Archive for April 20, 2012

one day workshop on Strengthening Local Economies in Times of Global Economic Crisis’ by NAPM

NAPM -AP Chapter is organising a one day workshop on - 

“Strengthening Local Economies in Times of Global Economic Crisis”

Date – 05-May-2012          Time – 10am to 5.30pm

Venue – Cellar 1, Sundarayya Vigyana Kendram, Baghlingampally, Hyderabad


Background -

In the context of the current Global Economic Crisis we are faced with new challenges. The mainstream economists continue to harp on free markets, integrated globalised economic models as the answer and seek more liberalization, reforms and access to markets; which are in reality leading to increased price inflation, increased volatility and vulnerability of local markets due to global / external events. This is also leading to the impoverishment of people in sectors like small trade, agriculture, handloom and all other people employed in various traditional, rural livelihoods.

The thrust of the free market enterprise was to strengthen the hands of large investors, while weakening the support systems to the small scale sectors and agriculture, which is leading to wealth accumulation in the hands of a few corporations.

The Current Global Economic Crisis has demonstrated that this model is a failed model and there is a need to rethink on the way forward. Gandhiji had time and again stressed on the democratic nature of Indian Economic model which was basically a localized economic model where in the production was oriented towards local markets. Even to this day, the strength of the Indian Economy lies in the strong local market which however, has been weakened over the last 20 years to become dependant on external markets in the name of liberalization. While all this was being done in the name of increasing foreign exchange via access to export markets, in reality this integration has led to increased influx of foreign goods into the country leading to a ballooning trade deficit and the devaluation of the rupee.

The fall of the rupee is translating into higher petroleum costs, higher transportation costs, and higher agricultural input costs and thus having a cascading effect on the entire economy and making the cost of sustenance of the common people sky rocket. 


There fore, it is important to look at alternatives from the Mainstream that will protect the Rural Livelihoods and promote Sustainability. In the context of the Current Energy Crisis and the Inflated demand for More and more Energy, in this “Energy Centered Developmental Model” too it is imperative to look at alternative systems.

The One day Workshop will throw some light on the situation of the Current Global Economic Crisis and How Localised Economies can actually be a boon to the majority of the people of the country, while also moving us towards a low energy system of economy. 

Schedule of the Programme - 

10 am - Registration / Introduction of the Participants and the Workshop. 

10.30 am – Limitations of the Current Economic Model and the Need for Alternative Vision.

(Speakers – Dr. Aravind Susarla, Center for Regional Studies, Hyderabad Central University)

10.45am – 11.15am – Discussion on the above subject.

11.15am – Ecological, local input based agriculture and impact on rural Life and economy

(Speakers – Farmers from – Punnami Organic Farmers’ Co-operative Society – Vempalle, Kadapa)

11.30am – 12pm – Discussion

12 pm – Local input, Ecological Construction practices – impact on rural livelihoods, ecology and energy consumption

(Speaker – Er. B.N. Mani. Project Engineer, Rural Technology Park, NIRD, Hyderabad)

12.30 – 1pm – Discussion

1pm-2pm – Lunch Break

2pm -Efficient Energy Use and Water Management – Impacts for agricultural / rural economy

(Speaker -  Parcha Kishan Rao, Certified Solar Engineer, Farmer, SRI Trainer, Khammam)

2.15 – 2.45 – Discussion

2.45 - Localising Waste Management – Impact on economy, ecology, health and energy consumption.

(Speaker – Major, Shiv Kiran, Sukuki Exnora

3PM-3.30PM – Discussion

3.30pm -  Localising cloth production (Handloom and Khadi) – prospects for Employment generation and energy conservation

( Mrs. Nirmala, Cheneta Colour Weaves, Hyderabad)

3.45 – 4.15 – Discussion.

4.15 – Localising Health Needs

(Dr. K. Satyalakshmi, Research Professor, Gandhi Nature Cure College, Hyderabad)

4.30 – 5.15pm = Discussion

5.15pm – Vote of Thanks.

