Saturday, October 31, 2015

Farmers leaders from 12 countries gather in Bangalore for a seminar on Peasant Struggle In India

On the 28th of October, the International Seminar on Peasant Struggle in India was held at Samvada in Bangalore, India, organized by La Via Campesina South Asia. This seminar kicked off a ten-day Zero Budget Natural Farming seminar and training, which would continue from October 30th- November 5th at Amritha Bhoomi (LVC Agroecology school). It brought together activists from across the globe. Bharatiya Kisan Union (India), MONLAR (Sri Lanka), ANPFA (Nepal), Bangladesh Krishok Federation (Bangladesh), Black Sea Uprising (Turkey), SPI (Indonesia), Assembly of the Poor (Thailand), ZIMSOFF (Zimbabwe), MVIWATA (Tanzania), MST (Brazil), and Boricuá (Puerto Rico) were all represented.

"Monsoon Game"
The program kicked off with an interactive learning exercise that introduced participants to the lives of farmers in India today. Participants were grouped into “families” of three or four people, who were then given a slip of paper with their family details. One family’s members were powerful landlords with many acres and a lot of money in savings, another family consisted of landless laborers with very little income, and another family’s members were shopkeepers who owned no land but had monthly income from their business. Depending on the assigned family’s source of income and landholdings, the groups had to work together to plan what crops to grow, decide whether to take loans, whether to put in a bore well, and when to marry their daughters, all based on a sheet of paper that gave details about rainfall, crop productivity, loan interest, etcetera by which the families could do their calculations. The participants did this for three annual cycles, and each year the program leaders would announce a new set of pitfalls and boons that would alter the stakes – for instance, one year a family lost their house due to road widening, and a landholding family received a boon when a lake was built near their property. During the exercise, the room was abuzz with careful concentration, joy at a boon, and frustration at hardship. The goal was to illuminate the multifold challenges that farmer and other rural actors face, and the unequal distribution of power along caste, class, religion, and gender lines. By the end, some families had increased their money two-fold, while others had died of hunger, or were hundreds of thousands of rupees in debt.
The question asked by participants was, how real is this exercise? Anita, the event’s host and founder of Samvada, answered this question by sharing facts about agriculture in India that were reflected in the exercise: for example, 78% of farmers in India today own less than 5 acres of land. She also shared the most recent statistic that more than 250 farmers have committed suicide this year in this state alone. This is where Samvada enters the picture – they offer courses for young people from farming communities on how to make agriculture profitable and also economically sustainable. The ultimate goal is to make farmers proud of their profession, and to encourage an agricultural system that benefits farmers and the environment.

Agrarian Crisis: Dr. A.R. Vasavi
The challenges faced by farmers were further illuminated in Dr. A. R. Vasavi’s lecture on agrarian distress in India. Dr. Vasavi, an eminent social anthropologist, explained that since 1997 there has been a rise in farmer suicides in several districts in India. While news media have focused on two extremes to explain this rise in suicides, international trade agreements and psychological weakness on the part of the farmers, she argues that we need to understand the complexities of rural experiences on-the-ground to truly understand this devastating trend. Her talk provided very detailed and informative insight into farmers’ lives, including a discussion of the role of commercial agriculture in flattening regional variations in agricultural practice, the observation that while local knowledge systems are on the decline, caste inequalities remain strong in rural communities, and the contradictory trends of “accumulation by dispossession” and “welfare governmentality.” All of these trends lead to farmers becoming trapped in a “web of risks” that take many forms, such as low access to institutional credit and the high prevalence of debt (and the social humiliation related to the inability to repay loans), and production risks related to failed rains and climate change. These trends have led more and more farmers to leave agriculture and have also resulted in the “disorientation” of youth caught between farming and desires for lives outside agriculture. Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, Dr. Vasavi emphasized the positive potential of rural communities as participants in the democratic process, since villages have higher voting rates than cities. She also stressed that farmers are productive “innovators” as well as a “repository of local and sustainable knowledge systems,” and should be respected as such. Dr. Vasavi’s lecture communicated both the problems and potentials of rural communities in India today.

