Join us in demanding the removal of Dr K C Bansal as NBPGR head

RTI -Letter DDG

RTI -KCB CR

RTI 2-KCB CR

 

Dear friends,

Many of you would have heard of the several controversies around Dr Kailash C Bansal, a GM crop developer who then went on to be appointed as the Director of National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. Two days ago, Mail Today (an India Today publication) reported about how Dr Bansal made false claim about one of the  patent application (relating to insertion of a foreign gene in brinjal chloroplast) and how a prestigious award was given to him on such claims.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/genetically-modified-food-crops-researcher-kailash-c-bansal-grabbed-rafi-ahmed-kidwai-award-for-patent-claim/1/226654.html

There are some irregularities reported in his appointment too, with another GM crop developer, an ICAR DDG Dr Swapan Datta, not acting on complaints against Dr Bansal.

Insiders also point out to some break away from regular guidelines within NBPGR since he took over, which could be termed as risky to the germplasm collections as well as favoring of the industry, though we are not able to provide more concrete details about this at this point of time.

Pasted below is a letter that we would be sending from ASHA to the Union Agriculture Minister, demanding for Dr Bansal’s removal from his post. WE WOULD LIKE TO SEND THIS ALONG WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS/UNIONS JOINING US IN THIS DEMAND, AND IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ENDORSE, KINDLY WRITE BACK TO ME (kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com) with full name and organisation by the evening of November 2nd, Friday. Please do send a letter directly to the agriculture minister if you get to see this mail and would like to endorse after that. Thank you.

=======================

To:

 

Mr Sharad Pawar,

Minister for Agriculture,

Government of India.

 

 

Dear Shri Sharad Pawar,

 

Sub: Demanding removal of Dr K C Bansal from the post of NBPGR Director, apropos media reports on false patent claims by Dr Bansal, based on RTI responses

 

There have been several media reports, apart from internal correspondence within DARE about the infractions of  Dr K C Bansal, appointed to head a prestigious and important institution in DARE in India, the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. The latest is a report in Mail Today on October 29th 2012, titled “Top GM Researcher Falsified Patent Claim to Grab National Award” (available online at http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/genetically-modified-food-crops-researcher-kailash-c-bansal-grabbed-rafi-ahmed-kidwai-award-for-patent-claim/1/226654.html).

 

Based on previous RTI responses and its own investigations, the report clearly points out how Dr Bansal made false claims about filing three patent applications for novel gene discovery including one on transgenic brinjal and was given the prestigious Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award in July 2009 based on such fictitious claims. This is outright scientific fraud and if a senior technocrat can make such false claims, how is the invaluable germplasm collection of this country being entrusted into his hands and leadership in NBPGR?

There are also reports about how the recruitment of Dr Bansal was done in violation of several guidelines that are in place for ASRB recruitments – this pertains to his Confidential Reports from 2004 to 2010 which were not handed over, despite these being essential for his promotion/selection to higher posts, in addition to questions on the selection panel apparently constituted twice over to ensure his selection.

What qualifies him to head an institution which is supposed to collect and protect germplasm wealth for the country?

There is also the unanswered letter from Dr P Anandakumar, (then superior officer of Dr Bansal and head of National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB)) on the fact that Dr Bansal did not hand over his research materials to NRCPB and the work on eight claimed GM events in tomato, mustard, wheat etc. This puts a big question mark on crores of rupees spent in the GM research work that he is supposed to have been involved in, and further puts a question mark on the ICAR transgenic research programme involving 20 institutes all over the country (with the budget exceeding 135 crore rupees).

We are attaching RTI replies as evidence to the allegations against Dr Bansal.

Just as the ICAR set up a 3-member committee headed by Prof Sopory for an independent investigation into the Bt Bikaneri Narma scandal, why is a similar action not being taken in the case of these allegations? Why is the extra favour being bestowed on Dr Bansal, if not as a payback for his extra support to GM technology, and hobnobbing with MNCs and industry associations?

