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Ecological News

Patel reservation stir is a warning against the wanton destruction of agriculture

Ground Reality - Sat, 08/29/2015 - 22:26


As I watched the huge crowd at the mega rally in Ahmedabad the other day demanding reservations for the Patel community, I was reminded of the 2013 report of a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which had examined the consumption expenditure data for 2011-12. Read it in conjunction with the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011, and the reason behind such a massive turnout becomes quite clear.  
Whether Hardik Patel was backed by RSS or some disgruntled leaders from the ruling BJP is beside the point. What is being missed out in the debates and discussions on the latest mammoth Gujarat reservation protest is whether the massive turnout is a reflection of the worsening economic disparities. Since a majority of the patedars, who had come all the way to Ahmedabad to partake in the demonstration, were farmers, it also tells us how grave the agrarian distress is.   
Gujarat is not alone. In the name of economic growth, agriculture is being systematically killed all over the country. Over the years, agriculture has been deliberately starved of financial support, and now with their land being snatched away, farmers are looking for any and every possibility that provides them a glimmer of hope. With farm organizations failing to stand up to the continuing onslaught on agriculture, farmers are increasingly turning to reservation on caste basis which provides them a little bit of hope. In desperation looking for any economic security to latch on.
A majority of the Gurjars in Rajasthan and Jats in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, who have also been agitating for reservation in government services, are also from the farming community. With farming becoming economically unviable, and with hardly any jobs available for the younger generation, seeking reservation on caste basis is the only plausible option. The demand for reservation is linked to economic depravity. It is no longer the OBC who are deprived but even the land owners feel outraged.
The socio economic census does bring out the growing inequalities. Accordingly, 67-crore people in the rural areas live on less than Rs 33 a day. Since a majority of these are farmers, the demise of farming is clearly visible. Such is the decline that more than 3.2-crore people have quit agriculture between 2007 and 2012, and trudged into the cities looking for menial jobs. The 2011 agricultural census of Maharashtra released only a few days back brings out the stark reality. More than 1 lakh farm families, which mean 5 lakh people, have moved out of agriculture in past five years.  State Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse was quoted in a newspaper report saying land acquisition for industrialization, road widening and creation of new roads has eaten up agriculture land.
Those quitting agriculture are looking for jobs in the cities. Except for working as dehari mazdoor there are no jobs, even for the educated. Let me illustrate the precarious job market. A few days back, 75,000 people had applied for the job of 30 peons in the Directorate of Statistics and Economics in Chhattisgarh.  In July, 362, 685 people sat for a written examination for the posts of peons/guards in 58 departments in Madhya Pradesh.  Of these, 14,000 were either post-graduate, graduate or engineers. In the past 10 years, between 2005 and 2015, only 1.5-crore employment opportunities have been created at the national level against the requirement of 1.2-crore jobs every year.
The NSSO consumption expenditure data for 2011-12 brings out the economic disparities more clearly. Those spending more than Rs 6,383 per month in the urban centres and Rs 2,886 in the rural areas, fall among the top five percent of the country. They can surely feel delighted to fall in the same income bracket as Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy. But I shudder to think of those who constitute the remaining 95 per cent of the country’s population. Just think and the existing economic depravity becomes too obvious. Churning out high growth figures every now and then will not be able to hide this for long.
Hardik Patel, despite his young age, has been able to keep his fingers rightly on the hitherto unfelt Gujarat’s pulse. Instead of ascribing any political motive, it is high time the focus shifts to addressing the shimmering discontent over economic inequality. Time is surely running out. You can ignore the warning at your own peril. # 

Source: Patel reservation stir is a warning against the wanton destruction of agriculture. 
ABPLive.in Aug 29, 2015. http://t.co/LVmoLOcjJF
Categories: Ecological News

The Antidote to Farmer Suicide in Southern India

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 16:40

By Alison Meares Cohen – Ecowatch, 26 August 2015

Source: http://ecowatch.com/2015/08/26/antidote-farmer-suicide-india/

It is late-July. A car drops us off at the edge of a patchwork of agricultural fields on the outskirts of Mysore in a village called Bannur in the South Indian State of Karnataka. Despite the oppressive heat, the women clad in colorful saris, and the sacred cows—more plentiful than potholes—artfully dodged by cars and motorbikes every 20 yards or so along the road, I am reminded of the Midwest.

No matter that there is no corn or soybean in sight and that parcels measure 5 acres instead of 400. It’s the neatly defined fields in perfect rectangles that resemble what you see when you fly over Iowa. The field adjacent to the road where the car left us boasts a weed-free plantation of banana trees, the one next to it is lined with straight rows of sugar cane and the one just across the walking path that traverses the fields is recently sown with rice.

Krishnappa standing on the edge of his food forest sharing his experiential knowledge of Zero Budget Natural Farming with local farmers. Photo credit: WhyHunger

We walk a good half mile to the farm we’re meant to visit. Leading the way are seven men on motor bikes ranging in age from 30 to 60, wearing flip flops and fabric the size of table cloths wrapped around their waists in typical farmer garb, at least two of them are boasting bright green scarves thrown over their shoulders, symbolic of the social movement they’re connected to that promotes “natural farming.”

We’re headed to Krishnappa’s farm, a member of this green-scarf social movement referred to as KRRS, or the Karnataka Rayja Raitha Sangha. Founded in 1980, this peasant farmers’ movement is rooted in Gandhi’s philosophy of swadeshi, or home economy, meaning that political and economic power can only be just when it is governed by democratic assemblies organized at the village level. KRRS believes that by relying on a localized economy (local production and consumption) for village needs, everyone has the opportunity and the resources to work and create a dignified life.

As we approach the edge of Krishnappa’s 5-acre farm, the outward appearance is strikingly distinct from his neighbors’ parcels. It seems to be overgrown by weeds and unruly plants of varying heights defending their access to sun and water. The parcel looks like an island of chaos floating next to the neat rows of plantings all around us, waiting stoically and well-behaved on scorched earth for the rains to come. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Within minutes of stepping onto Krishnappa’s land, we become privy to an intricately designed coupling of various food-producing plants and intercroppings that bloom into a veritable food forest—the healthiest and most productive land we’ve seen in India during our short sojourn.

