Seed Bill 2010: Its time for introducing price and royalty regulation

In the last five years, AP State Government has faced serious problems with the Seed Companies in regulating the Seed sale in the state in fulfilling its objective of helping farmers to have timely access to good quality seed in adequate quantities.

  1. in 2005 after a large scale cotton seed failure in Warangal dist, after establishing failure state govt asked Mahyco to pay compensation and company refused to pay and moved to AP high court on paying compensation saying state govt is harrasing them. AP high court orders also were in fav of mahyco and till date company never paid the compensation
  2. in 2006 after MRTP commission asked to reduce the bt cotton seed price, AP govt reduced the seed prices to Rs. 650 and Rs. 750 for bollgard I and II. MMB  moved to delhi high court on this issue
  3. in 2007 when Agriculture officers in Warangal district found that Mahyco Bt Bhybrids are sold in warangal market, they raided and seized the shop. Mahyco challenged that cotton seed is removed from Essential commodities act, hence Seed control order which draws powers from EC act doesnt apply to cotton.  at this juncture AP govt made a new act to regulate transgenic cotton seed in AP. Seed control order will be repealed once the 2010 bill is passed, there by taking away the rights.
  4. In 2010 monsanto filed case in AP high court requesting to stop state govt from reducing the royalty as they have no power. the case still pending in the court.

In all these four cases and many other situations it is clear that in the existing bills state has no powers and it is finding it difficult to regulate the prices (and/or royalty) and get adequate compensation be paid to farmers when crop fails. We hope the situation in other states is no different.  Unfortunately in 2010 bill also states (or for that matter even centre) do not have these powers.

In this situation we seek the following amendments to the Seed Bill 2004 in addition to the very useful Amendments suggested by Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture Shri. Sharad Pawar. States should have powers to regulate seed prices and royalties, evolve a simple mechanism to pay adequate compensation (on the crop loss rather than just the seed price) and award punishment for offenses with adequate fine (in proportion to the damage caused, rather than just blanket 30,000 as mentioned in the bill).

Seed Bill 2004 Original

Seed bill 2009 (amendments)

Seed Bill 2010 -Issues of Concern

AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY AP STATE GOVT FOR THE SEED BILL 2004

ANDHRA PRADESH: COKE VS FARMERS Bottled Krishna Guntur farmers fume at AP’s allotment of drinking water to Coke

It’s farmers vs Coca Cola again, this time in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Even as several villages in the area grapple with acute drinking water shortage and farmers seek better irrigation facilities, the government has allotted 2,150 cubic metre or 21.5 lakh litres of water from the river Krishna per day to M/s Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd at its plant in Atmakuru village. The government order (GO Ms. No. 26), issued on March 26, 2010, has triggered protests by farmer bodies. The CPI, CPI(M) and the Telugu Desam Party say the state government is compromising the farmers’ right to water by giving it to a beverage company.

Coca Cola, which has been operating in Atmakuru for over a decade now, earlier relied on groundwater for its operations. It sought permission to use water from the Krishna Water Main Canal in December 2007. Permission now granted, it has left locals fuming. According to the GO, Coca Cola can use the 2,150 cu m a day for 10 years. The annual outflow of water will be 0.02 tmc (thousand million cubic feet). The firm will lay its own pipeline and water meter, and will be charged industrial rates (Rs 4,500 per million gallon). The Krishna Water Main canal is part of the Buckingham canal, which is specifically meant to meet irrigation and drinking water requirements in Prakasam and Guntur districts.

According to agricultural experts, 1 tmc of water can irrigate about 10,000 acres per annum. Therefore 0.02 tmc can irrigate 200 acres per annum. This is the first time a beverage company is being allowed to draw water from a canal specifically meant for irrigation and drinking. However, both principal secretary, irrigation, S.K. Joshi, and the Hindustan Coca Cola spokesperson term the quantity of water as negligible. Joshi says the allotment of water will not affect the upper and lower riparian rights along the canal. “Besides,” he adds, “the firm will not be allowed to draw water for three months during the closure of the canal.”