Fact finding report on farmers suicides in Mahaboobnagar by HRF

S No Cr PC & PS Deceased Details Family Details Date of death Land and Debt Details Details mentioned in FIR Our report Contact numbers
Jadcherla
3 41/11 A Ramakrishna, s/o Ramachandraiah, 32 yrs, C/Golla, Occ: Agril, r/o Nekkonda Village of Jadcherla mandal 20.01.2011 3 acres own land, 3 acres lease, Rs 164000 amount expended on cotton crops He was suffering from financila crisis due to debts and attempted suicide by consuming insecticide poison on 14.1.2011 at 1000 hrs at his home and He died at OGH, Hyd. Informant: wife, mother and others; Wife: Mamata; 2 girl children (4 yrs; 13 months); took 15 acres on lease; no irrigation facility; cultivated cotton; lost crop for 2 yrs; debts 180000;  struggled for life for 8 days in Osmania hospital; incurred exp for hospitalisation Rs.40000; MRO visited after 10 days and spoke to all moneylenders; family got Rs.5000/- under NFBS but has not received any support under 421 GO; Mr. Satyam – brother of Ramakrishna: 9505528019
4 366/2011 Smt Gorla Laxmamma, w/o Late Narayana, 48 yrs, C/Telugu, Occ: Agril, r/o Kurvagadda village of jadcherla Mandal, One son 20.10.2011 3 acres land on lease basis from Panthulu, 45000 Rs borrowing She was facing financial crises and incurred debts too, n thi way the deceased consumed poison and died while undergoing treatment on  at 1210 hrs, at Govt Hqrs Hospital, M’nagar Informants: son; 2 acres of own land; 4 acres on lease for Rs.10000/-; dug 2 borewells; 2 failed; Son bought tractor with 3.5 lakhs from Sriram Finance; loans to the tune of Rs.3.5 lakhs; MRO has not visited so far; Got Rs.4000/- under NFBS (Rs.1000 bribe) Mr. Anjaneyulu – son of Laxmamma; 9640905145
5  421/11 Kothani Chinna Jangaiah, s/o Jangilaiah, 55 yrs, C/Kurva, Occ: Agril, r/o Nekkonda village of Jadcherla Mandal. Has one wife and 2 children 26.11.2011 2 acres own land, Rs 60000 borrowings for borewell in his own land  He was cultivating cotton seeds and incurred loss and not capable to clear the debts amount. due to which the deceased frustrated over on life and committed suicide by hanging Informant: Son, wife and others; 5 acres on lease; 2 borewells – 200 feet – failed; Spent Rs.44000 on borewells and 90000 on cultivation and 10000 for lease – total 1.44 lakhs; out of this only 20000 is from Grameen Vikas Bank; his son Mr. Nagarju is not into cultivation but surviving as auto driver; daughter got married; MRO  has not visited so far; No MLVC so far; Mr. Nagaraju – son: 8497914269;
6 459/2011 Golkond Chinna Jangaiah, 40 yrs, Occ: Agril, C/Golla, r/o Gangapur village of Jadcherla mandal. Has one wife, 2 children 27.12.2011 The case is under investigation He was facing financial crisis and committed suicide by hanging Family members are not available and we spoke to his brother and neighbour. As per brother’s information – 3 acres of own land; cultivated cotton and tried 6 bore wells and all failed; last borewell was dug upto 390 feet; loans to the tune of Rs.6 lakhs; out of this 30000/- is bank loan; 3 children; wife: Suvarna; There is suspicion about the death. As per Sarpanch information post mortem report confirmed it as murder.
Peddamandadi PS
7 .07/2011 Sinsetti Chiranjeevi, s/o Balramsagar, Age:22 yrs, C/ Uppara occ: Agril, r/o Manigilla village of Peddamandadi. one brother and one sister Own land Loss in agriculture and Heavy debts House is locked; Nobody is available at home; Relatives informed that Chiranjeevi who used to live in Hyderabad for studies came to village and committeed suicide; this does not appear to be a farmer suicide. No contact number
8 .10/2011 Boini Buddaiah, S/o Kondanna, 36 yrs, C/Golla, Occ: Agril, r/o Veeraipally (V), of Peddamandadi. wife and sons 5 acres of agri land Two borewells failed in 2 years. Due to shortage of borewell water, His groundnut crop damaged. An amount of Rs 250000  debts Informants: wife and cousins; Wife: Nagamma; two sons (8 yrs; 7 yrs); 2 acres of own land; 5 acres on lease; lease amount is Rs.2500/- per acre; 2 borewells in 2010 and incurred exp 1,50,000/-; cultivated ground nut, paddy and mustard; and loans for cultivation: 1 lakh; total loans: 2,50,000/-; MRO has not visited and no MLVC. Rs.5000 under NFBS; Mr. Raju – cousin; 9652964845;