Alison Cohen taking field notes as Krishnappa explains how the Zero Budget Natural Farming has changed his life. Photo credit: WhyHunger

Krishnappa, the proverbial “poster child” of Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), has been growing food according to this straightforward yet scientifically-based method for 15 years. KRRS credits Zero-Budget Natural Farming from saving Krishnappa from the fate of so many other farmers that were featured on the front page of the The India Times almost daily during the time we were in Karnataka. These farmers had tragically succumbed to suicide in the face of unrelenting debt. Farmers in India have been forced to take on high-interest rate loans to purchase seeds and chemical inputs from banks that are profiting from agribusinesses’ strategy of dictating the methods necessary to produce cash crops such as rice and sugar cane. Like the more than 3,000 farmers in India who have committed suicide in the past three years (50 suicides in 15 days in July of this year in the state of Karnataka alone) Krishnappa was feeling trapped and impotent, a victim to the whims of the loan sharks and unpredictable markets that either paid nothing or too little to make a dent in debt mounting season after season, let alone feed his family.

Read more: http://ecowatch.com/2015/08/26/antidote-farmer-suicide-india/2/                           
Categories: Ecological News

When farmer leaders meet. You can't ignore what they say.

Ground Reality - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 12:25


Farmer leaders attending a National Convention in Chandigarh, Aug 19-21, 2015
At least for four times during the day, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday talked to the media to allay any fears arising from the crash of the stock markets, perhaps the biggest fall in seven years. By the evening the nation was informed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally keeping a watch on the volatile situation.
Some called it heartbreak, others termed it as mayhem. As the Sensex plunged 1,624 points, panic spread, and I heard a number of TV anchors calling it as a ‘bloodbath’. When asked to comment, I said: “The real bloodbath is happening on the farm. As of date, 3.05 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the past 20 years and I have never seen any Prime Minister, what to talk of a Finance Minister, even expressing concern at the continuing serial death dance on the farm.”
Only 1 per cent of India’s population invests in stock markets. And look at the shock that the media – both newspapers and television – are expressing. Look at the way the mandarins in the Finance Ministry go into a huddle to find ways to tide over the crisis, and repeatedly assure the country that all is well. Every hour, two farmers commit suicide somewhere, with the death toll mounting over the years, neither the media nor the mainline economists and planners have ever shown any remote concern.
This dichotomy in thinking – where 99 per cent are ignored at the cost of the privileged 1 per cent – is what brought leaders of 40 farmer organizations across the country for a 3-day intense deliberations at Chandigarh last week. They came from as far as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar to share and understand the real causes behind the continuing agrarian crisis, and more importantly on how to put agriculture back on the national agenda. The underlying objective being on how to restore the voice of 60-crore farmers and at the same time bring back the pride in farming.
Agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country. Over the past few decades, in line with the World Bank directive, farmers are increasingly being pushed out of farming. This is exactly what the World Bank had wanted India to do way back in 1996. It had directed India to move 40-crore people out from rural areas into the cities, by 2015. This is what worries the farming community. Farmers know that conditions are being created by successive governments – both by way of economic policies and by bringing in legislations like the land bill – to force them out of the villages.  
“Farmers are only a political raw material and all political parties have used them time and again for their political gains, to be dumped again,” says Balbir Singh Rajewal, leading a faction of the Bharti Kisan Union. Uttar Pradesh farm leader, V M Singh puts it more succinctly when he says it is an ‘aar par ki ladai’ – political parties lead us across the frontier only to later make money by trading our interests’. While farmers continue to produce for the country year after year, they have been sliding into debt, which has been mounting with each passing year. Farmers realize that they are deliberately not being paid for what they produce. “The Minimum Support price (MSP) we get is not what we deserve but what will keep consumers and industry happy,” lamented Pachhe Nanjudaswamy of the Karnataka Rajya Ryot Sangha. 
Over the years, farmer leaders too have lost credibility among the farming communities. Farmer leader too realize that farmers are increasingly losing faith among farmers. They are divided on lines of ideology, caste, egos and political affiliations. Many believe that farm unions today are explicitly divided on caste lines. The reservation movement in several parts – whether it is Patels in Gujarat, Gurjars in Rajasthan, and Jats in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh actually comprise farmers who have been divided on majority caste basis. While a majority of these agitations draw strength from the farming community of a particular class, farm issues have been pushed to the background. “The farmer movements began to fail after the advent of Panchayati Raj,” said Ajay Vir Jakhar of the Bharat Krishak Samaj. 
Tiding over the internal problems that farmers’ movement across the country faces is one hurdle that the leaders need to cross, but it is the discriminatory economic policies being perpetuated over the years is what angers the farming community most. Farmers are amongst the lowest earning class in the country with the average income per family from farming operations not exceeding Rs 3000 per month. This is because the procurement price has been deliberately kept low. Cotton farmers for instance have been paid 20 per cent less than the market prices simply to keep the textile industry viable. Wheat and rice procurement price are increased by only Rs 50 per quintal this year, which is roughly an increase of 3.25 per cent, simply to ensure that food inflation remains in control. In other words, the burden of keeping food prices low and to ensure cheaper raw material for the industry lies on the farmers.
How to raise farm incomes therefore is becoming a rallying point for farmer organization across the country. Bridging their local and regional differences, farmer organisations are now coming together on three points:
1) An assured monthly take home income package for farmers. If a chaprasi can have a monthly income of Rs 15,000 why should farmers not get an equivalent of what a Class III in the Government gets? In the 7th Pay Commission the demand is to give chaprasi a minimum income of Rs 29,000. Why should a farming family be left to survive on Rs 3,000 a month?
2) Minimum Support Price (MSP) should be extended to all crops and for all regions. At present, MSP is announced for 24 crops but in reality only wheat and rice are procured. The Fair and Remunerative Price for sugarcane is also being dispensed with. Farmers want an assured procurement for all crops for which prices are announced, and at the same time setting up APMC mandis across the country. Against the need for 42,000 market yards, only 7,000 mandis exist at present.
 3) Import tariffs and custom duties to be raised so as to provide protection to the domestic farmers. Importing cheaper and highly subsidized food and food products hit domestic farmers. India at presents imports Rs 60,000-cre of edible oil just because the import duties have been lowered to almost zero. If the duties were kept in place, the oilseed farmers should have gained by Rs 60,000-crore that is spent on importing edible oil. 
Categories: Ecological News