 

We demand an immediate removal of Dr Bansal from his post for the falsification of claims on patent applications given that this is clearly unscientific and unethical. We also demand an independent investigation into all the other allegations against him urgently.

Sincerely,

  1. Ramanjaneyulu. GV, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, ramoo.csa@gmail.com 09000699702
  2. Kavitha Kuruganti, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture

Women in Indian Economy

 P Muralidhar Rao

http://www.organiser.org/Encyc/2012/10/24/-b-Women-in-Indian-Economy–B-.aspx

$img_titleWomen play a dominant role in the Indian economy, undertaking a wide range of economic activities including farm operations and powering a high savings rate. However, changes in the employment scenario, rising inflation, social conditions and neglect by policy-makers have impacted adversely on women.

An estimated 52 per cent of Indian women suffer from malnutrition. Fifty-eight per cent of pregnant women suffer from anaemia. Not surprisingly, the maternal mortality rate stands at one per 500. This, when India claims to be not just food self-sufficient but food surplus!

Women continue to lag far behind men in terms of even literacy, at 34.5 per cent (Census 2011). India’s high growth rate – until recently, anyway – comes basically from a high rate of saving and capital formation. India achieved a remarkable savings rate of 33 per cent of the GDP, of which 70 per cent comes from household saving and only 20 per cent from the private corporate sector and 10 per cent from public sector undertakings. There’s no denying that India is blessed with a “female economy”, in terms of savings, consumption attitude and tendency to recycle.

Globalisation has affected women negatively, going by the Report of the Working Group on Empowerment of Woman for XIth Plan. The report concedes, “With the growing globalization and liberalisation of the economy as well as increased privatization of services, women as a whole have been left behind and not been able to partake of the fruits of success. Mainstreaming of women into the new and emerging areas of growth is imperative. This will require training and skill up gradation in emerging trades, encouraging more women to take up vocational training and employment in the boom sectors. This will also require women to migrate to cities and metros for work. Provision of safe housing and other gender friendly facilities at work will need to be provided.”

It further states, “Another facet of globalization is related to the fact that many persons especially women will be severely affected with the advent of setting up of industrial parks, national highways, SEZ etc. as huge tracts of farm land are likely to be acquired for this purpose. This would require massive resettlement of the displaced persons and their families. It is therefore essential that a viable resettlement policy and strategy is formulated and put in place immediately which clearly reflects the needs of women impacted by globalization/displacement.”

Inflation, especially food inflation, impacts women the hardest. As women tend to prioritise the rest of the family, any shrinkage in the food bowl, means less nutrition for her. As if that weren’t bad enough, she has to contend with alcohol abuse by family members.

A recent study by ASSOCHAM says liquor consumption is increasing at the rate of 30 per cent per annum. Currently, it stands 7,000 million liters and is expected to increase to 20,000 million liters by 2015. State governments are upbeat about the rising revenues from liquor, at an average of 20 to 30 per cent annually. Liquor import is rising even faster, with a 700 per cent increase in liquor imports last year. Trade bodies are advocating a reduction in excise and custom duties to encourage liquor consumption. This not only shrinks the family budget, but in some cases may escalate domestic violence.

Policy initiatives for empowerment of women thus appear to have been confined to paper. A brief overview of the stated objectives of the aforesaid policy:

p     Creating an environment, through positive economic and social policies for development of women, that enables them to realise their full potential.

p     The de-jure and de-facto enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by women on equal basis with men in all spheres – political, economic, social, cultural and civil.

p     Equal access to participation and decision-making of women in the social, political and economic life of the nation.

p     Equal access to health care, quality education at all levels, career and vocational guidance and employment as well as equal remuneration, occupational health and safety, social security and public office, etc.

p     Strengthening legal systems aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

p     Changing societal attitudes and community practices by active participation and involvement of both men and women.

p     Mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process.

p     Elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child; and

p     Building and strengthening partnerships with civil society, particularly women’s organisations.

