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Ecological News

If 100 million farming families were to also to get an income hike of 23.55 per cent, Indian economy will gallop.

Ground Reality - Sat, 11/21/2015 - 12:57

The discrimination is blatant. While accepting the report of the 7th Pay Commission, which is anticipated to increase the salaries of the central government employees by 23.55 per cent on an average, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley termed it as a ‘slight’ burden on the state’s expenditure. Pay panel bonanza is expected to fuel demand for automobiles, real estate and consumer durables. In other worlds, the industry is more excited with demand getting a boost and so is the Finance Ministry with the expected rise in GDP numbers. 
Imagine if 600 million farmers (which means roughly 100 million farming families) were to also get a 23.55 per cent raise in their farm incomes, the boost in demand will be unprecedented, which means the entire economy will gallop at a pace the country has never visualised. But then, why are successive governments only keen to fill the pockets of those who are already well-to-do and ignore the masses? That's a question no economist or policy maker is willing to address.  
Only a few months back, in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the additional solicitor general Maninder Singh had expressed government’s inability to provide 50 per cent profit over the cost of production to the farmers as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee. He had said that “prescribing an increase of at least 50 per cent on cost may distort the market. A mechanical linkage between MSP and cost of production may be counter-productive in some cases.”
Soon after coming to power, Narendra Modi government had enhanced the MSP for paddy and wheat by a paltry Rs 50 per quintal, which translates into an increase of 3.6 per cent, not enough to offset the additional burden of inflation at that time. This year, 2015-16, the price of wheat has been raised by Rs 75 per quintal.
The 7th Pay Commission report is expected to benefit 47-lakh central government employees and another 52-lakh pensioner. Although the hike comes with an additional annual financial burden of Rs 1.02- lakh- crore, in reality it will be several times more, not less than Rs 3-lakh core by a conservative estimate, when similar pay hikes have to be also given to state government employees, autonomous bodies, universities and public sector units.
The income disparity is glaring. While the minimum wage for an employee has now been enhanced to Rs 18,000 per month, what an average farmer family earns in a month as per the NSSO 2014 report is a paltry Rs 6,000, of which Rs 3,078 comes from farming. Nearly 58 per cent farmers have to rely on non-farming activities like MNREGA to supplement their monthly incomes. The farm incomes is low because successive governments have deliberately kept farming starved of resources and denied economic price to farmers.
Maharashtra farmer leader Vijay Jawandhia says: “Minimum wage for government employees have been raised by roughly 30 per cent every ten years. In 1986, the minimum wage was Rs 750. In January 2016 when the 7thPay Commission is implemented, it will rise to Rs 18,000 per month.” If the same yardstick was applied to minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural commodities, the MSP for wheat which was Rs 315 per quintal in 1985-86 should have risen to Rs 7,505 per quintal this year. In reality, what the wheat farmer has been promised for the 2015-16 harvesting season is Rs 1,525 per quintal.
Procurement price (or the market price) is the only mechanism through which a farmer is able to earn. His net return depends on the market price that he is able to fetch for his produce. There is no other source of income, including DA and emoluments that he can count on. Compare this with the government employees. Every six months they get DA, which is increasingly being merged with the basic salary. At the same time, if the 7th Pay Commission is to be believed, of the 198 total allowances they used to get, 108 allowances have been retained and enhanced. While the jump in basic salary is to the tune of 16 per cent, employees will received an increase of 63 per cent in allowances.
In simple terms, while the economic wealth of a small section of the society is being continuously multiplied, the majority population is being deliberately ignored. Farmers constitute 52 per cent of the population, in absolute terms their numbers exceed 600 million, and still they have been deliberately relegated to the bottom of the pyramid. It is primarily for this reason that the 2nd national Convention of Farmers Organisations, which concluded at Bangalore in the first week of November, has asked withholding the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission report till income parity between employees and farmers is assured.
The basic norms for computing the minimum wage under the 7th Pay Commission includes criteria like: needs of a worker family; food requirement for ensuring minimum calorie intake, protein and fats the adult body requires; clothing requirement based on per capita consumption of 18 yards per annum for the average workers family; 7.5 per cent of the minimum wage as house rent and 20 per cent for fuel, lighting and other expenditures. All these criteria should also be applied when the cost of cultivation is worked out for the sake of computing the MSP.
An economic security to the farming population is the crying need of the times. My suggestion therefore is to set up a National Farmers Income Commission that is mandated to ensure parity in incomes between the farming sector and the organized sector. At the same time, the Farmers Income Commission should be able to indicate an assured monthly package that a farming family should receive every month. Till then, the recommendation of the 7th Pay Commission should be held in abeyance. #
Categories: Ecological News

Farmers are being pushed deeper and deeper into a death trap.

Ground Reality - Tue, 11/17/2015 - 15:42

In Mahabharata there is this classic story of the brave Abhimanyu who knew how to get through the seven rings of Chakarvyuha. We know that Abhimanyu had learnt this in the mother’s womb. But what he didn’t know was the way to get out of the Chakarvyuha. The story tells us that by the time his father was ready to share the secret his mother had gone off to sleep.
The Indian farmer is also like Abhimanyu in the Chakravyuha. We have thrown the Chakravyuha around the farmer. We’ve pushed him deeper and deeper into the Chakravyuha or the trap. It is high time now that instead of pushing him still deeper with more potent chemical pesticides and now with genetically modified crops we need to pull him out of the Chakravyuha. Otherwise the Indian farmer will also meet the same fate as Abhimanyu. Mahabharata tells us that Abhimanyu died fighting valiantly. The Indian farmer’s fate is no different than that of Abhimanyu.
Cotton farmers too have been systematically pushed deeper and deeper over the years into a chakravyuah from which the farmer is finding it difficult to come out unscathed. The more the attack of dreaded insect pests, the more is the use and abuse of chemical pesticides throwing a series of rings around the farmer. It has now been replaced with Bt cotton, which not only tightens the noose but also adds to more application of chemical pesticides thereby worsening the crisis. With the Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) detecting failure of Bollgard-II variety of Bt cotton to control the harmful bollworm pests, I still doubt if the multinational seed industry will allow the farmers to get out of the chakravyuah.
Let’s first look at how the chakravyuah has operated all these years. After the Second World War, chemical pesticides began to be used profusely on cotton in India. It started with the first generation pesticides, like DDT. After a few years, the bollworm insect (popularly called sundi) became resistant. This was replaced by a more harmful second generation pesticides. After a few years of its application, the insect again became resistant to this chemical. Considering that roughly 50 per cent of the total pesticides used in India are applied on cotton alone, you can well understand the commercial interest to keep farmers dependent upon pesticides.
When the fourth generation pesticides, called synthetic pyrethroids -- were introduced on cotton, I had warned against the vicious cycle, which was making cotton cultivation highly risky and environmentally unsustainable. My warning was ignored and the farmer was merrily pushed into what I call as the fourth ring of the chakrayvuah. The chemical was so potent that it would kill even birds and animals which came in contact. But with its application, the insect came under control. So not only farmers, but also agricultural scientists and the pesticides industry were visibly satisfied. A few years later, the bollworm insects – including a new species called American Bollworm, had become resistant to even this chemical. The resistance was so severe that even if you put the insect into a bottle of pesticides, it wouldn’t die.
Chemical pesticide was replaced with genetically modified Bt cotton. This variety produced toxin within the plant, which when eaten by the bollworm pest would result in its death. This was the fifth ring of the chakravyuah. Introduced in 2002, the bollworm insects too became resistant by 2009. Monsanto, the company that originally brought Bt technology into India, then promised to bring in a still harder variety called Bollgard-II. This variety had two genes of Bt and therefore was more potent and effective. Meanwhile, instead of reducing pesticides usage, consumption of pesticides went up. While the sixth ring of the chakravyuah was in operation, pesticides usage had actually multiplied. Regardless of industry claims, the fact remains that the usage of pesticides had gone up phenomenally. In 2005, Rs 649-crore worth of chemical pesticides was used on cotton in India. In 2010, when roughly 92 per cent area under cotton shifted to Bt cotton varieties, the pesticides usage in terms of value increased to Rs 880.40 crore. In 2015, Bt cotton occupied more than 98 per cent area under cotton in the country.
Now even this variety is failing to control bollworm pests. It has also turned some minor insects – like whitefly and mealy bug – into major pests’ now devastating cotton in vast areas in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Bollgard-II is the sixth ring of the chakravyuah.
With Bollgard-II failing to control bollworm insects I am told the industry is experimenting with a still more potent version. I am told Bollgard-III will have three genes and therefore be more effective. To push farmers still deeper into the seventh ring of the chakravyuah would be not only be a scientific but a policy failure. Considering the terrible consequences of a continuing vicious cycle of pesticides and GM crops, the challenge should be on how to take these farmers out of the deadly trap. 70 per cent of the 3 lakh farmers who have committed suicide in past 20 years have been cotton growers.
Is there a way out? Yes, there is a much safer exit provided scientists and policy makers are willing to throw away the dependence on chemical pesticides and GM crops. You will be surprised to know there are villages which did not use any chemical pesticides – irrespective of the brand -- to control cotton pests. These villages have year after year been recording a high production without facing any negative consequences. These villages stand like an oasis in a heavily polluted chemical desert. Perhaps the only lesson to control any future attack of whitefly or for that matter bollworm and mealy bug attack on cotton lies in non-pesticides management.
Farmers in Nidana and Lalit Khera, two tiny and non-descript villages in Jind district of Haryana, do not spray any chemical pesticides for several years now and have instead been using benign insects to control harmful pests. This year too, they allowed the natural predators of whitefly to proliferate, which in turn killed the whitefly. In other words, these farmers have learnt the art of maintaining insect equilibrium in such a manner that the benign insects take care of the pests by not allowing insect population to cross the threshold level. These 18 villages stand like an oasis in the polluted pesticides environment all around. Its time farmers too learn to make an effort to get out of the chakravyuah death trap. They can’t always go on blaming the government or the companies. They too can make an effort to learn how to survive with dignity and pride. #
Break Hold of Pesticides. Orissa Post. Nov 17, 2015 http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/171115/p8.htm 
Categories: Ecological News

Farmers are a victim of continuing disparity in incomes.

Ground Reality - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 10:58

Those who feed the country are being fed. Farmers getting food as part of a campaign by Dainik Bhaskar group to help the drought affected in Maharashtra. 
A newspaper chain -- Dainik Bhaskar -- has launched a campaign to feed the farmers in the drought affected Marathwada region of Maharashtra. There can be nothing more telling than this. A day prior to Diwali, 260 tonnes of food was distributed among 15,000 farming families in 125 villages. For these poor farming families, there could be nothing better than getting food on the eve of Diwali. A morsel of food is what they desperately needed. Not only in Marathwada, the plight of a large section of the farming community elsewhere is no different.  

There is something terribly going wrong with agriculture. In the midst of reports of serial death dance on the farm continuing unabated, with Maharashtra alone reporting more than 2,200 farmer suicides recorded till September this year, there is not even a semblance of an effort to rescue the beleaguered farming community. Acche din for farmers remain elusive.
After a devastating drought that afflicted 39 per cent of the cultivated area in 18 States, and with reports of delayed sowing of the rabi crop on account of deficient soil moisture, all that the government has done is to raise the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat by a paltry Rs 75 per quintal. This is roughly an increase of 5.2 per cent over the price offered last year. Put together, the increase in rice and wheat MSP this year totals not more than 8.5 per cent. This is not even comparable to the 13 per cent increase in DA installments for the government employees. I am not counting the mandatory 10 per cent annual increment in basic salary for employees.

