Sustainable Agriculture and Small holders: Dr. J. Venkateswarlu

111231 Sustainable Agriculture and Smallholders – JV

We are very happy to welcome the New Year 2012. The passing out year was very eventful. The Planning Commission organized several working groups and one of the groups was to address agriculture. The recommendations made by each of the working groups were very meaningful and useful for the country and for the Planning Commission to evolve the strategies for XII FYP.

We are happy that there is a growing realization at various levels (CBOs, researchers, planners, activists, thinkers as well as Government) to look for alternate production systems. Need for biomass generation is gaining ground. It is also good to note the efforts of the committee on “Works on individual land in MGNREGS” prepared by Gopal (CEC) and his associates bearing a fruit as the MoRD is now expanding the horizons of the MGNREGS to meet these goals.

We hope while launching more KVKs, the DARE would address the problem of “Udyog Vikas” as part of the activities of the existing and upcoming KVKs by augmenting the strength of the trainer units. Similarly we fondly believe that the Government would look into the effect of climate change on the natural resources (land, water, vegetation) and not limit to crops and livestock production systems. Lastly there is a need for converging several of the programmes that provide “doles” to the farmers with on-going programmes like IWMP and MGNREGS.

We are enclosing a brief note on “Sustainable Agriculture and Smallholders: for your perusal and consideration.

Dr. J. Venkateswarlu

Former Director, CAZRI

Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University spends only 10% of funds for Research

Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University, once a premium agriculture university in the country is now suffering from paucity of funds.   The university which has over rs. 50 cr budget spends Rs. 45 cr for salaries of the scientists and about Rs. 5 cr. for research.  Even in the research budget much of the budget goes for hi-tech research which never reaches the field.  There is an urgent need to make an assessment of the funding and outputs.

Based on news paper reports

ndigenous Seeds – Key to end Agrarian Crisis

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/257167

Bhopal, Dec 31 (ANI): India, for several years remained synonymous to agriculture whose reflections are still visible with more than 60 percent of its population being dependent upon it.

Earlier, our farmers were proud owners of manifolds of indigenous seeds, which besides being visually attractive possessed significant features, high nutrient value and diversity in taste.

Farmers used to rely on traditional methods of farming. Kathia, Jalalia, Mundi Pissi, Red Pissi, White Pissi, Bansi, Bangesia and Soharia were the available local (Desi) wheat seeds, while Kardhana, Jheena, Bagh Moonch, Kali Moonch, Batro, Kshatri, Lalai, Bhadel etc. were the local paddy seeds.

Similarly, there were different types of Sorghum, Chana, Lentils, Green Lentils and Corn Seeds available in the market.

With the advent of Green revolution, India adapted new advanced methods to become self sufficient in food production after suffering a lot during world’s worst recorded food disaster – Bengal Famine. High-yielding varieties of seeds and the increased use of fertilizers and irrigation were introduced to several districts of India with Hoshangabad of Madhya Pradesh being one of them.

Tawa project was launched and along with that, novel hybrid varieties took over the indigenous seeds. For many years, these hybrid varieties produced great yield but now the situation has completely altered. Unfortunately, despite of nurturing the land with high quantity of fertilisers, the production rate is suffering a huge downfall. Farmers, disappointed, have started committing suicides recent being the case where three farmers committed suicides in Hoshangabad District within four days.

This, in a way, is an upheaval of green revolution. This also sets the limit for miraculous GM seeds (Genetically Modified Seeds), which are being produced as an alternative to the Green Revolution. These seeds, if sowed, will produce more disastrous consequences.

Recently, excess rain destroyed the entire crop of Soybean in various parts of the district.

The average production of this crop was twenty kg to two quintal. Farmers fraught under debt committed suicides. Two farmers committed suicides in Hoshangabad’s Dolaria Tahseel and one in Siwni Malwa Tahseel.

But I believe, the government has become used to the “figures” of farmer suicides. In spite of taking grave steps about this unprecedented matter, government is trying hard to bring in the GM seeds produced by methodology based on biotechnology.

Recently in Bhopal, ABLE-AG (Agricultural Group of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises) organised a meeting in which GM seeds for Soybean were proposed.