9 33/2011 Angothu Balya Naik, S/o late Chinali, 38 yrs, C/ST Lambada, Occ: Coolie, r/o Cheruvukommu thanda, h/o Ammapally (v), Peddamandadi (M) 3 daughters and 3 sons two acres of agri land He digged two bore wells,  One succes, second failure. Unbearable debts of Rs 130000 Informant: Mr. Ramulu Naik – cousin; wife and children not available; they are on migration; Wife: Santamma; 3 daughters (6, 5, 3 yrs); 2 acres of own land and 3 acres on lease; migration to Karnataka reported; cultivated cotton, paddy, and groundnut; incurred losses on crop; comitted suicide by hanging; MRO has not visited; no idea about NFBS; Mr. Ramulu Naik; 9676146265
10 74/2011 Vakiti Satyanarayana, s/o Late Manyam, Age: 40 yrs, C/Telugu, Occ: Agril, r/o Mojerla Village of Peddamandadi (m). wife, a son, a daughter deceased has A 3.22 agriculture in Sy No: 469 3 borewells failed + Crops failed.  Huge debts of Rs 319000. They struggled due to Starvation Informant: wife; Wife – Lakshmi; Son (9 yrs) daughter (8 yrs); 5 acres owned by 3 borhters; 2 brothers are residing in Hyderabad; Satyanarayana used to take care of cultivation; cultivated cotton and mustard; 3 borewells failed; crops failed; bought auto; total loan 3 lakhs; no bank loan and all from moneylenders and relatives;  VRO and RI visited the family. Lakshmi (wife); 9505305824;
11 76/2011 Velgonda Padmamma, w/o Parvathalu, Age: 25 yrs, C/Yadava/Golla, Occ: Farmer, R/o Gatlakhanapur (V), Peddamandadi (M) Own land Committed suicide by pesticide poison due to debts and borewells failure. Also depressed due to not having children Informants: Father, co sister and neighbours; 7 acres of land for 3 sons; father Mr. Ramulu was cultivating 2 acres for Parvathalu’s family; Parvathalu and his wife (Padmamma) used to migrate for work by taking advance amounts to the tune of Rs.50000/-. Cotton crop failed; again took advance Rs.20000/- for migrantion but did not go to work; father and co sister did not mention ‘no children’ as reason.  Consumed pesticide. Mr. Ramu (neighbour) 9908822692
Jadcherla Rural
22 Bhoothpur, 20/2011 u/s 174 Cr PC Smt Lotti Shanthamma, w/o Chinna Nagaiah, 60 yrs, Occ: Agril, C/SC Madiga, r/o Kothamolgara (V), Bhoothpur (M) 31.01.2011 own Land Debts for borewell, Poor crop yield, consumed poison Informants: husband and 2 sons; belongs SC; 1 acres of own land; 1 acre on lease; lease amount Rs.10000/- (with borewell) cultivated cotton; spent on failed bore well Rs.30000/-; lost crop; loss incurred 160000/-; sold buffaloes and paid some loan 22500/- (15000 principal and rest is interest in one year). lot of pressure from moneylenders and son ran away from village and has come back just recently; No NFBS: MRO has not visited; Mr. Muttayya (son); 9640802794;
23 Bhoothpur, 129/2011 u/s 174 Cr PC Godugu Venkataiah, s/o Kashanna, 35 yrs, Occ Agril, C/Telugu, r/o Bhoothpur (V &M) 03-08-2011 own land 3 acres Debts, Poor crop yield, Hanging to ceiling fan Informants: mother and relative; 3 acres of own land; borewell dug but failed; cultivated cotton and maize – failed; total loan Rs.70000/-; of this 16000/- from bank and rest from moneylenders and relatives; 3 children (8, 3, 1 yrs); Rs.5000 under NFBS; No MRO visit so far; Narayana (relative); 9849387963
24 Bhoothpur, 202/2011 u/s 174 Cr PC Nandiminti Ramulu, s/o Ramulu, 30 yrs, Occ: Agril, C/Madiga, r/o Kothamolgara (V), Bhoothpur Mandal 30-12-2011 Own land 2 acres Took loans for Borewell and to repair electric motor. Borewell failed. The paddy crop loss due to no water. Informants: Mother and Father; wife is not available – went to work; Belong to SC; 0.5 acres of own land; spent Rs.60000/- on borwell; got this amount by selling 10 oxen borrowed from his sister; cultivated paddy; but harvest was taken by the moneylender/ patel. Now wife Sasirekha is working in Mandal office; got NFBS: MRO not visited; no ration card;

