. We are very hopeful that if all goes well, Kisan Ekta will be able to significantly influence the 2019 Parliament elections. 

At present, the Kisan Ekta activities are being coordinated by a team of three -- Devinder Sharma; Chandrasekhar Kodihalli (President, Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha); Balbir Singh Rajewal (President, BKU-Rajewal).


At the Akola conclave, Kisan Ekta passed five resolutions: 1) Implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendation of 50 per cent profit over cost of production. 2) Ensuring income parity for farmers, fishermen, and farm workers with the central government employees. This means setting up a Farmers Income Commission to provide a guaranteed monthly income to farmers. 3) Redesign import export policy to ensure that cheaper imports do not flood the domestic market driving farmers out of agriculture. Import tariffs of pulses, oilseeds, cotton, apple to be raised to stop unwanted imports. 4) Ban the risky, harmful and unproductive GM Mustard. Instead, the government should provide farmers with a higher support price for oilseeds along with assured procurement to boost domestic oilseeds production 5) Oppose the land acquisition laws being formulated by States on the model of the central land acquisition act forcing hundreds of thousands of farmers out of their fertile land, their only source of livelihood. Demands specifically that Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra Governements which are going ahead with large-scale acquisiton and hence displacement of farmers be stopped herewith. Kisan Ekta resolves to stand by all efforts that are underway to oppose the farm land grab that the states are indulging in.

The 4th Convention also worked out a time bound schedule of activities. This includes approaches to reach out to farmers, build stronger alliances at the state level to strengthen farmers movement. By 2019, the farmers movement under the banner of Kisan Ekta should be powerful enough to influence the electoral process.
Categories: Ecological News

A Green Manifesto for Punjab -- Prepared by the people, for the people.

Ground Reality - Sat, 09/10/2016 - 04:24

At a time when the electoral battle is hotting up, and with political leaders engaged in pointing fingers at each other, a citizens' group in Punjab has ensured that the real issues affecting the people at large and the deteriorating environment (not only political environment) are not lost in the din and heat. What could eventually turn out to be trendsetter, a Green Manifesto for Punjab -- an agenda for Punjab's prosperity, food safety. health, happiness and sustainability -- was launched at a media event in Chandigarh on September 6, 2016.

As far as I can recall this is the first time that ordinary people have made an effort to draw the attention of political parties to what they perceive should be the development agenda. This fabulous initiative was launched by 'Vatavaran Ate Samaj Bachao Morch' (translated, it means: a campaign to protect environment and the society), a group of committed individuals and organisations from across the State. A day long session was held at Chandigarh where more than 100 people from different walks of life had come together, brain stormed, and fine tuned the draft agenda. Among those who came were religious leaders, senior journalists, economists, academicians, vice-chancellors, environmentalists, farmers, students and housewives. It was such a heartening experience for me to sit and listen to the wonderful ideas and suggestions that came up. Their collective thinking is what is clearly reflected in the Green Manifesto.

Releasing the Green Manifesto at a press conference in Chandigarh, Sept 6 
The preamble says it all: " 1) Ensuring environmental sustainability and profitability in Punjab's farming. 2) Revival, restoration and conservation of environmental resources including (ground) water and tree cover, and addressing the environmental crisis of the State firmly and urgently. 3) Addressing the environmental health crisis of the State through remedial and rehabilitation measures, and by ensuring food safety and removal of environmental toxins. 4) Lay the ground for medium and long term environmental revival and sustainability by sincere promotion of environmental education in the state.

Once the food bowl of the country, Punjab has not turned in a hotspot of farmer suicides. The water table has plummeted to dangerous levels, soil health stands devastated, chemical contamination has taken a sever toll of not only human lives (a 'cancer train' runs from Punjab to Bikaner in Rajasthan carrying patients), but the environment at large. Punjab is fast heading towards a severe health disaster with reproductive problems being witnessed in both humans and animals, psychiatric disorders, intestine and respiratory diseases, premature births and other disease patterns multiplying over the years. And so on. The need therefore is pull it back from the brink of a disaster.

The controversy before the launch of the film 'Udta Punjab' has highlighted the severe problem of drug abuse. In lot many ways I see alcohol and drug abuse to be an outcome of a bigger malaise that prevails, and the genesis is often overlooked. The reasons are many, and instead of pushing them below the carpet, the challenge is to stand up and be counted. The Green Manifesto should therefore be seen as a roadmap that has been prepared by the people, for the people. It is a people's manifesto, the will of the people, and ignoring it would be like turning a blind eye to the dark period ahead.

The Green Manifesto document is here: http://www.kisanswaraj.in/2016/09/07/green-manifesto-for-punjab-asking-that-all-political-parties-take-note/ 
Categories: Ecological News

Isn't the GM Mustard debate about a junk variety?

Ground Reality - Wed, 09/07/2016 - 13:50
Pic: www.pbase.com
Thirty years back, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of what was later called as Yellow Revolution. The Oilseeds Technology Mission he launched in 1986 converted India -- from a major importer to become almost self-sufficient in edible oil production -- in 1993-94, in less than ten years. A remarkable achievement, indeed.
And then began the downslide. India happily bowed to World Trade Organisation (WTO) pressures to kill its Yellow Revolution. In fact, the demise of the Yellow Revolution is a classic case of how a promising domestic edible oil sector was sacrificed at the altar of economic liberalisation. Severe cuts in import tariffs brought in a flood of cheap imports thereby pushing farmers out of cultivation. Import duties – from a bound level of 300 per cent were slashed to almost zero – in a phased manner. As a result, farmers abandoned cultivation of oilseeds crops and the processing industry too pulled down the shutters. India today imports more than 67 per cent of its edible oil requirement costing a whopping Rs 66,000-crore.
So when the new Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said the other day to an international news agency Reuters that India was keen to cut down the huge import bill of edible oils, it certainly was a welcome statement. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh too has time and again stressed on the need to reduce the dependence on edible oil imports. Ask any educated and concerned citizen and he too would call for cutting down on imports and helping domestic farmers. But I thought the ministers would at least know that India was actually self-sufficient in edible oils, and it’s because of our faulty trade policies that the country has turned into world’s second biggest importer of edible oils.
When I made a presentation before the high-level Shanta Kumar committee on bifurcating Food Corporation of India (FCI) on how trade liberalisation had destroyed the oilseed revolution, he was very understanding. His recommendations include the need to revisit the trade policies so as to protect domestic production from cheaper imports. I wish both Mr Radha Mohan Singh and Mr Anil Dave too had emphasised on the desperate need to raise the import duties to boost domestic production rather than to harp on allowing the commercial cultivation of the controversial genetically modified mustard (GM Mustard) in the name of increasing productivity.
Let us be clear. It’s not because of any shortfall in oilseeds production that India imported Rs 66,000-crore of edible oils in 2015. It’s simply because we wanted imports to be encouraged that the country is saddled with a huge import bill.
Although the sub-committee of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal inter-ministerial agency whose approval is necessary, has cleared three varieties of GM Mustard (including DMH-11 and two parental lines) as being ‘safe’, the fact remains that the safety data is being kept hidden. This had prompted the Central Information Commission (CIC) to direct the GEAC to share safety data with the public. I am glad minister Anil Dave has promised to put the data on GEAC website and invite public comments. But what shocks me is to know that the GEAC members are not at all perturbed that GM Mustard will increase the usage of chemical herbicides. In fact, the clever stacking of herbicide tolerant genes in GM Mustard favours the herbicide being sold by a multinational company, Bayer.
Even Bt cotton had increased the application of chemical pesticides, Regardless of what the industry claims, the fact remains that the usage of pesticides has gone up in India. According to Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), in 2005, Rs. 649- crore worth of chemical pesticides was used on cotton in India. In 2010, when roughly 92 percent of the area under cotton shifted to Bt cotton varieties, the usage in terms of value increased to Rs. 880.40-crore. In China, where Bt cotton was promoted as a silver bullet case, farmers apply 20 times more chemicals to control cotton pests.In Brazil, which has recently taken over Argentina as far as the spread of GM crops is concerned, pesticide usage has gone up by 190 percent in the past decade.
At a time when cotton farmers in India have moved away en bloc from the genetically modified Bt cotton after the 2015 debacle with whitefly attack and the crop becoming susceptible to bollworms, I thought the Ministry of Environment would have learnt a lesson. I see no reason why GM seed companies are not being held accountable for the whitefly devastation caused last year, including suicides by some 300 cotton farmers in Punjab. Is human life so cheap in India that the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare remain silent on suicides in cotton belt? I thought Farmers Welfare was now a mandate for the Ministry of Agriculture.
Civil society groups under the banner of Coalition for GM Free India have already rubbished the productivity claims of 26 per cent higher yield being claimed for GM Mustard. They have accused the developers of falsifying the data and comparing the yield performance of GM Mustard with some of the useless varieties. In any case, there are five more existing non-GM varieties which yield significantly higher than the transgenic variety DMH-11. I therefore can’t understand how will a GM variety with low productivity eventually help in cutting down on edible oil imports? Isn't the entire debate about GM Mustard therefore only about a junk variety? 