A scheme of gender budgeting has been introduced in an attempt to assess the expenditure on women’s development, but there’s been no attempt to assess the impact of government policy on the condition and status of woman. This is essential so as to provide inputs for meaningful policy-making.

Although most women in India work and contribute to the economy in one form or another, much of their work is not documented, or accounted for in official statistics. Women plow fields and harvest crops while working on farms; women weave and make handicrafts while working in household industries; women sell food and gather wood while working in the informal sector. Additionally, women are traditionally responsible for the daily household chores (e.g. cooking, fetching water and looking after children).

More women may be involved in undocumented or ‘disguised’ wage work than in the formal labour force. It is estimated that over 90 per cent of women workers are involved in the informal sector and not included in official statistics (The World Bank, 1991). The informal sector includes jobs such as domestic servants, small traders, artisans, or labourers on a family farm. Most of these jobs are unskilled, low paying, and do not provide benefits to the worker. Although such jobs are supposed to be recorded in the census, undercounting is likely because the boundaries between these activities and other forms of household work done by women are often clouded. Thus, the actual labour force participation rate for women is likely to be higher than that which can be calculated from available data.

According to the 66th round of NSSO, 25.1 million people lost their self-employment and another 22.0 million joined the army of casual labour between 2004-05 and 2009-10. In this loss of self-employment, women – from being owners of the means of production – became casual labour. This trend has been linked to globalisation and crony capitalism, whereby farmland is acquired by state governments ostensibly for public good and handed over to corporates or individual businessmen. Traditional occupations like small retail are being brought under stress to accommodate corporate interests.

While the contribution of Indian women should be appropriately factored, their importance in terms of sustainable development must be fully appreciated. Excluding women from the growth process is the best way of ensuring that growth itself is short-lived.

Farm To Fork: What’s Shrinking Our Food

28 Oct 2012 | GOVERNANCE | By GOI Monitor

http://voices.halabol.com/2012/10/23/farm-fork-whats-shrinking-our-food

The newly-released ‘State of Indian Agriculture’ report makes the right noises about its shortcomings.

An average Indian spends almost half of his/her total expenditure on food, while roughly half  of India’s work force is still engaged in agriculture for its livelihood. This is why it’s a cause of concern that the sector is in trouble.

Falling soil fertility, over exploitation of water resources, crop yields hitting a plateau, rising input cost, and wastage of food grain means that agriculture’s contribution to the  overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country has fallen from about 30 per cent in 1990-91 to less than 15 per cent in 2011-12.

The fact that India is still home to the largest number of poor and malnourished  people in the world makes it all the more important that higher priority is given to agriculture to ensure inclusive growth. A single point percentage growth in agriculture has been found to be at least two to three times more effective in reducing poverty than the same growth emanating from non-agriculture sectors. This is why, the ‘State of Indian Agriculture 2011-12’ report brought out by the Union Ministry of Agriculture assumes significance as it charts out performance of the sector, highlights loopholes in policy making and suggests remedies. Though along the way, it does lose logic and context, especially when talking about genetically-modified crops and seed industry, the document still remains a worthy ensemble of the issues related to the farm sector.

Low investments, high subsidies

The report laments that in the last 20 years, the contribution of agriculture to GDP has halved even as more than half of Indian population is still dependent on farms for sustenance turning it into a precarious situation.

It rightly points out that the expenditure on agricultural subsidies has crowded out public investment in agriculture research, irrigation, rural roads and power. In fact, fertilizer subsidy, the biggest of all these input subsidies, has led to an imbalanced use of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) thus contributing to deteriorating soil conditions. Consumption of nitrogenous (N), phosphatic (P), potassium (K) fertilizers has increased from 1.1 million tonnes in 1966-67, the year preceding the green revolution to 28.2 million tonnes in 2010-11, while the food grain production increased from 74 million tonnes in 1966-67 to 241.56 million tonnes in 2010-11.