Can Economy prevail over Ecology?


http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/ashoak-upadhyay/article3324671.ece

April 17, 2012:

There are times when the government needlessly brings upon itself the embarrassment of a reminder from one of its own agencies, of a responsibility it has forgotten or ignored.

Set against its context, that reminder constitutes censure of neglect and, indirectly but no less potently, of an opportunity lost to retain the moral ground that has been rapidly slipping from under its feet.

Recently, a media report stated that in response to an appeal by a resident of Kerala, the Chief Information Commissioner, Mr Shailesh Gandhi, has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to make public the report on the Western Ghats submitted last August, which the MoEF has kept under wraps.

The silence on, and suppression of, the report of the “Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel” chaired by eminent environment scientist Prof Madhav Gadgil is baffling at first sight. There is nothing in it that can be termed “classified” or inimical to national “security”.

In fact, the report remains true to its mandate. It’s job, described in the Ministry’s annual report on the environment for 2009-10, was to “assess the state of the ecology of the Western Ghats, demarcate areas which need to be notified as ecologically sensitive zones, recommend the modalities for the establishment of the Western Ghats Ecological Authority under the Environment Protection Act, 1986” a professional regulatory body no less, “…and to ensure sustainable development with the support of all concerned States.”

The WGEEP report was submitted last August some twelve months after the panel’s appointment; it is significant that the report came exactly a year after a panel headed by Mr N C Saxena had submitted his report on the Orissa Mining Company’s proposal for bauxite mining.

That report seems like a curtain raiser, a prelude to the larger exercise for the Western Ghats running down and affecting the eco-systems and economies of four States — Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.

So why should the Madhav Gadgil report not get the attention, the sharp light of public scrutiny it richly deserves?

Challenging the order

Perhaps it is precisely because of its vastness, its breadth and depth of reforms for a more sustaining environment that has scared away policymakers from offering it to the public.

What the panel has done basically is to question two central props of current ‘top-down’ political and economic policy and practice: the ‘growth’ model and its administrative-bureaucratic apparatus. Its specific solutions and measures — from bans to promotions for “thoughtful” conservation — are clues to a model that can sustain growth because it conserves natural assets, and achieves both through an administrative machinery based on local validation, initiatives and participative governance.

What the panel, therefore, offers is a challenge to the existing order of growth as we have known it, with all its waste and spoliation wilfully or conveniently ignored.

The central dilemma

The starting point for the WGEEP, unstated but interstitially evident, is a central dilemma inherent in Niyamgarh and in the WG. The region is considered one of the world’s eight “hottest hot spots” of biodiversity but it is also rich in iron, manganese and bauxite ores.

This is a double-edged gift and has defined man’s uneasy relationship with nature. Since the last century but “particularly in recent decades” this “hotspot” of biodiversity has been in “continual decline” with “many biological communities and types” becoming extinct; mining, often “in violation of all laws” have wrecked “environmental damage and social disruption.”

The central dilemma of resource-rich hills leads to an inversion, a disequilibrium that is a consequence of industrialisation so far. As the WGEEP puts it, “By and large, the Western Ghats have been subjected to a rapid erosion of natural capital with the building up of man-made capital.”

With this indictment the panel strikes at the root of current development practice, its principal weakness. If development leads to depletion of the “stock” of natural capital, how sustainable can progress be?

Eco-Sensitive Zones

The WGEEP classifies the entire WG into three Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs) and suggests measures that are breathtaking in their sweep; some for all, others specific to each zone, depending on the level of environmental degradation.

There are three categories of measures which the detailed list of do’s and dont’s for the ESZs contain. The most radical because they are challenge some key “drivers” of current growth are the Interdictions “across the Western Ghats’: So no to Genetically Modified Crops: Special Economic Zones: New Hill Stations, Conversion of public lands to private ownership. In the case of ESZ-I and ESZ-II graded in order of their fragility the panel advocates a moratorium on new mining leases, on the use of hazardous or toxic waste processing units among others.

The second set of measures could be put under the rubric of Regulation. Again, across the Western Ghats the WGEEP suggests the use of “Building Codes consisting of green technology and green building materials, the implementation of the of Forest Rights Act “in its true spirit.”

The third perhaps the most innovative consist of Promotion: sustainable actions with incentives thrown in. The panel suggests payments such as “conservation service charges” to encourage indigenous stock of fish and the redeployment of chemical fertiliser subsidies towards usage of organic manure production of biogas and organic farming, the maintenance of “sacred groves.”

Bottom-up governance

The panel challenges finally the way governments have worked (or do not). Its critique of existing bureaucratic forms of environment protection is countered by an emphasis on conservation, from the identification of resources to the their conservation, by local bodies from fishermen’s cooperatives to gram panchayats.

While proposing the Western Ghats Ecology Authority at three tiers of government down to the district-level, the panel considers local voluntary bodies to play an important role. It points out at one stage that environmental protection is not just a matter of scientific inquiry (or bureaucratic rules) but a “human concern.”

And that should be good enough reason for the report to be made public.

Mahyco’s clarification on the story ‘A Decade of Bt Hype’ carried on Agrarian Crisis

 

April 18, 2012

To,

The Editor,

Indian Agrarian Crisis

Secunderabad.

This is with reference to your story titled ‘A decade of Bt hype’ that published in your site http://agrariancrisis.in  on April 17, 2012.

We would like to bring to your notice that the first paragraph of your story mentions that Mahyco is an Indian subsidiary of Monsanto which is factually incorrect. Mahyco is not an Indian subsidiary of Monsanto. Monsanto only has a minority stake of 26% in Mahyco. We feel that an error of this nature are detrimental to Mahyco’s business as it is a reputed Indian company.