History of Peasant Struggle: Dr Muzzafar Assadi
Dr. Muzzafar Assadi, an eminent scholar on social movements and Professor at Mysore University, then shared with the group the history of farmer’s movements in India. He began by explaining why social movements in India use the term “farmer” rather than “peasant,” sharing a long history of public policy and state intervention in India that led most cultivators to focus on surplus production for the market rather than subsistence. In illustrating this point, he gave an introduction to the history of agricultural policy in India, which focused on increased production for food self-sufficiency, coming to a head in the Green Revolution of the 1960s. This led up to farmer’s movements that began in the 1980s and picked up pace in the 1990s, which are often called “New Farmers’ Movements.” He explained why: these movements were not the first farmer’s movements in India, as India has a long history of farmer agitation, such as the 1970s farmer action in political rallies. However, while the movements that began in the 1980s and gathered steam in the 1990s were not “radical movements” in terms of their ideologies, strategies, and politics, they were “new” for several reasons: 1) they believed in class harmony rather than conflict, 2) they never invoked caste categories, and 3) they were never localized movements, in that they were immediately active in crossing regional boundaries to make inter-state and also international allegiances. The primary point around which many of these movements were organized was resistance to globalization, which took different “post-Gandhian” forms such as laughing in front of the centers of government power and storming of a KFC restaurant in Bangalore. They offered an alternative to globalization of the “khadi curtain,” which focused on indigenous growth. Despite the power of these movements in the 1990s, however, Dr. Assadi said that these movements have dwindled significantly, and today are no longer strong in the way they once were, largely due to splits between movements. However, he suggested that we should thank these movements for giving us the space to debate globalization and imagine alternatives.

The seminar proved to be a fruitful platform by which to learn about and discuss the challenges and potentials of agriculture in India today. The participants departed with energy and enthusiasm for tackling the multifold problems and opportunities of global peasant struggle.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Call for Participation in International Agroecology Training at Amritha Bhoomi (India) October 28-Nov 5

To get the PDF version of this call click this link.
Para la llamada en Espanol por favor haz click Aqui.

Call for participation:
International Farmers’ Agroecology Training
Amritha Bhoomi International Center for Sustainable Development (Karnataka, India)[1]

Dear friends in struggle,

Amritha Bhoomi is the Via Campesina Agroecology School in the South Asian region, located in Chamrajanagar, Karnataka, India. October 28-November 5 will be our first international farmers’ agroecology training. We cordially invite members of LVC movements who are agroecological farmers or trainers at agroecological schools to join us in sharing experiences and articulating the political formation of agroecology. Karnataka State Farmers Association co-founder Professor Nanjundaswamy created Amritha Bhoomi as a model of constructive work towards food and seed sovereignty. To carry out his vision, Amritha Bhoomi is developing a seed bank, local medicinal plants reserve, agroecological model plots and different methods of agroecological farming.

The program
·      October 28th – Seminar on farmers movements in India and history of farmers’ struggle for international participants (Bangalore)
·      October 29th – Field Visit to Agroecological Farm using Zero-Budget Natural Farming for international participants (Mysore)
·      October 30th – November 3rd – Intro to Zero Budget Natural Farming w/ Subash Palekar
·      November 4th and 5th – Parallel meetings of the LVC International Agroecology Collective and the Karnataka ZBNF Trainers Collective

About Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)
ZBNF is a method developed and formalized by farmer-scientist Subash Palekar of Maharashtra, India. It addresses the social, economic and environmental crises brought by Green Revolution technology, straying from mainstream organic farming by requiring no external inputs beyond what is found on the farm already and from one native cow. The mainstay of ZBNF is “Jeeva Amrutha,” a microbial culture to increase the soil fertility. Palekar has trained tens of thousands of farmers in India, resulting in a movement in many states. Through the LVC network the method has also spread to Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Purpose of this training
This training is the first large-scale ZBNF training to be held at Amritha Bhoomi Agroecology School. Several hundred farmers from across Karnataka are likely to attend, both new and long-time natural farmers. We are also extending the invitation to farmers from South Asia and inviting those from outside the region as well.  In addition to the standard 5-day training, in this meeting we will strategically launch collective processes on agroecology at the local level and at the international level.

Information for international guests about Amritha Bhoomi
Amritha Bhoomi is located 5 hours from Bangalore, Karnataka in the outskirts of a small, rural village. Situated at the foothills of a mountain range and tiger reserve, the total territory is about 150 acres, including model farm plots, a training school, basic infrastructure for room and board, and a conference hall. Shared, basic accommodation and board will be provided free of cost along with food of the local diet. Electricity is limited and no shops surround the center, so participants will have to come flexible and well-prepared.