While the inherent disparity against agriculture continues, cold-shouldering of farming sector vis a vis other sections of the society remains at the heart of the agrarian crisis that is sweeping through the country. For the past three years, wheat and rice price have been raised by Rs 50 per quintal every year, which was not even enough to offset the rise in household expenditure resulting from a spike in food inflation witnessed in the past few years. Although many mainline economists and business writers have time and again stressed on the need to freeze MSP so as to contain food inflation, I haven’t seen any concern being voiced at the negative impact such efforts to keep farm incomes deliberately will have on farm livelihoods.
After all, a farmer also has a family to support. His children also need to go to school, and he has also to fend for their health and living expenses.
Following the hue and cry over the skyrocketing dal prices, the government has been forced to raise the MSP for the two major rabipulses -- chana and masur – by Rs 250 per quintal each and in addition provided a bonus of Rs 75/quintal. Interestingly, what may seem to be an adequate economic price for both the rabicrops, the fact remains that it is much below the ruling market prices. In the case of chana, Rs 4,800 to Rs 5,000 per quintal is the price ruling in commodity trading against which the MSP stands at a low of Rs 3,500 per quintal. Similarly for masur, wholesale prices are prevailing around Rs 6,000 per quintal whereas the MSP being offered to farmers is Rs 3,400 per quintal, a low of almost 40 per cent to the prevailing market prices. How will the enhanced MSP offered this year, an increase of 10.5 per cent over the previous year, become an incentive to farmers to shift to pulses is something that has not been explained.
What makes it worse is the government’s reluctance to procure the entire crop of pulses at the announced prices. In the absence of any assured procurement, the advantage of announcing a higher price for pulses is therefore lost. The government is only committed to procure 40,000 tonnes of pulses from farmers at the announced MSP for the buffer stocking it plans to do. This is not even a drop in the ocean considering the anticipated pulse production in the range of 18-19 million tonnes. In other words, after making the required procurement, the government will very conveniently leave farmers at the mercy of the traders.
The failure therefore to provide an assured income (linked to assured procurement) to farmers comes at a time when farmers have faced a traumatic crop season this year. With only 5 State governments – Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka – partly declaring drought, the rest of the 13 State Governments have simply evaded giving a comprehensive compensation package to the affected farmers. Considering that millions of farmers had faced the fury of two consecutive drought years, I see no reason why the government should not be announcing a substantive economic bailout package for the drought-hit farmers. 
This brings me back to the equity dimension. While the debate around One Rank One Pension (OROP) revolves around bringing parity in income for retired soldiers within the armed services, I wonder when will the nation begin talking about income parity among jawan and kisan and for that matter with other government employees. Agriculture continues to be in the Dark Age because successive governments have simply turned its back towards the farming community. Successive governments have never looked beyond making rhetorical statements like agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy. That backbone is being systematically weakened. # 
Beyond lip-service, govt does precious little for farmers' development. ABPNewstv.in Nov 14, 2015http://www.abplive.in/blog/beyond-lip-service-govt-doing-precious-little-for-farmers-development
Categories: Ecological News

Activist Vandana Shiva slams govt handling of dal crisis

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 11/14/2015 - 00:22

Times of India, 13 November 2015

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Activist-Vandana-Shiva-slams-govt-handling-of-dal-crisis/articleshow/49771537.cms

NEW DELHI: Environment activist Vandana Shiva has blamed the government for mishandling the dal crisis and instead advocated support to farmers.

Responding to questions on the spiraling prices of pulses, Shiva said, “The government has mishandled it completely. They are importing “fake” dals and sending the signal to farmers that it is not worth growing pulses.”

Shiva was speaking on the occasion of festival of organic products at Dilli Haat called “Women in India” that was inaugurated by union ministers Radha Mohan Singh and Maneka Gandhi. The festival has been organized in collaboration with the ministry of women and child development and Shiva’s organization Navdanya.

The activist said that the government must start a program to re-introduce mixture farming to ensure that expansion of cultivation of every kind of dal.

“Farmers should be rewarded for growing diversity and deregulated imports must be stopped as they hurting farmers,” she said.

Navdanya has declared 2016 as the year of pulses and are launching a campaign “Pulse of life” to conserve India’s pulse diversity and reclaim India’s lentil sovereignty. The NDA government has come under severe flak recently for spirally dal prices. Many political leaders feel that it may have cost the BJP, the Bihar election.

Categories: Ecological News

A failure to invest in farmers n agriculture has costed the ruling NDA dearly in Bihar elections.

Ground Reality - Mon, 11/09/2015 - 09:29

Some years back, the founder editor of the UN Human Development Report and a distinguished Pakistani economist, the late Mahbub-ul-Haq, was talking to me about growth economics. I vividly recall what he had told me about how elections are fought in India (and as well in Pakistan). Knowing the social, caste and religious dimensions that play to the hit during elections, it is the economics that plays the triumph card. Whatever be the social and political reasons, people do tend to vote for the party in whose tenure their economics has improved.
Even when he was the Finance Minister of Pakistan (and that was quite some time ago) the country's GDP was growing at a phenomenal 7 per cent. He was therefore very sure that his party would spring back into power. But he said he got a rude shock when his party was routed in the elections. "I then learnt that GDP is not a touchstone to development. Launch a direct assault on poverty/hunger and GDP grows." 
It is in that light I think the Bihar results are also a referendum on the economic policies. If in a State where 90 per cent population lives in villages, the spate of economic reforms – first in the 10 year rule of UPA between 2004-2014 and followed aggressively by the ruling NDA in the past 17 months – have failed to get an electoral backing then there is something drastically missing. What is quite clearly evident is that the kind of economic policies being perpetuated have somehow failed to touch the lives of the poor.
Perhaps sensing this glaring lack of inclusiveness in economic growth projections, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated rather belatedly at the recently concluded Delhi Economic Conclave that the focus of the NDA government would remain on poor. He talked of taking economic reforms to villages without which growth will be meaningless – something that has been widely accepted but invariably ignored in policy planning. If only the Prime Minister had overcome his government’s obsession with growth figures and focused from the very beginning on sabka saath sabka vikas the electoral verdict today in Bihar would have probably been different.
In Bihar, a majority of the population – nearly 82 per cent as per the State Economic Survey 2015 – remains engaged in agriculture. With agriculture disappearing from the economic radar screen of the government, the negative impact is being borne not only in Bihar but throughout the country. The renewed spates of farmer suicides that are being witnessed since the beginning of this year perhaps remain unparalleled. Karnataka has witnessed over 700 suicides in the past few months. Marathwada and Vidharbha in Maharashtra, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and even in Orissa, the suicide figures are rattling. I am not blaming the Modi government for these suicides but to ignore the terrible agrarian crisis that continues to prevail has certainly posed a question mark as to for whom are these economic policies being formulated? Why can’t economic advisors think beyond the parameters laid out by the international credit rating agencies?
That the farmers – comprising 52 per cent of the entire population -- are becoming a victim of growth economics was loudly questioned by leaders of 60 major farmer organizations/unions who met at the 2ndNational Convention of Farmers Organisations at Bangalore from Nov 2-4. Outraged at the continuous neglect of the farming sector, these farmer leaders have demanded the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission to be put on hold till farmers are paid 50 per cent profit along with the Minimum Support Price (MSP). This is what Narendra Modi had promised at the time of elections but later in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court the government has made it clear that 50 per cent profit cannot be paid as it would distort the market prices.
Soil health card and neem-coated urea fertilizer are certainly a positive input in farming but to expect farmer’s incomes to boom as a result is simply unthinkable. The tragedy on the farm is actually compounded by falling incomes over the past few decades. The continuing neglect is aggravated by the massive disparity that prevails when farming is compared with other sections of the society. In 2015 alone, employees have got 13 per cent DA, in addition to the annual increments. Compare this with agriculture where farmers have received a hike of only 3.25 per cent in the MSP for rice and now a 5.2 per cent raise in the wheat price. While industry gets a bailout package at every given opportunity, farmers have been deprived of a legitimate economic bailout package after having faced two successive years of drought.
Public sector investment in agriculture is also being deliberately reduced over the years. This year, while the pulses import bill itself has touched Rs 16,000-crores, India Spends estimates that the import bill exceeds the total outlay under agricultural policy. What miracle can be expected from agriculture when hardly any significant investments are being made? In the 12th Plan period, a total of Rs 1.5-lakh-crore was made available for agriculture. This is even less than the subsidy of Rs 1.62 lakh crore that the New Delhi airport had received and rightly questioned by the CAG. Add to this the massive cut in social sector spending in agriculture, health, education and panchayati raj in the 2015 Budget, the neglect of rural India is complete. 
Let’s be clear. The trickle-down theory of development has failed all over the globe. Propping up the rich class, including corporate, and then thinking the benefits will trickle down to the poor has failed. The answer lies in what Narendra Modi rightly said the other day to make an effort to benefit directly the bottom of the pyramid. This will require a substantial change in economic thinking to turn it pro-people, pro-environment and pro-women. Bihar election results will hopefully help make the requisite corrections in economic reforms. The sooner it is done the better it would be. # 
Economic fallout of the Bihar elections. ABPLive.in Nov 8, 2015.
Categories: Ecological News

West’s ‘fail-anthropy’

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 11/04/2015 - 23:03

By Dr Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 3 November 2015

Photo by Círculos de Sementes – Circles of Seeds

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/west-s-fail-anthropy-000

‘One Agriculture’ will starve the world and worsen the refugee crisis. The Gates Foundation, pretending to feed the world, is propagating the very source of half the climate problem.

In 2008, before the climate summit in Copenhagen, I wrote the book Soil Not Oil. It was a time when the intimate connections between climate and agriculture, air and soil were not being recognised in any forum, neither in the negotiations on climate change nor in the climate movement. As we head into the Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 in Paris, agri-corporations are attempting to hijack climate talks once again.

Today we are faced with two crises on a planetary scale — climate change and species extinction. Our current modes of production and consumption are contributing to what climate change scientists term anthropogenic emissions — originating from human activity. If no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gases, we could experience a catastrophic 4°C increase in temperature by the end of the century.

In addition to global warming, climate change is leading to the intensification of droughts, floods, cyclones and other extreme weather events that are costing lives. What can we do to mitigate this? Like the problem, the solution must be anthropogenic.

Three years after Rio (1992), the United Nations Leipzig Conference on Plant Genetic Resources assessed that 75 per cent of the world’s biodiversity had disappeared in agriculture because of the Green Revolution and industrial farming. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 70-90 per cent of global deforestation is due to industrial agriculture pushing its monocultures further and further into forests to grow commodities for export — not for food.

As I wrote in Soil Not Oil, chemical agriculture and a globalised food system are responsible for 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. A grain.org report concluded that “the current global food system, propelled by an increasingly powerful transnational food industry, is responsible for about half of all human produced greenhouse gas emissions: anywhere between a low of 44 per cent to a high of 57 per cent”.

This is also where the Gates Foundation, along with the other biotech evangelists of our times, has it completely wrong. Climate-smart agriculture and “One Agriculture”, packaged in a PR bubble, will starve the world and worsen the refugee crisis. The Gates Foundation, pretending to feed the world, is propagating the very source of half the climate problem.

“One Agriculture”, for the profit of one company, is hardly a mitigation strategy. The Gates Foundation is pushing industrial agriculture, instead of agroecology which is already helping check climate change by converting fossilised carbon to green carbon. The accurate word for Bill Gates’ faux philanthropy would be “fail anthropy”.

As country after country bans the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), India has turned into the last battleground for GMO patent profits. Bt technology, the star of Monsanto’s multi-million dollar R&D (fully paid for by Indian cotton farmers), has been known to be a failure in terms of yield and pest control since its beginning in India, illegally, in 1999. In addition to the historic failure of Bt cotton at raising farmers’ incomes, or producing more yield, the ancillary chemicals required by GMO varieties are also, quite clearly, failing. Bayer CropSciences’ oberon, a pesticide that supposedly targets whitefly, has failed at its one purpose, causing a 60 per cent crop failure in Punjab’s cotton crop this year. The chemicals have failed the GMO. The GMO has failed in itself. Our government has failed our farmers by backing failed technologies that have only been successful in driving India’s farmers to suicide.