European Patent Office boosts its business with Patents on Life

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 17:54
New patent granted on tomatoes derived from classical breeding

No patents on Seeds, 25 August 2015

Photo source: http://www.umweltinstitut.org/aktuelle-meldungen/meldungen/protest-gegen-patente-auf-brokkoli-und-tomaten.html

Source: http://no-patents-on-seeds.org/en/information/news/european-patent-office-boosts-its-business-patents-life

A monopoly on specific tomatoes with a higher content of healthy compounds known as flavonols was granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) to the Swiss company Syngenta. The patent covers the plants, the seeds and the fruits. Patent EP1515600 describes the crossing of wild tomatoes with domesticated varieties. The plants are not genetically engineered but derived from classical breeding.

European patent law prohibits patents on plant varieties and on methods of classical breeding. However, in March 2015, the EPO took the decision that patents on plant seeds and fruits derived from classical breeding can be patented. The EPO, which increases its own revenue by granting patents, has chosen this unacceptable interpretation of patent law to try and pave the way for its own interests as well as those of industry. This EPO decision has provoked various political reactions: The Netherlands has announced a political initiative at EU level, whereas Germany and France are named amongst those countries willing to join forces to stop the EPO. Already in 2012, the European Parliament demanded that the EPO stop granting these patents.

“By granting these patents, the EPO is ignoring the interests of the general public and simply serving the interests of the patent lobby. If this continues we will all become more and more dependent on a few big international corporates such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont, that file more and more patents on our food plants,” Christoph Then for No Patents on Seeds! “What we now need is a clear statement from our government to say that they will get actively curb the practices of the EPO. Otherwise we will all see the sell-out of the resources needed for our daily food.”

No Patents on Seeds! demands that the European governments raise the issue in the Administrative Council of the EPO, which is the only body with any political control over the Patent Office. By networking amongst governments, it is possible to stop the EPO from granting further such patents within a relatively short period of time.

A recent call made by the international coalition No Patents on Seeds! to stop these patents is supported by several hundred organisations all over Europe. The coalition No Patents on Seeds! is supported by Bionext (Netherlands), The Berne Declaration (Switzerland), GeneWatch (UK), Greenpeace, Misereor (Germany), Development Fund (Norway), No Patents on Life (Germany), Red de Semillas (Spain), Rete Semi Rurali (Italy), Reseau Semences Paysannes (France) and Swissaid (Switzerland). They are all calling for a revision of European Patent Law to exclude breeding material, plants and animals and food derived thereof from patentability.

The patent

Downloads Media Release                           
Categories: Ecological News

The Onion Game

Ground Reality - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 14:22
   The recurring onion price rise after every two or three years follows a set pattern. A set of similar measures – raising the minimum export price, announcing imports, and warning the hoarders -- are announced every time to bring down the prices. And the game goes on.
In the past few weeks, onion prices had hit the roof. From Rs 15-20 per kg, prices had gone up to Rs 70-80 per kg in various parts of the country. While the high prices cut a hole in your pocket, the arguments defending the price rise were the same. We are told by the trade that unseasonal weather conditions -- rains in May and June, followed by drought in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – had reduced production and also hit the supplies. Blaming the freak weather in the kharif season has been a set excuse that has been thrown around time and again by unscrupulous traders. This had happened in the past too.  
But what is not being told is that there is no shortfall in onion production this year. Against last year’s harvest of 19.4 million tonnes, onion production this year is 18.9 million tonnes, a drop of just 0.5 million tonnes. With a drop in production by less than one per cent how can the retail prices zoom by 400 per cent or more remains unexplained. There is no plausible justification therefore for the rise in onion prices that we are witnessing except that a well-oiled system of organized hoarding, speculating and black-marketing is ripping us off.
Two years back, in 2013, onion prices had gone on a high. Prices had gone up to Rs 100/kg and the high prices had prevailed for a longer period -- July to September. Again there was no justification for the stupendous price rise. Production had fallen short of the target by just 4 per cent whereas retail prices had jumped by 600 per cent. This is simply not possible unless large scale hoarding had taken place. Such was the extent of price manipulation that an investigation by a newspaper had shown how the traders made a neat Rs 150-crore in just four days when prices peaked at Rs 4,500 per quintal on Aug 13, 2013.
Again, the solutions to address the price rise were no different than what have been spelled out this year. Hiking the minimum export price, placing orders for imports and warning the hoarders of stern action. The government had also promised to streamline the supply chain. You have heard it a number of times.
Let’s now go back to 2010 when onion prices had shot up to Rs 80 per kg rather unexpectedly. Production had exceeded the demand by 20 per cent, and yet a phenomenal price rise was observed. This happened in December, and had the backing of the government which wanted the onion story to justify the approval for FDI in retail. It was said that the prices are zooming because the middlemen were exploiting both the producers as well as the consumers. The entry of big retail like Wal-Mart would remove the middlemen bringing relief to everyone. But what the government did not tell was that Wal-Mart was also a middleman, which would only remove the small players from the game.
If there is no shortfall in production and still the prices go through the roof then there is something more than what meets the eye. Let’s be clear that the onion price raise in 2013 (and also 2015) happened at a time when elections were due. I am not trying to link the onion prices with ensuing elections but it certainly is baffling to find onion prices going up unexpectedly for no reason. Perhaps it is a good research topic for political economy students.
What I am sure is that onion price spike will continue to be a recurring phenomenon in the years to come. Just before or after a major election, you will find your favourite veggie -- onions -- turning into a tear-jerker. Onion is the only veggie which has a long self-life. It is therefore easy to play the onion game. Just be ready to wipe your tears again whenever the same game is played out in the years to come. #

Source: The Onion game: Playing to the rules. ABPLive.in Aug 25, 2015
http://www.abplive.in/author/devindersharma/2015/08/25/article694660.ece/The-Onion-game-Playing-to-the-rules
Categories: Ecological News

GMO in my mustard

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 20:14

By Dr Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 11 August 2015

On July 31, 2015, we renewed the Sarson Satyagraha by taking a pledge at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat to protect the diversity, purity and safety of our mustard because “Anna Swaraj” is our birthright.