Share of mustard oil is only 10 per cent of the total edible oil consumed. Thrust should be to raise the import duties on edible oil and provide farmers a higher procurement price. They will do the rest. Let’s not use the argument to force controversial and risky GM Mustard as the solution. This is not fair. And if you have seen Baba Ramdev saying in TV ads that the mustard oil we buy is largely contaminated, this is an area needing urgent attention. I thought that the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare join hands with the Food Safety Standards Authority to clean-up the mustard oil market of contamination. That’s what the consumers want. 
Categories: Ecological News

Agriculture has paid the price for keeping economic reforms alive.

Ground Reality - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 18:28

Twenty-five years after the economic reforms were unleashed, the first-ever socio-economic survey for rural areas, published in 2015, paints a gloomy picture. Portraying a stark reality the survey says that for 70 per cent of India’s 125-crore population, which lives in rural areas, poverty is the way of life.
Rural India is poorer than what was estimated all these years. With the highest income of a earning member in 75 per cent of the rural households not exceeding Rs 5,000 a month, and with 51 per cent households surviving on manual labour as the primary source of income, the socio-economic survey had exposed the dark underbelly of rural India. Considering that the bulk of rural population comprise of farmers, what the socio-economic survey tells is how the reforms have very conveniently bypassed agriculture.
The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) consumption expenditure data for 2011-12, done a few years earlier, tells us the same story. If you live in a village and spend more than Rs 2,886 per month you are among the top 5 per cent of the country. For the urban areas, the cut-off limit is Rs 6,383 per month. That makes me as well as you, the reader, in the same category as Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy. While we may fall in the upper 5 per cent bracket but imagine the fate of 95 per cent of the population which is unable to spend more than Rs 6,383 per month in the urban areas every month? Isn’t that the real India that we don’t want to talk about?  Now, let me break-up the rural income slab for you. Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income a farmer gets from farming activities, including what he keeps for his family consumption at home, in 17 states of India is Rs 20,000 a year. In other words, the monthly income of a farmer in these States is a paltry Rs 1,666. On a national level, the NSSO works out the average monthly income that a farmer derives from farming operations to be just Rs 3,000 per family. Compare this with the basic salary of a chaprasi at Rs 18,000 per month it become obvious how agriculture has been neglected all these years.
The deplorable condition of farmers is certainly an outcome of economic reforms. Simply put, economic liberalization or economic reforms or market economy whatever you prefer to term it has not only bypassed the majority population but has been actually a pre-requisit for the success of economic reforms. Agriculture, like other unorganized sectors, has been deliberately kept impoverished so to make economic reforms work. 
It was in July 1991 when Dr Manmohan Singh delivered the historic budget speech as Finance Minister that opened up the country to economic liberalization. I recall the speech wherein he unshackled the industries from the control regime and showered all bounties on industries and in the very next paragraph acknowledged that agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy. But since agriculture is a state subject, he left it to the state governments to provide the much needed impetus to farming. But what he forgot to say was that industry too was a state subject and should have been left to the state governments. The bias therefore was clearly visible.
This was simply not unintended fallout of the process of economic liberalization. It was actually part of a design. Later, in 1996, the World Bank directed India to move 40-crore people out of rural areas to the urban areas in the next 20 years, saying that land is a precious asset in the hands of people who are inefficient producers, meaning farmers. Since the younger generations among farmers do not know anything except farming, World Bank suggested that India set up a network of training institute to train these people to become industrial workers. This should be accompanied by land rentals and land acquisitions. This suggestion was made in the 2008 World Development Report by the World Bank and a year later, in 2009, India made provision for setting up 1,000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). 
Going by the World Bank prescription, successive governments have been blindly playing to the tune. As Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh had time and again said that 70 per cent farmers in India were surplus and need to shift to urban areas. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan is on record saying that the big ticket reform will be when India moves a large share of the farming population to the cities. And more recently, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has blamed agriculture for not being able to provide subsistence to a large section of the population thereby increasing inequality.
What he forgot to say was that successive governments had deliberately starved agriculture of financial resources and had kept the farming population impoverished. This is evident from the way agriculture remains a low priority area when it comes to budgetary allocations. In the 11th Plan, agriculture received only Rs 1-lakh crore as budget outlay for the 5 years. In the 12th plan period, agriculture got Rs 1.5-lakh crore. Incidentally, the budgetary support for agriculture, which employs 52 per cent of the population, is less than the annual provisions being made for MNREGA. In addition, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat and rice had remained almost frozen, with annual increase in farm prices not exceeding 4 per cent on an average. No wonder, 48 per cent farmers want to quit agriculture if given an alternative.
In fact, the plight of agriculture is not only deliberate but has for all practical purposes sustained the economic reforms. If the farmers were paid their economic due by way of let’s say a higher MSP, the industrial and business sector would have gone for a toss because of the additional costs involved for paying higher labour wages that incorporates resulting high food prices. At the same time, a higher price for farm produce would have raised the cost of production of many industries. In addition, a high paying agriculture would have also reduced the rate of migration and thereby reduced the availability of cheaper labour for infrastructure and real estate.
The reluctance on the part of the government to implement the Swaminathan Committee report, which recommends 50 per cent profit over the cost of production, also stems from the same concern. In a written affidavit before the Supreme Court, the government has made it clear that providing a higher price would distort the markets. It is primarily for this reason that the Ministry for Food and Consumer Affairs has directed the State governments not to provide any bonus for wheat and rice over and above the MSP announced. 
The real cost of economic reforms therefore is being borne by rural India, of which farmers constitute the majority. The first-ever Socio Economic Census has clearly brought out the stark reality. India’s performance when measured as per the Human Development Index too shows the burgeoning inequality. India ranks 130 among a ranking of 188 countries. The economic reform that we talk about therefore has largely been pro-rich. The rich 1 per cent own 51 per cent of country’s wealth. The economic wealth of 15 families in India equals the economic wealth of 600 million people.
Keeping agriculture impoverished all these years has sustained the economic reforms. Going by the income parity norms, the MSP for paddy, which has been fixed at Rs 1,450 per quintal this year, should have been Rs 5,100 per quintal. In case of wheat, the MSP should be Rs 7,600 per quintal. This is the legitimate right of a farmer, if we were to maintain a parity with other sections of the society, which has been denied to him. I have time and again stated that at the pace at which the salaries of government employees, college professors and school teachers has been hiked, agriculture has been denied that parity as a result of which farmers are dying.
The big bang reform India needs is essentially in agriculture. Providing the rightful income into the hands of farmers is what will push domestic demand and at the same time revitalize the rural economy. If the 7th Pay Commission is being seen as an economic booster, as it is expected to create more demand for consumer goods, imagine the kind of shot in the arm a higher income in agriculture will give to the Indian economy. If wheat farmers for instance were to get Rs 7,600 per quintal as the MSP, imagine the economic growth that it will result in for the rural areas. In fact, the fact remains agriculture alone has the capability to boost the Indian economy.
Unfortunately, agriculture is been knowingly sacrificed to keep the present phase of economic reforms somehow moving. In other words, 60-crore farmers are paying the cost of unjust economic reforms. #
Categories: Ecological News

Kerala sets a welcome trend by imposing 'Fat Tax'