In the past, a combined farming of chana and wheat was quite popular. Elders of the house loved the chapatis of this mixture. Combined farming like Utera or Satgajra had a stronghold in the region wherein 4-5 crops are sowed in the same field. Such practices still breathe in the forest belt of the country. The benefit of this sort of farming is that if one crop fails, the other would compensate for it unlike the Cash Crops.

In case of an attack of insects and mites or a natural disaster takes place, the entire crop gets ruined as was the case of Soybean crop this year. The loss in the such type of mixed farming is because post the Tawa Dam irrigation facility, wheat and soybean are the only crops which are sowed in the Rabi and Kharif period, respectively.

According to Jeevan Singh Patel of Jamada Village – “Earlier, farmers used to sow Desi or local seeds. They used to save some grains from the crop to be used as seeds the next sowing season or borrowed some from the neighbouring farmers. Women used to play a vital role in storing and preserving the seeds. As compared to the indigenous seeds, which were available for free, farmers have to pay for the crossbred seeds. The farmers on whom the entire Nation was dependant became critically dependant on the companies and the government agencies.”

Desi seeds had the capacity to fight against disease and famine. Dung fertilisers used to be the only supplement added to the soil with no need of irrigation. Complete damage to the crops was never the case. But now, continuous spraying of the insecticides and tonics along with supply of water has become the tradition, which has adversely affected the fertility of the soil.

The water level besides getting lowered is also getting affected which in turn is adversely affecting the vegetation, human and animal life. Many regions have reported the death of birds like peacock, which died after eating chemically affected grains.

The world famous doctor R.H. Richaria, from Nandwada, Hoshangabad collected 17,000 indigenous paddy seeds with features like good smell, high yielding capacity and great taste. The threat to the wealth of local Indian seeds is evident from the fact that many of these collected seeds have already crossed the borders, silently.

The first case of seed-theft came to light in the year 2002 when Syngenta- a MNC and Raipur Agricultural University signed a secret agreement wherein the latter would hand over the entire wealth of indigenous seeds collected by Dr. Richaria to the former. After stiff opposition the agreement, fortunately, was given up.

Can one “create” seeds in laboratories? No. Countries like India characterized by warm climate, were the target of western countries, which took the seeds from such fertile lands and crossbred them to produce hybrid varieties. Later, they sold these hybrid seeds to us at higher rates. After registering their patent over the seeds, national as well as international companies have set a monopoly wherein the only person paying them huge amounts is the farmer, who won’t mind getting his fertile seed back at cost of his life.

 

In the beginning, the government promoted the chemical farming by providing subsidy, but now it has taken a back step. The cost of farming has increased and companies are making huge profits. Jacob Nellithanam, who preserves and transforms seeds, is of the opinion that the local soil and water set the perfect tone for indigenous seeds.ccording to Suresh Kumar Sahu, who recently returned home after studying abroad, “The Indian farmer forcibly sells his crop on a relatively cheaper rate, and later purchases grain for himself on a higher price. It will be good if farmers sow crops according to their local need and consume it locally.”

The experience of genetically modified (GM) seeds has been distasteful. The trend of suicides started with the farmers of BT Cotton ending their lives. Economist Sunil, a writer with extensive focus on agriculture says, “Mostly the cotton farmers are committing suicide. Genetically modified seeds can increase the production of a crop, but along with that it also increases the risk factor and cost.” Demand for banning GM Seeds has gained momentum in several countries. Recently in India, BT Brinjal was banned after facing intense opposition from the farmers and the public.

This is the time to take steps towards sustainable development of agriculture by adopting farm activities with local seeds and dung fertilisers. It is the pressing need of the hour as the lifeline of the country, the farmers, are ending their lives. Indigenous seeds will add fertility not only to the land but will nurture lives as well.

