After 1990s with increasing role of private sector in seed sector, farmers dependency on market has increased. this became rapid with MNCs stepping in and their activities like acquisitions, mergers, forming cartels have further worsend the situation. the advent of GM gave further control in the form of proprietary technologies and sublicenses. in the last five years the situation has changed very fast and newer issues have come to forefront.
when the seed bill 2004 was introduced many of us have responded to the bill. at that time protecting farmers rights in terms of saving, reusing, exchanging and selling seeds was the main focus which was accepted by the govt and found place in the amendments proposed by the sharad pawar in 2010.
as you may be knowing in the last five years, mahyco-monsanto filed four cases on AP govt questioning its powers on asking for compensation to farmers in case of seed failure, punishments in case of offences, fixing seed prices and royalties. when AP govt used powers under Essential Commodities act, it was amended taking away the rights. which could be brought back with great difficulty. keeping all this in view, all the farmers organisations in the state and NGOs has several rounds of discussions among them selves, with other stakeholders including farmers, scientists, seed companies and several rounds of discussions with the agriculture minister decided to represent the case to Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister and other MPs. AP govt has already written letter to the prime minister and agriculture min and the state agricul min agreed to be part of the delegation.
the main demands were to include clauses which can strengthen states and have powers to
- regulate seed prices and royalties (in addition to quality which is already accepted)
- award adequate compensation to farmers in case of seed failures
- regulate erring companies in terms of imposing fine in proportion to the damage caused (in additions to the existing offences and punishments)
- test and decide on allowing seeds only after testing locally.
on 3rd of May a delegation led by AP agriculture min, along with all farmers union representives, 15 MPs and sri. vadde shobanadreeswara rao ex agril min of AP, Narasimha Reddy, Chetana and me met Sri. Manmohan Singh, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Sri. Sharad Pawar, Sri. Swaminathan, Sri, Ramgopal Yadav, Sri. Basudeb Acharya, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Sri. Venkaya Naidu, Sri. Seetharam Yechuri, Mr. Raja, Sri. Mulayam Singh Yadav and shared our concerns.
in general except Sharad pawar all were positive towards the changes. manmohan assured that he will also speak with sharad pawar and see that the changes suggested will be included in the bill before introducing in the in the parliament. Sharad Pawar was making the usual argument that he received representation from companies to deregulate seed prices as it would prevent farmers from accessing ‘good’ technologies to farmers.
my observations are that
- all political parties were showing concern (at least on face) on the seeds issue particularly on GM and MNCs.
- Dr. swaminathan, Dr. Mysura Reddy, Sri. Raja, Sri. Madhu and few more MPs have already given their suggestions for amendments more or less on the same lines.
- if sharad pawar strategically do not carry out any of the changes and introduces the bill in rajyasabha and if the bill goes for voting it will not be passed. but if it goes through loksabha ruling coalition may push for approval as any breakdown will have political impacts.
- If more states can write to the PM, agri min and to their MPs it would be better and the case gets strength.