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/gmo-my-mustard-259

The claim that ‘Terminator Mustard’ will increase yields by 30% is scientifically false and a blatant lie… The traits being introduced by GM mustard are known to be hazardous and are illegal…

India is the home of oilseed diversity — coconut, groundnut, linseed, niger, mustard, rapeseed, safflower and sesame. Our food culture have evolved with our biodiversity of oilseeds. Sarson is called sarsapa and rajika in Sanskrit. Diverse varieties of sarson are grown and used in India, including Krsna Sarsapa (Banarsi Rai), Sita Sarsapa (Peela Sarson), Rakta Sarsapa (Brown Sarson), Toria and Taramira.

On August 27, 1998, the Indian government, reacting to the tragedy of adulteration of mustard oil in Delhi with argemone, diesel and waste oil, announced a policy of free import of soybean, while simultaneously banning sale of mustard oil. While it was referred to as the “dropsy epidemic”, our visits to hospitals revealed multiple symptoms because of the multiple sources of adulteration. The interesting thing about the mustard tragedy was that all brands were affected, but only in Delhi. A typical adulteration is in one brand, across the supply chain.

It was during those days that women from the slums of Delhi called us at Navdanya and said, “Our children are going to bed hungry because they cannot eat food cooked in soya oil… bring our mustard back”.

Women prefer natural oils such as mustard to hydrogenated fats such as dalda, both for health reasons and taste. Hydrogenated fats contain trans fats, which contribute to heart problems and strokes. Soya oil is too industrial — it uses benzene, a known carcinogen. Food should give us health, not disease, and the poorest of women are aware of this fundamental fact.

Navdanya, with the National Women’s Alliance for Food Sovereignty (Mahila Anna Swaraj), started the Sarson Satyagraha to bring back pure mustard oil. The slogan, “Sarson bachao, soyabean bhagao”, rang on the streets of Delhi in 1998. The first bottle of Satyagraha Mustard Oil was gifted to the then chief minister of Delhi, Sahib Singh Verma. Today we are able to enjoy our mustard oil because of the Sarson Satyagraha of 1998.

Our mustard is once again under threat, this time from genetic engineering of mustard for sterility and herbicide tolerance by Dr Deepak Pental, Delhi University’s former vice-chancellor. Not only do we not need genetically engineered mustard, the traits being introduced by genetically modifying mustard are known to be hazardous and are illegal under international and national law.

Dr Pental, who has spent time in Tihar jail for plagiarising a colleague’s work on mustard, is now blatantly violating laws that protect our biodiversity and farmers’ rights.

The genetically modified organism (GMO) mustard is based on what has been called the “Terminator Technology” to make the harvested seed sterile. The United Nations Convention on Biodiversity has banned the use of “Terminator Technology”. It is also illegal under India’s Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001. The patent for this technology is held by the US’ department of agriculture and Delta & Pine Land (a company now owned by Monsanto).

Dr Pental has used “Terminator Technology” based on the barnase gene which is lethal to cells. In addition to the terminator trait, GMO mustard has been engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Glufosinate, which halts photosynthesis, resulting in plant death. When Glufosinate is sprayed in fields, all other plants die except the herbicide resistant GMO.

These are technologies for killing life, not for growing food. They must be banned.

In India, on our small farms, we grow mustard with wheat. Such mixtures increase productivity as well as farmers’ incomes. A herbicide-resistant GMO mustard will kill the wheat, lowering farm productivity and undermining our food security. Herbicide-resistant crops also put evolutionary pressure on weeds, contributing to the emergence of superweeds. In the US, due to increased herbicide use, 50 per cent of farmlands are over-run by superweeds.

The demand for pure organic mustard oil is growing in India since most edible oils are “blended” with GMO soya oil or GMO Bt cotton seed oil. The introduction of GMO mustard with terminator traits will deny Indian citizens the right to safe and pure mustard oil because of the risk of contamination.

The GM DNA can enter cells of unrelated species and be incorporated into the cell’s genome through horizontal gene transfer. The genes involved are fatal.

Barnase is known to be harmful, if not lethal, to all cells, animal and human cells included. When perfused into rat kidneys, barnase causes kidney damage. When the recombinases used for gene splicing are expressed at high levels in the sperm cells of transgenic mice, the males become 100 per cent sterile.

Because we need independent assessment of the long-term impact of these technologies, in 2012, the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on GMO trials to create a robust system for biosafety regulation. Such regulation cannot be left to those involved in risky experiments, people and companies who are also trying to push hazardous GMOs onto our farms and into our food.

In addition, the TEC recommended that no herbicide resistant crops be introduced in India because our farmers are small and herbicides will destroy our biodiverse food crops. It also recommended that we do not genetically engineer crops of which we are a “centre of diversity”. India is the home of genetic diversity of mustard.

Every law, every scientific principle of biosafety is thus being undermined to push “Terminator Mustard” on India’s farmers and thalis. GMO mustard is being justified on grounds that we are importing edible oils and GMO mustard will reduce imports by increasing production. The claim that this “Terminator Mustard” will increase yields by 30 per cent is scientifically false and a blatant lie. Compared to the non-GMO hybrid, the GMO hybrid cannot have higher yields.

India is importing edible oils because imports were forced on us. When soya oil started to flood India’s markets in 1998, the international price was $150 per tonne, while the subsidy from the US government to its soya producers was $190 per tonne. In effect, this was dumping.

The Indian government further subsidised soya oil for the public distribution system by Rs 15,000 per tonne, making imported soya oil artificially cheaper than domestically produced mustard oil.

We need to get rid of these distorting subsidies and unjust trade rules to defend our food sovereignty and ensure Indians get healthy and safe food that’s “Made in India” by Indian farmers.

