Monday, November 29, 2010

Protest against “World Climate Negotiations of UNFCCC” , Bangalore, Nov-29- 2010

Protest against  “World Climate Negotiataions of UNFCCC” 
Bangalore, Nov-29- 2010

Sustainable agriculture Cools the Planet! System Change not Climate Change!

We Indian farmers movements under the banner of the ICCFM comprising of farmers organizations from all over India such as Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (Karnataka), Bhartiya Kisan Union (North India), Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam (Tamil Nadu) and Kerala Coconut Farmers Association (Kerala) are protesting on the occasion of the COP 16 climate negotiations of the UNFCC in Cancun, Mexico.

We stress that the climate negotiations have totally failed to bring about any real solution to the climate crisis and ever since the last UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen it has become even more clear that any real change will only come from  a peoples movement and not diplomatic negotiations. On the one hand the US and other industrialized countries have tried to hijack the negotiations by promoting  the bogus “Copenhagen accord” letting themselves set their own voluntary actions instead of agreeing to scientific emissions cuts. On the other hand the negotiations have turned into a huge market place for corporate profit generation through false solutions like REDD and CDM.

The real cause of climate change is the unjust economic system based on inequality, unfettered consumerism and unchecked extraction of mother earth’s resources. It is this greedy system that needs to change and not the climate! India's poor people are the most vulnerable and that is why it is urgent that the Indian government stop hiding behind the low per capita emissions of the poor while the elite in this country continue to pollute at US levels. India needs to first address the inequality in this country and stop its development model of high-consumption and high-emission. India is instead promoting false solutions like agro-fuels, that displace food crops in a situation of hunger and proposing untested “climate ready” GMOs that threaten our food security, health, ecology and farmers rights by strengthening corporate power over our food and agriculture. CDM in India is dominated by polluting industries that harm communities and ecosystems and pollute our water while earning money through non-verifiable and mostly false claims of emissions reductions.

Thousands of farmers and peoples solutions to the climate crises do exist everywhere and these need to be heard at the undemocratic UNFCCC process which is instead catering to a few corporate-driven false solutions.

When it comes to agriculture the solution is obvious. Agriculture itself contributes up to 22% of carbon emissions which is more than the global transport sector. But it is only a certain type of agriculture that is the main cause and needs to be discouraged - industrial agriculture. The peasant based model of small holder ecological farming that millions of India's farmers practice is itself a solution to climate change. Instead of aggressively promoting green revolution type agriculture which is high on inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides, consumes high levels of fossil fuels and water and leads to soil degradation and biodiversity loss, the government should promote and further develop traditional and agroecological alternatives that farmers have originally been practicing for thousands of years. Sadly, the government allocation of funds to sustainable farming has been minimal. The Indian government is actually in the process starting a second green revolution in east India. This green revolution model is actually displacing farmers traditional knowledge much needed to combat climate change. Agroecology on the other hand is more efficient than industrial farming; it also revives soils, conserves water, protects biodiversity and provides healthy and chemical free nutritious food. Most importantly it cools the planet!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Karnataka Farmers Say No to Unsafe Dupont GM Rice Field Trials

November 17, Dodballapur, Bangalore rural:- Farmers of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha [KRRS] today sent out a strong warning to the Multinational seed corporations trying to take control over India's seed sector by stopping the field trial of Dupont's genetically modified [GM] rice here. The open air experimental trial was being conducted at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, under GKVK by the Multinational Seed company. Hundreds of farmers from the area assembled at the KVK and staged a protest demonstration against such open air experiments of GM crops.

This field trials were recently permitted by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the nodal agency for GM crop releases in India in its 103rd meeting held in New Delhi on 29th September 2010. Dupont, the second largest seed corporation in the world after Monsanto, is developing a GM rice using a transgenic SPT ( Seed Production technology), a proprietary technology.SPT technology that allows increase of large quantities of genetically male-sterile female inbred parent seed. This could then be used for commercial hybrid seed production.