Biodiverse systems are more resilient to climate change and are more productive in terms of nutrition per acre. Feeding the world is more about providing nourishment than about harvesting commodities to be traded and shipped globally, adding to emissions. Decentralised, diverse systems have more flexibility to respond to uncertainty as well.

Science and democracy are the forces that will protect the planet and our lives. Since 1992, the big polluters — the fossil fuel industry and the agrochemical industry (now also the biotechnology industry) — have done everything to subvert the legally binding, science-based, international environmental treaties on climate change and biodiversity.

What needs to be done is clear. In the case of climate change, the key strategy should be reduction of emissions and strategies for adaptation. We must move away from industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture, away from a centralised, global commodity-based food system that exacerbates emissions. Biodiversity conservation will be central to adaptation. In place of the biodiversity-destroying industrial monocultures, including those based on GMO seeds, we need a shift to agroecological practices that conserve biodiversity and ensure biosafety.

This transition will address both, the climate and biodiversity crisis simultaneously, as well as the food crisis. Even though industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and more vulnerable to it, there is an attempt by the biotechnology industry to use the climate crisis as an opportunity to further push GMOs and to deepen their monopoly on global seed supply through biopiracy-based patents on climate resilient seeds, that were bred by farmers over generations. Climate resilient traits will become increasingly important in times of climate instability and, in the current system, will allow corporations to exploit farmers and consumers by owning the rights to these plants.

As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Centralised, monoculture-based, fossil fuel intensive systems, including GMO agriculture, are not flexible. They cannot adapt and evolve. We need flexibility, resilience and the ability to adapt to a changed reality. This resilience comes from diversity. This diversity of knowledge, economics and politics is what I call earth democracy.

As we head into the COP 21 negotiations, not only do we have to beat our fossil fuel addiction, but also our addiction to failure. Failure is no longer an option. We cannot fail the Earth, or each other.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Categories: Ecological News

Bollgard-II also becomes susceptible. Shouldn't seed companies be made to pay for crop losses?

Ground Reality - Fri, 10/30/2015 - 21:33

Another silver bullet bites the dust. With the Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) detecting bollworm resistance to the second-generation genetically modified cotton, popularly called Bt Cotton, it is the farmers who are left to bear the ultimate cost. What was earlier projected as a ‘silver bullet’ for small farmers cultivating cotton is now turning into an unending pain. 
“There is resistance to Bollgard-II. We have collected some insects. They are eating up the bolls,” Dr Keshav Raj Kranti, CICR director, told the Hindu Business Line (Oct 28). Bollgard-II is the second-generation Bt cotton variety containing two alien Bt genes to combat the bollworm species of pests on cotton. The  earlier version of Bt cotton, called Bollgard-I (containing one Bt gene), had developed resistance way back in 2009. Since then the Bollgard-II varieties have replaced the earlier Bt cotton variety.
How serious is the break-down of resistance among the dreaded bollworm species on cotton can be gauged from the immediate reaction of the well-know agricultural scientist, Dr M S Swaminathan, who tweeted yesterday saying: “Until arrangements for adequate insurance cover for poor farmers are made, high risk technologies should not be recommended to farmers.”
Coming after the devastation caused by the sucking pest – whitefly – on the standing crop in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, resulting in a prolonged farmers agitation demanding adequate crop compensation; the failure of Bollgard-II cotton varieties in Gujarat and Maharashtra to withstand the attack of bollworm pests will certainly be double whammy for beleaguered cotton growers. CICR predicts that the bollworm attack on cotton will intensify in the next three to four weeks and also in the next crop season.
At least 24 farmers in Punjab and another 15 in Haryana have committed suicide unable to see the extent of damage caused by whitefly insects. Thousands of acres of cotton has been either burnt or ploughed back by irate farmers. An estimated two-third of the cultivated area has been affected by whitefly attack in Punjab and Haryana.
Although the genetically modified Bollgard-II is not a whitely resistant variety but because of the proliferation of private sector Bt cotton varieties, the insect attack has become more pronounced. Earlier, in an interview with Indian Express (Oct 22) , Dr Kranti had said that prior to 2002 when the Bt cotton varieties were first commercialized, the hybrid cotton varieties were subjected to a strict regulatory mechanism ensuring that only those hybrid varieties resistant to whitefly and leaf curl virus are released for cultivation. “There are over 250 Bt cotton hybrids on the shelf in North India. More than 90 per cent of these are susceptible to, and have even become hotspots for whitefly and leaf curl virus.”
In other words, if the Bollgard-II varieties being marketed by the private sector had underdone rigorous testing prior to be being sold, cotton farmers in Punjab and Haryana would have probably escaped the devastation caused in September-October from the whitely attack.
Although Punjab has announced a relief package of Rs 644-crore, which has been rejected by protesting farmers who continue with the agitation, I fail to understand why the seed companies are not being made to pay for the crop losses. After all, these varieties were marketed with a promise that these varieties are resistant to certain insects. Considering that seed companies have sold 53 million cotton seed packets in 2014, the companies have laughed all the way to the banks. But when these varieties become susceptible to the same insects for which they were earlier claimed to be resistant, seed companies simply wash their hands off saying they are not responsible.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had some years back questioned this approach. Former deputy chief minister of Karnataka, M P Prakash, too had once directed a seed company to pay for the crop losses. To simply pass off the crop losses to the state exchequer is rather unfair as it recently happened in Punjab. There has to a suitable amendment in the seed laws to ensure that seed companies are made to compensate when the varieties being sold fail to stand up to the promise made. After all, if Volkswagen can be made to recall 8.5 diesel cars across European Union and another 100,000 are expected to be recalled in India; Ford motors recalled 131,000 vehicles for several defects, and when pharma company Sanofi-Aventis can be made to recall its Allerject auto-injectors to deal with allergic reactions in Canada and USA, and so on, why can’t seed companies be made to recall and pay for its defective seed products? #
Seed companies should be made to for crop losses. ABPLive.in  Oct 30, 2015http://www.abplive.in/blog/seed-companies-should-be-made-to-pay-for-crop-losses  
Categories: Ecological News

Dr Vandana Shiva joins farmers’ protest at Jantar Mantar

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 10/29/2015 - 23:13
Farmers hold protest against agro-chemical cost

Press Trust of India, 29 October 2015

.@drvandanashiva at farmers' protest at Jantar Mantar,Delhi for #Annaswaraj | #Farmerlivesmatter #Organic #noGMO pic.twitter.com/eaxCbof2Ie

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Source: http://www.ptinews.com/news/6675848_Farmers-hold-protest-against-agro-chemical-cos.html

New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI) Noted environmental and social activist Vandana Shiva today joined a group of farmers protesting against farmer suicides and alleged that agro- chemical companies were pushing them into spiralling debt.

Around 200 farmers, led by Azadi Bachao Andolan, said that the government should focus on the promotion of traditional agriculture and discourage use of chemicals.

“Indian farmers are being exploited by the agro-chemical companies through their high cost seeds, chemical pesticides and failed yields. The farmers of India have been pushed into a debt trap and finally into suicides,” Shiva said.

The farmers raised slogans against several companies in this sector accusing them of pushing farmers into debt and polluting land and water of rural areas with carcinogenic substances.

“The only way we have now to save rural India is to revive traditional methods of agriculture and fight for a healthy food sovereign organic India,” Shiva asserted.

Learn more:

#FarmersLivesMatter Campaign Highlights

Articles – Related Content – Press Coverage



In India largest num of ppl are farmer, yet why are we the most ignored? Y are we only forced to commit suicide? pic.twitter.com/b3wcYOxdxb

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

This is the spine of all freedom, I spin to keep Gandhi alive, Satchintananda, Aligarh | #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/leWW73ynKN

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

We are hurt, but not broken, long live the farmers! Himanshu, Haryana | #Farmerslivesmatter #Annaswaraj pic.twitter.com/vWabsOVKNl

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

.@drvandanashiva sharing the stage with national farmers' union leaders demanding #Annaswaraj #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/La2EJv9MH9

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Rural debt & suicides are rising, while agro-chemical corps r looting Gandhi's India @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/3xJ84UKjb8

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Why do we starve & commit suicide while seed CEOs feast? Raj Kishore, farmer Orissa #Farmerslivesmatter #Annaswaraj pic.twitter.com/e8OWbceyjo

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Seeds are made by plants, reject Monsanto's patent Raj, Ajay Sahai, farmer UP | #Annaswaraj #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/kcha1eQfmj

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

.@drvandanashiva addressing a national farmers' protest meeting in New Delhi #Annaswaraj #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/YAF2BliDbE

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Categories: Ecological News

“The Vibrant New Sciences of Biodiversity”

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 10/24/2015 - 17:31

Interview with Dr Vandana Shiva — Digital Development Debates, 16 October 2015

Photo: “Little Sprouts are Sprouting” by Clint Mickel 2015 – licenced under Creative Commons Attribution (2.0)

Source: http://www.digital-development-debates.org/issue-16-food-farming–educated-eating–the-vibrant-new-sciences-of-biodiversity.html

Vandana Shiva is spearheading a global movement for biodiversity, agro-ecology and a new understanding of the soil. On occasion of World Food Day, we talked to her about the origins of her organisation Navdanya, current developments in Indian and global agriculture and the future of farming.

DDD: Dr. Shiva, reading about the founding of Navdanya and your transition from physics to the point of intersection between agriculture, the social sciences and activism that is your work now was really fascinating. Could you tell our readers a bit about the situation in India back in the 80s and 90s that inspired you to create Navdanya?

Vandana Shiva: 1984 was the year I really felt the compulsion, the ethical imperative to start looking at agriculture. It was the year of the Bhopal disaster where a pesticide plant leaked and killed thousands in one night and has killed many thousands since then. The same year we saw the rise of the insurgency in Punjab where a combination of farmer protests and other forms of extremism resulted in the Indian army going into the Golden Temple.

All the violence in Punjab forced me to sit up and take notice, mostly because I had completed my M.Sc. Honours in Particle Physics at Punjab University and I was used to a very peaceful Punjab. As you know, exactly a decade after I had finished my university studies there, Punjab exploded. It was the land of the Green Revolution that had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It made no sense to me that there was no peace in Punjab. I wondered, if this was about peace, why was there so much violence? What was the essence of the Green Revolution?