Ground Reality - Tue, 08/09/2016 - 14:08

Some years back I was invited to be the chief guest at the annual day function of a well-known public school in New Delhi. After the march past and the award distributions were over, I had to address the students. Instead of talking about the role models they need to follow or giving them a lecture on the moral attributes required to be a good citizen, I decided to focus my talk on junk foods. I asked them how many drink at least a Coke or Pepsi every day and almost all hands went up. When I asked them about burgers and pizzas, the response was the same. I wasn’t surprised for this is what I had anticipated. 
I spent the next half an hour telling them how harmful the sugary drinks and junk foods were. The junk foods contain no nutrition but only empty calories. That is why most children were becoming obese, which eventually leads to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. I vividly recall that when I talked about the colas being an efficient toilet cleaner there was a loud applause. When I told them about how the sweet yoghurt for instance contains more sugar than ice-cream the children clapped. I concluded by asking them to educate their parents, their family members, and tell them why they should not be stocking their fridge with colas, and fried foods.
A week later, the Principal of the school called me. She told me of the huge response she had received for my talk, this time from the parents.  Many parents had conveyed how their children had insisted on getting them away from junk foods and colas. She told me that the school administration too had decided to stop the sale of colas and junk foods in the school canteen. 
So when Kerala’s Finance Minister, Thomas Issac, imposed 14.5 per cent tax on pizzas, burgers, and pastas served in branded restaurants, I was delighted. While the food industry, led by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has sought a review of the ‘fat tax’ saying it “would adversely affect growth of the quick service restaurant segment of the food industry and might set a similar trend for other segments as well’, I don’t think there is any need for Kerala government to even take notice of the industry’s representation. In my understanding, Thomas Issac should be complimented for a path-breaking decision and more importantly he has set a trend that I am sure will soon be followed by other States. One of the main reasons behind the rising sales of junk food is because they are cheaper. 
Childhood obesity has now reached severe proportion globally. The United State’s National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) estimates more than 22 million children to be affected worldwide. Not only in children, obesity is also growing among the adults and that too at an alarming rate. Worldwide, 39 per cent of the adults are over-weight, of which 13 per cent are obese, and this is leading to the growth of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and blood pressure. If we take diabetes alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates show 422 million people suffered from the disease in 2014. This is roughly 8.5 per cent of the global population. Of this, India also is home to 69 million diabetic patients, and the number is expected to swell to 100 million by 2030.
Denmark started the trend in 2011 by imposing a tax on foods that contained more than 2.3 per cent fat. Many countries have since introduced similar taxation measures with Mexico bringing in a ‘sugar tax’ on sugary drinks, and Hungry has a tax on foods that contained high levels of sugar and salt. In April this year, UK has imposed a sugar tax in a bid to curb growing obesity and diabetes. South Africa is also considering slapping a 20 per cent tax on sugary beverages.
Imposing additional taxes on sugary drinks and junk foods is certainly a welcome sign and should help discourage the consumption of junk foods. This should however not be taken as a stand-alone measure. Fat tax should be accompanied by consumer awareness campaigns. The US First Lady Michelle Obama perhaps sensed it early and soon after Barack Obama took over as President she launched a campaign on fighting junk food ads of sugary breakfast cereals, fast food and soft drinks aimed at school children. Five years after she launched a nationwide campaign called “Let’s Move!” the US Department of Agriculture had last year phased out junk food advertisements from vending machines in schools across the country. Even billboards of Coke and Pepsi were removed from school eateries. The big retail giant Walmart has promised to reduce salt content in its products by 25 per cent and sugar by 10 per cent.
Childhood obesity is known to a huge problem in America with obesity rates among those between 2 and 19 years being as high as 17 per cent. And it is here that Michelle Obama’s campaign is slowly making an impact. At least obesity levels in children between the age of 2 and 5 are coming down in America.
Although, India is reportedly planning to bring in a tax on sugary beverages and soft drinks but any such measure draws a loud protest from the TV channels, which more or less have an allegiance to a business house. With industry bodies like FICCI and CII jumping saying it will hit industrial growth the government normally goes on the back foot. But I see a possibility of a big national campaign, which will certainly leave behind a significant impact, if a campaign on the lines of popularizing yoga is undertaken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is already seeking the application of yoga for reducing diabetes and cracking down on the consumption of junk foods and sugary drinks in a Swasth Bharat campaign only makes it complete.
Kerala’s ‘fat tax’ has certainly woken up the nation to the need for stringent measures to control the growing threat of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. I propose two action points: First, is to introduce a high level of tax on sugary drinks, including colas, and junk foods. This must be accompanied by a nationwide Swasth Bharat campaign, which should also aim at looking afresh at some of the policy decisions. For example, 100 per FDI in processing industry should not be allowed in foods which contain more salt and sugar. Breakfast cereals, like cornflakes and its variants, are more of a desert than healthy foods. 
Kerala's Fat tax wakes up the nation, Deccan Herald, Aug 4, 2016 http://www.deccanherald.com/content/562055/keralas-fat-tax-wakes-up.html 
सेहत के लिए सही पहल Dainik Jagran, Aug 7, 2016. http://epaper.jagran.com/ePaperArticle/08-aug-2016-edition-Lucknow-page_10-16861-1869-11.html  
Categories: Ecological News

'This is not economic growth' -- An interview with Newslaundry

Ground Reality - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 14:35

A few days back I did quite an exhaustive interview with the popular news portal Newslaundry. The interview was on a wide gamut of issues ranging from stock markets, economic growth, China's economic model, mainline economists, growing inequalities, agriculture, food, to GM crops, role of scientists, Nobel laureates, FDA etc etc. Although the interviewer came armed with 10 pages of notes, and even if I had known I wouldn't have carried any notes/publications to prove my point. In fact, those of you who have heard me would know that I have never used any notes/visuals for any of my public talks and university lectures. 
Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Categories: Ecological News

'Jai Jawan, Mar Kisan' is a potentially fatal paradox

Ground Reality - Wed, 07/27/2016 - 12:11

When Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bupendra Singh made a bizarre statement in the State Assembly the other day stating in a written reply that some of the 418 farmers who committed suicide in the past three years were “possessed by ghosts”, he transcended all limits of insensitivity.
The statement itself led to a round of laughter with a senior BJP member Babulal Gaur wondering whether this was the primary idea behind the proposal for setting up a ‘department for happiness’.
Whatever be the reason, the tactless remark only reflects at the casualness with which political leaders, and regretfully most of them are from the ruling BJP, treat farmer suicides. It certainly shocks me beyond belief when I see a complete indifference towards the massive spate of farmer suicides sweeping the country. With more than 315,000 suicides in the past 20 years it is nothing short of a serial death dance being enacted on the farm. In fact, in lot many ways it is a political statement being made by farmers as an expression of their anger against the terrible agrarian crisis that continues to prevail. But unfortunately the political message that dying farmers’ hope they are leaving behind has failed to stir the nation’s collective consciousness. 
I recall when a Maharashtra BJP Member of Parliament Sanjay Dhotre had earlier said: Let the farmers fend for themselves. If crops fail they will figure out what to do. And, if they are dying, let them die …Those who can afford farming will do it, others will not do it.” Union Minister Nitin Gadkari too had made a shocking statement when in an obvious reference to the lack of irrigation he said he watered his plants in his bungalow in New Delhi with his own urine. I don’t know whether he was expecting farmers to spend the entire time urinating the crop fields like wheat or sugarcane but his statement alone showed how disconnected he was from the harsh ground realties.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh too earned the public ire when he made a statement sometimes back ascribing failure in love to be among the several reasons for farmer suicides. Well, let’s accept it. Farmers too suffer failed marriages and failed love affairs. A farmer is also a human being. He also faces the same traumas of failed marriages, broken love affairs, eloped partners, impotency and many a times he is also forced to end his life for social and personal reasons, but to simply trivialize a massive human tragedy is indicative of the apathy with which the farm tragedy is viewed. Nothing can be more tragic to know that every hour two farmers take their own life somewhere in the country.
While nothing so far has even remotely managed to stem the tide of farmer suicides, with Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse even acknowledging that his government had no solution, I applaud the former Defence Minister A K Anthony for the way he reacted to the news of suicides by Army soldiers. Alarmed by the rising suicides in the Armed forces, he called for a brainstorming session with three vice chief of services, the Defence Secretary and the head of the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) to find out the reasons and take measures to stop the increasing suicidal tendency among the lower ranks. This was in 2012.
Between 2003 and 2012, nearly 1,000 soldiers had committed suicide. On the contrary, between 1995 and 2011, as stated in Parliament by the then Minister of State for Agriculture, Harish Rawat, as many as 290,470 farmers had taken the fatal route. This means, about 17,000 farmers were dying on an average every year. While suicide by 100 soldiers a year had prompted the Defence Minister to act, 17,000 suicides by farmers had failed to evoke any emergency response from the Ministry of Agriculture. Sadly, the reality is that farmers can go on dying, no one cares. These deaths mean nothing except they add onto statistics. #
Source: 'Jai Jawan, Mar Kisan' is a potentially fatal paradox. New Indian Express, July 24, 2016.http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinion/Jai-Jawan-Mar-Kisan-is-a-potentially-fatal-paradox/2016/07/24/article3543933.ece 
Categories: Ecological News

Nobel laureates need to look beyond GM crops, focus on food wastage to fight hunger.