I am sure you will appreciate the sensitivity involved and publish the correction at the earliest.

Thanks and regards,

Suryakant Mishra

Head – PR,

Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (Mahyco)

Dear Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu,

Please find below the response from Mahyco for your story on ‘A decade of Bt hype’ published in your site.

Hope you will be able to carry the same at the earliest.

Thanks and regards,

Farooque

The PRactice

+91-9323671307

——————-

 

Farooque Shaikh 

T : +91 22 30008371-99 M: +91-9323671307   www.the-practice.net

Investing in ecosystem services is vital for food security

http://www.bioversityinternational.org/announcements/functional_ecosystems.html

14 September 2011   |   Permalink 

An ecosystems-based approach to food production could result in more efficient water use to meet growing demand. Photo: N. Palmer/CIAT An ecosystems-based approach to food production could result in more efficient water use to meet growing demand. Photo: N. Palmer/CIAT
The intensification of food production often causes pollution that can put biodiversity and pollination at risk and lead to soil erosion. A more intelligent and balanced approach to agricultural practices needs to be taken to meet the needs of the growing population – predicted to rise by more than 25% by 2050 – increasing demand on resources. A new report ‘An Ecosystems Services Approach to Water and Food Security’ highlights this need for change, calling for an ecosystems-based approach as a way to help restore balance in agriculture. The paper argues that this could result not only in more efficient water use, but also a reduction in the loss of farmland through degradation. Dr. Devra Jarvis, Bioversity scientist and report contributor, is also keen to stress the importance of agricultural biodiversity within food production systems: “Crop genetic diversity within farmers’ production systems can be particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of current and future damage from pests and diseases. It can also lead to higher and more efficient levels of pollination services – helping smallholder farmers maintain diversity.” The report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), was co-written by members of 21 organizations, including Bioversity International. It uses a range of case studies from around the world, including China, Guatemala and Jordan, and makes recommendations for change in three crucial areas: environmental protection, water resources management and food production. Read the synthesis report Or download the full report and more information on the IWMI website

Genetically modified corn affects its symbiotic relationship with non-target soil organisms

Experimental evidence reveals a reduction in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization of Bt corn

 IMAGE: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonizing corn (Zea mays) roots as viewed with a compound light microscope (400x). Roots were cleared with 10 percent KOH and stained with 0.05 percent trypan…

Click here for more information.

An increasing number of crops commercially grown today are genetically modified (GM) to resist insect pests and/or tolerate herbicides. Although Btcorn is one of the most commonly grown GM crops in the United States, little is known about its effects on the long-term health of soils. Although there are many benefits to using biotechnology in agriculture, such as potentially reducing insecticide use, there may be unintended side effects as well—does GM corn impact non-target soil organisms, such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or affect plants subsequently grown in the same field?

Bt corn is genetically engineered to express insecticidal toxins derived from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, to protect it against common agricultural pests such as the corn root worm and European corn borer. Tanya Cheeke and her colleagues (at Portland State University, Oregon) were interested in determining whether the cultivation of Bt corn has a negative effect on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization of Bt corn or of crops subsequently planted in the same soil. They published their findings in a recent issue of theAmerican Journal of Botany (http://www.amjbot.org/content/99/4/700.full).

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are ubiquitous microscopic soil fungi that form symbiotic relationships with the roots of most plants. Plants supply the fungi with carbon, and the fungi increase the host plant’s ability to uptake nutrients and water from the surrounding soil.

“Because these fungi rely on a plant host for nutrition and reproduction, they may be sensitive to genetic changes within a plant, such as insect-resistant Btcorn,” stated Cheeke.

By experimentally planting seeds from several different lines of both Bt corn and non-Bt corn, and using local agricultural soil containing native mycorrhizal fungi, the authors were able to simulate what might happen naturally in an agricultural system.

“What makes our study unique is that we evaluated AMF colonization in 14 different lines of Bt and non-Bt corn under consistent experimental conditions in a greenhouse using locally collected agricultural field soil as the AMF inoculum,” said Cheeke.

“The use of whole soil in this study allowed each Bt and non-Bt corn line to interact with a community of soil organisms, making this study more ecologically relevant than other greenhouse studies that use a single species of AMF,” she adds.

Interestingly, the authors found that colonization of plant roots by symbiotic soil fungi was lower in the genetically modified Bt corn than in the control lines. However, there was no difference in root biomass or shoot biomass between the two types of corn at the time of harvest.

Cheeke and co-authors also determined that the Bt-protein itself is not directly toxic to the fungi since AMF colonization of vegetable soybeans did not differ for those grown in soil previously containing Bt vs. non-Bt corn.

Together these findings contribute to the growing body of knowledge examining the unanticipated effects of Bt crop cultivation on non-target soil organisms. Examining non-target effects of genetically engineered crops on symbiotic soil organisms becomes even more important as acreage devoted to the cultivation of Bt crops continues to increase globally.