Categories: Ecological News

Pulses production: Taking care of consumers, leaving farmers in the lurch

Ground Reality - Sat, 10/24/2015 - 11:43

No sooner had the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declared that 36,000 tonnes of hoarded pulses had been seized in a nationwide crackdown, a loud chorus began defending hoarders and black marketers. Interestingly, the chorus is being led by the same group of mainline economists and trade bodies who have been on the forefront demanding dismantling of the APMC regulated markets so as to free the supply chain of the manipulative power of a cartel of wholesale traders.
This was on the expected lines. Whenever food prices are on an upswing, except when the blame can be easily pointed to APMC markets, there has always been an organized uproar against any crackdown on traders. The prevailing mindset is that it’s only the dhoti-kurtaclad arhtiya or middleman who is the problem. The suited-booted middlemen can do no wrong. In the case of pulses, it is mainly hoarding by the big retail and e-commerce and therefore the strong defense. Since there was no shortfall in the availability of pulses (domestic production plus imports) I see no other reason why the prices of pulses should have skyrocketed. The trade cannot be allowed to go untamed.
Imposing stock limits and ensuring no illegal hoarding takes place at any time of the year is an efficient administrative system that has to be permanently put in place. Although seen by many economists as simply a knee-jerk reaction, the ban on futures and forward trading in pulses that was imposed earlier by the government is a very sensible step. Futures in agricultural commodities have always been associated with flaring prices. It is primarily for this reason that a working group of chief ministers, led by then Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, had in a report submitted in 2011 called for banning futures trading of essential commodities to tame rising food prices.
Even during the 2007 global food crisis when 37 countries faced food riots, a report submitted by then Special Rapporteur on Right to Food to the UN Human Rights Council had blamed futures in farm commodities to have caused at least 70 per cent jump in global food prices that eventually led to an unprecedented food crisis.
Although the production of kharif pulses is expected to register a fall in view of the drought and early withdrawal of monsoon in the later stages of crop growth, I still don’t see any reason why the retail prices should not come down. Given that the private trade has already contracted for importing 2.5 million tonnes of pulses, which will be in retail stores latest by December, any shortfall in production will be adequately met from imports. If the government continues to use anti-hoarding laws effectively, and keeps an effective track of supplies, the open market prices can be easily brought down to last year’s level.
Instead of announcing imports as a panic reaction whenever food prices go up, which in turn sends international prices spiraling and makes imports expensive, the policy mechanism should aim at increasing domestic production and reducing imports. At the same time, since the common man’s dal – a primary source of protein – is an essential part of Indian diet, all efforts should be to enhance its domestic production so as to increase its per capita availability. With incomes being low, pulses remain the major source of a protein-rich diet for the poor and also the middle class. At present, the per capita availability of pulses hovers at 31.6 gram per day which is awfully low.
While the policy thrust should be to increase domestic production with the aim to raise the per capita availability to 100 grams per day in the years to come, I find the government is easily washing its hands from any such responsibility be merely creating a buffer stock of 40,000 tonnes of pulses to be purchased directly from farmers. This buffer stock will certainly address the problem of rising consumer prices but it doesn’t provide any succor to farmers to incentivize cultivation of pulses. Since a Price Stabilisation Fund is also a consumer subsidy it seems the effort is only to keep the consumers happy.
For its buffer stock, Centre will procure directly from farmers at a minimum support price (MSP). In other words, selective number of farmers will get a benefit of an assured procurement. The rest of the farmers will be left in the lurch to face the vagaries of the markets. This is rather unfair. What is needed is an assured procurement along with a high price for farmers if the government is to make any serious efforts to raise domestic production of pulses. #
After crackdown on traders, govt must raise prod of pulses. ABPLive. Oct 23, 2015.http://www.abplive.in/blog/after-crackdown-on-traders-govt-must-raise-prod-of-pulses
Categories: Ecological News

Vandana Shiva speaks at 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions – Inaugural Women’s Assembly

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 10/20/2015 - 20:56


Blessed to be on #shakti panel @InterfaithWorld w/ @marwilliamson, @drvandanashiva & incredible women! #FaithinWomen pic.twitter.com/S9TqBedUtF

— Sadhvi Bhagawati (@sadhvibhagawati) October 17, 2015

A act for the Mother Nature by @sadhvibhagawati @marwilliamson @drvandanashiva and Kiran Bali at @InterfaithWorld pic.twitter.com/T9LQ70QCs5

— Bhavya (@MeBhavya) October 17, 2015

Earthy, feminine Vandana Shiva @drvandanashiva inspiring us over & over again at the Parliament @InterfaithWorld pic.twitter.com/QrvREmnOzc

— JenniferJWilhoit PhD (@TEALarbor) October 16, 2015

"Food too is divine…the highest dharma is growing and giving food in abundance."- @drvandanashiva #2015Parliament pic.twitter.com/YZueKCaaBD

— श्रीदेव् Michael (@EmbodyLight) October 16, 2015

"Stop the panic about climate change. Save a seed. Plant a garden. This is the solution. This builds community." @drvandanashiva

— Festival of Faiths (@FestofFaiths) October 16, 2015

We produce more food by caring for the earth We produce more wealth by sharing @drvandanashiva #2015Parliament #FaithInWomen #WorldFoodDay

— NCIPL (@NCIPL) October 16, 2015

"I hope this day will go down in history as the day women put imperialism of corporate domination on notice" @drvandanashiva #2015Parliament

— MN IPL (@MNIPL) October 16, 2015

We produce more food by caring for the earth. We produce more wealth by sharing. @drvandanashiva #2015Parliament #FaithInWomen

— Rebecca Bateman (@whenshewasgood_) October 16, 2015

Competition has been made into a religion. It must go and be replaced by collaboration and cooperation. @drvandanashiva #2015Parliament

— Carolyn Klaasen (@cskpickles) October 16, 2015

Your true religion is to be one humanity. @drvandanashiva #FaithInWomen #2015Parliament @InterfaithWorld pic.twitter.com/B8DRSmEqIc

— Rebecca Bateman (@whenshewasgood_) October 16, 2015

Backstage at #2015Parliament women's plenary #FaithInWomen @drvandanashiva @marwilliamson @valariekaur @MotherMaya pic.twitter.com/ntaXz5b7qg

— The Parliament (@InterfaithWorld) October 16, 2015

2day @ 3:45 pm Exhibit Hall 3 @InterfaithWorld join @marwilliamson , @drvandanashiva #FaithInWomen #2015Parliament pic.twitter.com/5Zff5Wjobp

— Sadhvi Bhagawati (@sadhvibhagawati) October 16, 2015

"There is a duty to disobey unjust law." – Dr. Vandana Shiva #2015Parliament #FaithInWomen

— Shelby Williams (@fallingfaceup) October 15, 2015

Related Event

2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Salt Lake City UT, USA, 15 – 19 October 2015

Categories: Ecological News

Refusing to learn from past mistakes

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 10/20/2015 - 18:45

By Bharat Dogra — The Statesman, 17 October 2015

Source: http://www.thestatesman.com/news/opinion/refusing-to-learn-from-past-mistakes/97428.html

Massive crop losses have been caused by the white-fly to the cotton crop in Punjab. Most of these farmers had grown Bt cotton. Large-scale damage to cotton crop has also been reported from parts of Haryana and Rajasthan.

Genetically Modified crops like Bt cotton were supposed to offer protection from pests. Where is the protection as crops over huge areas are being destroyed? From the point of view of farmers it is not relevant whether ball worm destroys the crop or white-fly or some other pest. The farmer’s concern is that damage from pests should not be too high. He was promised that GM crops would give this protection. So he agreed to pay heavily for this. He borrowed at high interest rates for this. But now what he sees is that damage from pests is higher than before.

The farmer was told that this particular GM crop comes with built-in protection from certain pests. So he reasoned that his cost on expensive pesticides would be reduced. What he has actually experienced is that he had to spray more and more, time and again and yet the pest damage also increased. So the farmer feels badly cheated.

But is this experience confined only to the recent damage of Bt cotton crop? Gujarat is supposed to be the biggest success story of Bt cotton, but when this writer spoke some time back to several farmers in Gujarat who had grown Bt cotton for several years they said that while production was good in the initial years, later this crop ruined them as they had to spray pesticides countless times without getting rid of new pests. Earlier in Vidarbha (as now in Punjab) the losses associated with Bt cotton crops along with their much higher expenses had been linked to massive distress and suicides among farmers.

But this is not just the experience of a few regions of India. After examining all the evidence from various parts of world on GM crops this is what an eminent group of scientists from various countries who constitute the Independent Science Panel have said. “GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is now widely acknowledged to be unavoidable, and hence there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture. Most important of all, GM crops have not been proven safe. On the contrary, sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, that if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be firmly rejected now.”

Further this review said, “The consistent finding from independent research and on-farm surveys since 1999 is that genetically modified (GM) crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields or reducing herbicide and pesticide use. The instability of transgenic lines has plagued the industry from the beginning, and this may be responsible for a string of major crop failures.”

More recently 17 distinguished scientists from Europe, USA, Canada and New Zealand wrote to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning against “the unique risks (of GM crops) to food security, farming systems and bio-safety impacts which are ultimately irreversible.” This letter added, “The GM transformation process is highly mutagenic leading to disruptions to host plant genetic structure and function, which in turn leads to disturbances in the biochemistry of the plant. This can lead to novel toxin and allergen production as well as reduced/altered nutrition quality.”

This widely quoted letter added, “…The basic problem is that GM as employed in agriculture is conceptually flawed, crude, imprecise and poorly controlled technology, that is incapable of generating plants that contain the required multiple, co-ordinately regulated genes that work in an integrated way to respond to environmental challenges….

“…GM has not increased yield potential. Yields from GM crops to date have been no better and in the case of GM soya have been consistently lower..”..GM crops have led to vast increases in pesticide use, not decreases and therefore reduction of agricultural pollution cannot be claimed.”

In April 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a report “Failure to Yield” confirming that “after 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialisation, GM crops have failed to increase yields” and that “traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down”.

There are thus enough studies to confirm the worldwide experience of overall poor performance and new hazards of GM crops. Ignoring all this, at just the time when news of heavy damage to Bt cotton in Punjab poured in, high-level efforts were launched in Delhi to get the approval of a GM mustard variety. This attempt to push GM technology in food crops is even more dangerous due to the high health hazards.

In his widely acclaimed book ‘Genetic Roulette’ Jeffrey M. Smith has summarised the results of a lot of research on the health hazards of GM crops/food. “Lab animals tested with GM foods had stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshapen cell structures in the liver, pancreas, and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially astrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed brains and testicles, enlarged livers, pancreases, and intestines, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates, and higher offspring mortality.”

Even though a lot of scientific evidence on GM food crops was collected at the time of the wide debate on Bt-brinjal recently, unfortunately all these lessons are being unlearnt and the government appears to be going ahead with many GM crop trials with special emphasis on GM mustard crop. This is emerging as one of the biggest threats to agriculture, environment and health.

(The writer is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.)

Read more at http://www.thestatesman.com/news/opinion/refusing-to-learn-from-past-mistakes/97428.html#K7m3UVPH9quFAxjL.99

Related content

See: http://www.navdanya.org/blog/?p=2354

Categories: Ecological News

Where farmers go hungry. The story of Indian agriculture.