Leading the protest, Dr Venkata Reddy, Vice president,KRRS declared that “the farmers union will oppose any such open releases of GM crops as they are a step towards submiting our agriculture into the hands of US multinational Seed companies who are out here to control our seed and there by our agriculture”. He further pointed out that "GM rice is a threat not just to the farmer but to every citizen in the country due to the health and environmental implications. There has been many scientific studies accross the world pointing to the same."

Earlier in the year, Bt Brinjal,the first GM food crop to reach commercialisation stage was put under an indefenite moratorium by the Union Environment ministry, under who GEAC comes, owing to strong opposition from all sections of the society including farmers unions, scientists, consumer organisations and other civil society organisations. Post that, seed companies and their promoters in the government have been trying to push for open air experiments of a variety of GM crops including GM rice, at times violating basic minimum requirements.

KRRS spokesperson also highlighted the major violations in the particular GM rice field trial at the KVK and said that “there was no information given to the local panchayat on the conducting of it which is required by the existing rules”. He further said that “people in the region had been kept in the dark about such dangerous experiments happening in here. There was no information boards kept outside the field trial to warn the people about the experiment. There was also free access to the trial plot which in the absence of any warning could lead to the seeds going out of the trial region and thereby mixing up and contamianting other regular rice verities which farmers in the region cultivate”.

India is a centre of orgin and diversity of rice and ahs close to 75000 land races of rice. The western ghats region in Karnataka is one of the regions of the country which is rich in rice diversity. Contamination from GM rice is seen as a major threat to this. Kerala state government had banned any open releases,including experiments, of GM rice due to this reason.There is no biosafety data on GM rice that is available untill now.

Dr Reddy warned the public sector research institutions in Karnataka who are getting into such ventures which are deleterious to the farming community. He urged them to do research in favour of the farmer and not for the profit motivated seed companies.He also urged the state government to declare Karnataka as a GM Free state and demand the central government to stop such experiments in the state. He further reminded hat agriculture is a state subject and the state government needs to play an active role in ensuring that citizens of Karnataka are safeguarded from such dangerous experiments.

For more information:

Dr. Venkatareddy, Vice President, KRRS,mob: 9972596996

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

OBAMA INDIA VISIT: Demands Market Access at the Cost of Indian Farmers

Delhi 5.JPG
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New Delhi: Mr. Barak Obama is in New Delhi today, to seek greater market access for the American agricultural goods in India. What the US couldn’t achieve through the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, Mr. Obama would try to get that through a bilateral deal with India. Today, the Bhartiya Kissan Unions staged a massive demonstration at the Parliament Street in Delhi protesting against Obama’s visit to India and his agenda to sign bilateral agricultural and trade deals to facilitate takeover of Indian agriculture by the US multinationals.      

The United States is pushing India for removing all barriers in the way of US exports to India and we are quite sure that Mr. Obama’s would secure this today, without making any commitment towards reduction in US farm subsidies, especially in cotton, which India has been demanding during the 9 years of Doha negotiations. The increased market access to agricultural goods of the United States would be disastrous for the Indian farmers who had suffered a lot in the last 15 years of WTO regime due to the dumping of subsidized cotton from US which resulted in sharp fall in cotton prices and increased farmers suicide in the cotton belt of India.

We, the farmers of India, mainly from Bhartiya Kissan Unions, are also quite agitated and upset with the furthering of Indo-US cooperation in agriculture. Since 2006, when Mr. Bush signed the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, we have witnessed a greater penetration of US agribusiness companies in our policy making on agriculture as well as in our agricultural research institutions, such IARI, ICAR and agricultural universities. This also resulted in different policy initiatives in agriculture, like the new Seeds Bill, the National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority bill 2009, Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008 to benefit US agribusiness mainly Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill and others. Moreover, the US retail giant, Wal-Mart, has been publicly lobbying for opening up India’s retail sector to FDI and in this visit the thrust of Obama’s engagement would be on opening up of the food retail, which would result in complete takeover of Indian small retail. We, therefore, fear that any kind of the Indo-US agricultural treaty, focusing on agricultural research, biotechnology, retail, would bring Indian agriculture under the direct control of US Corporate houses.