Farmers, however, are unwilling to buy the “negligible” explanation. “If, as they say, the quantity is so less, why is Coca Cola so eager to lay a pipeline at its own cost,” asks cpi’s Guntur district secretary, Muppala Nageswara Rao, who staged a protest outside the Coca Cola plant earlier this month along with farmers. “About 15 villages around the Coca Cola factory have been seeking potable water from the government under the protected drinking water scheme but to no avail. Places like Atmakuru, Revendrapadu, Pedavadlapudi, Chinnavadlapudi, Ippatam, Tadepalli, Duggirala and Tenali (rural) are struggling with water shortage. Giving all these people the short shrift, the government has issued this GO. Does the government want its rural poor to drink beverages sold by Coke?”

TDP MLAs from Guntur P. Pulla Rao and D. Narendra Kumar wonder why the government is being so generous to Coca Cola which “does business in selling water and beverages whose quality itself has been suspect for long”. Kumar says the GO has set a dangerous precedent that threatens the water security of farmers and others. “If Coca Cola wanted only a ‘small quantity’ of water, why couldn’t it ask the Mangalagiri municipality (which would have refused a higher volume)? Moreover, the company might even draw more than the allotted 0.02 tmc. If it draws 1 or 2 tmc, is there any authority to oversee this?” asks Kumar.

Pulla Rao says it’s astonishing that the government could favour a company that has faced legal suits in Kerala. “As an industry, it won’t even serve the people like, say, a power unit would. We demand that the GO be withdrawn immediately,” he says. TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu also spoke out against the move at a farmers’ protest rally on Prakasam barrage. “Is there surplus water in the Krishna delta?” he asked. “The state is supplying canal water to a commercial enterprise which sells it right back to the people in the form of mineral water and soft drinks at higher prices.”

Hanumantha Rao shows affected corn

The company’s use of groundwater till now, farmers in the area suspect, has led to a fall in water tables and affected soil fertility. J. Hanumantha Rao, a small farmer in Pedavadlapudi, says his crop of corn has been affected badly over the last three years. “My yield has fallen by 30 per cent. The plants, which are supposed to stand for 120 days or so, now attain fruition in 80 days’ time. The size and quality of the corn has been affected as a result,” he says. Bhavana Srinivasa Rao, secretary, Guntur District Rythu Sangam, says that soil salinity has increased in the last five years. “We strongly feel that the company is dumping untreated waste water into the ground and is overshooting its permissible limit of groundwater drawal,” says Rao. Other farmers in Pedavadlapudi and Atmakuru—A. Radhakrishna, J. Sambasiva Rao, B. Venkateswara Rao—complain of similar things. “A white sheen is seen on our crop of lady’s finger and even the soil. This is a sure pointer to pollution of groundwater,” says Venkateswara Rao.

Many people in this village say the drinking water is really bad. “We all buy water for cooking and drinking from a drinking water project run by Naandi Foundation,” says Srinivasa Rao. What the villagers don’t know, however, is that Coca Cola runs this community water initiative along with Naandi in two villages of Guntur district.

There have been murmurs even within the Congress against the canal water being supplied to Coca Cola. Deputy speaker Nadendla Manohar has said it was incorrect to allow Coca Cola to draw Krishna water from the canal and has spoken out against industry minister Kanna Lakshminarayana’s decision.

Meanwhile, Deepak Jolly, vice president (public affairs and communications), Coca Cola, protests against the “misinformation” campaign by some political parties. “It has been Coca Cola’s policy to combine usage of ground and surface water. Coca Cola is a respected company which operates as per the laws of the land. We do a lot of CSR in AP. Coca Cola is one of the largest buyers of mangoes from farmers for Maaza,” says Jolly. What would he rather have? If they can’t have water, let them have Coke, aye?

Seeds under siege ( Published in www.d-sector.org)

By Pandurang Hegde
26 Apr 2010

International Seeds Day (April 26) reminds us of concerted attempts by the large seed corporations to destroy seed diversity of the world to expand their markets and profits.