We need to stop the insanity of transforming mustard — the symbol of spring and abundance in our culture — into a toxic crop with terminator genes, sprayed with lethal herbicides that kill everything green and directly damage our health.

On July 31, 2015, we renewed the Sarson Satyagraha by taking a pledge at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat to protect the diversity, purity and safety of our mustard because “Anna Swaraj” is our birthright.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

 

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Categories: Ecological News

The great legacy of Abdul Kalam most will not even want to talk about

Ground Reality - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 12:12


The other day I was a watching a replay of Shekhar Gupta’s Walk the Talk with the late A P J Abdul Kalam. To a question whether it was right that he had walked into the Rashtrapati Bhawan with just two suitcases and when his term ended he left the sprawling presidential estate with the same two suitcases, Abdul Kalam innocently shared details of what all he carried in those two boxes.
In today’s world, where increasing consumption is the key to economic growth, and especially given the immense popularity of ‘People’s President’ Abdul Kalam, I thought the great legacy left behind by him -- to live within your means -- would leave an indelible mark on this nation’s psyche and perhaps inspire the Gen Next.
It didn’t happen.
For a generation born much after Independence, Abdul Kalam symbolizes simple living and high thinking. As if emerging from the pages of Aesop’s Fables -- the story of a fisherman’s son becoming a nuclear technologist and then going on to occupy the highest office of a President -- would remain part of the public discourse. The only difference being that this is not a story but a reality. Abdul Kalam is certainly the new role model.  
While his life is truly inspiring I doubt if the legacy he left behind in the form of simple living would ever receive as much attention. Keeping your wants to the minimum and reducing your needs is the key to retain the sustainability of the planet. The more we consume, the more we exploit the natural resources, and that leads to an irretrievable damage. If only we were to gradually shift from an ostentatious lifestyle to simple living as Abdul Kalam had remarkably shown, we would have done our bit to save the world.
In a desperate effort to ape the western lifestyle, the burgeoning middle class in India, is on a killing spree. Several studies have shown that if an average Indian household were to consume as much energy as an average American family, the world would have boiled over some 50 years ago. Not only energy, living at a time when the popular slogan is “To Shop, Till You Drop Dead,” the middle class is on a buying spree as if there is no tomorrow. The more you shop, the higher is the GDP growth. So, the Reserve Bank of India’s macro-economic policies are aimed at increasing consumption, industrial growth including the growth in the sale of FMCG products depends upon your capacity to buy. The government creates the enabling environment so as to increase consumption.
Many a times I am reminded that the real cause behind the continuing agrarian crisis is that farmers have failed to reduce the cost of production. At a time when the input prices have been soaring and the output prices have remained almost static – wheat procurement prices have risen by an average of 7 per cent only over the last three years – all hell breaks loose when food inflation inches up. Cut down on wasteful subsidies – which means cutting down on subsidies for the poor -- to reduce the fiscal deficit is the common refrain. But when I ask why middle class can’t be made to reduce their cost of living, which in turn would reduce the massive salary hike bill every year, I am looked upon with a lot of disdain.
Just think. If only the middle class would refrain from replacing electronic gadgets and household goods at the drop of a hat like replacing the 38-inch LED TV with a 68-inch quad pixel version; upgrading from Toyota Innova (selling it on Quickr) to an expensive BMW, and so on, the cost of living would come down. The lower the consumption, the lower would be the cost of living. The responsibility to reduce cost of production should not be left to farmers alone. The middle class too must reduce its cost of living. What you don’t realize is that because the urban middle class is organized they manage to get salary hikes and DA installments that take care of all the luxuries they splurge in.
Abdul Kalam’s pious message is somehow lost in this maddening rat race aimed at making you consume more. 

Source: The great legacy of Abdul Kalam. AbpLive.in Aug 5, 2015.
http://www.abplive.in/author/devindersharma/2015/08/05/article674969.ece/The-great-legacy-of-Abdul-Kalam
Categories: Ecological News

India’s fiery seed activist

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 08/06/2015 - 19:46

By Indra Shekhar Singh – Hindustan Times, 5 August 2015

Shiva’s new book, Bhoomi: The Living Soil, celebrates soil as a living organism.

Source: http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?noredirect=true

For many years, Vandana Shiva has been waging a war against industrialized farming and the use of genetically modified crops

NEW DELHI: Hidden in the narrow lanes of block A in Hauz Khas, is a simple apartment building with no nameplate or house number. Most people going through this posh locality can be blinded by the glossy nameplates and imported cars and may miss the earthy hermitage of environmentalist Vandana Shiva. This three-storey building is a shrine for crusaders of organic movement.

Shiva, a University of West Ontario trained physicist, is an authority on organic farming and small farmer’s movement. Author of over 20 books on ecology and agriculture, she has been honoured with several prestigious awards. Her lectures get sold out everywhere from, Albuquerque to Brussels, in a matter of hours.

A member of various national and international committees, she worked on the traditional methods of farming and fought for the rights of women, farmers and soil. With her Gandhian methods of non-violence, she stood in the way of corporations trying to steal livelihoods and has worked to prevent the bio piracy of indigenous species. She has brought to the forefront a debate on genetically modified crops, and worked to prevent their entry into India.

A-60, Hauz Khas is the head office of her organisation, Navdanya, and her home in Delhi. “I started this office in the 1980s when we were organizing against General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). I started spending a lot of time in Delhi as half the time I was running from Delhi to Dehradun (her hometown) getting documents and spending hours drafting letters, policies,” Shiva said.

She hoped that the work would finish by 1995, but destiny had something else in store for Shiva. “We thought that by 1995 the work would finish but then India’s World Trade Organization membership came through,” she said. Shiva says the WTO membership meant that Indian farmers were going to be sacrificed for a few software jobs. “So our work went on. I registered a formal organisation in 1991, which would be the body fighting for the rights of small farmers and sent to establish a fair trade network in India,” Shiva said.

She was pitched against some of the biggest corporations of the world. But her vision for a sustainable future remained clear and unaffected.