Ground Reality - Sun, 07/17/2016 - 07:13

Nobel laureates are a respected lot. So when more than 100 Nobel laureates presented a signed letter defending genetically-modified (GM) crops, blaming Greenpeace in particular for blocking ‘golden rice’ which it claimed has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by Vitamin A deficiency, the world would certainly sit back and take notice.
After reading the letter, addressed to “the Leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and Governments around the world”, I must say I was greatly disappointed. I have had the privilege of meeting, knowing and talking to many a Nobel laureate over the years, and I must acknowledge that while this was a great privilege I did realize from my meetings that a majority of them had rarely moved outside of their laboratories and conference halls, but this letter simply knocks me out. These distinguished scientists, and we salute them for their scholarship, have little idea how the world outside their lab looks like. But I never knew they were so ignorant. 
Coming at a time when the New York Times (July 14, 2016) reports that the demand for organic food in United States is far outstripping the supply, forcing food companies to make payments in advance even taking care of the transition costs, it seems the Nobel laureates are completely out of sync with realities. But let’s get back to the letter.
‘How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?’ the letter ends on this impassioned note. The question in particular is related to the acceptance of ‘golden rice’ which the GM industry has always been pushing as the answer to childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 to 500,000 children every year. According to UNICEF, half of them die within 12 months of losing their sight. But perhaps what the Nobel laureates were not informed by the biotech industry before they signed on the letter is the fact that Greenpeace has nothing to do with the denial of approval for ‘golden rice’. Prof Glenn Davis of the University of Washington has in an exhaustive study shown that ‘golden rice’ has still not crossed regulatory hurdles.
We will come to that later. But first let’s look at the usual scientific rhetoric that I find is repeated worldwide ad nauseam: “Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.” Whose data? The data produced by GM companies or the data produced based on the research funded by biotech giants? After all, why should scientific bodies, including the Royal Society, always overlook the scientific studies and references challenging these ‘scientific’ claims? I draw their attention to a compilation of more than 400 scientific studies done by the Coalition for GM Free India. This study has a foreword by the well-known scientist-administrator Dr M S Swaminathan. Closer home, the Nobel laureates must see the work of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, which too has questioned the so-called ‘scientific’ claims.
To say that scientific and regulatory agencies around the world, which find GM crops as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production, is a clever ploy to hoodwink public opinion and thereby push harmful and risky crop production technologies. The way the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and for that matter the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in India have been very conveniently turned into a rubber stamp for the GM industry clearly shows how futile and frustrating the search for scientific truth can be. If you want to see the ‘criminal destruction’ of scientific facts you must do a careful perusal of the FDA (or the GEAC) recommendations.
But why should I blame the regulatory bodies if the public opinion of even the Nobel laureates can be so easily swayed? 
If ever any of the Nobel laureates feels like moving out of his/her laboratory to see the ground realities, I would like to invite them to Punjab, the food bowl, situated in northwest India. Last year, nearly 300 farmers committed suicide after a deadly attack of white-fly insect on Bt cotton ravaged the fields. Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for cultivation India. This year, drawing a lesson, as much as 40 per cent area under cotton dropped while cotton farmers in more than 72,000 hectares in the northwest States of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, have already shifted to non-Bt native varieties and hybrids. Although I am aware that white-fly is not the insect against which Bt cotton has inbuilt resistance, but the fact remains that the virulent insect attack is primarily confined to Bt cotton. The question I therefore want to ask is why shouldn’t the GM seed companies be held accountable for the death of nearly 300 Punjab farmers?
More gory consequences of GM soya cultivation have been documented from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. I thought the Nobel laureates would at least Google to know how damaging GM crops have been to the environment, animal and human health in some of Latin American countries. This is the least I had expected from them before they signed the letter. If they had done so, I am sure they would instead have written a letter to the GM companies, the United Nations and Governments around the world warning them to be wary of GM crops and at least learn from the Argentina debacle.
If this is a collateral damage for addressing the bigger issue of global hunger, I am afraid the Nobel laureates have never cared to go beyond the newspaper headlines. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the world produced food good enough to meet the requirement of 13.5 billion people. In other words, the world produces food for double the existing population. In US alone, latest studies show that nearly half of all US food produced is thrown away. If only US food wastage was to be minimized, the food requirement of the entire Sub-Saharan Africa can be met. In Europe too, nearly 52 per cent of the food is wasted. The food wasted in Italy, for instance, if saved can feed the hungry in Ethiopia.
Globally, the world wastes 1.6 billion tons of food every year.
I wonder whether the Nobel laureates are aware that US faces its worst hunger, breaking all previous records, with more than 40 million people sleeping hungry at a time when the US is cultivating a number of GM crops. The US is also the Mecca of GM foods. I thought the question Nobel laureates would first ask is how come US has so much of hunger (and malnutrition) if GM crops were the savior? If GM foods could not reduce hunger in America, how do you think it is the solution for hunger in Global South? Isn’t it time therefore that the Nobel laureates focus on the immediate crisis of growing hunger first in their own neighbourhood?

What has to be accepted is that the food crisis the world witness is not because of any shortfall in production. The problem is because of the absence of food justice, which in other words means access and distribution. If the world was to eliminate food wastage there would be enough food available even at the end of the 21st century given the present rate of production. It is therefore high time the Nobel laureates begin to focus where the need is urgent. Come, join the global efforts being spearheaded by the United Nations on reducing food wastage. Isn’t food wastage at a time when millions of people are living in hunger, with some 20,000 succumbing to it daily, a mankind’s crime? 
I am asking the same question that you asked before: How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”? #
Source: GM Crops are not the solution to global hunger. ABPLive.in July 16, 2016.http://www.abplive.in/blog/gm-crops-are-not-the-solution-to-global-hunger
Categories: Ecological News

Pulses import -- abandoning food self-sufficiency.

Ground Reality - Thu, 07/14/2016 - 12:56

There is something going wrong. A government-to-government contract to import pulses from Mozambique, at a time when farmers in India are increasingly forced to commit suicide, bears testimony to a flawed economic policy that will eventually uproot Indian farmers. I don’t know whether this is being done deliberately or whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being kept in dark of the grave consequences of taking contract farming to other countries.
I remember, some decades back, when Balram Jakhar was the Agriculture Minister he too had proposed cultivating pulses in some African countries and importing it. During the UPA regime, the then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar too had wanted India to undertake pulses cultivation in Burma and Uruguay, which could then be imported. But all these years, the fanciful idea, a brainchild of some ignorant bureaucrats in the Ministry of Agriculture, had remained only confined to media statements. This time I am told the bureaucrats in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had sternly managed to prevail.
As per the news reports, India will identify a network of farmers with the help of local agents in Mozambique and provide them with appropriate technology, including seeds and improved equipments. These farmers will be assured before they take up cultivation that whatever they produce will be purchased by the Indian government at a rate not less than the minimum support price (MSP) that is given in India. The basic idea, says an official of the Ministry of External affairs, is to grow a network of farmers.
If India can build a network of farmers in Mozambique to grow pulses on a regular basis I wonder why a similar network of farmers can’t be built in India. Why is India not making a similar commitment to pay a higher price and make assured procurement that could have easily raised domestic production and thereby increase its availability. While in India, the government leaves farmers to face the volatility of markets, in Mozambique it agrees to provide an assured market by buying whatever is produced. This is grossly unfair.
The key to increasing domestic production of pulses lies in assured purchase. Although the government has raised the MSP for some of the important kharif pulses, by providing for example a bonus of Rs 425 per quintal to make it Rs 5,050 per quintal for arhar dal, but price alone may not be enough to raise production in the long run. I have always maintained that unless the government launches procurement for pulses, on the lines of wheat and rice procurement, there is little possibility of enhancing domestic production. If the government can assure farmers in Mozambique of buying whatever they produce I see no reason why the same cannot be done within the country.
From Mozambique, India expects to import 100,000 tonnes of pulses, which will increase to 200,000 tonnes in a matter of few years. Additionally, India is also exploring the possibility of taking cultivation of pulses to some other African countries, including Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi. The increasing reliance on pulses production in Africa to meet the ever-growing domestic demand will however leave behind a trail of destruction on the farm front which has perhaps not been properly visualized.
Food security is the primary responsibility of any government. Yes, I agree. But in India, unlike countries like Singapore, food security should not be met from imports. Considering that India has a massive army of 600 million farmers, faced with a terrible agrarian distress over the past few decades, what the country needs is production by the masses and not production for the masses. Instead of helping farmers in Africa, it makes political and economic sense to help farmers within the country. This is exactly what was achieved when India launched Green Revolution in 1966. The nation must admire the political sagacity of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to have assiduously built up a public procurement system to pull the country out from a perpetual hunger trap. Grow more food was then the slogan.
There can be nothing more disastrous for any country to abandon the principles of food self-sufficiency as a pre-requisite to ensuring food security. Ensuring food self-sufficiency is the hallmark of ascertaining national sovereignty. Let’s not forget, India escaped food riots in 2007-08 when the world was faced with an unprecedented food crisis. At least 37 countries had faced food riots at that time, and all of these were countries which relied on food imports. India had ample food reserves at that time, an outcome of a continuing policy of maintain food reserves. Any tinkering that allows for dismantling the public procurement system is therefore fraught with dangers.
Secondly, there are lessons to be learnt from the way India badly messed up with edible oils. At present, country imports nearly 74 per cent of its edible oil needs exceeding Rs 70,000-crores despite having the ability to produce it within the country. Although the consumption of edible oils has doubled in the decade ending 2015, the fact remains that India was almost self-sufficient in meeting its edible oil needs in 1993-94. Following the Oilseeds Technology Mission that ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had launched in 1985-86 India was producing 97 per cent of its edible oil requirement ten years later.
What went wrong were the faulty trade policy whereby import tariffs were reduced drastically thereby bringing in a flood of edible oil imports. If only India had continued to block cheaper imports by maintaining higher import duties, the Rs 70,000-crore that is spent on imports would have gone to the benefit of Indian farmers. Since oilseed is mainly a crop of primarily rainfed central India, imagine the economic benefits that would have accrued to farmers. But the tragedy is that while Indian farmers suffer, the benefit is being passed to farmers growing oilseeds in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and United States from where the imports pour in.
After oilseeds, it is now the turn of pulses, which carries a zero import duty. With India getting into Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with European Union, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, among other countries, there is a growing fear that import tariffs on milk and milk products, vegetables, fruits, poultry, and even wheat are on the chopping block. I shudder to think of the socio-economic and political consequences of relying on food imports to meet the food security needs. While on the one hand such a policy will push farmers out of agriculture, it will take the country back into the days of ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence when food used to come directly from the ship to feed the hungry mouths. #  
Categories: Ecological News