While per hectare consumption is 237.1 kg in Punjab and 225.7 kg in Andhra Pradesh, it is comparatively low in MP, Odisha, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and the North Eastern States. On the other hand, the farmland is increasingly getting fragmented with the proportion of marginal holdings (area less than 1 ha) rising from 61.6 per cent in 1995-96 to 64.8 per cent in 2005-06. This is followed by about 18 per cent small holdings (1-2 ha.), about 16 percent medium holdings (more than 2 to less than 10 ha.) and less than 1 per cent large holdings (10 ha. and above). However, it accepts the fact that small farms produce more per unit of land than large farms provided they have access to same inputs.

Consumption of Fertilizers in India

The yield levels in both wheat and rice crops were found to have stagnated since the growth in their productions were marginal during 2000-01 to 2010-11. All the major coarse cereals displayed a negative growth in area except for maize. Fruits and vegetables showed a higher growth in production and area but the biggest increase in the growth rates of yields in the two periods were in groundnut and cotton, both non-food crops.

The report gives the credit for this to introduction of Bt Cotton in 2002 not taking note that both government and social sector research studies have shown that in long term, Bt Cotton has not increased production.

Mahabeej, the Maharashtra government’s seed corporation, has undertaken a programme to increase the production of desi cotton seeds from 200 quintals this year to 1,500 quintals next year due to increase in demand. A large percentage of cotton farmers in Rajasthan have still not adopted the Bt variety because desi varieties are more resistant to drought besides being more remunerative. The production cost of Bt cotton is higher as it needs more water and fertilisers.

However, the report goes a step further and claims that GM crops also contribute to conservation of biodiversity and more efficient use of external inputs for a more sustainable agriculture and environment, all of which have been belied by research in the field.

Where’s sustainability?

Notably, when talking about sustainable agriculture, the report does not stress much on organic farming  or techniques like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) which help conserve water and reduce the use of chemical fertilizers while maintaining higher crop production. It does state that 90,000 demonstrations of SRI have been organised during the last five years but how much cultivated area has been brought under this technique is not known.

While export of organic food items including tea, spices, fruits and vegetables, has been extolled, there is no mention of extending this practice to main food crops; neither for exports nor for domestic consumption. Instead, it favours taking green revolution to the eastern parts despite accepting the fact that the practice has played havoc with the north western region. More rainfall, unexploited good quality groundwater, aquifers and vast resources of social capital are termed as major factors for “sustainable” production of foodgrains in the states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Seed quality is estimated to account for 20-25 per cent of productivity. However, the report, just following the National Seeds Policy 2002, favours greater role for the private sector in production and distribution of seeds to enhance replacement of farm-saved seeds by ‘quality’ seeds, as dictated by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The report says 10-30 per cent crop loss is due to various pests but per hectare consumption of pesticide in India is 381 g which is low as compared to the world average of 500 g with only 25-30 per cent cultivated area under pesticide cover. However, instead of being cheerful about it, the document blames fragmented land holdings, dependence on monsoons and insufficient awareness among farmers as the main reason for the ‘low’ consumption rate.

Also, it fails to point out that pesticides are indiscriminately used in Punjab and Haryana, the two states which provide a substantial share of wheat and rice to the country. While it terms  and claims that 21 laboratories functioning under various ministries analyse samples to check for the presence of pesticides in food, the findings of these tests have not been shared.

Water in plenty, efficiency scarce

It is estimated that by 2050, about 22 per cent of the geographic area and 17 per cent of the population will be under absolute water scarcity. The per capita availability of water which was about 1704 cubic metres in 2010 is projected to be 1235 cm in 2050.