The Charkha Development Communication network feels that such steps would make agricultural actions safe, eco-friendly while increasing the production rate. Like paddy, production of wheat can also be increased through Madagascar System. It was then and it is now, we are still fighting, writing and debating on the same issue – Food security. We need to secure our farmers first; everything else will automatically fall in place. By Baba Mayaram (ANI)

Let farmers decide the price’: Mani Chinnaswamy, Apache Cotton

Author(s): Jyotika Sood
Issue: Jan 15, 2012
Mani Chinnaswamy’s contract farming model has prompted IIM graduates to study his Appachi formula. After all, it gives farmers the right to bargain the price of their produce with the buyer. Talking to Jyotika Sood, the entrepreneur shares the hurdles in the implementation of the formula and its potential to change farmers’ lives

 

Mani ChinnaswamyMani ChinnaswamyWhat makes your formula a novel contract farming model?

Appachi formula differs from conventional contract farming models, especially on the price front. We do not create uncertainty by fixing the price of the produce in advance. Our contract allows farmers to sell their commodity at the prevailing market rate. Though we have the first right to negotiate, farmers are free to auction off the produce in case of a disagreement. We motivate them to form self-help groups to enhance their bargaining power.

Our pricing mechanism usually does not disappoint them as it takes into account the labour put in by the farmer and his family. My company, Appachi Cotton, deals only in cotton because it is a family business, but alongside we encourage our farmers to grow millets, legumes and vegetables, which helps them meet their daily needs and expenses.

Another component of the formula is to ensure that farmers never go short of money and material throughout the cultivation period. The contract assures them easy availability of credit from banks, quality seeds, doorstep delivery of unadulterated fertilisers and pesticides at discounted rates, expert advice and field supervision.

We hear you have stopped facilitating farm credits.

I developed the formula with a vision that everyone who is part of the contract will fulfil their responsibilities. If a farmer takes a loan, he must repay it. It worked well for 10 years. But in 2006, during the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, some political parties promised waiving off agricultural loans in their manifesto. This led to wilful default by farmers and a bitter end to the idea. To fill the void we started looking for ways to reduce cultivation cost. This made us switch from conventional to organic cotton in 2009. Farmers are always under fear and defensive, applying fertilisers and pesticides indiscriminately, thus increasing cultivation cost. They would sanitise the entire field at the sight of a single insect. There was a need to teach them when to pick up their pesticide guns.

Is organic cotton more profitable than the conventional cotton?

In agriculture, profit can be increased either by increasing the yield or by reducing the cultivation cost. Chemicals and technologies like Bt are pushing up the yield, but they are also increasing the cost of cultivation.

Farmers are organic by default. Through Appachi, we remove middlemen, passing the benefits directly to farmers. An increasing number of farmers are switching from conventional to organic cotton lately. Since the yield reduces during the conversion period, we offer them financial support to keep up their interest in organic cotton. We help them get organic certification.

What are the challenges before organic cotton?

No doubt Bt cotton poses the threat of contamination to organic cotton, but the biggest challenge is seed. All our seed banks have run out of traditional cotton varieties. Hardly any company or agriculture university is coming forward with seeds suitable for organic farming. The government and universities are promoting Bt crops, while people want safe organic crops.

What are the other endeavours of your company?

We have an integrated model for organic cotton farmers and weavers. At present, we have 165 farmers and 50 weavers. We make products like sarees and dress material under the brand name, Ethicus. We put our craftsperson’s name and picture on every piece he creates and mention the time it took to weave the fabric.

Agricultural Policy Strategy, Instruments and Implementation: A Review and the Road Ahead

Bhupat M Desai, Errol D’Souza, John W Mellor, Vijay Paul Sharma, Prabhakar Tamboli
Economic and Political Weekly, December 31, 2011

For 40 years, India’s agricultural growth rate has averaged less than one-third of the government’s modest target of 4%. The sector’s performance has been about the same before and after the economic reforms in the early 1990s. The reforms that brought a dramatic acceleration of growth in urban sectors have essentially had no effect on agriculture. Slow agricultural growth has had ill-effects on food security, food price inflation and poverty reduction because of the inadequate level and composition of public expenditure. Agricultural education, research, extension and a wide range of ancillary public institutions have also suffered. Agricultural growth always demands massive public goods provision and that in turn requires a radical reorientation of central, state and district government activities. This paper advocates a new integrated, technology-led strategy to pull out of, what looks like, a vicious circle that agriculture is now caught in.