Monsanto vs Indian Farmers

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 03/28/2016 - 00:15

By Dr Vandana Shiva, 27 March 2016

Source: http://vandanashiva.com/?p=402

If we believe in democracy, it is imperative that we have the right to choose which technologies are best for our communities, rather than having unaccountable institutions like Monsanto decide for us. Rather than technologies designed for the continued enrichment of a few, we can ground our technology in a hope of a greater harmony between our human communities and the natural world. Our health, our food and the future of life on Earth truly lie in the balance.
Monsanto: A Checkered History by Brian Tokar,
The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No. 5, September/October 1998

Seed is the basis of agriculture; the means of production and the basis of farmers’ livelihoods. In less than two decades, cotton seed has been snatched from the hands of Indian farmers by Monsanto, displacing local varieties, introducing GMO Bt cotton seeds and coercing extravagant royalties from farmers. Since Monsanto’s entry into India in 1998, the price of cotton seeds has increased by almost 80,000% (from ₹5 – ₹9/KG to ₹ 1600 for 450 gms). 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, trapped in vicious cycles of debt and crop failures, 84% of these suicides are attributed directly to Monsanto’s Bt cotton.

For 8 million cotton farmers awaiting the Kharif 2016 sowing season, access and availability to fairly priced seeds is a matter of survival. Any situation that threatens the livelihoods of 8 million Indians is a national emergency. The issue of Seed Price impinges directly on farmers rights. And since the high prices with the high royalty component has driven farmers to suicide, State Governments and the Central Government have acted to bring down the seed prices.

There are 3 issues related to the state of seed and the current conflicts related to Monsanto, Indian farmers and the Govt of India. First is the farmers rights to reliable and affordable seed and with it the duty of the government to protect farmers right to livelihood and right to life . It is the government’s duty under Art 21 of the constitution to protect the life of all its citizens. The Cotton Seed Price Control Order issued by the Government of India needs to be seen in the context of farmers rights.

Second is the issue of IPRs, patents, royalty ,technology fees in the context of false claims and a failing technology, and the duty of Government to act to revoke a patent according to Article 64 and Article 66 of the Indian Patent Act. There is a show cause notice served to Monsanto by the Central Government regarding the patent.

The third is the issue of monopoly on seed. The Government has a duty to prevent monopolies being established . This is why we had the MRTP commission earlier, and now the competition commission .

The issue of monopoly is before the Competition Commission of India which has stated that Monsanto has violated Competition laws and there is Prima Facie evidence of monopoly.

Just as Monsanto is forum shopping by going to different courts at the same time, it is also issue-shopping. First it is trying to reduce the contest over seed price as only between Monsanto and Indian companies which are its licensees, thus attempting to totally erase farmers and the fundamental rights of farmers from the case. Second, Monsanto is hiding the two other Government actions against it on the issue of Bt Cotton, the show cause notice on revocation of the Bt cotton patent, and the Competition Commission of India case.

All aspects impact farmers rights and farmers livelihoods.

Farmers Rights to Seed = Right to Life

In the case of farmers, the right to seed is the basis of the right to life. Farmers are being trapped in debt and being driven to suicide because seed is too costly and the seed available is also unreliable. Since at the end of the day, royalty is paid by farmers, Monsanto’s royalties are violating the affordability criteria and are responsible for farmers debt, distress and suicides. First Bt I and now Bt II are failing to control pests and the pink bollworm has become resistant, Bt is failing the test of reliability.

Monsanto has collected royalty for its Bt I cotton since 2002 without having a patent for it. Instead it created a new category called “Technology Trait” for which it charged a “Trait Fee”. But it was royalty under a new name.

Monsanto could not sign individual contracts with farmers, as it does in the US, in India because a) there would be far too many contracts, and b) Monsanto did not have a patent for the intellectual property the contract would cover, i.e. the Bt gene (MON 531 event of Cry1Ac). So Monsanto locked in 28 Indian seed companies through one-sided license agreements to collect royalties on its behalf – very much like the British arbitrarily appointed zamindars to collect taxes and revenues from peasants in colonial times, ruining a rich and prosperous land and leaving us in poverty. The hefty royalty is collected from small farmers, even if it is routed through an Indian licensee, just as the peasant paid the lagaan to the British, even though it went through collectors and zamindars. Indian seed companies are feeling the squeeze, finding themselves between the price control measures exercised in the interest of the farmers and Monsanto demanding nine times more in illegal royalty and unilaterally terminating some of the license agreements.

The price, including the technology fee, was reduced in 2006 because of case brought before the MRTPC by the Government of AP, in which the Research Foundation intervened. The AP government also negotiated with the seed companies to set the prices of hybrid Bt cotton seed at $18/packet (of 450 grams) inclusive of technology fee which is much lower than the $29/packet that MMB had been selling it at. Soon other state governments adopted the same pricing policy.

At present a 450g packet of Bt cotton is sold at around Rs.830 in Maharashtra, while in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu it is sold at Rs.930. In the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan etc. It is priced at Rs.1,000. MMB currently charges trait fees of Rs.122.96 and Rs.183.46 per packet of Bt Bollgard-I and Bt Bollgard II seeds, respectively.

On March 8th, the Central Government issue a seed price control order slashing Monsanto’s royalty on Bt cotton seeds by 74% since the technology has lost its efficacy in resisting certain pest attacks and royalty fees on failed technology has to be reduced.

Governments regulating seed prices thus has a precedence, and Monsanto challenging the Centre’s Price control order is a desperate act.

Monsanto approached the High Court of Delhi to challenge the order . The Delhi High Court refused to put a stay on the Central Government order for regulating seed prices and the royalty component. Monsanto also approached the High Court of Karnataka through its lobby group ABLE.

According to the interim order, the Karnataka High Court says the Centre cannot fix royalties because they are based on agreements between companies. It allowed the government to fix the Maximum Sale Price (MSP) of Bt cotton seeds for the benefit of farmers.

Bt is a gene, not a technology :The Bt gene is part of the Bt cotton seed, the “trait value” of the Bt gene is part of the Seed Price

Unlike other technologies, where the technology of production and the product are separable, in the case of genetically modified seed (GMO) like Bt cotton, the Bt gene, once introduced into the seed becomes part of the seed. The Bt gene, which Monsanto misleadingly calls “technology” and the “technology trait “ becomes part of the Bt cotton seed. It is not separable from it. On the same scientific basis, the “technology fees” charged for the “technology trait” of Bt is intrinsic to the price of seed that the farmer pays. The technology fees and seed price that includes that fees are not separable.