Irrigation remains the most dominant component in the overall investment in agriculture. In case of public investments in agriculture, more than 80 per cent is accounted for major and medium irrigation schemes. Even in the case of private investments in agriculture, almost half is accounted for by irrigation (minor, primarily through groundwater, but also now increasingly drip etc.). The net sown area has remained around 141 million hectares during the last 40 years. The cropping intensity has, however, gone up from 118 per cent in 1970-71 to 138 per cent in 2008-09.

Irrigation Coverage in India

There are wide variations in irrigation coverage across states and across crops with Punjab having 98  per cent of cropped area under irrigation while Assam has just 4 per cent. Among crops, the major coarse cereals, pulses and most of the oilseeds are grown under rainfed conditions thus depending on monsoon for production as compared to rice which is not as nutritious but is still favoured in irrigated areas.

The document points out that India currently has an overall irrigation potential of 140 million hectares, out of which only about 109 million ha has been created, and around 80 million  ha utilised thus losing out substantial benefits due to poor management of resources. However, it still stresses on storage (dams), transmission (main canals) and retail distribution of water (distribution at the farmer level) as the solution.

In about five decades of Independence, the major controls on management of water resources have changed hands from communities (tanks and small water structures) to government (major and medium irrigation projects) to the private domain (ground water). This has resulted in inefficient water use leading to environmental degradation via waterlogging and induced salinity.

“The irrigation efficiency in the systems needs to be upgraded from the present level of 35 per cent to about 60 per cent in the surface water system and from 65 per cent to 75 per cent in the groundwater system. Even a rise of 5 per cent irrigation efficiency can increase the irrigation potential by 10-15 million ha. New micro-irrigation technologies including drip and trickle systems and micro-sprinklers are good options but cover only about 0.5 million hectare,” the document says.

Despite low coverage area, drip irrigation has proved successful in exhibiting high water productivity by saving irrigation water from 25 to 60 per cent in various orchard crops and vegetables with a 10 to 60 per cent increase in yield as compared to the conventional method of irrigation. It is one of the latest methods of irrigation which is becoming popular in areas with water scarcity and salt problems.

The report goes on to explain the river-interlinking plan claiming that about 141 Billion Cubic Metre (bcm) can be transferred through the peninsular links and 33 bcm through the non-peninsular links. However, the total additional water resources available (174 bcm) by this will be less than the combined water that can be made available (about 300 bcm) through water conservation, groundwater recharge and recycling.

The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has been implementing programmes such as the National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA), Soil Conservation in the Catchments of River Valley Project & Flood Prone River (RVP & FPR) and Watershed Development Project in Shifting Cultivation Areas (WDPSCA). Till the end of third year of eleventh Plan, about 20.81 million ha area had been developed under these programmes.

However, a study on “Comprehensive Assessment of Watersheds programmes in India” found that most of the watershed programmes were not sensitive to the needs of small and marginal farmers, women and landless labourers and they were left out of the watershed-related decision-making process.

We have soiled the soil

During the last 40 years (1970 to 2009) the net sown area has remained, by and large, constant at 141 million ha whereas area under non-agricultural uses has increased from 16 million ha to 26 million ha, while the area under barren and unculturable land has come down from 28 million to 17 million ha. The major threats to soil quality come from loss of organic carbon, erosion, nutrient imbalance, compaction, salinisation, water-logging, decline in soil biodiversity, urbanisation, contamination with heavy metals and pesticides and from an adverse impact of climate change.

The organic carbon content of Indian soils is very low on account of removal of the crop residues, low and imbalanced nutrient use and erosion. Most of the plant biomass is removed from the field to be used as forage, fuel or building material and stubbles are burnt to hasten land preparation for next crop.

An estimated 29.4 million ha of Indian soil is experiencing a decline in fertility which is likely to increase in future. Nutrient imbalance and micronutrient deficiency is serious in our soils. About 3.1 million ha of agricultural land is water logged while another 4.1 million ha is affected by salinity. Non-judicious use of pesticides, dumping of municipal solid and industrial wastes containing large amounts of heavy metals and toxic substances affect soil quality as also activities of the biological system in the soil.