“In 2011, 88% of the corn cultivated in the United States was genetically modified to express insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, or some combination of stacked traits,” Cheeke commented. “Globally, genetically modified corn is cultivated in at least 16 different countries.”

Cheeke notes that the next step is to understand the ecological significance of this study. “In greenhouse studies Btcorn had lower levels AMF colonization, so now it is important to see if this pattern is also observed under field conditions.” She plans to use field experiments to test if planting a Bt crop for multiple years has an effect on the abundance or diversity of AMF in the soil ecosystem.

###

 

Tanya E. Cheeke, Todd N. Rosenstiel, and Mitchell B. Cruzan. 2012. Evidence of reduced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization in multiple lines of Bt maize. American Journal of Botany 99(4): 700-707. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1100529

The full article in the link mentioned is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary athttp://www.amjbot.org/content/99/4/700.full. After this date, reporters may contact Richard Hund at ajb@botany.org for a copy of the article.

The Botanical Society of America (www.botany.org) is a non-profit membership society with a mission to promote botany, the field of basic science dealing with the study and inquiry into the form, function, development, diversity, reproduction, evolution, and uses of plants and their interactions within the biosphere. It has published the American Journal of Botany (www.amjbot.org) for nearly 100 years. In 2009, the Special Libraries Association named theAmerican Journal of Botany one of the Top 10 Most Influential Journals of the Century in the field of Biology and Medicine.

For further information, please contact the AJB staff at ajb@botany.org.

SSI: Case studies from field

This publication has been compiled with inputs from the experiences of thousands of SSI farmers from different states of India. These stories clearly demonstrate that it is possible to produce sugarcane differently with less inputs and get more yields by following the various SSI practices. The information presented here indicates that: (a) the seed material can be significantly decreased, (b) wide spacing increases the production, (c) water savings can be substantial and (d) short duration intercrops will open whole new opportunities for farmers in increasing the income and improving the soil fertility.


A decade of Bt hype

K P Prabhakaran Nair

17 April 2012

In August 2002, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (rechristened Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) was manipulated by Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company, albeit through the back door, with clandestine support from vested interests in the scientific community and open support of a vocal Rajya Sabha Member. The GEAC then granted approval for the commercial cultivation of the first “Bollgard” I cotton in India, the very first genetically engineered crop in the country.

At the time I wrote an article, “Bt Cotton – Boon or Bane?” (The Hindu Business Line), which elicited spectacular enthusiasm from the reading public in India and also overseas.Sudliche Zuzammenarbeit, Berlin, a highly respected and vocal global advocacy forum, requested permission to translate the article into German and publish the same in their highly respected and well read magazine. 

At the time, I had strongly argued that the Bt cotton in India was bound to fail. A decade later, my prediction has come true. My main scientific reasoning was that the recombinant technology that was used is a technique where there is much that is not clearly understood, because it is at the very periphery of science, and results from such a technique in plant breeding is loaded with uncertainties and danger.

But half baked science, as is its wont, finds its own lobbyists for personal and pecuniary reasons. The so-called “green revolution” is another classic example in India. I had warned, even in 1980, during an international congress in Hamburg, Germany, that India’s green revolution would fall on its face. The degraded soils, dried aquifers, highly polluted ground water (loaded with so much of nitrate, making it totally non potable) and the vanishing bio-diversity due to continuous monoculture of rice-wheat with “imported” high yielding varieties (HYVs), is testimony to this.  

Add to this the cancer spread in Gurdaspur district, where uncontrolled pesticide use, an adjunct of the green revolution,  has spread the disease scare like a tornado. Go to Punjab, “cradle” of India’s green revolution, or Haryana or western Uttar Pradesh, and you will understand what I mean. Sure we produced more food grains for a while, but at what environmental and human cost?

The innumerable farmers’ suicide due to unsustainable input costs leading to bankruptcy is another feather in the green revolution lobbyists’ cap!  And now the very same messiah, who in the first instance peddled this scientifically unsound strategy, is speaking of an “ever green revolution” and God knows what is meant! This is not the central theme of this article, but the Bt cotton and the Bt hype seems to have come full circle.  

Let us first see how the “science” behind Bt technology has failed. When you transpose an alien gene (in this case from a soil habiting bacterium, Bacillus thurengiensis or Bt) into a plant cell, targeting a specific pest, in this case the dreaded American Bollworm (the most devastating cotton pest), it is expected that the protein configuration which acts as a “poison” when in the gut of the sucking insect/boll worm, stays stable. But, it simply will not.