The mischievous use of “technology” for a gene introduced into the plant hides two important facts. First, that Monsanto is not licensing to Indian seed companies the use of tools of genetic engineering (used for introducing non related genes into a plant). These tools are only two: A gene gun, or an agrobacterium. What Monsanto is transferring to Indian companies is not the technology for creating transgenic plants, but the Bt cotton seed, which includes the genes within the seed, to multiply, hybridise, sell under their monopoly. So the mystification through the use of the term “technology trait” and “technology fees “ is hiding the fact that the case is about Seed, and the price of Seed. And the price of seed has become a life and death issue for Indian farmers.

Secondly, Monsanto changes its Technology trait value every season, showing again that the issue is seed price.

As the CCI records:

As per the information and documents contained in Reference, many Indian seed companies including the Informants entered into sub-license agreement with MMBL for procuring its Bt cotton technology in consideration of an upfront one time non–refundable fee of Rs. 50 lakhs and recurring fee called as, i.e. ‘Trait Value’. The ‘Trait Value’ is the estimated value for the trait of insect resistance conferred by the Bt gene technology. It forms a significant portion of the Bt cotton seed prices. It is stated that the trait value is determined by MMBL on the basis of Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of 450 gm seed packet (hereinafter ‘per packet’), in advance for each crop season. It is also stated that out of this trait value, some amount is disbursed as royalty to MIU and the royalty paid to Monsanto US by MMBL is a small portion (between 15-20%) of the Trait Value it collects.

Once an upfront fees has been paid for seeds with a Bt toxin trait, the “technology fees “ is an unfair, greedy means of increasing seed prices to increase profits in a monopoly market. The MRTPC had also made this observation forcing Monsanto to concoct “Trait Fees”.

In the meanwhile, MRTPC vide its interim order dated 11th May, 2006, observed that “There is a basic difference between royalty and trait value …and are not synonymous… In any case the lumpsum payment of Rs.50 lakhs may be considered as royalty for the same, but the future payments on sale cannot be termed as royalty” and held that “… by temporary injunction the MMBL is directed during the pendency of this case not to charge trait value of Rs.900/- for a packet of 450 gm of Bt cotton seeds and to fix a reasonable trait value that is being charged by the parent company in the neighboring countries like China”.

The Karnataka High Court arguing that the matter of seed royalty being “between (companies)… based on agreements entered into amongst themselves” and is beyond the jurisdiction of the Government of India suggests that any inhuman, unjust commercial activity can be allowed if corporations sign agreement with other businesses. And it ignores the governments duty to protect its citizens under the constitution.

Indian farmers are paying for Monsanto’s superprofits with their very lives. The State must intervene to regulate seed prices to end the emergency of farmers suicides.

Bt cotton is a failed technology and Monsanto’s patent should be revoked

The Karnataka High Court interim Stay Order ignores two facts Firstly because of the failure of Bt II to control the pink bollworm, the government has sent a notice to Monsanto asking why its patent should not be revoked. The Government can revoke patents under section 64 and section 66 of the Patent Act.

Second, Monsanto through its patents which are based on false claims, is creating monopolies, raising seed prices and destroying more affordable and reliable alternatives for farmers. This is at the root of the crisis of farmers suicides in cotton areas.

The Government has a duty to not grant patents, or revoke patents if they violate the public interest or their claims are false.

Make believe “innovation”

Monsanto has two patents on Bt II: IN 214436 (Methods for transforming plants to express Bacillus thuringiensis delta endotoxins) and Patent No. 232681 which provides IPR protection to Bollgard-II technology.

The granted patent is in violation of the Indian patent act, 1970, specifically to the section 3(J) relating to non-patentability of plants, seeds and essential biological processes and 3(h) relating to non-patentability of methods of horticulture and agriculture.

Art 3 (j ) was used by the Indian Patent office to reject Monsanto’s patent on climate resilience.

The patent which covers all crop plants does not consider “position” effects of the gene integration, pleiotropy or epigenetic interactions and grants perpetual rights for all descendant plants.

Articles 64 and Art 66 of the patent Act allow for the revocation of patents. The Bt cotton patent should be revoked under the following clauses of Art 64:

64. Revocation of patents.

(1) Subject to the provisions contained in this Act, a patent, whether granted before or after the commencement of this Act, may, be revoked on a petition of any person interested or of the Central Government by the Appellate Board or on a counter-claim in a suit for infringement of the patent by the High Court on any of the following grounds that is to say –

(d) that the subject of any claim of the complete specification is not an invention within the meaning of this Act;

Art 3(j) and 3(h) (above) disallow the patent

(f) that the invention so far as claimed in any claim of the complete specification is obvious or does not involve any inventive step, having regard to what was publicly known or publicly used in India or what was published in India or elsewhere before the priority data of the claim; (g) that the invention, so far as claimed in any claim of the complete specification, is not useful;

The introduction of Bt genes through genetic engineering was known in India both in the Cotton Research Institute of India and in Dharwad Agriculture University. Adding two Bt genes is obvious to anyone skilled in the art of genetic engineering.The so called invention of introducing Bt genes in cotton has proved to be not useful in controlling pests.

(j) that the patent was obtained on a false suggestion or representation;

The patent was obtained under the false suggestion that Bt cotton will control pests, specially the bollworm.
Article 66 allows Revocation of patent in public interest.

Where the Central Government is of opinion that a patent or the mode in which it is exercised is mischievous to the State or generally prejudicial to the public, it may, after giving the patentee an opportunity to be heard, make a declaration to that effect in the Official Gazette and thereupon the patent shall be deemed to be revoked.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers being driven to suicide because of high costs of seed, and false promises is enough ground for the government to revoke Monsanto’s Bt cotton. Why are farmers being made to pay such a high price for a failed technology ? And why are lobby groups defining Monsanto imposing a failed technology as “innovation”?

In an article titled Heading Backwards in the Indian Express of March 14th 2016, Ashok Gulati wrote: “If Monsanto decides to quit India, Bollgard III may not come, and Bollgard II will wear off its potency in the next 3 to 5 years”.

Bollgard I failed, Bollgard II is failing, and we are supposed to give up our rights and sovereignty so that Monsanto can bring Bollgard III, which will fail in a few years? Each time it stacks more toxic genes, it raises its royalty. Einstein had said , “A clear sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome”. Are we now calling insanity “Innovation”?

It is built into the technology of Bt cotton that the plant will become vulnerable to non target insects, and bollworm- the target pest – will evolve resistance. Greater evolutionary pressure via more toxic genes results in faster emergence of resistance. Those who constantly refer to “science” to illegally impose GMOs ignore the basic science of evolution which is determining the non-ffectiveness and non-sustainability of GMO technology, whether it be the creation of superpests with resistance to Bt cotton in India, or superweeds with resistance to Roundup in the US.

For Monsanto, introducing GMO Bt cotton, and tying up Indian companies in unfair one-way agreements is a means to establish a monopoly in the seed market, period.

In addition to issue of Bt cotton not working, and hence the grounds for revoking the patent, there is also the issue of monopoly related to patents. Monsanto knows that only through a patent can it collect huge royalties for unreliable technology from farmers. If Indian companies have the freedom to bring lower cost and more reliable seeds to the farmers, and Indian farmers have the freedom to produce their own organic seeds, no one will buy Monsanto’s Bt cotton. Therefore Monsanto uses the patent to both collect unreasonable royalties and lock Indian companies into licensing agreements to only sell Bt cotton seeds. This issue is before the Competition Commission of India.

Learn how Monsanto wrote and broke laws here

Additional Information:



Monsanto has taken 9 Indian Seed companies to court for “non-payment of trait fee” Demanding ₹ 163.28 on every seed packet attracting a maximum retail price (MRP) up to ₹ 930. (Higher trait value if MRP is higher) 9 “defaulting companies” account for over 60 per cent of the estimated 5 crore seed packets sold in 2015-16Unable to pay the unreasonable royalty demanded by Monsanto Cost incurred in seed production None BreedingSeed production DistributionMarketing and extensionSalaries and overheads Indian Seed Companies file Counter Affidavit – Want Back Extra Royalty Paid to Monsanto/MMB Accused of taking advantage of it’s technology monopoly.₹ 5,000 crore collected from farmers via “Trait Fee”MMB has already received ₹ 1,300 crore since 2010 in accordance with state price control measures Overpaid Monsanto/MMB ₹ 1,300 crore since 2010, Demanding refund

Monsanto’s India Timeline

24th April 1998

Mahyco files to Department of Biotechnology for field trials

May 1998

Joint venture between Mahyco and Monsanto formed

13th July 1998

Letter of Intent issued by DBT without involving Gentic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

15th July 1998

Mahyco agrees to conditions in letter of intent

27th July 1998

Impugned permission by DBT for trials at 25 locations granted.