We therefore demand that the Government of India must not sign any kind of agreement on agriculture with the US Administration which would result in opening up of agriculture research, agricultural trade, retail sector, and other services for American capital and MNCs. We don’t want any bilateral agreement on agriculture with the US on the line of Indo US Knowledge Initiative of Agriculture, whether in the field of trade, biotechnology or irrigation. We appeal to the Prime Minister and the UPA Chairperson that they do not allow any market access in agricultural trade to United States, which the latter has been aspiring to gain through failed Doha negotiations, through a bilateral Indo US trade deal. We also demand that all the Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) signed by the Indian public agricultural institutes and universities with the multinational corporations, biotech companies and agribusiness must be scrapped. Through these MoUs, the big corporations are taking over the research, knowledge and resources of our public agricultural institutions for their profit.

We also demand that the UPA government must review the gains from the Free Trade Agreement it has signed with ASEAN, South Korea and others before entering into any FTA negotiations. We fear that the 30 odd FTAs which the government of India is negotiating with the highly industrial countries including the US, the EU, Israel, Australia and others would provide market access to their agribusiness and their heavily subsidized agricultural commodities. This is highly detrimental to India's rural food producers and production. We demand that agriculture and agricultural related activities must be kept out of any FTA negotiations India is engaging with.

We also demand that given the increased prices for agricultural goods in the international market, the government of India must provide a better price by increasing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all agricultural commodities, especially wheat, rice, pulses, sugarcane and cotton. We demand that the government of India

-          Must implement Swaminathan Committee recommendations for MSP which should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production.
-          Must increase the MSP for wheat to Rs.2200 per quintal because the cost of wheat production comes to around Rs.1600 per quintal. We reject the mere Rs.20 increase in the MSP for wheat for this year.
-          Must increase the MSP for Sugarcane crop to Rs.300 per quintal.   
-          Immediately expedite the procurement of rice crop in Punjab and Haryana.

We also demand that the state and the Centre governments must stop all land acquisition in the name of ‘public purpose’. There must not be any forceful acquisition of farmers land and selling of the land by the government, acquired on the pretext of “public purpose”, to Corporates for any development projects or SEZ. The government must stop to act like a ‘middle man’ in acquiring farmers land for Corporates. The government must soon amend the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 in consultation with farmers and the definition of “public purpose” in the Act should be clearly defined and specified.  In case land is needed for public purposes like hospital building, defence purposes; market rates should be paid to the farmers.

The farmers of India have suffered a lot under the neo-liberal regime of the Manmohan Singh government which is determined to facilitate takeover of Indian agricultural by the multinational corporations at the cost of small and marginal farmers. Therefore, the Coordination Committee of BKU farmer Unions have declared today that if their demands for a Framers’ friendly Agricultural Policy; Increased MSP for agricultural commodities; Halting of all FTAs; and Withdrawal of all MoUs with agricultural corporations, are not met within four months, they would mobilize for a massive protests and blocking of all roads to Delhi on 9th March 2011.

Signed by:

Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab,
Gurnam Singh, State President, BKU Haryana,
S.S. Cheema, BKU Uttrakhand,
Rakesh Tikait, BKU U.P.
Yudhvir Singh, Spokesman, BKU (+91-9868146405).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BKU to hold demonstration during Obama's visit