That, in simple language, is the prime reason that while resistance to the American boll worm started faltering after three to four cotton crop seasons, other pests like the mealy bugs began to appear. And nobody ever thought of what happens to the soil in which millions of other bacteria thrive, many quite beneficial to the host plant. Without going into the intricacies of microbial science, I can say that what happens is “soil fatigue”.

This is an important reason why the so-called green revolution faltered after about a decade of its “unstoppable” spread in India. The carbon profile of Indian soils, reservoir of soil fertility, dipped so low due to indiscriminate and unbridled use of chemical fertilizers that the soils simply could not sustain crops any more. Yields declined or plateau-ed. This is also the reason why the “promoters” of Bt technology are scrambling to come out with “newer” versions of the original. So, we have “Bollgard” II, and God knows where the “development” of newer versions will stop.

We can take an analogy from automobile technology. Though the ‘internal combustion engine’ is the “basic” foundation of a four wheeler, the exterior “dressing” that the automaker keeps heaping on “newer” models, keeps customers glued to the four wheelers. Voila! There we have an automobile revolution, like the Bt cotton “revolution”. In Beijing nearly 1500 autos are added on to the roads daily. Delhi is not far behind with 1000! That is the reason we have “newer” and “newer” models every other year. We can stretch the example even to a PC (personal computer).  

As we attempt to understand the analogy better, we realize that when the “resistance” to bollworm breaks down, it will be the mealy bugs, and when that resistance also breaks down, it will be another pest. The pest gets smarter than the plant. This is the inevitable price we pay in biological science like this.

Take the case of the “miracle” dwarf varieties of wheat or rice introduced into India during the heydays of the green revolution. Where are they now? All have been wiped out. For wheat, “Brown Rust” is the most classic example.

This is the rub. And, in the process, we totally eliminate the native cotton varieties which have stood the test of time, and stood the ravages of pests and diseases, though producing less lint. In one stroke, Monsanto has succeeded in reducing vastly, if not totally eliminating, many of India’s robust native cotton varieties. India has been the loser, while Monsanto and its peddlers have been the gainers.

As of now, Bt cotton covers around 90% of the total cotton cropped area. In 2011-12, the productivity of Bt cotton is 485 kg lint per hectare. It was 560 kg lint per hectare in 2007. The danger signal has already been flashed. In other words, there is an annual reduction of more than 5% in lint yield. Will Monsanto answer please?

What we forget is that wherever yield “increase” was reported, it was under “high intensive” agriculture – ample supply of water, fertilizers, and supplemental insecticidal sprays to protect the crop against bollworm. Remove this cover, you have the crop faltering. This is the tragedy of the Vidarbha cotton farmer. Bt Cotton, when grown in rainfed areas, has miserably failed. The most telling example is from Andhra Pradesh. Of the total cotton cropped area of 47 lakh acres, in 33.73 lakh acres the crop totally failed, and remember, almost the whole area is rainfed.

Go to Vidarbha, Maharashtra’s “cotton belt”. The maximum farmers’ suicides are of cotton farmers. Why? They were financially broke after taking huge loans from unscrupulous moneylenders to prop up an unsustainable “high input technology” – exorbitantly costly seeds (when Bollgard I was introduced in India, it was sold at an unheard of price of Rs 1950 per 500 gram, while this author noted while in China the same year, Monsanto was selling the same quantity for just US $ 2, or Rs 100 at the prevalent exchange rate. This speaks volumes about the kind of financial fleecing this MNC and its Indian subsidiary have inflicted on Indian cotton farmers.

This raises an important question. Should we totally dispense with this dubious technology promoted by an alien MNC? Many ask why the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which has the mandate to steer India’s agricultural research, is not taking up the issue? ICAR itself embarked on a project like this, and a major scientific fraud that resulted.

It is my considered opinion that Bt technology, as of now, is just half baked science. That Bt cotton will need no more insecticidal sprays has been rubbished even in USA, the home of this dubious technology.

China is slowly but surely steering away from Bt cotton. It is not the increase in cotton yield per se that leads to widespread use. It is the promise by the MNC that farmers will no more need to protect their cotton crop with insecticidal sprays.

The larger question we, as conscientious Indians, have to ask is, should we succumb to the same lure as before, and pay a far greater price, in terms of environmental integrity in the years to come, and make Indian cotton farmers slaves to agribusiness giants, or choose other alternatives? There are quite a number available. The only roadblock is we are not intent on learning.

The author is a Kerala-based international agricultural scientist, and formerly Professor, National Science Foundation; The Royal Society, Belgium; & Senior Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Federal Republic of Germany 

Pesticide Exposure in Womb Affects I.Q.

By TARA PARKER-POPE, Editor

pesticides?Pesticides on fruits, vegetables and other household products may lower a child’s I.Q.

Babies exposed to high levels of common pesticides in the womb have lower I.Q. scores than their peers by the time they reach school age, according to three new studies.