How can governments snatch growers’ rights over seeds?
Following on heels of Earth Day (April 22) comes the International Seeds Day (April 26). But there is no doubt that it will not be celebrated in the United States and many countries in Europe. Neither will this be endorsed by the United Nations or Food and Agricultural Organisation. The reason is obvious; it is launched by common people, especially by the ordinary farmers in Iraq who lost the sovereignty not only of their country, but of their seeds. It was on April 26, 2004 the Order 81 was passed by the Coalition Authority that prohibits the farmers in Iraq from using their own seeds and forces them to buy the seeds from Multinational Seed Corporations from the US and Europe.

The world has witnessed innumerable wars and occupations, but the invasion of Iraq is unique because it has led to an order to terminate the life from seed, taking away farmers’ freedom to grow what they want to grow. The common people in the world thought that the war was for oil, but the perpetrators of the occupation have clearly shown their meanness by attacking the life giving seed. Having failed to find any WMD (weapons of mass destruction), they attacked the seed sovereignty, backed by the sheer unethical greed of global seed giants. It is the launching of world war for the control of seeds.

The invasion of Iraq is unique because it has led to an order to terminate the life from seed, taking away farmers’ freedom to grow what they want to grow.
What does the Order 81 say? It says that the farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety. The terminology might sound funny, but the intention is clear, according to the Order the genetically altered seeds are called “protected variety” and the unregistered or local seeds are referred to as “infringing variety”! The new order gives corporations complete control over farmers’ seeds. Iraqi farmers have to sign an agreement to pay a “technology fee” plus an annual license fee. Plant Variety Protection (PVP) made seed saving and reusing illegal as well as “similar” seed plantings punishable by severe fines and imprisonment.

This is the ideal autocratic law the corporate seed giants would like to impose on the rest of the world. What is unfortunate is that it was backed by countries like the US and Europe who chant the mantra of democracy and human rights. By enacting Order 81 they want to erase the 8000 old farming history of Iraq, which is part of “fertile crescent”, the origin of diversity of crops, especially wheat. The order gives the corporations monopoly over seeds.

The seed war in Iraq is clear indicator of how the corporates want to take control over seeds in different parts of world. They might not send coalition forces in other countries, but the silent war is on through diplomatic channels, through back door maneuverings and enticing the politicians of democratic nations through the power of money. The recent controversy on bt brinjal in India is basically another seed war being waged to cave in those age old civilizations which are the centres of diversity.

Almost fifty percent of the annual 21 billion USD seed market is dominated by just ten Seed Companies, who also own pesticide companies. By controlling the seed and inputs, they are aiming to control the entire food chain of the world. In order to deeply entrench the seed monopoly, the first thing they need is to destroy the diversity of the local seeds, especially those used and reused by the farmers. This is called seed replacement rate. In India this rate is 70 per cent, as most of the farmers re-use and exchange the seeds among themselves. Iraq had 90 percent replacement rate.

The passing of the Food Security Act will have no meaning if we do not have the freedom over our seeds and inputs to grow our crops.
Obviously, this culture of saving and sharing seeds is the biggest threat that hinders the growth of seed corporates. By passing Order 81 they removed this threat in Iraq. But in India our elected government and the pro establishment scientists are willing to surrender control of our seeds to large Agricultural corporations. The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture Education, Research, Services and Commercial Linkages is the modem through which such controls will be exercised.

The vast majority of Indian farmers are dependent on local seed supply and exchange. This process, being low key appears to be lacking in technical know how, but has resulted in conserving the enormous diversity of crops through centuries. However, the introduction of modern technology through green revolution has led to decimation of seed diversity in crops like wheat and rice. Both the public and private seed developers are keen to breed those varieties that respond to intensive chemical and pesticide inputs. This trend of corporate seed control will ultimately destroy the remaining biodiversity in food crops.

The Corporate lobby is so influential that it can easily penetrate into the highest decision making process in any country. The lure of making windfall profits from sale of agricultural seeds in a country like India is making agri-business desperate. They have tasted success in the accelerated sales of bt cotton, where Monsanto and its associate companies reaped huge benefits over the last five years. In the process India lost 90 percent of the local cotton seed diversity.