Ground Reality - Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:22

The monsoon season is over. With 14 per cent shortfall in the amount of rains, and with nearly 39 per cent of the cropped area in the country hit by a crippling drought, I was expecting the Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan to announce a series of monetary benefits and exemptions in credit repayments for farmers. Reeling under drought for the 2ndconsecutive year, farming continues to be faced with a terrible crisis. 
Instead, Raghuram Rajan completely ignored agriculture when he presented the monetary policy last week cutting commercial bank’s lending interest rates drastically. This move is expected to provide a boost to the markets and will also help banks tidy their balance sheet. Only a month back, the government had infused Rs 20,000- crores in the public sector banks to help improve their financial health. This is nothing but an economic bailout package for the banks. The cut in rep rate will also help reduce the monthly repayment installments for those who have sought loans for homes and cars. 
The continuing indifference towards 60-crore farmers does not stop here. The Government has through an affidavit in the Supreme Court made it abundantly clear that it is not in a position to raise Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops by providing 50 per cent profit as suggested by the Swaminathan committee. But the government didn’t wince even once when it released an additional 6 per cent DA installment to central government employees and that too at a time when the wholesale inflation rate is zero.  This will entail an additional expenditure of Rs 10, 879-crores every year. No questions have been asked as to from where will this amount come from. Twelve-lakh employees working with loss-making Indian railways will get a bonus equivalent to 78 days salary.
For the farmers, the increase in procurement price by Rs 50 per quintal in case of both wheat and rice constitutes only an increase of 3.25 per cent over what was paid to farmers last year. This is just half of one of the DA installments that the employees have been paid this year. As you know, employees get two DA installments every year. Even the retired soldiers have been promised one rank one pension after a long struggle, entailing an additional expenditure of Rs 8,500-crores every year. But when it comes to farmers, the government invariably comes up with an apology saying it has no money. The step-motherly treatment to farmers therefore is clearly evident. While the government does not miss any opportunity to assure farmers of its commitment, the fact remains that farmers are being treated as if they are the children of a lesser god.
In another few months, the much-awaited report of the 7thPay commission will be released. It is expected that the pay commission’s report will be implemented from January. The monthly salaries of central government employees and retirees will see a raise of 30 per cent in basic salary structure. This will bring in an additional burden of roughly Rs 2-lakh-crores for the central government. State government’s financial position will further buckle for the additional expenditure in wages for their employees. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has already assured the country that the huge burden of increased salaries will not be a fiscal constraint. His government is in a position to bear the additional cost. If this is true, I wonder why the government is unable to pay a higher MSP when it comes to farmers.
An Rs 100 per quintal increase in procurement price results in an additional expenditure of Rs 1,500-crore only. I see no reason why should the government express helplessness when it comes to farmers. For the farmers, such an increase in procurement prices will pull out millions of families from a virtual death trap. According to the latest socio-economic survey findings, 67-crore people in rural areas somehow survive on less than Rs 33 a day. Considering that a majority of the 70 per cent population living in rural areas comprises of farmers, the plight of farming community is clearly visible. Only the policy makers refuse to see it. Moreover, as per a study by the Chandigarh-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) the average farm debt has multiplied by 22 times in Punjab alone, the most progressive agricultural frontline state. From Rs 0.25 lakh per household in 2004 it has gone up to Rs 5.6 lakh in 2014. It is however Chhattisgarh which tops the chart with an average debt of Rs 7.54 lakh followed by Kerala with Rs 6.48 lakh per household. Punjab figures at number three. About 98 per cent of the rural households are in a debt in Punjab.
The serial death dance continues unabated throughout the country. A record number of farmers have committed suicide in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Marathwada and Vidharba in Maharashtra, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. This year, since the beginning of January, ever thing appears to have gone wrong for farmers. First, the incessant rains and hailstorm hit standing crops at the ripening stage in the months of April-May. This was followed by drought in the months of August-September. In addition, more than Rs 10,000-crore of arrears remain unpaid to sugarcane growers; potato farmers were forced to distribute potato free of cost to the public; a severe attack of whitefly post on cotton devastated standing crop in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and on top of it the slump in commodity prices globally has hit farmers of basmati rice, soybean, coffee, cotton and milk is expected to be the next casualty of the falling global prices.
Such is the depressing scenario that a major national newspaper has launched a drive to collect food for the annadata in Marathwada. Since January, more than 660 farmers have officially committed suicide in Marathwada alone prompting the newspaper to make an appeal. Imagine how bad the situation must be when food is being collected for those who produce food for the country. But for the government, it doesn’t matter. The death dance in the countryside doesn’t make any difference. When the report of the 7th Pay Commission is implemented, the GDP is expected to rise by about 2 per cent. The government will then project GDP growth as its achievement.
I have nothing against government employees. Please give them a higher salary, and also increased allowances that comes along with the pay package. But why discriminate against farmers? They too are citizens of an Independent India. They too have families to take care of. They too need a living income to survive. Two steps therefore need to be taken urgently: 1) Provide immediately an economic bailout package for farmers. If banks can be provided with a bailout package of Rs 20,000-crore and all kinds of sops be given the industry, including for exports, there is no reason why farmers cannot be given an economic bailout package of at least Rs 3-lakh-crores.  2) Set up a Farmers Income Commission that works out the minimum assured monthly take home income package. If it is proposed to give a chaprasi a monthly salary of Rs 29,000 under the 7th Pay Commission, I see no reason why farmers should earn less than the prescribed wages for daily wager workers. #
Categories: Ecological News

On World Food Day, Celebrating the Power of Regenerative Organic Farming

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 10/17/2015 - 18:27

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer — Common Dreams, 16 October 2015

We have good peer-reviewed science showing the scaling up of regenerative organic agriculture can reverse climate change, end the loss of biodiversity, stop the poisoning of our children and planet and very importantly, nourish all people with high quality food,” says Andre Leu, president of IFOAM Organics International. (Photo: via Regeneration Intl)

Source: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/10/16/world-food-day-celebrating-power-regenerative-organic-farming

‘Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society.’

As environmentalists, humanitarians, and farmers from around the globe celebrate the 35th annual World Food Day on Friday, sustainability advocates are heralding the capacity of organic regenerative agriculture and agroecology to address wide-ranging challenges from climate change to public health to hunger.

“On this World Food Day we face two interlinked planetary challenges: to produce enough food for all people and to sequester enough carbon in the soil to reverse climate change,” said Tom Newmark, co-founder of The Carbon Underground, on Friday.

Newmark made his statements at a Washington, D.C. press conference hosted by the nonprofit organization Regeneration International and featuring a panel of 10 international experts on organic agriculture, carbon sequestration, and world hunger.

“There is one solution for those challenges: regenerative organic agriculture,” he continued. “We can no longer afford to rely on chemical farming, as the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides has destroyed soils worldwide and rendered them unable to rebuild soil organic matter.”

What’s more, as author, activist, and panel participant Vandana Shiva wrote in an op-ed on Friday, “For all the destruction it causes, the industrial food system produces only 30% of the food eaten by people. If we continue, we will soon have a dead planet and no food.”

However, she pointed to “another road to food security. The road that was abandoned by research institutes and governments under the influence of giant chemical corporations (now seed and Biotechnology Corporations). This is the road of agroecology and small scale farming, which still produce 70% of the food.”


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Small-Scale Farmers Cool the Planet

By Fair World Project

Published on 6 Apr 2015

Fair World Project: “Small-Scale Farmers Cool the Planet.” A 17-minute documentary highlighting the role of industrial agriculture in climate change while expounding on how small farmers are combating the climate crisis through regenerative organic agriculture.

On #WorldFoodDay, Celebrating the Power of #RegenerativeOrganic Farming http://t.co/sRQ5NjIXMK #CoolthePlanet pic.twitter.com/onhp1FcNsY

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 17, 2015

Categories: Ecological News

Monsanto locks horns with licencee companies over royalty payments

Navdanya Diary - Sat, 10/17/2015 - 04:36

By Harish Damodaran – The Indian Express, 16 October 2015

Photo source: https://amcmullin.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/why-india/

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/monsanto-locks-horns-with-licencee-companies-over-royalty-payments/

In a dispute that could have larger implications for technology licencing agreements involving multinationals, Monsanto has taken nine domestic seed firms to court for non-payment of ‘trait fee’ on use of its proprietary Bollgard-II Bt (BG-II) knowhow in the cotton hybrids sold by them.

The US life sciences giant has claimed that these companies — including Nuziveedu Seeds, Kaveri Seeds, Ajeet Seeds, Ankur Seeds and Rasi Seeds — owe Rs 425-450 crore of trait fees to its 50 per cent-owned subsidiary Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB), the official Indian licencee for BG-II technology. The due amounts are mainly on sales of genetically modified cotton seeds — incorporating the patented technology conferring bollworm pest resistance — during the recent kharif planting season.

According to Monsanto, the technology licencing agreement executed between MMB and the individual companies requires them to pay a trait fee of Rs 163.28 plus applicable taxes on every seed packet attracting a maximum retail price (MRP) of up to Rs 930. The trait value is more in case of higher MRPs.


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Categories: Ecological News

Which Future of Food and Farming

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 07:06
Reflections on World Food Day 16th October 2015 By Dr Vandana Shiva

World Food Day, 16th October 2015 — During the last half century agriculture and food systems lost their way, in the darkness and fog created by myths and propaganda created by corporations that made chemical for the war, that poisons and synthetic chemicals are necessary to feed the world. For the industry it was a matter of extending their sources of profits long after the war was over. For the planet and people, the costs have been very high. 75% of the earth’s biodiversity, soils, water has been destroyed, the climate has been destabilized, farmers have been uprooted, and instead of nourishing us, industrial food has become the biggest cause of disease and ill health.

And after all that destruction, the industrial systems produces only 30% of the food eaten by people. If we travel further down that road, we will have a dead planet, and no food.
We do not eat propaganda. We eat soil, we eat water, we eat biodiversity. And when these vital resources are destroyed, our food security is destroyed.

But there is another road to food security. The road that was abandoned by research institutes and governments under the influence of giant chemical corporations, which are now also the biotechnology and seed corporations. This is the road of agroecology. This is the road with small farms which still produce 70% of the food in spite of a century of a war against small farms. This is the road that rejuvenates our soil and biodiversity and water, that stabilizes the climate, that produces health and well being. It is not a road less travelled when looked from the perspective that most people in the world are small farmers, that small farms produce most of the food we eat.
It is only less travelled in the dominant paradigm, in the world created by corporations, and the poisons and GMOs they sell.

Good farming which produces good food is based on the care of the soil, on the intensification of biodiversity and ecological processes. An industrial model of food production is neither efficient nor sustainable. It is not efficient because it uses ten units of inputs, largely fossil fuel based, to produce one unit of food. This is why it is destroying ecosystems and the planet, as well as creative, meaningful and dignified work in agriculture. This is why it is not sustainable. It eats into the ecological foundations of agriculture.

Even tough the evidence is clear that ecological farming produces more and better food, using fewer resources, and rejuvenating the soil, biodiversity and water that it uses, corporations continue to fog our thinking about the future of food and farming with new propaganda and new spin –“sustainable intensification”, “smart agriculture”, “climate smart agriculture”.

This is spin, because dependence on chemicals and poisons and GMOs is ecologically and economically non sustainable. It is ecologically non sustainable because it is destroying soil integrity and soil fertility. Any agriculture system that destroys fertile soils is non sustainable because soil is the foundation of agriculture. Contrary to PR claims, industrial monocultures use more land to produce less food, and bad food. They produce nutritionally empty commodities, most of which goes to biofuel and animal feed. Only 10% of the corn and soya is used directly as human food. This is not a food system.

It is also economically non-sustainable because it is based on 10 times more costs of inputs such as chemicals fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and GMO and nonrenewable seeds than farms can earn from what they produce. It is designed to trap farms in debt, remove them from the land and appropriate their assets. And it is not working. An example is the failure of 2/3 of the Bt cotton in Punjab with the attack of white fly, and 15 farmers being driven to suicide. http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Whitefly-destroys-2/3rd-of-Punjabs-cotton-crop-15-farmers-commit-suicide/articleshow/49265083.cms

“Pesticides and GMO Bt Cotton were supposed to control pests. Instead they have created new pest epidemics never seen before. Pesticides and Bt are pest creating technologies, not pest control technologies.
They have failed to do what they were supposed to do.

Organic farming is the alternative that gets rid of poisons and pests. On our recent Soil Pilgrimage we saw fields of desi organic cotton totally pest free.

The Punjab experience of failure of Bt should help in the transition to an Organic India 2020.
And it should stop the insane proposal of putting Bt in straight varieties.
It is insanity to put pest creating traits in resilient native varieties.
Poisons are poisons. And they are not controlling pests.

Chemical intensive, external input intensive, capital intensive agriculture is “non sustainable intensification”, not “sustainable intensification” because it is cannibalizing the land and the farmer.

What is being referred to as “Smart Agriculture” and “Climate Smart Agriculture” is designed to make farmers and society dumb by giving up their intelligence, their knowledge, their skills, and buy “data” which becomes yet another external input leading to more dependence on corporations, more control by corporations, and more failures in agriculture. Data controlled by distant, centralized systems is not the intimate knowledge of the soil, of the biodiversity, of farm animals that an ecological farmer has. Big data is “Information Obesity”, not knowledge, not intelligence, which are living participatory processes. “Climate Smart Agriculture” is actually “Climate Dumb Agriculture” It is the next step on the wrong road, the road that leads to guaranteed destruction of the earth and society. And the dumbness is evident in Monsanto’s failing fortunes. Beyond a point, spin and bullying cannot sustain a business. http://www.activistpost.com/2015/10/5-reasons-monsanto-is-crashing-and-burning.html

‘Climate Smart Agriculture’, and genetically modified crops based on seeds pirated from third world peasants. As I have written in Soil, not Oil, 40% of the Green House Gas emissions come from an industrialized, globalized model of agriculture. Having contributed to the creation of the crisis, corporations who have profited from industrial agriculture are attempting to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity to control climate resilient seeds and climate data, while attempting to criminalise Climate Resilient, Organic Agriculture. Monsanto now owns the world’s biggest climate data corporation and soil data corporation. Armed with proprietary big data, Monsanto is ready to profit from the crisis, the worse it gets the better it is for Monsanto; mitigating the crisis would not be profitable to climate deniers like Monsanto.

