Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Letter from ICCFM to the Ministry on Licensing guidelines and formats for GM Technology Agreements

Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, India
Tel:+91-9899435968 ; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com 
                                                                                                                            Date: 25/07/2016
Shri D.S. Misra 
Deputy Commissioner (QC)
Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare,
Room No.B/116, 2nd Floor,
Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi.

Dear Mr. Misra,
We are a network of farmers’ organizations in India, comprising of farmers movements from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra.
We, hereby, submit Comments by Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements on:

The Direct effects of Monsanto’s high royalties, faulty technology and monopoly through patents

Prices and royalties of Bt cotton seeds will increase. The Bt Cotton model of revenue extraction will be applied to other seeds, (hybrid & native) and the price of seeds will increase. This would entail more exploitation of already indebted Indian farmers. Plus, there will be increased risks of crop failures as seen recently in Bt cotton failure in Punjab.  The cost of agriculture will go even higher due to patents, royalties and stricter corporate control of Indian agriculture. The seed corporations, which have now become the biotech corporations, want to patent every seed in India so they can profit from every item in our plate and farms. 

Corporations will privatize farmers’ shared “commons”. Monsanto and Bayer are already negotiating terms for a merger. The deal would create one of the biggest agribusiness business monopolies in the world and a global exploitive seed and chemical empire.

If this trend of patenting is encouraged, then the day is not far when our traditional knowledge will become patentable and corporations will profit for India’s indigenous knowledge. 
India will enter a new age of food and seed imperialism which will be controlled by US corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Cargill. 
India will lose its sovereignty and heed to the demands of corporations on issues of IPRs, Biodiversity and Farmers’ Rights. 

1. We reject all patents on our seeds, our biodiversity and our life.
Seed is life and farmers as traditional seed breeders they have the rights to their biodiversity. Our Biodiversity Heritage is our 'collective commons'.

2. The farmers have rights to reliable and affordable seed. It is the duty of the government to protect farmers’ right to livelihood and right to life. It is the government’s duty under Art 21 of the constitution to protect the life of all its citizens. The Cotton Seed Price Control Order issued by the Government of India needs to be seen in the context of farmer’s rights.

3. IPRs, patents, royalty, and technology fees collected by Monsanto are unjust for it comes in the context of false claims and a failing technology which is costing farmers heavily. It is the duty of Government to act to revoke a patent according to Article 64 and Article 66 of the Indian Patent Act.

4. Traditional knowledge and knowledge systems are our shared property. We reject the hijack our knowledge by corporate agenda and monopoly.

5. We want an end to Monsanto’s monopoly. As farmers, consumers and citizens we have the right to control our market. The government should control of the prices of Bt Cotton seeds and all other seeds. Monsanto must not be allowed to collect illegal and exploitative royalties.  We reject Monsanto's control over our seed prices. The Government has a duty to prevent monopolies being established. This is why we had the MRTP commission earlier, and now the competition commission. The issue of monopoly is before the Competition Commission of India, which has stated that Monsanto has violated Competition laws and there is Prima Facie evidence of monopoly.

6. India should honour the integrity of her people and not bow down to pressure from corporations to amend her Biodiversity Act, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act.

Yudhvir Singh

Convener, ICCFM


Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab,
KS Puttanaiah

Karnataka RajyaRaithaSangha,Karnataka
Sh Vijay Jawandhia
ShetkariSanghatna Maharashtra

S Kannaiyan
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

CK Janu

P Raveendranath,
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association

ChukkiNanjundaswamy, Karnataka RajyaRyotSangha, Karnataka

President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Farmer-to-farmer training session on Millets at Amrita Bhoomi | Karnataka, India

Source: http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php/news-from-the-regions-mainmenu-29/2092-farmer-to-farmer-training-session-on-millets-at-amrita-bhoomi