Importing Disaster: India’s power elite is still seeking US solutions for our problems despite the havoc they have wreaked upon American society

Author: Latha Jishnu
Posted on: 29 Dec, 2011

India’s power elite is still seeking US solutions for our problems despite the havoc they  have wreaked upon American society
Photo: Franco FoliniMany decades ago when my generation was in its early teens and was captivated by the Merseyside beat of the Beatles along with bell-bottom pants of that era, disapproving elders told us that we were mindlessly aping the West. As far as I can see, dalliance with the rock music of the Liverpool Fabulous Four did us little harm—either in the appreciation of own music or in our outlook and values, much less in our dress sense. But “aping the West” was a scathing indictment and we preferred not to be accused of such mindlessness.

One of the oddest things about the Indian establishment though is the complete mindlessness with which it has been lapping up practically anything hawked by Western governments, corporations, financial institutions and other snake oil salesmen. And unlike adolescent whims, this kind of aping is far from being harmless; they can have deleterious effects on economies, livelihoods and societies. The wholesale import of policies more suited to developed societies that have gone through their industrial and post-industrial revolutions are hardly the panacea they are made out to be for the disparate problems of a developing country, specially one which carries the burden of the largest number of the wretchedly poor, the unschooled, the diseased and vulnerable people. Nowhere is this determination to import disaster more evident than in agriculture. Farming in the US and India are as different from each other as the atmosphere in Jupiter is to that of Earth. Take some basic facts. The US has less than one per cent of its population claiming farming as their occupation and just about 960,000 persons who say farming is their principal occupation. The average farm size is a whopping 167 hectares (ha) while a large chunk of farms are between 40 ha and 220 ha. When it comes to farming in India, about 550 million people are dependent on agriculture and the vast majority of farm holdings are between 0.8 ha and 2 ha. Most of the farmers are, needless to say, dirt-poor.

It is in such starkly different circumstances that the top officials of the Planning Commission, the farm minister himself and the Prime Minister’s Office seek to transplant the US model of industrial farming here. And there’s one other detail that should not be overlooked. American farmers receive huge subsidies. Between 1995 and 2010, less than a million farmers were paid $167.3 billion under the direct payment subsidy programme. These subsidies were doled out to grain and commodity farmers as a safety net regardless of their actual production. In the very same period, a total of 256,913 debt-ridden Indian farmers committed suicide.

It is in such a situation that the government has rolled out the red carpet for seed and pesticide multinationals. It is only a matter of time before the retail giants too walk in. As for the World Trade Organization (WTO), the intransigence of the EU and the US to cut its farm subsidies has resulted in a decade-long deadlock in negotiations to conclude a new round. But it matters little to New Delhi’s power elite. Inspiration still comes from the West, and, as a corollary, subservience to its demands will also continue.

It is not anyone’s case that the West has nothing to offer us. One policy worthy of emulation is its public-funded school system of quality education that covered the entire population. But, interestingly, this is one issue policymakers here have ignored while opting for shortcuts such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhayan, which is on the whole a shabby programme of third-rate schooling. That, however, is another issue.

What is curious is why the establishment, whether it’s the political, bureaucratic, academic or scientific establishment, still continues to draw its inspiration from a system that appears to be in tatters. Europe and the US are enveloped in a pall of gloom and seething rage against a theology that has failed the vast majority of people. And nowhere is the anger more widespread than in the US where an extraordinary mix of people across racial and ethnic divides, from laid-off workers, teachers and young and middle-aged professionals to the elderly and perpetually homeless, are living on the streets to seek a more equitable system.

Here are some of the reasons that have fuelled the mass outburst:

  • Americans living in poverty: more than 46 million
  • Americans without health insurance: close to 50 million
  • Americans without jobs or underemployed: between 24 and 26 million
  • Homeless Americans: 3.5 million

All this in a country with a population of just 312 million. If nothing, these statistics should serve as a reality check for those who believe the free market economy is the solution. Does it have to be said that India needs to find its own ways of dealing with its many crises?