1500 patents on Climate Resilient crops have been taken by corporations like Monsanto. Navdanya/Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, have published the list in the report “Biopiracy of Climate Resilient Crops: Gene Giants Steal Farmers Innovation”. With these very broad patents, corporations like Monsanto can prevent access to climate resilient seeds in the aftermath of climate disasters through patents – which grant an exclusive right to produce, distribute, sell the patented product. Climate resilient traits are not created through genetic engineering, they are pirated from seeds farmers have evolved over generations. For thousands of years farmers, especially women, have evolved and bred seed – freely in partnership with each other and with nature, to further increase the diversity of that which nature has given us and adapt it to the needs of different cultures.

Biodiversity and cultural diversity have mutually shaped one another over time. Along coastal areas, farmers have evolved flood tolerant and salt tolerant varieties of rice – such as “Bhundi”, “Kalambank”, “Lunabakada”, “Sankarchin”, “Nalidhulia”, “Ravana”,”Seulapuni”,”Dhosarakhuda”. After the Orissa Supercyclone Navdanya could distribute 2 trucks of salt tolerant rices to farmers because we had conserved them as a commons in our community seed bank run by Kusum Mishra and Dr Ashok Panigrahi in Balasore, Orissa.

Every seed is an embodiment of millennia of nature’s evolution and centuries of farmers’ breeding. It is the distilled expression of the intelligence of the earth and intelligence of farming communities. Farmers have bred seeds for diversity, resilience, taste, nutrition, health, and adaption to local agro-ecosystems. In times of climate change we need the biodiversity of farmers varieties to adapt and evolve. Climate extremes are being experienced through more frequent and intense cyclones which bring salt water to the land. For resilience to cyclones we need salt tolerant varieties, and we need them in the commons.

The Intelligent, responsible road to the future of food and farming is based on the deep awareness that the earth the farmers, and all people are intelligent, and we grow food sustainably through care for the soil and the seed, not through exploitation and privatization.

If we can look through the fog of PR, we can find our way to the road that will ensure we rejuvenate the planet, we regenerate the soil, and we ensure the well being of all.

The road to food security is #agroecology & small farms http://t.co/Tx7rbgtvC3 @drvandanashiva #WorldFoodDay pic.twitter.com/cwjlUjlTmk

— Regeneration Intl. (@regen_intl) October 15, 2015

Categories: Ecological News

Punjab whitefly epidemic: We need a new agriculture policy

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 06:58

By Dr Vandana Shiva — The Indian Express, 15 October 2015

Farmers harvest cotton in a field in Nana Viramgam village in Gujarat February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/punjab-whitefly-epidemic-we-need-a-new-agricultural-policy/

Instead of having to ask farmers to withdraw their agitation, CM Parkash Singh Badal should create conditions that they do not have to agitate.

When we became independent, Punjab was the most prosperous agricultural state, with five rivers, fertile soils, proud and hard working farmer cultivators.

Unlike the East, where Zamindari had turned the cultivators into landless peasants ,exploited by the zamindar on behalf of the British Empire, in the North Western Provinces, farmers movements had fought for farmers rights. Sir Chotu Ram as governor had passed the Land alienation Act, which protected the farmers land, home and cattle from alienation for debt. Preventing debt induced land alienation kept land in the hands of farmers. This was the secret to Punjab’s prosperity.

First the Green Revolution, and now the 2nd Green Revolution (GM crops like Bt cotton) have exploited the land and farmers of Punjab . I wrote my book ‘The violence of the Green Revolution’ for the United Nations University after the 1984 violence to understand why the green revolution, which had been given a Nobel Prize for Peace, had created conditions of violence in Punjab.

The reasons are clear. Punjab’s agriculture has been reduced to a market for chemical corporations, which are now the seed corporations. High cost seeds and chemicals are a recipe for debt creation. This is the first aspect of the agrarian crisis in Punjab today. Chemical agriculture is also very water intensive. It also reduces the capacity of the soil to hold water and needs more irrigation. It destroys soil fertility by destroying soil organisms which makes soil fertile. There are no earthworms, no mycorrhizal fungi that make humus. Punjab soil is degraded and dying. When soils die, they take with them the prosperity of society.

External inputs in agriculture also converts agriculture into a monoculture. Today, the government is failing to procure rice and wheat from Punjab farmers at MSP. And the invasion of GM Bt cotton has made the crisis worse.

A whitefly epidemic has devastated 60 per cent of the Bt cotton crop in Punjab and farmers have used 10-12 sprays, each costing Rs 3,200. In addition, there is the high cost of Bt seeds sold by Monsanto Mahyco. In Maharashtra, Haryana, and Punjab, farmers growing non Bt desi cotton have not been impacted by pests like Bt cotton has. Organic farmers in Punjab, too, had no whitefly attack.

A scientific approach to what is happening in Punjab would draw the inference that pesticides and Bt are creating pests, while non Bt seeds and organic practices are controlling them.

The second step would be to identify the ecological processes that create pests in Bt crops, and in fields using heavy doses of pesticides.

The third scientifically enlightened step would be to promote effective and sustainable pest control technologies such as ecological agriculture, and stop pushing failed and costly technologies like Bt and pesticides.

Ecological science teaches us that pests are created by industrial agriculture through the following processes.

* Promotion of monocultures

* Chemical fertilization of crops which makes plants more vulnerable to pests

* Emergence of resistance in pests by spraying of pesticides

* Killing of friendly species which control pests and disruption of pest-predator balance

* GMO Bt cotton which is engineered to produce a Bt toxin in every cell of the plant all the time, makes the plant vulnerable to attack by non target insects.

Bt. crops are not an alternative to these pest creating systems. They are a continuation of a non-sustainable strategy for pest control which instead of controlling pests creates new pests and super pests. Monsanto advertised that Bt cotton would not need pesticide sprays. The primary justification given for the genetic engineering of Bt traits into crops is that Bt will reduce the use of insecticides.

A Monsanto brochure showed a picture of a few worms and stated – “You will see these in your cotton and that’s O.K. Don’t spray” Even today, Monsanto apologists claim that Bt has reduced pesticide sprays. The Punjab devastation shows this is not true.

Jarnail Singh, 45, uprooting his failed Bt Cotton crop in Bhatinda | Loss: Rs 150000 | #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/R9GrnB8t6K

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Bt crops are pesticide-producing plants that are supposed to control pests. In the US, where Bt technology is from, Bt crops are registered as a pesticide.

Genetically engineered Bt. crops are being touted as a sustainable pest control strategy. However, the Bt. crops are neither effective nor ecologically sustainable.

Instead of controlling pests, Bt crops are creating pests, as is evident from the outbreak of whitefly which destroyed more than 80 per cent of the Bt cotton crop in 2015.

Since Bt was introduced in India, pests that had historically never affected non Bt cotton have become major cotton pests. Massive outbreaks of aphids, jassids, army bugs, mealy bugs have compelled farmers to use more pesticides than before. When I sued Monsanto in 1999 for its illegal introduction of Bt cotton into India without the mandatory approval from the GEAC, the data from the open field trials that they were compelled to submit to Supreme Court revealed that even at trial stage Bt was increasing aphids and jassids by 300 per cent.

Given that science informs us Bt crops create pests, the government should immediately ban Bt cotton which is killing our biodiversity and our farmers. The No objection to GMO field trials that the Punjab government has given should be withdrawn.

Instead of having to ask farmers to withdraw their agitation, CM Badal should create conditions that they do not have to agitate. The government should demand compensation from the company which misled farmers, trapped them in debt through crop failure, and high costs of seeds and pesticides.

Punjab needs to move from monocultures that create pests, to mixtures that control pests. Next year is the year of pulses. Punjab should initiate a programme to reintroduce growing pulses as mixtures with cereals. Pulses fix nitrogen and reduce the use of urea. They also provide more nutrition, and will increase farmers incomes.

The government should promote agroecology which produces more food with no external inputs, and reduces farmers debt to zero. The Punjab agricultural University should immediately start a program on Agroecology.

The government should enact a land alienation law like the one passed by Sir Chotu Ram. Next year is Sir Chotu Rams’ birth centennial. It would be a good way to remember and honour him and return Punjab to its glory.

– Dr Shiva is a trained physicist, author and an environmental activist. She serves on the board of International Forum on Globalization. Views expressed are personal.

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Categories: Ecological News

Battered by natural calamities, the market and an apathetic state, Punjab's farmers are up in arms.

Ground Reality - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 12:37

                                                                                                                                                    Pic: ICD/CatchNews
Farming in Punjab, the country’s food bowl, is bleeding. Bruised by the continuous battering received since the beginning of this year, irate farmers are up in arms.
First, they held protests in the front of the offices of the district administration. When the district level protests failed to evoke any response, they sat on a dharna for several days demanding a higher compensation for the damaged cotton crop, a minimum support price for basmati rice whose open market prices had crashed and a high relief package for the kin of those who committed suicide. With the talks failing with the Punjab Government, farmers have decided to continue with the agitation. 
Their anger was building up for quite some time. First, unseasonal rains accompanied by hailstorm in the months of April-May had flattened the standing wheat. A large number of farmer suicides were reports with many farmers dying of shock after looking at the extent of damage caused. This was followed by a crash in potato prices forcing farmers to distribute potato free of cost at various places. The prices of basmati rice were the next to slump, with farmers not being able to get more than Rs 1,200 per quintal for the early maturing variety. Two years earlier, basmati had fetched a handsome return of Rs 4,000 per quintal or more. 
And as if this is not enough, whitefly, a tiny insect, which was till recently considered a minor pest, took a devastating form to devour nearly 75 per cent of the standing cotton crop. Much of the damage was on Bt cotton, the genetically-modified strain. As expected, the desi varieties had escaped the whitefly attack.    
Punjab had announced a maximum compensation of Rs 644-crore, which comes to Rs 8,000 per acre for those whose cotton crop has been ravaged by the insect. Farmers are demanding a higher compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre, and Rs 20,000 for agricultural labourers working on the fields. 
The Times of India (Oct 8, 2015) estimates the total loss in cotton in Punjab to be around Rs 4,200-crore. Whitefly damage has also led to 17 farmer suicides in Punjab till the time of going into press. In neighbouring Haryana, at least 10 farmers have died and the loss exceeds Rs 1500-crore.
What fuelled the crisis was a blame game that followed. As it normally happens, agriculture scientists first tried to blame the farmers and then blamed the agriculture department. Punjab Agricultural University Vice Chancellor B S Dhillon went on to say that the insect attack went virulent because farmers did not spray the crop with the recommended pesticides, and neither did they follow the right instructions. This infuriated the farmers, who wooed him off the stage at two kisan melas held in Bathinda district and later at the PAU campus in Ludhiana. Later, irate farmers took over the control of the stage at another kisan mela in Gurdaspur.
Meanwhile, Dr M S Sandhu, then director of agriculture said that the whitefly pest had intruded into Punjab from Pakistan, and some senior officers blamed farmers for spraying plants with tractor-loaded sprays which should have actually been done from root upwards. Director of Agriculture was later arrested for his role in an Rs 33-crore pesticides scam, which is nothing but a tip of the iceberg. Later, when the state government went cracking, pesticides dealers are on the run and many have reportedly been throwing fake and expired pesticides and fertilizer containers in the Indira Gandhi canal. This shows how flourishing the trade in spurious fertilizer and pesticides has been all these years.
This is not the first time when Punjab has been plagued by spurious, fake and sub-standard pesticides and fertilizers. Just because the media is no longer into an investigating mode, such cases have largely gone unreported. I myself had reported a number of scandals in Indian Express at a time when I worked as its Agriculture Correspondent. This was in the 1980s, and I still remember reporting how blue ink was being sold as a pesticide for spray on cotton. Powdered chalk was sold as DDT to be used in malaria eradication programme. Water was sprayed to control aphid attack on cotton, mud being sold as fertilizer, and so on. 
Such has been the rampant adulteration of farm inputs that the police have so far booked 18 pesticide firms in Ferozepore district alone. Many senior officials in agriculture department are now under the scanner. Fearing arrest, a large number of agricultural officials have proceeded on leave. The demand for the resignation of the Agriculture Minister Total Singh for his alleged involvement in the pesticides scam is building up.
The unprecedented turmoil on the farm has however failed to throw up any lessons. While PAU vice-chancellor still talks of the need to continue with intensive farming practices, I find the State Government has been toying with the idea of bi-furcating the department of agriculture to form a separate directorate for plant protection. Unfortunately, what is not being understood is that continuing with business as usual is not the way ahead. More of the same, which means more application of chemical pesticides, is only going to push farmers deeper and deeper into a chakravyuah. Instead of waiting for another pest to play havoc, I had expected scientists and policy planners to look for sustainable practices that reduce the dependence on chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Cotton alone consumes more than 50 per cent of the chemical pesticides sprayed on cotton in Punjab. It is primarily for the excessive use and abuse of chemical pesticides that the cotton-belt of Punjab is emerging as a cancer hotspot. A passenger train from Ferozepur to Bikaner is popularly being called as Cancer train as it ferries cancer patients to and fro. Such is growing incidence of the deadly disease that nowadays a number of cancer jeeps too operate from Bathinda.
The answer lies in a biological method of crop protection perfected by women farmers in Nidana village in Jind district in Haryana. Hundreds of acres of cotton spread over nearly 18 villages in and around Nidana have not been affected at all by the whitefly pest. Farmers do not spray chemical pesticides and have been using benign insects to control pests. While a large number of villages are inviting these women farmers for workshop and learning exercises, PAU agricultural scientists are not willing to learn from poor farmers. Probably they feel ashamed to learn from farmers. Sooner or later, cotton farmers will have to adopt the Nidana technique to get out of the pesticides treadmill.
Secondly, continuing farmers protest may get them a higher compensation package for crop damage. But this will not address the fundamental crisis afflicting agriculture. Farmers are being deliberately kept impoverished so as to make available cheaper food to the consumers and provide cheaper raw material for the industry. Farmers should therefore be demanding an assured minimum monthly income package that insulates them from the uncertainty that continues to grip farming. A Farmers Income Commission is the crying need. Otherwise I will not be surprised if you find farmers back on the streets every now and then. #
On their watch: The State and scientists are to blame for Punjab's farm crisis. Catch News. Oct 14, 2015. http://www.catchnews.com/india-news/on-their-watch-the-state-scientists-are-to-blame-for-punjab-s-farm-crisis-1444745017.html
Categories: Ecological News