The five-day training by Palekar will be provided in Hindi medium with interpretation into English and Kannada. Based on interest we can provide other languages as well, though we should be informed well in advance and may require contribution from the guests toward the cost of interpretation. In order to organize translation and interpretation, please express interest by filling THIS FORM no later than August 30th, 2015. Funding for travel will be provided to farmers from South Asia and farmers from other regions are invited to fundraise their own tickets. Keep in mind the mid-term conference of LVC in the 2nd week of November and the possibility to combine travel.

HOW TO EXPRESS INTEREST: Please fill this form by August 30th, 2015:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GM Free Coalition Warns GEAC Against GM Mustard Commercialisation

Coalition For A GM Free India
Press Release

New Delhi, June 17, 2015: “Bt Brinal then, GM Mustard now – will GEAC repeat the mistake of thrusting Genetically Modified food onto our plates? We will strongly oppose any attempt to approve commercialization of GM mustard,” warned the Coalition for GM Free India. The Coalition while releasing a Briefing Paper on Delhi University’s GM mustard at a press conference in the capital reminded the GM regulator about the flood of concerns that rocked the entire country when Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop that was approved by the regulator and later had to be put under an indefinite moratorium by the government during 2009-10.  GM mustard is the first genetically engineered food crop being considered for commercial approval by GEAC since the Bt Brinjal fiasco.  

Speaking at the press conference, Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor of the Coalition said, “Delhi University’s GM mustard is essentially a backdoor entry for herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops into India, in the guise of a public sector GM crop. An attempt was made for a very similar GM mustard by an MNC into India in 2002 which the regulators firmly rejected. Incidentally, rejection of herbicide tolerant crops is a recommendation made repeatedly by many Committees over the years, given the health, environmental and enormous socio-economic impact that this will leave on rural employment.” He further stated, “The GM mustard developers are hoodwinking the nation with claims on yield increase whereas there is no yield improvement compared with the same hybrid produced through non-GM process. The purported genetic modification for male sterility is only meant to ease the seed production by the seed sellers. This is nothing but a Trojan horse for many other HT GM crops lined up by MNCs like Monsanto which are in the regulatory pipeline”

The GM mustard in question named DMH 11 (Dhara Mustard Hybrid 11) has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi with support from DBT (Dept of Biotechnology) and NDDB (National Dairy Development Board). It has reportedly completed biosafety assessments and could be brought up in the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency for any environmental releases of GMOs in the country, for commercialization approval. DMH 11 hybrid mustard has been created by genetically engineering bacterial genes into selected mustard parental lines to create male sterile parent plants. This is used for the production of hybrids seeds which are then sold to the farmers for cultivation. Along with these genes for hybrid production is also another bacterial gene for herbicide tolerance in the guise of a marker gene.

“At a time when the entire nation is concerned with laxity in food safety regulation as seen in the Maggi case, it is outrageous that GM food crops are being pushed without adequate safety assessment and transparency,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).  “The entire biosafety assessment of this GM mustard is shrouded in secrecy with repeated efforts including RTI requests to seek information on the statutory safety assessments having remained unanswered from GEAC, starting from 2006. In the latest RTI effort we made, biosafety information was denied on the grounds that ‘it was under process’. This, when all the biosafety reports, the biology of the crop and other literature are supposed to be made available in the public domain, as per the Supreme Court Orders in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on GM technology (WP 260/2005),” she added.

This GM mustard comes up for consideration for commercialization approval when there is an increasing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops and herbicides including a recent study by WHO pointing to the carcinogenic potential of herbicides like glyphosate [1]. Contamination is inevitable from this GM mustard and even the developer of the GM mustard Dr Deepak Pental had accepted that. This is a matter of grave concern since India is a Centre of Diversity for mustard.

Sharing that violation of biosafety norms has become a routine matter in India including in the case of this GM mustard, Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convenor, Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “In the recent BRL II trial of this GM mustard in Bathinda, biosafety conditions laid down by the regulators while permitting the field trial have been found to be violated and photographic evidence of the same has been sent to the GEAC for action [2]. We demand that the GEAC investigate this immediately and fix liability for such violations”.