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Farmer_checking_Millet_Seed_-_Copy.jpgAt least 60 farmers, mostly from the neighboring indigenous Soliga community, as well as other small farmers including some urban origin farmers gathered for a farmer-to-farmer training session on millets at the Amrita Bhoomi agroecology center, on 2nd July 2016.
Amrita Bhoomi is linked to the Karnataka State Farmers’ Movement (KRRS for its initials in Kannada language) and is La Via Campesina’s agroecology school in South Asia. 
Successful millet growers, both young and old came to share their experiences and answer questions. This was followed by millet seed distribution to the trainees. Grameena Kutumba, a group that promotes millets and organizes direct farmer to consumer markets, co-organized this training session. They committed to follow up with a farmer to consumer fair early next year to allow trainees at this session to directly sell their produce to consumers.
b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Urban_farmer_gifting_millet_seeds_to_a_Soliga_indigenous_woman_farmer.jpgUrban origin farmers sponsored and gifted packets of millet seeds to the Soliga indigenous farmers. Some members of a local bakery also came by to present millet cookies made by them and showcase different forms of value added food products from millets. 
There are many types of millets- Finger millet, Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Kodo millet etc- all with varying flavors, textures and culinary adaptations. Millets are hailed as a miracle crop. This favorite food of birds, is also one of the world’s healthiest food for humans. It is a crop that can grow naturally without the need for any irrigation, chemicals or fertilizers. Sadly, millets were wiped out of our diets and farms because of the government’s heavy promotion of rice, wheat, sugarcane and other green revolution crops. Millets can resolve not just ecological problems by ending chemical and water use, they also provide income benefits to farmers by greatly reducing their cost of cultivation.
The nutritional profile of millets is by far superior to that of rice or wheat. Millets are high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and most vitamins. They can alleviate hunger and malnutrition; a major crisis in India, by simply including them in people’s diets and partially replacing polished white rice and over-processed wheat as much as possible. They also have a very low glycemic index thus improving insulin response and fighting diabetes. Millets improve heart health, are high in anti-oxidants andimprove digestive health.
Millet crop residues are an excellent source of fodder too. India’s serious drought crisis has adversely impacted livestock, which are first to die in times of water and fodder scarcity. Millets can grow in drought and also are very nutritious for animals.
Although millets are still a big part of indigenous peoples diets, their consumption among other rural and urban populations has depleted tremendously after polished white rice took over. These days, there is a growing consciousness and demand for millets from consumers due to its great health impacts, but there is not enough production in Karnataka. This is a major reason behind this training session organized by Amrita Bhoomi- to encourage and spread millets among Karnataka’s farmers. Promoting millets is a key campaign for Amrtia Bhoomi and many other activities and fairs are planned through the rest of the year.
Boregowda, a millet grower from Mandya (a region dominated by sugarcane and rice because of the presence of a dam, which is drying up fast) said,

“It was 40 degrees this year, the hottest summer ever, and we had no water or rain. I decided to try to grow millets, and they grew so well, my fields were green without any watering! My neighbors were impressed. So I went to agriculture university scientists to get their opinion and see what they had to say. But I didn’t tell them that I was already growing millets. I asked them if they had any millet seeds and whether I would be able to grow them during this dry spell. The agricultural scientists told me that nothing would grow in this summer, and even if it were to grow, there would be major pest attacks. They advised me to buy various chemicals to spray to fight pests. I later informed them that in fact my millets were already growing and lush and that I didn’t use any water or chemicals! They were surprised.”

There are also challenges in cultivation – birds love millets! If a single farmer grows millets then she would lose most of her crop to birds. This is the reason why millets need to be grown collectively over a large area so the birds have many farms to pick from and not just one. “Millets teach us to come together,” said Yellapa, a farmer teacher from Dharwad, who is part of a millet grower’s collective. The Soliga indigenous farmers said, “we must also share our crops with the birds, our food is not just for humans.” Soliga farmers were the most enthusiastic participants of the training session as they have traditionally grown millets as subsistence crops. 

“There is not even a single millet mill in the entire state of Karnataka! The neighboring Tamil Nadu state government on the other hand has set up processing units in their state. Most of the millets from Karnataka go to Tamil Nadu for processing and then come back here. We have to demand from the Karantaka government that they set up at least two processing plants in the state, one in the north and another in the south of the state. This will really encourage farmers to grow millets.”, said Chukki Nanjundaswamy of Amrita Bhoomi. 

Traditionally millets were processed by hand and a very labor-intensive and time-consuming method. This would really increase costs for consumers. On the other hand, small millet processing units do exist but they lead to major waste- upto 30-40% waste. The more efficient larger mills are more expensive, which is why Amrita Bhoomi is demanding that the state pay for them as a support to farmers who can then collectively grow and process millets.
b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Millet_Workshop_-_Amritabhoomi.jpgThe UN celebrated 2013 as the international year of Quinoa, a wonderful grain given to the world by the Andean people. The participants concluded that the time had come to also celebrate millets internationally, especially in its various centers of diversity in Africa and Asia, as a crop that can eradicate malnutrition, hunger and resolve many ecological problems. They also stressed that millets need policy support  – not just for farmers but also for consumers. The government should include this nutritious food in public programs such as in public school meals plans, and primary health centers instead of just focusing on pharmaceutical vitamin pills or chemically fortified foods.

by Ashlesha Khadse