#FarmersLivesMatter Campaign Highlights

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 23:25

Articles – Related Content – Press Coverage Reuters Articles


.@drvandanashiva at farmers' protest at Jantar Mantar,Delhi for #Annaswaraj | #Farmerlivesmatter #Organic #noGMO pic.twitter.com/eaxCbof2Ie

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

In India largest num of ppl are farmer, yet why are we the most ignored? Y are we only forced to commit suicide? pic.twitter.com/b3wcYOxdxb

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

This is the spine of all freedom, I spin to keep Gandhi alive, Satchintananda, Aligarh | #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/leWW73ynKN

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

We are hurt, but not broken, long live the farmers! Himanshu, Haryana | #Farmerslivesmatter #Annaswaraj pic.twitter.com/vWabsOVKNl

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Rural debt & suicides are rising, while agro-chemical corps r looting Gandhi's India @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/3xJ84UKjb8

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Why do we starve & commit suicide while seed CEOs feast? Raj Kishore, farmer Orissa #Farmerslivesmatter #Annaswaraj pic.twitter.com/e8OWbceyjo

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

Seeds are made by plants, reject Monsanto's patent Raj, Ajay Sahai, farmer UP | #Annaswaraj #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/kcha1eQfmj

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

.@drvandanashiva addressing a national farmers' protest meeting in New Delhi #Annaswaraj #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/YAF2BliDbE

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 29, 2015

WATCH NOW! #Farmerslivesmatter first video from Punjab https://t.co/BdOGZ8hiAq @drvandanashiva @NavdanyaBija pic.twitter.com/XtxpzuskL7

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 22, 2015

#Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva Down with Bt cotton, that has our farmers in debt and #PunjabBurning again. https://t.co/97Q3FIAGjM

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 20, 2015

Students at JNU shout, “Free our seeds, care for r farmers’ needs,” #NoGMOs #Farmerslivesmatter @NavdanyaBija pic.twitter.com/JSbfUtBQ3H

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 19, 2015

Let not another harvest suffer due to Monsanto, give r farmers local seeds and a happy Divaali | #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/9ixPUdkzGc

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 19, 2015

If young people don't think #Farmerslivesmatter what future does India have? echoes JNU | #WFD2015 #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/7bR8IIy72w

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

No Food w/o our farmers, we will make #Farmerslivesmatter now | Pledge 4 #WFD2015 @drvandanashiva #NoGMOs #Organic pic.twitter.com/pJGihyHm58

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

Make Monsanto pay for the Punjab disaster, voices from JNU #WFS2015 coz #Farmerslivesmatter | #NoGMOs #savefood pic.twitter.com/GT02CtI6N8

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

JNU students on #WFD2015 stand for Bt Cotton victims of Punjab coz #Farmerslivesmatter with Dr Mira Shiva | #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/p7FacpoCsD

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

#WFD2015 Celebrations @NavdanyaBija Dr Mira Shiva gifting books to the JNU library | #NoGMOs @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/kUtkFMU7AR

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

Instead of nourishing us, industrial food has become the biggest cause of disease and ill-health.  http://t.co/3sH1N6thpx @drvandanashiva

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

Dehradun Women farmers, stand together on #WFD2015 for Bt Cotton growers in Punjab coz #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/Dqvr7qjKno

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 16, 2015

UpdatePunjab: Police spray peaceful Bt cotton protestors with bullets, 3 reported dead, Media gaged #Farmerslivesmatter ? @drvandanashiva

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 15, 2015

Punjab whitefly epidemic: We need a new agriculture policy https://t.co/Z9nsC3rEcD via @sharethis @drvandanashiva #Farmerslivesmatter

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 15, 2015

I am toxic to pests, cancerous to humans, weave & wear me, I may be your doom-Love Bt Cotton #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/6I0irJJVTP

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 15, 2015

Our soil has been given cancer & crops disease. Bt forcing us off our fields – H Singh | #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/IIV7lOmiOl

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Seed salesman now control our agriculture, not wise elders-Harjeet Singh,Farmer|#Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/qbS68OuiFz

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

#Organic crops untouched by pests in Punjab pic.twitter.com/pU3Im6OO1S

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

4 farmers commit suicide daily, not even 2 are reported in Punjab coz of #GMOs #Farmerslivesmatter but not for the 1% pic.twitter.com/DLjc3yG0LK

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Scenes from Bt cotton growers protest at Mansa railway station,Bhatinda | #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs @occupytheseed pic.twitter.com/IJi9PyheXo

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Make the culprits pay- Rampura protests #Monsanto #BtCotton #Farmerslivesmatter | Bhatinda #NoGMO @occupytheseed pic.twitter.com/ts9NJ8Q9tH

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Take a look at destroyed Bt Cotton plants in Bhatinda, Punjab | #NoGMOs #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/UaoHdRX9Kz

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Jarnail Singh, 45, uprooting his failed Bt Cotton crop in Bhatinda | Loss: Rs 150000 | #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/R9GrnB8t6K

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

No compensation or work, where did our rights go? #NoGMOs Women cotton pluckers, Mehta, Punjab |#FarmersLivesmatter pic.twitter.com/iXGztiip30

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Unaffected by pests, healthy local varieties of cotton ready for harvest in Bhatinda | #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/VgjTPuX3iA

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Indian railways lodges complaints against 800 farmers in Punjab for approx. losses of 6000 crore | @occupytheseed #farmerslivesmatter

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Punjab update: Bhatinda farmers now plan occupy roads in protest, against Bt Cotton crop failure | #farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 14, 2015

Kill us or treat us as humans, Harpreet & Balinder Kaur,blocking Rampura station #FarmersLivesMatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/d0iUhhLqI3

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Someone save our children from Bt Cotton & debt, take our lives but spare them Mothers of Mansa #farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/Sbrp4OqCAk

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

They sell us poisons & charge for cures. Govts bleeds us,we have nowhere to go, Farmers of Mansa #farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/D34Bqtfezv

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Why introduce Bt Cotton, when they need 10 chemical sprays each season? Iqbal Singh, Punjab | #farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/eN2GHuHwDd

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Punjab, dare to take the road not taken? #GoOrganic #NoBtCotton coz #Farmerslivesmatter #saveseeds #Annaswaraj pic.twitter.com/En1hFP3VJN

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

I grow well in labs not Punjab – Bt cotton | 1.2 mill acres of GMO cotton lost #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/2U4zBO5FV4

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Cottonless & debt ridden, Bhatinda farmers make rail tracks their home | #FarmersLivesMatter #NoGMOs @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/gWqups9YFB

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

300+ farmers, destroyed by Monsanto's Bt cotton, demand compensation at Rampura | #Farmerslivesmatter @occupytheseed pic.twitter.com/TAljueo8VH

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Amarjeet Singh,acres:5, seeds:desi cotton, organic harvest:3000 kg, loss:0% | #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/8KIs9Imvcp

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the nastiest of them all? #Glyphosate #Pesticides #Punjab #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/vlN7vakFGv

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Why did Monsanto-Bayer lie? Was it to steal our Divaali? | #famerslivesmatter #NoGMOs @occupytheseed #Punjab pic.twitter.com/GdQTBGUJsj

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Warning:"Poison dipped Bt cotton seeds" sowing misery in Bhatinda since 2005 | #Farmerslivesmatter @occupytheseed pic.twitter.com/j40EnQzVzi

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

The new insurgent in Punjab, the whitefly | #farmerslivesmatter @NavdanyaBija #nobtcotton #noGMOs pic.twitter.com/5yYKuLDd03

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 13, 2015

Only Cotton farmer in Karamgarh,Bhatinda unaffected by whitefly | #Organic #Localseeds #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/LEIizO4svb

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

What happens to soil after a Bt Cotton harvest? Lifeless empty matter | #farmerslivesmatter @NavdanyaBija #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/IEl64WRXLY

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

Healthy soil from organic cotton fields in Bhatinda | #GoOrganic #Farmerslivesmatter @THProj @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/7b2jsYOdKw

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

Desi cotton, w/o pesticides or chemical additives, blooming in Bhatinda | @drvandanashiva #farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/FAlLnHZfpP

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

Glyphosate-Triazophos-Thiamethoxam-Pyriproxifen together couldn't save this BtCotton field @NavdanyaBija #NoGMOs pic.twitter.com/Xs49oObqOg

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

Who stole our cotton harvest, it wasn't just the whitefly | #Monsanto #BtCotton #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/JFG65iDrmU

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

Pesticide sprayed since July to "save" his Bt cotton field in Bhatinda | #NoGMO #farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/bPTMkJAQnO

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 12, 2015

Let us pledge, never to let them reap a harvest of death, #NoBtcotton | #NoGMOs #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/W8CS04porr

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

'Digital India later, we want Farmers' India now' shouts Bhatinda | #Farmerslivesmatter @NavdanyaBija @narendramodi pic.twitter.com/TGfJOOqFMr

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Children stand for a better GMO free Punjab | No to Bt Cotton, @Stop_Monsanto | #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/k1GRz5hds8

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Women of Bhatinda, have been sleeping on rail tracks for 5 days | @NavdanyaBija #Farmerslivesmatter #NoGMO #justice pic.twitter.com/kt0UukThSg