BKU to hold demonstration during Obama's visit

Gargi Parsai
Protest against ties with U.S. on agriculture
On the day U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the joint session of Parliament in Delhi, thousands of farmers under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) will hold a demonstration here against the government's strategic partnership with Washington on agriculture and food security “that jeopardises indigenous farm research and allows multi-national corporations to set the agenda in the sector”.
“At the rate the government is going, the country will face a food crisis by 2020,'' warned Punjab BKU president Ajmer Singh Lakhowal over the weekend.
Call to scrap MoUs
Addressing a joint press conference here with Gurnam Singh (Haryana), S.S. Cheema (Uttarakhand), Rakesh Tikait (Uttar Pradesh) and Yudhjvir Singh, Mr. Lakhowal said the government policies are anti-farmer. “We will hold a massive demonstration on November 8 against the policies of the government that are hurting farmers, the indigenous research and the food security of the country.”
Demanding that the government scrap all memorandums of understanding signed by public agricultural institutes and universities with multinational corporations, biotech companies and agri-businesses, they alleged that through these pacts big corporations were taking over for their own profits the research, knowledge and resources of India's public agricultural institutions. “First our scientists were taken away by these corporations, now universities are being given to them for research and extension for their own benefits.''Criticising the Rs.20 per quintal hike in the minimum support price (MSP) announced recently by the government, the farmers' leaders said that when inflation was in double digits and government servants were given 18 per cent hike in dearness allowance, farmers were given only a two per cent hike in wheat prices. As per the estimates of Punjab Agriculture University, wheat MSP should be Rs.1,650 per quintal, they said. “And if the government were to implement the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission on Farmers, then the MSP for wheat should be Rs.2,450 per quintal. By raising it by Rs.20 per quintal the government has played a joke on farmers,” they added.
The farm leaders did not buy the argument that higher wheat MSP resulted in a higher open market price. “How come when the prices of wheat products rise, there is no inflation but if the price of wheat MSP [payable to farmers] rises there is inflation? If the price of finished cloth goes up, nobody says there is inflation but if the price of cotton goes up there is hue and cry.''
Agreeing with the Supreme Court on issuance of free foodgrains to poor people instead of allowing it to rot, the agriculture leaders said if the government could distribute grains for Rs.3 and Rs.2 per kg (as proposed by the National Advisory Council) then why not give them for free? “The problem in the country is not foodgrains production but the purchasing power of the poor people,'' said Mr. Yadhuvir Singh.

Memorandum to PM
They have submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him not to enter into a strategic alliance in agriculture and food security with the U.S. and refrain from the speedy Free Trade Agreements with industrial countries like the U.S., the European Union, Israel and Australia that would provide market access to their agribusinesses and their heavily subsidised commodities. They also demanded that farm land not be acquired for development projects and SEZs.

The Obama visit could be tricky. How we feed us will go to American hands

The Obama visit could be tricky.
How we feed us will go to American hands

Pacts favourable to the US may be signed, posing a threat to Indian farmers

THE BUZZ has been growing about US President Barack
Obama’s visit to India next month. And yet again before the visit, news is about the possible arms deal, joint military exercises, bilateral trade and investment, rather than what it would mean for India’s food and farming. When George Bush came calling, the nuclear deal hogged the limelight, and the agriculture-related aspects, which have consequences for something as basic as food, didn’t make the headlines.

This cycle of events sounds like a cruel joke. But the situation is far from funny when it comes to our agriculture. Several laws and policies related to seed, food and farming in India have in the past been made to either facilitate American entry in these sectors or forge so-called US-India ‘partnerships’ in agri R&D and trade. Control over these sectors in other countries has strategically been core to American foreign policies. Also, agri exports are a big part of
Obama’s economic recovery plan. So, his visit will yet again be marked by decisions, which will have implications for Indian agriculture.

It is useful to recall history here. In 1960, it was by an Act of Parliament that India’s first agricultural university, Pantnagar University (now the Gobind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture), was set up with US assistance. It is here that the so-called Green Revolution was started, the ill-effects of which are only being fully understood now. And ever since, right up to the introduction of American company Monsanto’s now infamous Bt brinjal, public sector agriculture research institutes are being used as base stations from which the American interests springboard into the Indian landscape. And in the process — from seed, to tractors, to processing, to retailing — American companies such as Cargill, Walmart and Monsanto have got more than a foothold in India.