Farmer suicides: NGO points to Punjab reporting fewer numbers

SANGRUR: The number of farmer suicides in Punjab seems to vary according to the source providing information about that. An NGO,Movement Against State Repression (MASR), has stated that Punjab is a glaring example of neglecting the factor of farmer suicides when it comes to determining the amount of funds that should be spent on assisting agriculturists.

MASR’s convener Inderjit Singh Jaijee said, “As per information we collected, a Punjab policereport says that only seven farmers committed suicide from the period of 2002 to 2006.”

In 2008, state revenue department had mentioned in a report compiled on the basis of details provided by deputy commissioners that 132 farmers committed suicide during five years starting with 2002. Jaijee said Punjab Agricultural University’s economics department team came up with a figure of 2,890 suicides from 2000 to 2008 in just two districts. It stated that in Sangrur and Bathinda, 1,643 and 1,247 farmers had committed suicide, respectively.

MASR claimed about 1,700 farmers committed suicide from 1988 to 2008 in just two subdivisions of Sangrur district. “Going by that, the suicide figure across Punjab could be an estimated 20,000 in all these years,” said Jaijee. A Punjab Farmers’ Commission study had said that about 2,000 committed suicide in the state every year.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) has claimed more than 40,000 farmers committed suicide in these years. Jaijee added, “Punjab has outclassed even Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as data collected by MASR bares the truth on these suicides. In Maharashtra, 34,659 farmers committed suicide from 2000 to 2008 out of rural population of 5.58 crore. That comes to 62 farmer suicides per lakh population. Likewise, 18,396 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh which has a rural population of 5.54 crore. The figure of suicides per lakh there comes up to 33. As compared to highly farmer suicide-prone states, Punjab recorded 24,732 in eight years (as per NGO and farmer union figures, which have not been authenticated by state) in a rural population of mere 1.61 crore. That works out to 154 farmer suicides per lakh.”

Farmer organization BKU’s (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said, “Till now, Union government has meted out gross injustice to Punjab. That was proven when Punjab got just Rs 1,000 crore as assistance, when nationally, the figure was Rs 71,000 crore. That means a bit more than 1% of total assistance came the way of the state. Even if a parliamentary panel is formed, it will ignore Punjab.”

Insecticide usage on cotton in India 1999-2010 (Rs crores)

 
Year
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
% Bt Cotton
0.38
1.2
5.59
11.51
41.42
67.1
80.8
82.43
90.67
cotton, Insecticide
879
839
1052
597
925
1032
649
579
733
791
834
880
Cotton fungicide
11
10
6
3
8
6
8
11
25
31
52
67
Cotton herbicide
2
1
1
1
3
4
8
12
22
26
45
87
Total Insecticides in Agrl.
2128
2052
2268
1683
2146
2455
2086
2223
2880
3282
3909
4283
% share of cotton
41
41
46
35
43
42
31
26
25
25
21
21
Total Pesticides in Agrl.
3004
2972
3207
2622
3147
3581
2439
3396
4697
5293
6999
7684

Researchers Follow Pesticides’ Migration To The Arctic

December 1, 2011 | Latest News

Researchers Follow Pesticides’ Migration To The Arctic

Persistent Pollutants: Four-month cruise finds traces of endosulfan and five other widely used pesticides
[+]Enlarge

20111201lnj1-Xuelong

Arctic Pollutants
Researchers spent four months aboard the ice-breaker R/V Xuelong measuring pesticide levels in water and air.
Credit: Polar Research Institute of China, courtesy of Zhiyong Xie
[+]Enlarge

20111201lnj1-es202655k-fig1b

Pollutant Trek
Seawater concentrations of six pesticides varied along a path from East Asia to the Arctic.
Credit: Environ. Sci. Technol.

Six pesticides used in high volumes for agriculture travel from farm fields to the Arctic, researchers report in Environmental Science & Technology (DOI:10.1021/es202655k).

Every year, farmers in countries including India, China, Russia, the U.S., and some developing countries protect their crops using tens of thousands of tons of pesticides such as endosulfan. Researchers know that these compounds can travel long distances by air and water and reach the Arctic.