Notes to the Editor:
(1)   Evaluation of five herbicides by International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO):

(2)   Coalition letter to GEAC on violations at the GM mustard field trial site is available at

For more information, contact:
Rajesh Krishnan: Coalition for a GM Free India, 098-456-50032,
Kavitha Kuruganti: ASHA, 093-930-01550,


जीएम-मुक्त राष्ट्रीय गठबंधन  
प्रेस रिलीज़
जीएम सरसों के व्यावसायीकरण के विरुद्ध चेतावनी
नई दिल्लीजून 17, 2015: तब जीएम बैगन और अब जीएम सरसों – क्या हमारे खाने में फि से ज़हर घोलने की कोशिश हो रही है?हम पूरी शक्ति के साथ जीएम सरसों के व्यावसायीकरण का विरोध करेंगेहम ऐसा नहीं होने देंगेजीएम-मुक्त गठबंधन ने यह आजयहाँ एक प्रेस कांफ्रेंस में यह चेतावनी दी.

दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के जीएम रसों रिसर्च पर ध्यानाकर्षण करत हुए यह बताया गया कि कैसे बीटी बैगन के विरुद्ध पूरे देश मेचिंता जतायी गई थी और कैसे पिछली यूपीए सरकार को उसे अनिश्चितकाल के लिए 2009-10 में रोकना पड़ा था.  बीटी बैगन कीअसफलता के बाद जीएम सरसों पहला जैव परिवर्तित (ीएमखाद्य पदार्थ है जो व्यावसायिक उत्पादन के लिए जेनेटिकंजीनियरिंग एप्रूवल कमेटी (जीईएसीके विचाराधीन है.  

गठबंधन संयोजक राजेश कृष्णन ने बताया कि दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के जीएम सरसों के माध्यम से शाक-सहिष्णु पदार्थों(हर्बीसाइड-टॉलरेंट क्रॉप्सको जीएम पदार्थ के रूप में देश में पिछले दरवाजे से घुसाने की कोशिश की जा रह हैइस तरह का एकप्रयास 2002 में भी एक बहुराष्ट्रीय कंपनी ्वारा हुआ थाजिसे ठुकरा दिया गया था. जीएम सरसों के समर्थक से देश को गुमराहकर रहे हैं कि इससे पैदावार बढ़ेगी.

एलायन्स फॉर सस्टेनेबल एंड होलिस्टिक एग्रीकल्चर की संयोजक कविता कुरुगंती ने कहा कि अभी देश में खाद्य पदार्थों की सुरक्षा लेकर बहस छिड़ी हुई हैजैसा ि मैगी के मामले में देखा गया वैसे में यह शर्मनाक है कि ीएम खाद्य फसलों को पर्याप्तसुरक्षा आकलन और पारदर्शिता के बिना ही बाज़ार में उतारने की कोई कोशिश की जाए. जीएम सरसों से जुड़े तथ्य और सम्बंधित जैवसुरक्षा आकलन पहले से ही गोपनीयता में डूबे हुए हैं. आरटीई द्वारा भी जवाब नहीं मिल रहाजबकि समुचित जानकारी जनता कोमिलनी ज़रूरी है जैसा कि जीएम तकनीक से जुड़े एक पीआईएल (WP 260/2005) में सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने कहा है.

जीएम-मुक्त राष्ट्रीय गठबंधन के सह-संयोजक पंकज भूषण ने कहा कि जैव सुरक्षा नियमों  उल्लंघन भारत में अब एक नियमिमामला बन गया हैभटिंडा में ीएम सरसों के परिक्षण के दौरान ही घोर अनियमितता पायी गई जहाँ सुरक्षा नियमों की धज्जी उड़ाईगई जिसके विरुद्ध जेनेटिक ंजीनियरिंग एप्रूवल कमेटी को शिकायत की गई हैइस ताज़ा मामले ें भी अभी तक कोई कार्रवाई नहींहुई है. 

संपादक के लिए नोट:
Evaluation of five herbicides by International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO):

Coalition letter to GEAC on violations at the GM mustard field trial site is available at

अधिक जानकारी के लिएसंपर्क करें:
राजेश कृष्णन 098-456-50032
कविता कुरुगंती 093-930-01550