India’s agriculture legislations are also beginning to mirror elements from the US. Some come in via the route of the US-led multilateral system, the World Trade Organisation (WTO). On Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), the US took India to the dispute settlement body of the WTO for non-compliance of IPR obligations. Yet, despite amendments to the Indian patent law, it is still not good enough for the US-India Business Council and American lifescience corporations. Bilateral trade relations also come with prescriptions for legal and policy changes. The legal makeover of India continues.

Another American clone under consideration is India’s version of the Bayh-Dole Act — the Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008. This advocates for IPR for agricultural scientists and research institutions. Meanwhile, the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2010, is waiting to resurface in Parliament. This will easily facilitate the clearance of genetic engineering for application on our seed, feed, food and livestock. Through its South Asia Biosafety Programme, the USAID gives funds for biotechnology policy formulation for countries such as India and Bangladesh. The US is the birthplace of biotech giants and American agencies are scouting worldwide to create markets for their products.

So, a visit by an American bigwig almost always leaves Indian agriculture in trouble. It points to more changes before or after the trip. In 2005, before the Bush visit, a US-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF) was set up. One of its five sub-divisions is the Agricultural Trade Group whose key objectives include facilitating export of Indian mangoes to the US. Aren’t we better off eating them in Asia, thereby reducing food miles in an already climate- and energy-challenged planet? And what India gets in return, through another Non-Tariff Barriers group under the TPF, are more insecticides manufactured in the US. And, the Indian government agreeing to cut regulations on buying and selling of carbonated drinks, which mean colas. More poison for our land, water and health.

During the Bush visit in 2006, India was signed up for a US-India Knowledge Initiative in agriculture education, teaching, research, service and commercial linkages. It is run by a board including American giants such as ADM, Monsanto and Walmart. In July 2009, Hillary Clinton visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute at Pusa, where she unequivocally sounded her commitment to see through policy changes in our agriculture sector, which are favourable to American firms. At that time, the countries signed a bilateral pact on agriculture.

The US is the birthplace of biotech giants and American agencies are scouting worldwide to create markets for their products

Philanthrocapitalist Bill Gates, who backs agricultural biotechnology, visited India recently and made headlines by ‘adopting’ a village in Bihar. Soon, there was a report that the Borlaug Institute for South Asia is being set up in Bihar to unleash a second Green Revolution in the region. Could there be any connections there? After all, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds two major global agriculture initiatives: the first is on rice research that pushes GM and hybrid varieties. Second, it has pumped dollars into the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa. This will create a market for US seeds, pesticides and proprietary technologies. It has already spent a lot for India’s ‘poor farmers’ to modernise farming methods and link them to the global market.

AS A run-up to the US-India Strategic Dialogue in June, top officials held a series of meetings, including one on agriculture. But India doesn’t need that level of interaction with the US. In agriculture, a diversity of local alternatives do exist. The current food crisis, despite the grains rotting in FCI godowns, amply shows there is no shortage of foodgrain production. Therefore, there is no justification for new proprietary agricultural technologies to be brought in from the US. The move away from traditional methods of farming to the industrial agriculture and modern food production that the US prescribes, in effect, hugely adds to the climate crisis and creates unequal wealth.

There is no shortage of foodgrain production. Therefore, there is no justification for new technologies to be brought in from the US

There are several local initiatives that point to the way forward. For instance, dryland millet-based mixed farming practices, livestock integrated farming, safeguarding uncultivated agro-biodiversity, non-pesticide management agriculture and the time-tested natural farming or ‘rishi kheti’. Indian farming has its own solutions. The obstacles are not technical but political.

India does not need its food menu to be written by the US. And irrespective of what
Obama’s speechwriter pens down for his parliamentary address, any word on democracies will be meaningless if his visit leaves India as a less self-defining nation, which no longer chooses how and what it feeds its own. The link between arms and alms is not as distant as it may seem.

GRAIN is a non-profit that works to help small farmers

>From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 42, Dated October 23, 2010