“I am fighting for an Earth that could sustain us in all her integrity, creativity, beauty, productivity, generosity. We are also fighting for the rights of ordinary people to have a livelihood and have democratic freedom,” she says sitting at her home, draped in a blue hand-printed sari and a simmering flame in her big eyes.

When asked about the agricultural prosperity before the Green Revolution, she shared an anecdote about her mother who chose to be a farmer after being displaced during Partition. “My father was a senior forest officer but whenever we ran short of funds for our fees or for the construction of my parent’s retirement home, it was my mother who contributed to it. She had a higher income than a senior government officer back them,” Shiva recalls.

Comparing India to Mexico (that witnessed an uprising by corn farmers against industrialized farming), she said, “We should learn from the examples of Mexico and the peaceful tribes of India. Let me tell you that once India explodes nothing will be able to contain it.”

While she seems to be fighting complex issues, Shiva’s solutions are surprisingly simple. “Plant a garden, save the seeds and eat fresh, eat local and go organic. Young people need to reconnect with the Earth and not be bullied by propaganda. Young people must reclaim their own self instead of blindly trying to be Americanized.”

Shiva’s stand against globalization policies finds as many detractors as fans. However, she asks the sceptics to look for the facts. “I say do you own research and check out the facts and then decide what is right for you. We must stop accepting junk technologies that have failed all over the world. India must improve on traditional ways and educate the farmers. A new relationship between the producers and the consumers needs to be established for the future.”

Vandana believes that with time more young people will join the fight for a sustainable life.

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

APMC regulated market network needs to be expanded in India. That will be the true integration of agri-commodities markets.