The research, based on data collected in New York and California from about 1,000 pregnant women and their babies, is certain to set off a new debate about the benefits of organic produce and the risks of chemicals found in the food supply and consumer products. The pesticides, called organophosphates, are commonly sprayed on food crops and are often used to control cockroaches and other pests in city apartments.

The latest findings are based on three separate but similar studies financed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Two were conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University and studied urban families in New York; the third was done by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and focused on children in Salinas, Calif., an agricultural area. All three were published online on Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Each study began about a decade ago, when researchers recruited pregnant women who gave blood and urine samples that were used to measure pesticide exposure. In some instances, umbilical cord blood was tested. After the babies were born, the researchers continued to monitor the health of the children and also obtained regular urine samples to determine exposure to pesticides.

Over all, the studies found that women who had higher exposures to pesticides during pregnancy gave birth to children who eventually had lower I.Q. scores once they reached school age. In the Berkeley study, for instance, children with the highest levels of prenatal pesticide exposure scored 7 points lower on intelligence tests compared with children with the lowest levels of exposure. In that study, every 10-fold increase in organophosphate exposure detected during pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall I.Q. scores.

“I think these are shocking findings,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai. “Babies exposed to the highest levels had the most severe effects. It means these children are going to have problems as they go through life.”

Dr. Landrigan compared the findings with research in the 1980s that linked childhood lead exposure to lower intelligence, dyslexia, higher risk for dropping out of school and a range of behavioral and developmental problems. As a result of that research, lead was removed from gasoline to prevent exposure from car exhaust, and it was also removed from paints and other consumer products.

The drop in I.Q. scores shown in the pesticide studies is similar to the drops shown in the earlier lead research, Dr. Landrigan said.

“When we took lead out of gasoline, we reduced lead poisoning by 90 percent, and we raised the I.Q. of a whole generation of children by four or five points,’’ said Dr. Landrigan. “I think these findings about pesticides should generate similar controversy, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they will have the effect of having the E.P.A. sharply reduce the use of organophosphate pesticides.”

Individuals can also do more to limit their own exposure. In homes with pest problems, sealing up cracks and crevices in baseboards and cleaning up food residue has been shown to be more effective at controlling cockroaches than using pesticides.

Caleb Kenna for The New York Times

Steps can also be taken to minimize exposure to pesticides in foods, particularly among pregnant women. Buying organic foods can help because certified organic fruits and vegetables aren’t grown with organophosphate pesticides. Better washing and peeling of conventionally grown produce can also reduce exposure.

The Environmental Working Group offers a shopper’s guide showing which foods have the highest and lowest rates of pesticide exposure. Strawberries, peaches, celery, apples and spinach typically have the highest levels of pesticide residue among commercially grown fruits and vegetables. Onions, avocado, frozen corn and pineapple had the lowest levels of pesticide residue.

Science as a new religion

I just got back from a trip to Berlin, and one of the most interesting discussions I had with friends there was about how science has become a new religious authority. While many people may not be aware of this, science is not a neutral or objective way of understanding the world. It, like all other discourses, is built on assumptions and presuppositions that were created by men at some point in time to suit the context they were in. Thus it is a politicized discourse, like all others, including religion.

But this is not the story we get about science. What we hear is that science is the best way to understand life today. Why is it the best? Because it is rational, objective, and neutral (coincidentally those are all European Enlightenment values – what does that tell us?). It is faultless and it is basically the truth.

Now whenever someone claims that *their* discourse is the ultimate truth, people should start asking questions. Who defined the basics of science, such as molecules, atoms, etc? Who said this is an atom and this is a molecule? Who decided all these things? Aren’t they assumptions? Why are they true?

My friend told me about how when scientists today try to publish things that go against mainstream scientific beliefs they are ostracized. Funding and grants usually go to scientists who maintain the status quo.

I would argue that science as a dominant discourse is even more dangerous than religion, for 2 reasons. One, while we can all talk about religion, to an extent, since it has become mainstream knowledge, this is not the case for science. Can non-scientists discuss science confidently? I know I can’t. So this already creates a certain exclusion and a certain lack of confidence. Science cannot easily be challenged because we don’t all know the language with which we can discuss and challenge it.

Two, we are pretty much taught to accept that science is true. It is something we don’t question, especially in the west and especially within educated circles. Science is there and beyond doubt.

For these two reasons, I believe that it will be more difficult to challenge the dictatorial authority of science than that of religion. This is not to say that when we do experiments and see results they are not happening: of course they are.But who has defined what is happening, how and why? The language, the processes…they are all based on assumptions.

I also think it is pointless to get into a discussion about whether it is better to use science or religion to understand the world. The point is to see that they are both socially constructed ways of understanding physical realities, and have both been created as authorities that should not be challenged, which is never a good thing.