5th August 1998

Permission for second set of trials at 15 locations granted.

6th January 1999

PIL filed by Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology in the Supreme Court of India

8th February 1999

RCGM expresses satisfaction over the trial results at 40 locations.

12th April 1999

RCGM directs Mahyco to submit application for trials at 10 locations before Monitoring and Evaluation Committee.

25th May 1999

Revised proposal to RCGM submitted by Mahyco.

June–Nov 1999

Permission granted for different trial fields

Oct–Nov 1999

Field visits

May 2000

Mahyco’s letter to GEAC seeking approval for “release for large scale commercial field trials and hybrid seed production of indigenously developed Bt cotton hybrids”

July 2000

GEAC clears for large scale field trials on 85 hectares and seed production on 150 hectares and notifies through press release.

October 2000

RFSTE filed an application for amendment in the petition challenging the fresh GEAC clearance.

18th October 2001

GEAC orders uprooting of “Navbharat-15”, which was found to contain transgenic Bt.

26th March 2002

32nd Meeting of the GEAC was held to examine the issue of commercial release of Bt Cotton. Members of GEAC from ICHR, Health Ministry, Commerce Ministry, CSIR, ICAR did not attend the meeting. Inspite of the absence of important members of the GEAC, approval was granted to three out of four of Monsanto – Mahyco’s transgenic hybrids.

5th April 2002

Formal approval granted to mach-12, Mach – 162 and Mach 184 by A.M. Gokhale, Chair of GEAC. Order of 05.04.2002 is a conditional clearance valid for three years. The stipulated conditions/restrictions are a clear implied admission on the part of the government that the tests are far from complete. In effect, the commercialisation was an experiment. Monsanto-Mahyco





Categories: Ecological News

Seed swaraj

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 03/24/2016 - 05:34

By Dr Vandana Shiva, The Asian Age, 22 March 2016

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/seed-swaraj-626

“When ordered to reduce Bt cotton seed prices by 74 per cent, Monsanto’s immediate response was to threaten to quit India, confirming that it cannot respect the law or farmers’ rights”

On the anniversary of Quit India, August 9, 1998, we launched the “Monsanto Quit India” campaign. Monsanto had illegally introduced its Bt cotton seeds in the country without approval from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in violation of and with complete disregard for our biosafety laws.

For a genetically modified organism (GMO) to be legal in India, its import needs to be approved by the GEAC — Monsanto did not have approval when it imported its Bt cotton seed in 1995. Open field trials also need to be approved by the GEAC — Monsanto did not have GEAC approval for the trials it carried out in 1998.

We sued Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Private Limited (MMB), the joint venture company Monsanto created to enter the Indian market, for its illegal trials in the Supreme Court of India and Monsanto was unable to sell Bt cotton seeds commercially until April 2002.

By the time Monsanto received commercial approval, it had locked 28 Indian seed companies into licensing agreements, restricting their sales to Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds (marketed as Bollgard) only, stifling “innovation” and “competition” — words the company otherwise loves to throw around. These Indian seed companies have had no “choice” in what they sell and at what price, and our cotton farmers have had no choice in what they pay. The skewed market also provided Monsanto’s PR machinery the opportunity to falsely project its monopoly in the cotton sector as farmers “choosing” Bt cotton, when in fact all alternatives were actively being destroyed.

In the US, where Monsanto has a patent on biotechnology, it signs contracts directly with farmers. It could not sign agreements with Indian farmers on royalties due to the lack of intellectual property rights (IPR). To sell Bollgard seeds, Monsanto signed contracts with Indian companies that had built a relationship of trust with farmers over decades, and used these Indian companies to collect royalties from small farmers. The royalties were built into high seed prices. It is this unjust and illegal collection of royalties from farmers that has been challenged by state governments repeatedly, and now by the Central government.

Since 2002, Monsanto has collected royalty from Indian farmers — 80 per cent of the Rs 1,600 price of each 450 gram packet of Bollgard I Bt cotton seed. On May 10, 2006, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC), following a complaint filed by the government of Andhra Pradesh against MMB for overpricing genetically modified Bt cotton seeds, directed MMB to reduce the trait value it was unfairly charging the farmers of Andhra Pradesh — nine times more than the farmers in the United States. On May 29, 2006, Andhra Pradesh’s commissioner for agriculture fixed the price of Bt cotton seeds at Rs 750 for a 450-gram packet, and directed MMB and its sub-licensees to comply with its order. Monsanto challenged the Andhra Pradesh government and the MRTPC’s decision in the Supreme Court as “illegal and arbitrary”. To Monsanto’s dismay, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and now Maharashtra as well followed Andhra Pradesh’s lead and asked MMB to reduce the price of Bt cotton seed.

MMB said the royalty it charged (admitting it charged royalty without a patent) reflected its research and development costs for Bt cotton. Since Bollgard I was already failing, Monsanto used its failure to introduce Bollgard II, side-stepping the price control measures imposed by the MRTPC on Bollgard I, continuing its monopoly unregulated, charging whatever it wanted for seeds that have consistently failed (stagnant yield, increased pesticide use and the boll-worm’s resistance to their patented Bt technology), without any accountability.

Monsanto charged $900 million from Indian farmers for failed technology. A refund is surely in order.

On March 8, 2016, the Government of India ordered Monsanto to reduce Bt cotton seed prices by 74 per cent. Monsanto’s immediate response was to threaten to quit India, confirming that the company can only operate by exploiting farmers and subverting laws and regulations. They cannot respect the law or farmers’ rights.

All corporations and businesses should operate according to the laws of a sovereign nation, not violate, manipulate, twist or subvert them. Monsanto’s current threat of quitting India is based on the assumption that violating India’s laws is their right.

Minister of state for agriculture and food processing, Sanjeev Balyan, in response to Monsanto’s threat, stated, “It’s now upon Monsanto to decide whether they want to accept this rate or not… If they don’t find it feasible, then they are free to take a call. The greed (of charging) a premium has to end… We’re not scared if Monsanto leaves the country, because our team of scientists are working to develop (an) indigenous variety of (GM) seeds.”

The main reason corporations like Monsanto push GMOs like Bt cotton on us is to make super profits through the collection of royalties. This is the arrangement that fell apart because Bt cotton has failed in controlling pests, and Bt cotton yields are falling every year, increasing the use of fertilisers and pesticides as farmers struggle to maintain output. Bt cotton was advertised by Monsanto as a crop that would make huge profits for farmers because it would reduce their input costs by slashing their pesticide use and be a boon for the environment. Monsanto’s technology is failing across the world. Early adopters, like Burkina Faso, are abandoning Monsanto’s seeds.

Monsanto has extorted super profits from Indian farmers and seed companies illegally. The pirated funds need to be returned to India, India’s seed companies and, most importantly, to India’s farmers. India can be a world leader by protecting its farmers and food from situations like these by supporting organic agriculture and banning GMOs, which only exist for the extraction of royalties.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Related campaign

Navdanya Campaign in support of farmers victims of BT Cotton failure in Punjab


Categories: Ecological News

Make Monsanto pay

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 02/24/2016 - 05:11

By Dr Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 23 February 2016

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/make-monsanto-pay-668

While the Centre is suing Monsanto, Maharashtra has signed an MoU with it to set up the biggest seed hub in India… How can a corporation taking lives be rewarded with the ‘Make in India’ label?

Monsanto is in the news again. The Competition Commission of India (CCI), the country’s antitrust regulator, has recently said that it suspects a Monsanto joint venture abused its dominant position as a supplier of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds in India and has issued an order citing prima facie violation of Sections 3(4) and 4 of the Competition Act, to be investigated by CCI’s director-general.

Monsanto also faces cases brought by state governments and domestic seed manufacturers, for the astronomical royalty it charges. In previous cases, Monsanto defended itself by saying that it was “trait fees” (for using its technology in cotton hybrids) and not royalty.

Fact is that Monsanto has viewed the laws of our land as mere hurdles in its way to swindle India and our farmers. On March 10, 1995, Mahyco (Monsanto-Mahyco) brought 100 grams of cotton seeds, containing the MON531-Bt gene, into India without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).

Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval.

Article (7) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, states: “No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the GEAC.” GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled.

Genetically engineered cotton from the trials was sold in open markets. In some states, the trial fields were replanted the very next season with wheat, turmeric and groundnut, violating Para-9 of the Biosafety Guidelines (1994) on “post-harvest handling of the transgenic plants” according to which the fields on which GMO trials were conducted should have been left fallow for at least one year.

In face of these blatant violations of Indian laws and the risks of genetic pollution India faced, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India against Monsanto and Mahyco in 1999, for their violations of the 1989 rules for the use of GMOs under the Environmental Protection Act.

India’s laws, rightly, do not permit patents on seeds and in agriculture. This has always been a problem for Monsanto and, through the US administration, it has attempted to pressure India into changing her robust intellectual property regime since the World Trade Organisation came into existence, and continues to do so today.

Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech (MMB) Ltd collected royalties for Bt cotton by going outside the law and charging “technology fees” and “trait fee” to the tune of $900 million from marginal Indian farmers, crushing them with debt.

In 2006, out of the Rs 1,600 per 450 gram package of Bt cotton seed (Rs 3,555.55/kg), almost 80 per cent (Rs 1,250) was charged by MMB as “trait fee”. In stark contrast, before Monsanto destroyed alternative sources of seed (including local hybrid seed supply) through unfair business practices, local seeds used to cost farmers Rs 5-9/kg.

In response to the unfair pricing, the government of Andhra Pradesh filed a complaint with the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) against MMB, pointing out that Monsanto was charging Andhra Pradesh farmers nine times what it was charging US farmers for the same seeds. MMB said the royalty it charged reflected its research and development costs for Bt cotton, admitting that they were charging royalty to Indian farmers.

Monsanto’s ruthlessness is central to the crisis Indian farmers are facing. Farmers leveraged their land holdings to buy Bt cotton seeds and the chemicals it demanded, but the golden promise of higher yield and reduced pesticide use failed to deliver.

Of the 300,000 farmer suicides in India since Monsanto smuggled the Bt gene into India in 1995, 84 per cent, almost 252,000, are directly attributed to Monsanto’s Bt cotton.

While the Government of India is suing Monsanto, the government of Maharashtra has signed an MoU with Monsanto to set up the biggest seed hub in the country in Buldana, announced at “Make in India Week”. How can a corporation breaking India, taking the lives of Indian farmers, destroying our agriculture and food security, and violating our laws be rewarded with the “Make in India” label?

For arrogantly breaking Indian laws and corrupting our regulatory systems, Monsanto must be held accountable. For the failure of Bt cotton, Monsanto must be made to pay damages to the farmers and seed companies that have had to pay “technology fees” for a failed technology.

The land that our farmers have lost to the agents selling Monsanto seeds and chemicals must be returned to the farmers’ families. All the illegal royalty collected from our farmers and India’s seed companies must be returned to India.

With its flagship product failing across the country year after year, and the dimming prospects of the super-profits the company has become used to, why would Monsanto make a large investment in Vidarbha unless it is sure of continued monopoly?

The technical expert committee has recommended that Herbicide Tolerance (Ht) and GM varieties of crops for which India is the centre of diversity, not be allowed in India. Is Monsanto counting on the GEAC approving Bayer’s herbicide-tolerant terminator mustard in contempt of the recommendations of the Technical Expert Committee? Allowing Bayer’s Ht terminator mustard will open the floodgates for herbicide tolerant crops, worsening India’s agrarian crisis and debilitating India’s food security.

Herbicide tolerance, which goes hand in hand with Monsanto’s Glyphosate based RoundUp herbicide, has failed across the world at controlling weeds, creating super weeds. Glyphosate, classified by the World Health Organisation as a carcinogen, is already being used across India and we are seeing an explosion of cancers in villages where Glyphosate is used. If we allow another failed technology and its associated poisons to further destroy India’s rural economy, and allow extraction of profits from Indian farmers, we will fail our nation and India’s future generations.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Related campaign

Navdanya Campaign in support of farmers victims of BT Cotton failure in Punjab



#Monsanto debe pagar! https://t.co/BXd6HfUqvP @viaorganica,@ALAIinfo, @GenEngNetwork,@occupytheseed,@SustainablePuls pic.twitter.com/oLKWBqTARr

— #Glyphosate (@ZeroBiocidas) February 27, 2016

#Biotechfail is destroying #India’s rural economy | #MakeMonsantoPay | by @DrVandanaShiva https://t.co/3sCo9hzqBE pic.twitter.com/ojZYB3yyUx

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) February 24, 2016

Research promoting #poisons & #GMOs harms nature & society .
Toxic #MNCs liable for harm . https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61 https://t.co/J16X7QFmQA

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

National Seed Association reflects national interest,not views of global predatory #MNCs who sell toxics & #GMOs https://t.co/J16X7QFmQA

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

"While the Centre is suing #Monsanto, @Dev_Fadnavis has signed an MoU wid it 2 set up the biggest seed hub in India" https://t.co/uk0jutJe4c

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) February 24, 2016

Abt 252,000, farmers' suicides r directly attributed to Monsanto’s Bt cotton since '95 https://t.co/8t62dY56GP pic.twitter.com/RyYwAsbTwI

— Navdanya (@NavdanyaBija) February 24, 2016

Take liability for failure of Bt cotton crop, seed industry tells Mahyco-Monsanto#GMOFaledTech#MakeMonsantoPay https://t.co/1fFfNNngah

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

While the Centre is suing the company, Maharashtra signs an MoU for seed hub? https://t.co/nSvWUA5fet

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

Make #Monsanto pay, says @drvandanashiva https://t.co/ydJwUpjWLM #gmo pic.twitter.com/IOYhGJHuji

— GMWatch (@GMWatch) February 24, 2016

#MakeMonsantoPay https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61

Cancel MOU for #Monsanto & #MakeInIndia @PMOIndia @Dev_Fadnavis @ashwani_mahajan

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

#StoptheGMOScam #MakeMonsantoPay https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61@SlowFoodHQ #MonsantoTribunal https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61 https://t.co/mFtkP27YkR

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

We must have the MOU cancelled
And we must make Monsanto pay https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61 https://t.co/gSMZ6skoy5

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

#MonsantoMustPayhttps://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61@ashwani_mahajan #MonsantoTribunal https://t.co/vS38EBoKg5

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 24, 2016

#MakeMonsantoPay for #Btcotton that fails to control pests ,for illegal royalty collection https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61 https://t.co/bdwTycuk71

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 23, 2016

#MakeMonsato pay for illegal #royalty collection ,for trapping farmers in debt and driving them to suicide https://t.co/nSvWUAmQ61

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) February 23, 2016

#Pepsi to set up unit & #Monsanto signs MOU 4 large #SeedHub in Maharashtra https://t.co/RfUd9zjZxZ @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/g69TEtJ3Xy

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) February 17, 2016

Categories: Ecological News

Activists urge farmers to shift to organic crops

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 01/25/2016 - 17:37

By Neel Kamal – The Times of Inda, 25 January 2016

Bathinda: The issue of farmers committing suicides due to cotton crop damage is being highlighted through a social media campaign and a documentary film made by a non-government organization (NGO) in an area.

The NGO, Navdanya, is reaching out to Punjab cotton growers, who are committing suicides after crop failure. Navdayna used social media awareness with hash-tag #farmerslivesmatter and documentary ‘BT Cotton-seeds of suicide’ to make Punjab farmers use locally-prepared seeds.

Concerned over damage to the cotton crop in Punjab which forced many farmers to commit suicide last year, Navdanya on Sunday held a solidarity meet at village Chughe Kalan in Bathinda where two months ago farmer Kuldeep Singh had committed suicide after his crop was damaged by pests. Manveer Singh, an expert in the natural prevention of pests, said pests could be stopped without even using pesticides.

Another activist Indra Shekhar Singh spoke about BT cotton crisis. “The genetically modified (GM) crops are being grown on our soil and then blended illegally into our edible oils. This blending makes all industrial oils toxic and unhealthy,” he claimed.

NGO Kheti Virasat Mission executive director Umendra Dutt said, “Navdanya has helped convert Sikkim into an organic state and people of Punjab should also join with them and help change from a chemical model of agriculture and go organic.” Navdanya distributed desi organic cotton seeds to villagers.

Related Campaign

Navdanya Campaign in support of farmers victims of BT Cotton failure in Punjab


Related Event

Navdanya Solidarity meeting in Bathinda


Categories: Ecological News
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