Ground Reality - Thu, 08/06/2015 - 10:22
Here is an interview with the World Trade Centre, Mumbai. 
While India is one of the largest producers of foodgrains, around 194.6 million people are undernourished in the country (according to the latest FAO estimates). What are the fundamental issues ailing the food production and distribution sectors in India?
India faces a shameful paradox of plenty. On the one hand the grain silos/godowns are bursting at the seams and on the other hand India has the largest population of hungry in the world. As far as acute child malnourishment and undernourishment is concerned, India ranks below sub-Saharan Africa. This piquant situation has prevailed over the decades because of gross mismanagement in handling food reserves. Since 2001-03, the average annual surplus food stocks in the country have been around 60 million tonnes and yet millions of people continue to go to bed empty stomach and are faced with household food insecurity. In June 2014, India had a record surplus of 83 million tonnes. In fact, if the surplus food was to be stacked one bag over the other, and stocked like this in a single row, it is possible to walk up to the moon and come back. With so much of food surplus lying around, I don’t see any reason why still one-fourth of the world’s hungry should be living in India. The primary reason for the failure to tackle food insecurity is the inherent limitation in addressing issues related to access and distribution of food. Feeding the country should be the foremost task for any government. In the past two years, India has exported more than 40 million tonnes of foodgrains. I don’t see any economic rationale for any nation to be exporting food when its own population is living in hunger.  
The government is taking several steps to address huge post-harvest losses in fruits and vegetables, and food grains. These include providing infrastructure status to cold chain facilities, Central Sector Scheme of Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure, assistance on capital cost for integrated post-harvest management etc. What are your observations on these steps and what more should the government and private sector do to prevent losses?
While it is true that post-harvest losses should be minimized, but in India the losses being projected are simply blown out of proportion. For the past 30 years, I have been hearing that 40 per cent of food goes waste in India. I don’t know from where the figure came around and has been very conveniently used time and again. A study done of the Central Institute for Post Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET) at Ludhiana, on the basis of a countrywide study, worked out looses in cereals at 4.3 to 6.1 per cent; pulses 4.3 to 6.1 per cent; Oilseeds: 6 per cent; meat: 2.3 per cent; milk: zero per cent; wastage n fruits varying between 5.8 per cent (in Sapota) to a maximum of 18 per cent for Guava; and in vegetables cauliflower has the minimum wastage at 6.8 per cent while wastage in tomato is the highest at 12.4 per cent. Compare this with America, where 40 per cent food is wasted before it reaches the table. It is also estimated that roughly 52 per cent fruits and vegetables rot in the supermarkets.
This does not however mean that whatever is being wasted should be allowed at any cost. Infrastructure like cold chains and for minimizing post-harvest losses is certainly needed. It is good that the government has stepped in to provide financial support to the industry. But much of the wastage is at the food processing level which is not at all being talked about. The thrust of food processing in the name of reducing wastage is meaningless till the food industry pulls up its act. For instance, I see no reason why 6 litres of water be wasted to pack one litre of bottled water. Similarly, 75 litres of water goes down the drain to produce 25 litres of drinking water in an RO machine. Why shouldn’t the private industry focus on reducing such gross wastages is something that is not even on the agenda. For the processed foods also, the wastage is enormous. I am equally worried at the growing tendency of the food industry to import fruit concentrates, and then pack them into tetra packs. In case of tomatoes for instance huge quantities of tomato paste are being imported for use in ketchups and other products. This will not reduce the wastage in domestically produced fruits and vegetables. At the same time what is the justification in importing apples from as far as Chile and New Zealand when the domestic supply goes waste. Such unwanted food shipments also add to food miles and of course global warming. 
India’s public distribution system is fraught with numerous issues like poor targeting, leakages, non-transparent administration etc. What is the ideal way to reform the system?
There is no denying that India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is fraught with leakages. Reaching food to every nook and corner in a big country like India is no easy task. While leakages have to be further curbed to ensure food reaches in time to those who need it, the task of ensuring household food security needs a radical overhaul. I am of the opinion that in a country like India, which has roughly 6.4 lakh villages, the paramount task should be to turn these villages self-reliant in food production and consumption. Each village or a cluster of villages should be in a position to take care of its own hunger and food insecurity. This can only be possible if India shifts to setting up of community foodgrain banks in each taluka or a panchayat. These community foodgrains banks should be managed by women self-help groups or village communities, and should be based on the concept of local production, local procurement and local distribution. This system was prevalent in India before the British came and still exists in several pockets in the country. Ensuring food security at the household level would also mean that an adequate push comes for producing and distributing food locally which would significantly minimize losses in transportation. It would mean that food distribution gets decentralized. This would also ensure that India will not have to worry about WTO obligations, which are aimed at dismantling or severe curtailment of PDS operations. If the villages are able to take care of their own food security needs, it will reduce the dependence on PDS, which can then be effectively targeted for the urban areas.
The government is planning to unify the agriculture markets across the world through the Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF). Under this scheme, a common e-platform would be set up and deployed in 585 selected wholesale regulated markets across the country. Can you share your thoughts on the unification of agriculture markets in India.
It is certainly important to use the latest technology tools in agricultural marketing. Setting up a common e-platform in 55 selected wholesale regulated markets comes from Karnataka which has given the country an idea to integrate the existing APMC markets through a common e-platform. If the establishment of a Rashtriya e-Market Services Private Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture with NCDX Spot Exchange, was helpful indeed I fail to understand why Karnataka farmers are not getting the right price for their produce. Already 55 of the 155 main market yards have been integrated into a single licensing system. And yet, Karnataka is faced with an unprecedented serial death dance on the farm with almost 100 farmers committing suicide since June. In my understanding, the e-platform is nothing more than a spot exchange, which even in Karnataka has performed well only for coconut. To expect this e-platform to be the solution to the existing crisis in agriculture is certainly too far-fetched and has not been well thought off.  What India needs desperately is to make adequate investments in setting up a huge countrywide network of APMC regulated markets. At present, about 7,000 APMC markets exists in the country against the requirement of 42,000 mandis if a regulated procurement centre is to be provided in the range of 5 kms from each village. This will enable not only an assured market for the farmers but at the same time help in the providing an assured procurement price to the farmers.
Since only 6 per cent farmers get the benefit of procurement prices, 94 per cent farmers are already dependent on the markets. If the markets were so effective, farmers wouldn’t have been committing suicides in droves and wanting to quit agriculture if given a choice. Take the case of Punjab and Bihar. Punjab has a widespread network of AMPC markets. Bihar had revoked APMC Act in 2007. The result if while Punjab farmers got a procurement price of Rs 1450 per quintal for wheat this season, Bihar farmers were able to sell their wheat crop at a distress price of Rs 800-900 per quintal. Dismantling APMC markets in Punjab, if successful, would turn Punjab farmers the Bihar way.
Use technology to remove middlemen in the APMC regulated markets, but dispensing with APMC markets would only add on to the prevailing agrarian crisis. The need therefore is to expand the network of APMC markets throughout the country and provide assured purchase of all the 23 crops for which the procurement prices are announced. This will be the true unification of the agricultural markets. This would require investments in setting up warehouses. But if the government can make investments in building panchayat ghar in 2.5 lakh panchayats, I don't see any reason why warehouses cannot be built in these panchayats. It doesn't need a rocket science to build a warehouse.
Is contract farming a solution for some of the problems in the agriculture sector in India? How far has contract farming been successful in India and what can be done to promote it across the country? 
Contract farming has been successful in some crops in some parts of the country. But the experience of contract farming in most staple crops has not been satisfactory. So it has been a mixed experience. There are numerous studies that bring out the flaws in the existing system and also what needs to be done to make contract farming workable for both the farmers as well as for the private companies. Traditionally, sugarcane is a crop which operates under a bonding system with the sugar mills which in many ways is like contract farming. But the recent experiences with the bonding system in sugarcane, where sugar mills are unable to pay the huge cane arrears, shows that not all is well with even the bonding system. I think contract farming should certainly be workable, if the rules under which the contract operates are transparent and are pro-farmer and pro-environment. Since most food industries are keenly looking for short-term profits, a highly intensive cropping system is followed. This results in massive environmental destruction. Precautionary clause must be weaved in the contracts where it must be mandated to maintain soil fertility at an acceptable level. 
Talks on the Doha Round of the WTO has not seen significant breakthrough in the last decade because of diverging positions of different countries on trading in agriculture. What are the flaws in the existing trading regime on agriculture and how can they be rectified?
Ever since WTO came into play, my own studies (available on the web) have shown that more and more developing countries are turning into food importing countries. In fact, 105 of the Third World countries have already become food dependent and if the Doha Development Round goes ahead with the Special and Differential Treatment being withdrawn for the developing countries as being pushed by US/EU, India would be at a receiving end. Already, India’s procurement prices are under a chopping block. While it may not be possible to detail everything that is wrong with the trading regime in agriculture, the main obstacle is the refusal by the rich developed countries to reduce their phenomenal farm subsidies. With agricultural subsidies in rich countries now exceeding $ 500 billion every year, and with the US alone making a provision for $ 960 billion in agricultural support over the next 10 years under the US Farm bill 2014, agriculture of the rich countries remains robustly protected. These countries are wanting the developing countries like India to provide more market access by cutting down on the applicable bound rates, which means further lowering the import tariffs. For a country like India, importing food is like importing unemployment. The more agricultural commodities India imports would mean more small farmers are out of production. Although the Govt so far appears steadfast on not compromising on food security needs, it remains to be seen how will India negotiate at the ensuing WTO Ministerial in December.  
Most of the farmers in India are small and marginal land holders. The greatest challenge is to improve productivity in these small holdings. What is the role of the government, community-based organizations in achieving this?
Yes, most of India’s farmers are small and marginal. The greatest challenge is not only to improve productivity in these small holdings but to provide an economic price to these farmers. All these years, food prices are deliberately being kept low so as to keep food inflation under check. In other words, farmer is carrying the burden of providing cheap food to the consumers. This is grossly unfair. While incomes for all sections of the society have multiplied in the past 45 years, farm output price has been kept artificially low. In 1970, the procurement price for wheat was Rs 76 a quintal. Forty five years later, in 2015, the procurement price for wheat is Rs 1450/quintal. Wheat price has gone up by roughly 19 times. In the same period, the average basic salary plus DA of central government employees have risen by 110 to 120 times; of school teachers by 280 to 320 times; of college/university teachers by 150 to 170 times; and of mid to high class corporate sector employees by 350 to 1000 times. In the same period, school fees have increased by 200 to 300 times; medical treatment cost has gone up again by 200 to 300 per cent; and average house rent in cities has risen by 350 times.
The primary task should be to bring about an income parity between the farming and non-farming class. I find while no one talks of how to provide a remunerative income to farmers, productivity improvement is being talked about simply because it provides a market for input suppliers. More income in the hands of the farmers would be a blessing for the industry which will see a jump in demand for consumer goods. The industry therefore should also support the need for providing a higher assured income to farmers. A National Farmers Income Commission, which is able to work out a minimum take home package for farmers every month, is the crying need.
Agriculture also needs a heavy dose of public investments. In the 11th Plan period only Rs 1 lakh crore was allocated for agriculture. In the 12thPlan, the allocation was increased to rs 1.5 lakh crore. In other words, in 10 years, agriculture received a public sector investment of only Rs 2.5 lakh crore. This bias against agriculture needs to be immediately corrected. #
Source: 'Strengthening APMC network is true integration of agri-commodities markets in India.' WTC website, Mumbai. Aug 2015. http://www.ges2015.in/strengthening-apmc-network-is-true-integration-of-agri-commodities-market-in-india/
Categories: Ecological News