On a four-month research cruise from the East China Sea northward to the Chukchi Sea in the High Arctic, researchers led by Zhiyong Xie of theHelmholtz Center in Geesthacht, Germany, measured levels in air and water of the pesticides chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, dacthal, dicofol, endosulfan, and trifluralin. The team developed new air sampling methods to detect some of these pesticides.

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a transnational scientific working group that monitors pollutants, previously had tracked the insecticide endosulfan and the herbicide trifluralin. While some Arctic data previously existed on chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, dacthal, and dicofol, the team collected the first measurements of the compounds in air and water levels along an ocean path from East Asia to the Arctic. This information should help researchers understand if the pollutants travel more readily by air or by sea, as well as how they degrade along the way.

The study suggests that these pesticides could cause environmental problems far from farms, says Xie. While the compounds degrade as they travel to the Arctic, he points out that once they are in the Arctic’s cold temperatures, the pesticides could become more stable and last longer. He thinks researchers next need to focus on the pollutants’ effects in Arctic ecosystems.

Scientific Fraud: Coalition demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research & action against fraudulent scientists

INDIA’S “PUBLIC SECTOR INDIGENOUS GM COTTON” A SCIENTIFIC FRAUD:
 
Coalition for a GM-Free India demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research and an independent enquiry and action against fraudulent scientists.
New Delhi, December 30, 2011: 2011 ends with a big blot to the Indian scientific community, as was the case in 2010 too. The much-hyped public sector Bt cotton lines (Bikaneri Narma Bt variety and NHH-44 Bt hybrid) touted as the “first indigenous public sector-bred GM crop in India” developed by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR) and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS) along with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is actually found to have a Bt gene originally patented by Monsanto. The ICAR had to withdraw the production of these ‘indigenous’ GM cotton seeds, based on this development. In effect the Indian biotechnologists, supported with enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money doing research on developing indigenous “biotechnology products” have misled the nation by passing off the Monsanto technology as their own, the Coalition for a GM-Free India stated. The Coalition demanded that the Government stop all transgenic research in the public sector immediately, setup a high-level independent inquiry into the current case as well as all other research projects. It also demanded that this issue be seen as an act of corruption and fraud and severe deterrent action be taken against all the institutions and scientists involved.
In India, the majority of transgenic products in the R&D pipeline are from public sector institutions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network project on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of Rs 100 crores in the XI Plan.
The Bt cotton in question is the Bikaneri Narma (BN) Bt (variety) and the NHH-44 Bt (hybrid) expressing Bt Cry 1Ac protein. The developers CICR & UAS claimed that BN Bt carries the cry1Ac (Truncated and codon-modified) gene which ‘is very similar to the Cry 1Ac toxin expressed by MON 531 event developed by M/s Monsanto as well as event 1 of IIT, Kharagpur’, both of which are already under commercial cultivation. A CICR newsletter (Vol.24, No.2, Apr-June 2008) soon after the GEAC approval for transgenic BN Bt claimed that the development of this Bt cotton was initiated under the World-Bank-funded NATP from 2000 onwards. The Bt cry1AC gene in this instance was supposed to have been developed by the NRCPB of the IARI along with CICR and the transfer into popular cultivars is supposed to be taken up by UAS-Dharwad.
During deliberations in the GEAC about this, the members first gave approval for large-scale field trials (LSTs) during the GEAC meeting on April 2, 2008 and then in the next meeting on 2nd May 2008 reviewed the decision and gave approval for commercialization of BN Bt without conducting LSTs. The rationale was that since the seeds of BN Bt could be saved by farmers, a large scale field trial is tantamount to commercial release! However one year after its much publicized release BN Bt was withdrawn from the market without any explanation and no reports were made available about its performance till then. The same Bt construct was used to develop hybrid Bt cotton, namely NHH 44. YUVA and Hamara Beej Abhiyan, two constituents of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, brought out a report in 2010, on “Performance of CICR’s Bt Cotton in 2009 – a survey report” (available at http://indiagminfo.org/?page_id=238) which showed that BN Bt had failed to perform in farmers’ fields and the claims were belied. The worse thing was that there was no accountability fixed on anyone for this failure. In this report released in October 2010 itself, the Coalition demanded that ‘CICR come out in the open to state exactly what the problem is which made BN Bt seed supply vanish from the market exactly one season after its entry’ (pp.11).