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Farmers are also human beings, India needs to known now that #Farmerslivesmatter Tejinder Singh, 66 @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/SRcibdxYXh

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Farmer Jagpreet Singh,55, blocking Bhatinda train tracks because #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva @PSainath_org pic.twitter.com/LmaeUZOxUT

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Whitefly devours heavily sprayed crops Bt cotton in Bhatinda | #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva @NavdanyaBija pic.twitter.com/kMAvNEwG3g

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Our children need food, not Bt cotton, Gurmeet Singh, cotton farmer of Bathinda. #NoGMOs #Annaswaraj pic.twitter.com/6DmBgQ2QMb

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Kuldeep Singh, 68, Bathinda, has lost 5 acres of Bt cotton over night #NoGMOs #Farmerslivesmatter @drvandanashiva pic.twitter.com/OmxMD6r35C

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Hardeep Singh,25, Singhvala, reaps the Bt cotton of despair. Demands justice and freedom from GMOs pic.twitter.com/KXpnyWJjW5

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015

Btcotton leaves destroyed by whitefly in Bathinda, farmers protest at Parthala station @drvandanashiva #noGMO pic.twitter.com/eYQ0ZJLxe5

— Indra Shekhar Singh (@IndraSsingh) October 11, 2015


#FarmersLivesMatter stop #FarmersSuicides make Ag #Pesticide & #GMOfree & #debtfree https://t.co/7sMtnfBJeg @NavdanyaBija @occupytheseed

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 22, 2015

#Monsanto should be held accountable for #false #propaganda and #GMOtechFAIL #Refund #Illegal #Royalty @PMOIndia https://t.co/6Vyz9bC829

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 19, 2015

#Monsanto's unjust #royalties trapped #farmers in debt ,pushed them to #suicide .Now #Monsanto sues #indianCompaies http://t.co/gwzZ6kBiwC

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 16, 2015

#Monsanto & #RoyaltyWars in #India over #BtCotton. http://t.co/gwzZ6kBiwC http://t.co/NfMVV39Wu4 #NoPatentsonSeeds #StopSeedSlavery

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 16, 2015

#GMOtechFAIL https://t.co/7LA2i0JVZO

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 15, 2015

#GreenRevolution destroyed the diversity in aindia's fields. Now we're paying the price @TimesNow#DalShock pic.twitter.com/hF2BM9Ii3t

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 14, 2015

#FarmersLivesMatter #GMOtechFAIL @MonsantoCo #BT #Cotton absolute failure #refund #technology #fees to farmers http://t.co/6ul1eazDf6

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 14, 2015

जैविक खेती से ही संवरेगा भविष्य- डा. वंदना शिवा – http://t.co/APolDSqYHd

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 14, 2015

@abhjoshi: "Bad Pesticides on Sale in India" ? http://t.co/GAyiNxNPoY #Punjab #Malwa #Pesticide #Farmers @drvandanashiva @umendradutt”&GMO

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 13, 2015

Syngenta and Bayer – violate the United Nations (FAO) Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. #farmerslivesmatter https://t.co/YkiVQB7sjS

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 13, 2015

#Monsanto #StopFalseClaims about #BtCotton in #India #Manipulationofevidence not #science but #corruption & #crime http://t.co/4DZPglnGly

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 12, 2015

Toxic #Btoilcake is being fed to #Gau#Maata illegally, poisoning her, and through her milk, poisoning India. #StopBt http://t.co/XAIcxr0pkV

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 11, 2015

#Btcrops vulnerable to #pestattacks like #WhiteFly in #Punjab because they destroy plants defences thru #GMOprocess http://t.co/XAIcxri0Jv

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 10, 2015

#NaturalBt in Bacteria not #substantiallyEquivalent to #Bt in #GMOcrops.#Unscientific to assume equivalence http://t.co/XAIcxri0Jv

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 10, 2015

#Scienctificassessment shows #pesticides & #GMOs #FailedTech. #Monsanto Propaganda continues to deny failure. http://t.co/XAIcxri0Jv

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 10, 2015


— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 10, 2015

#Monsanto shd be held liable for a failed technology, destroying farmers crops and driving them to #suicide . http://t.co/7cjzmUt6Zm

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 9, 2015

Time to stop #GMOExperiment &transition to an #OrganicIndia2020 #NoMoreFarmersSuicides http://t.co/4fIHyeEXMu @NavdanyaBija

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 9, 2015

#GMO #BtCotton #pestcreating ,not #pestcontrol technology . #Monsanto has cheated & killed #Indianfarmers @PMOIndia http://t.co/ePVerO4EhP

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 9, 2015

#GMO #BTCotton was supposed to control #pests. It has created new pests . #GMOFailedTech. http://t.co/jFgS8cLOs4

— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@drvandanashiva) October 8, 2015


#BTCotton Failure in #Punjab, #India – Gallery of Photos http://t.co/zo64AXzW7R #NoMoreFarmersSuicides #NoGmoS pic.twitter.com/qQD5VThVp1

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 14, 2015

#AnnaSwaraj The only way to rescue #IndianFarmers from #debt and #suicide —by @DrVandanaShiva http://t.co/WvG1LTkFS9 pic.twitter.com/SartKN5Kpg

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 10, 2015

#Pests #Pesticides & #Propaganda – Story of #BtCotton by @DrVandanaShiva http://t.co/Ks0pZZWEgw #Farmerslivesmatter pic.twitter.com/jfkRQ86vTq

— Seed Freedom (@occupytheseed) October 12, 2015

Categories: Ecological News

‘Corporations Bleeding Rural India, Killing Our Farmers’

Navdanya Diary - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 04:05
Pragya Singh Interviews Vandana Shiva — Outlook, 12 October 2015

File – AP Photo

Source: http://www.outlookindia.com/article/corporations-bleeding-rural-india-killing-our-farmers/295563

Scientist and longtime activist against genetically modified BT seeds, Dr. Vandana Shiva, talks about why BT has a devastating fallout.

A sudden pest attack has ruined cotton crops in large parts of Punjab, bringing biotech, or BT Cotton back into focus. Farmers who used bio-fertilisers in the Malwa region of the state are said to be safe from this latest pestilence. But those growing BT cotton have lost everything. There are reports of farmer suicides. Dr Vandana Shiva, scientist and longtime activist against genetically modified BT seeds, talks about why BT has a devastating fallout, and the growing pressure from the seeds industry on Prime Minister Modi to change IPR laws in India. Edited excerpts of an email interview with Pragya Singh:

There has been a massive Whitefly attack on BT Cotton farms in Punjab. The farmers say they were in fact using more pesticides than ever before, with hopes of preventing exactly such an attack. Do you think that you have now been proved right in warning against BT seeds and chemical-led farming?

We scientists working on bio-safety and ecological assessment of BT technology had predicted that it is a crime technology. It is a technology which ignores evolutionary pressures on pests, both on target pests like Pink Bollworm, which is now resistant to BT (and that is why Monsanto has introduced Bollgard) as well as insects, which were not cotton pests before the introduction of Genetically Modified BT technology.

The farmers who used non-BT seeds were able to protect their yield while those who used BT Cotton face complete loss. Could you explain how BT Cotton can be resistant to Bollworm but not Whitefly, the pest in this case?

Transgenic BT on the one hand kills beneficial insects such as pollinators and soil micro-organisms. On the other hand it creates new pests. Instead of being a pest control technology it has become a pest creating technology. It has failed as a technology. It is time for the government to draw lessons from this failure and stop the push for GMOs. It needs to take the advice of the Technical Expert committee to the Supreme Court

What is the logic behind growing a crop by using a seed that can resist one type of pest but not another?

In fact, as explained above, now even the Pink Bollworm is resistant to BT. [Which means that BT Cotton claimed to be designed to resist Pink Bollworm, but it no longer does even that]. And, every season, we see new pests such as Aphids, Jerseys, Army Worm and Mealy Bug [also] growing resistant. Genetically Modified BT crops are more vulnerable to pests because of the violence of this technology, which introduces a gene that does not belong to the organism. This disrupts its physiology, its metabolism and the self-regulatory process through which a plant defends itself from pests. Native varieties do not have their genome compromised and are therefore more resilient to pest attacks.

There have been so many other instances of this kind. Why, then, do seed companies have a campaign against you (and others) who protest against GM crops or chemical-led farming? Whose interests are being served here?

Monsanto has emerged as the world’s largest GM seed company. Its super profits are based on extracting royalties through genetic engineering, and then claiming that they have invented a seed. This is false at every level, and I have been challenging their false claims since 1987. I have contributed to shaping the UN laws on bio-safety and worked with our government and Parliament to ensure that their false claims to invention were not allowed to enter our national patent laws. The pressure of the US on Prime Minister Modi in Intellectual Property Rights is a pressure from Monsanto and the pharmaceutical giants.

Monsanto mobilises its armies of PR professionals to attack me because I know the field of GMOs, bio-safety and IPRs. I work for the interests of our farmers and our country, I have sued them for their illegal, unethical actions. Since their interest is only to turn India into a market for their toxic GMO seeds and failed GMO technology in order to collect royalties from our farmers, trapping farmers into debt and pushing them to suicide, they see my research and my work with farmers as coming in the way of their Bio Imperialism.

Punjab’s political leaders, including the Badal family, are agriculturists. Yet Punjab’s agriculture has been declining with ruinous social and health effects of chemical intensive farming. What can quell the growing disconnect between our agriculturist political leaders and farmers?

When violence erupted in Punjab in 1984, I was working with the United Nations University, and did research on the roots of the violence. It was related to the Green Revolution, which I analysed in my book The Violence of the Green Revolution.

The way out of the agrarian crisis in Punjab and elsewhere is to go organic and have your own seeds. No organic farmer has committed suicide, including in the cotton belt. Our members in Vidarbha are spending less and earning more through organic methods. Organic [farming] also helps deal with droughts and climate change. And it produces more food and fibre with no purchased inputs. The agrarian crisis is a direct result of the agrochemical industry, which is also the GMO seed industry. [This industry is] extracting super-profits from farmers by making them dependent on purchased inputs and trapping them in debt. Corporations are bleeding rural India and killing our farmers. We can break free from their inputs through organic farming [which will also] heal the soil, heal the farmers, heal our health.

Is bio-fertilizer a better option for our farmers? Is there an inherent problem on our farms, now that we have veered away from traditional agriculture?

The best pest control strategy is intensification of diversity and [crop] mixtures. In a mono-culture, where there is only one crop, one species has a feast and becomes a pest. We need ecological balance not silver bullets, which gives silver to the corporations, and the bullet to the farmer.

What are the future plans of the seed industry? Where is the next danger zone emerging?

Since 1987, when I first heard the agrochemical industry talking about owning seeds through patents on GMOs, the industry has been aiming for total, monopolistic control on seeds. They have not achieved it because we built movements, saved seeds, and created Seed Sovereignty (Bija Swaraj) for our farmers. In 2004, they tried to make seed-saving by farmers illegal. I had to mobilise farmers through a Seed Satyagraha, giving PM Manmohan Singh 1,00,000 signatures of Satyagraha commitment to defend our seed freedom.

The new threats are the following:

  1. Biopiracy through seeking patents on climate-resilient varieties that our farmers have evolved.
  2. Using the climate crisis for deeper control over farming, and selling data to small farmers, creating more debt, more dependence. Monsanto has bought up the world’s biggest climate data and soil data corporations with this in mind. Increasing talk of “climate smart” agriculture is linked to this strategy.
  3. Privatisation of our national and international gene banks.
  4. Trying to undo our Intellectual Property Rights safeguards by putting pressure on the Prime Minister, as well as pushing India to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which removes all ethical, scientific and public interest safeguards in national IPR laws.

The interesting thing is that while pushing so hard, manipulating so much, Monsanto’s GM technologies are failing, and the corporation itself could fail like Enron did, because of its greed and corruption.

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