Green activist roots for food freedom, rights of farmers

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 20:01

By Indra Shekhar Singh – Hindustan Times, 3 August 2015

Source: http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/viewer.aspx?noredirect=true#

NEW DELHI: In a packed hall of the Indian Medical Association in Meerut on Sunday, Vandana Shiva — an environmentalist and physicist — kicked off the Anna Swaraj Andolan.

Shiva, who was the keynote speaker at the event, talked about the preservation of the soil, security of farmer’s rights and ecology during the meeting.

The event was organised by Navdanya and Shajad Rai Research Institute, Barauat and was chaired by Ajay Gupta, convener of the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Samiti, Meerut.

Speaking to the HT later, Shiva said, “From Meerut, the sacred land of our first freedom movement of 1857, a new freedom movement for Food Freedom (Anna Swaraj) was launched today by Navdanya.”

“Food freedom is based on the liberation of the earth from ecological destruction and toxic pollution, the liberation of the farmers from suicides due to debt created by dependence on purchase of costly chemicals and seeds, and the liberation of the citizens from malnutrition and disease caused by toxic pesticides,” she added.

Overall, Shiva said, “We started the Anna Swaraj Abhiyan with a campaign on Food Smart Citizens for Food Smart Cities – connecting producers to consumers and the village with the town in direct links of safe, fresh, local and fair food.”

The event saw a huge attendance of doctors and residents of Meerut. People and farmers flocked to the Indian Medical Association hall.

Sharing the stage with Shiva was Dr VK Bindra, who spoke about the grave dangers use of insecticides and pesticides use posed. “Even low exposure to pesticides can lead to cancers. Pesticides can be mutagenic to human being,” Bindra said.

Mitul Jain of Meerut said: “India spends over hundred billion dollars in cancer treatments alone. I think if we just change our food habits and eat fresh and organic, all the pain and medical expenditure can easily be avoided. I hope they carry this message to all parts of the country.”

 

Related Campaign

Food Smart Citizens for Food Smart Cities

 

 

Related Event

Launch of Anna Swaraj Abhiyan with a campaign on Food Smart Citizens for Food Smart Cities

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Tougher laws needed to regulate food industry

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

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

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

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

India GMInfo. 1st August 2015

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

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

July 31, 2015

To:

Mr. Prakash Javadekar

Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change,

Government of India.

Dear Sir:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

On behalf of Sarson Satyagraha,

Kavitha Kuruganti – +91 9393001550

Umendra Dutt – +91 9872682161

Vijay Pratap – +91 99107 70263

 

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

Attachment: Briefing paper on GM mustard of Delhi University

 

Sd/-:

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

 

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

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

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

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

Christos Tsoumplekas / Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is beyond austerity, it is genocide.

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

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

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

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Stemming the Tide Together: Soil, Not Oil

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

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

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

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

Gentlemen of the Press,

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

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

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

The Social and Ecological Destruction of Oil

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

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

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

Soil, Water and Climate Wars

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

Food and Agriculture

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

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

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

– Ends –

Related post

Nigeria Tour for Soil Not Oil

Related Calendar Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kori Grow – Rolling Stone, 23 July 2015

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

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

Neil Young releases documentary attacking Monsanto

The Guardian, 24 July 2015

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

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

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

                          
Categories: Ecological News

How Monsanto wrote and broke laws to enter India

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

By Dr Vandana Shiva — 21 July 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal entry of Bt Cotton into India

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

Article (7) of The Rules stipulates:

Approval and Prohibitions etc.

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

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

Article (4) of The Rules stipulates:

(4) Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a government document, the Department of Biotechnology states:

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

but then goes on to say in the next sentence:

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

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

Monsanto’s illegal collection of super-profits as royalties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Minutes of the 52nd meeting of the GEAC

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

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

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

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

ACT No.29 of 2007

Short title and commencement

Definitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article 27.3 of the TRIPs Agreement states:

3. Members may also exclude from patentability:

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

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

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

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

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

India, in its submission, stated:

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

The African group stated:

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

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

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

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

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

Article 3 defines what is not patentable subject matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VII. Victims’ right to remedies

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

(a) Equal and effective access to justice;

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

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

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

Sign the Declaration on Seed Freedom

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

Further information:

DARK Act

Food Sovereignty

Seeds of Doubt Monsanto never had Bt cotton patent

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

Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India – Reviewing the Evidence

MRTP Verdict against Monsanto hailed.

Behind India’s ‘Epidemic’ Of Farmer Suicides

Chronology of Bt Cotton in India

Bombay HC upholds Maharashtra Seed Act, delivers blow to industry

Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides

How India became a Bt Cotton Country

Farmers suicide rates soar above the rest

UCLA – 300,000 Farmers Suicides

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Vandana Shiva — Why Do I Care about Climate

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

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

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

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

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

#WhydoIcare

Learn more


The Summit of Conscience in 3 minutes

Video: the Summit of Conscience

July 21st in pictures

                          
Categories: Ecological News

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

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


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

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

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