Emboldened by the bt cotton experience, the corporations know that much more money can be earned from cereal crops like rice and wheat. This is the logic behind them launching the attack through bt brinjal to enter into the food crops.

Seed is the basis for food sovereignty. It is only through the control of our seeds that we will be able reach the goal of food security. The passing of the Food Security Act will have no meaning if we do not have the freedom over our seeds and inputs to grow our crops. But do our policymakers who daydream to remove hunger through legislation understand the severity of war over seeds?

Microfinance institutions push tribals into debt trap

Ravi Reddy

HYDERABAD: A number of Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) have penetrated into the Scheduled Areas of the State by exploiting the innocence of the tribals and luring them into taking loans at hefty interest rates.

Throwing all rules and regulations to winds, these institutions are having a free run in the tribal areas and targeting illiterate women. In violation of the AP Scheduled Area Money Lenders Regulation 1960, the MFIs are carrying out their business and pushing tribals into debt trap.

According to the Regulation, no person or institution can carry on business of money lending in Scheduled Area unless they obtain a licence. That money-lending was assuming alarming proportions in several tribal areas of the State was evident when the then Khammam Collector V. Usharani wrote a letter to the government in February 2010 explaining the murky financial transactions of these MFIs.

In her five-page letter, (a copy of which is available with The Hindu), she named Share Microfin Limited, Swayam Krushi Sangham (SKS), Spandana and Undamma Bottu Pedatha as carrying out money lending business. She mentioned that these MFIs had obtained certificate of registration from the Reserve Bank of India to carry on the business of microcredit advances, lending money for agriculture, industries and market linkage developments.

They were working in Scheduled Areas by lending money and completely defeating the concept of Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP). “Their method of extending loans to the groups with small interests looks apparently simple, but is accumulating to compound interest as the term of repayment is weekly basis and coercive methods applied to recovery on the tribals amounted to harassment,” the Collector said.

“The innocent tribal families are taken easily in to the lap of these agencies and ultimately become bankrupt unable to repay the loans. Due to the coercive recovery methods, certain borrowers have committed suicide,” she noted. She said a huge amount of bank loans are pending forcing the bankers to refuse loans to the IKP groups.

In her report, Ms. Usha Rani observed that these MFIs were registered as Public Limited Company. They came very much under the purview of the definition of AP Scheduled Area Money Lenders Regulation 1960 but were carrying on money lending in scheduled areas. She pointed out that loans were given to tribals in the scheduled areas against security of movable and immovable property where the Land Transfer Regulation 1959 is in force. She accused the MFIs of working against the Agency laws.

Report sought

When contacted, B. Rajasekhar, Chief Executive Officer, Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) said it was a fact that a number of agency mandals in Khammam were affected by the activities of the MFIs. He said a detailed report was being sought from the districts for necessary action.

How to feed your billionaires

P. Sainath

http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article399250.ece

BIG BET: Kings XI Punjab team’s co-owner Preity Zinta gestures to Mumbai Indians’ owners Mukesh Ambani and his wife Neeta Ambani after a match at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on April 09. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar
BIG BET: Kings XI Punjab team’s co-owner Preity Zinta gestures to Mumbai Indians’ owners Mukesh Ambani and his wife Neeta Ambani after a match at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on April 09. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar
Freebies for the IPL — at a time of savage food subsidy cuts for the poor — benefit four men who make the Forbes Billionaire List of 2010 and a few other, mere multi-millionaires.

MILLET REVOLUTION Winning the battle against hunger, silently

Revival of millet cultivation in Medak of Andhra shows how a variety of millets can fight hunger even during drought, keep farmers debt-free, and provide the much-needed nutrition without using pesticides, reports,  Ramesh Menon.


http://www.indiatogether.org/2010/apr/agr-millets.htm
19 April 2010 – Be it poor soil conditions or underdeveloped areas in India where agriculture solely depended on the mercy of rain gods, millet cultivation was going on unhindered. Thanks to the Green Revolution in the 60s, despite the immense diversity of agricultural crops, rice and wheat became staple crops and the age-old farming tradition got uprooted even before the farmers realized the adverse consequences of adapting to water-intensive cultivation.