Now it has come to light through an RTI that there is nothing indigenous about this Bt construct used by CICR & UAS and it has Monsanto’s cry1Ac gene. As per news media stories, the NARS appears to be defending this episode by explaining it away as “contamination”.  It is interesting to note that scientists who have rubbished “contamination” concerns expressed by civil society groups and others both for their environmental and IPR implications, are resorting to this phenomenon as their explanation now!
This raises a few pertinent questions:
·       How is it that the regulators who “rigorously” evaluated the product could not correctly identify the gene construct used? It puts to question the capabilities of the regulators.
·
·       Here it must also be highlighted that the then Director of CICR, Dr.Khadi was also a member of GEAC, a clear case of conflict of interest.
·
·       If it is indeed a case of contamination and the seed production had to be stopped given that Monsanto has proprietary rights over the genes and technology, what lies in store for all the other GM crops in the pipeline since contamination is inevitable?
·
·       Is it contamination or is it a scientific fraud related to incapability with regard to indigenous technology?
·
·       Who owns BN Bt cotton and NHH 44 Bt cotton now?  Have the Indian biotechnologists gratuitously gifted these to Monsanto through this action?
·
·       Is this all the country gets after big ticket investments on GM technology ignoring viable and safer mechanisms to deal with pests, diseases and climate threat?
This episode also highlights that the IPR issues related to transgenic technologies and the assumption by the Indian scientific community that they can use technologies patented by Monsanto and its ilk needs a serious re-think.
The Indian regulators, public sector scientists and NARS institutions are intent on promoting GM technologies to the exclusion of any other options despite serious evidence on the biosafety hazards connected with transgenics. In the light of this fiasco, claims about enormous indigenous capabilities (in this field) sound hollow. Such scientific frauds raise the question about how far the biotechnology scientists and regulators will go to force GM technologies into our agriculture and what motivates them. Why should the public be trusting these scientists who do not hestitate to resort to fraudulent practices?
Unfortunately this is not the first case of scientific fraud that the nation is witnessing. Last year witnessed the six premier Science Academies using plagiarized material to recommend and promote the release of Bt brinjal. Despite the report being dismissed by the then Minister for Environment & Forests as lacking scientific rigour, the Academies merely revised the section on Bt brinjal a little and put it back in the public domain claiming that they stand by their conclusions. There was no enquiry into the incident, no explanation about how it happened and no action taken against any entity. A clear demonstration of the contempt in which the scientific community holds the nation and the public, says the Coalition for a GM-Free India. It is interesting to note that Dr P Ananda Kumar of NRCPB is one of the lead ‘protagonists’ in these two scientific scandals. Further, Dr K C Bansal who coordinated the ICAR network project on transgenics till recently is now heading the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (custodian of plant genetic resources of the country!).
“The current UAS-D/CICR/IARI (NRCPB) fiasco proves once again that the Indian scientific community is not averse to scientific frauds and misleading the nation and the people. We do not need this technology force-fed to our farmers and consumers, we have sufficient workable and viable solutions for the agrarian crisis and demand that the government and public sector institutions work on these solutions rather than fraudulently promote GM technology”, said the Coalition.
It should also be remembered by certain political parties advocating public sector GM seeds that an inherently unsafe product does not become safer just because it comes from the public sector. In fact, accountability issues are murkier here, as has been seen in the case of the failure of CICR’s Bt cotton in the field, where large scale field trials have been waived off in favour of public sector GM research!
“All of this is ultimately experimentation happening at the expense of hapless Indian farmers and this is unconscionable. Severe deterrent action at the highest level is called for, in this case. We demand that a white paper be published on the investments made on this front so far by the government. Further, until all questions are answered including the actual technologies being used in the public sector transgenic R&D, IPR issues, future contamination possibilities etc., all funding to public sector transgenic projects should be immediately stopped. These scarce and valuable resources should be utilised for taking proven, safe, farmer-controlled technologies to the farmers”, demanded the Coalition.
For more information, contact:
  1. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702; ramoo.csa@gmail.com
  2. Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550; kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com