Land Use Pattern

Land use pattern in India

The report recommends application of gypsum as soil or water amendment along with farm yard manure to deal with the adverse effects of saline soil and allow the growing of rice and wheat in these areas. Cultivation of salt-tolerant rice and wheat varieties can help deal with the issue without compromising the crop yield.

An inadequate and imbalanced nutrient use coupled with neglect of organic manures has resulted in multi-nutrient deficiencies in Indian soils. These deficiencies are becoming more critical for sulphur, zinc and boron. As the nutrient additions do not keep pace with nutrient removal by the crops, the fertility status of Indian soils has been declining fast under intensive agriculture and are now showing signs of fatigue, especially in the Indo-Gangetic plain. The soils in India possesses having a net negative balance of about 8-10 million tonnes of NPK at the country level.

The potassium (P) is the most mined nutrient from soils with the rate of its removal being 7 metric tonne and in proportion to an addition of only one metric tonne. Sulphur deficiencies are also showing up in all parts of the country being more rampant in the southern region.

The deficiencies could be assumed to be occurring in 40-45 per cent of districts covering about 60 million ha of net sown area. The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences has estimated (2009) that for meeting the food needs of the country by 2025, India may have to increase its plant nutrient supply to over 45 million tonnes with 35 million tonnes coming from chemical fertilizer sources and the remaining 10 million tonnes from organic sources. According to ICAR estimates, there is a big gap of 10 million tonnes of nutrients annually added and drained from the soil by crop removal and erosion.

The national soil health and fertility programme introduced by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation to deal with this problem promotes a soil test based balanced and  judicious use of chemical fertilizers in conjunction with organic manures. In 2010-11, there were 1,049 soil testing laboratories operating in the country with a soil analysing capacity of 106 lakh soil samples per annum.

A soil Health Card is provided to farmers which contains details of soil fertility, level of macro and micro nutrients and the problems related to soil. This information allows the farmer to adopt agricultural practices accordingly, including appropriate nutrient mix. State governments had issued 408 lakh soil health cards to the farmers till October, 2011.

Man, money and market deficit

Labour accounts for more than 40 per cent of the total variable cost of production in most cases. Therefore, availability of labour to work in agriculture is crucial in sustaining agricultural production.

In recent years there is a perceptible change in this trend due to rapid economic growth and adoption of policies for employment generation including promotion of self employment opportunities.

Major policy measures influencing the wage increase are Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) and the Minimum Wages Act. There is a steady increase of agricultural wages in all major states of India in recent years. The annual average wage in Punjab increased by 22.2 per cent in 2009 and 20.3 per cent in 2010. However, MREGS has also reduced the availability of labour for agricultural operations and increased the cost of cultivation.

Institutional credit to agriculture has increased from 2.56 per cent in 1970–1971 to 32.21 percent in 2010-11. However, despite this expansion, small farmers are still going to informal lenders since the current system suffers from non-farmer friendly practices, delays in credit delivery and collateral problems. Even within states, there are sharp differences in credit flow to developed regions, regions with greater access to physical infrastructure and regions closer to urban centres as compared to under-developed districts or regions.

Agricultural insurance is another concept that has not made much headway in India as yet. The coverage in terms of area, number of farmers and value of agricultural output is very small and most of the schemes are yet to prove their viability.

During 2010-11, the Crop Insurance Schemes covered about 25 per cent farmers and crop area in the country. However, there was a heavy regional and crop bias in its coverage. Since the beginning of the scheme in 1999, till the rabi season of 2010-11, 176 million farmers were extended insurance cover. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Gujarat and Karnataka accounted for 76 per cent of the total insurance claims, and 80 per cent of insured area.

The increasing population has brought down the per capita net availability of food grains from 510 grams per day in 1991 to 444 grams per day in 2009. Only five states including Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Haryana have more than 60 per cent of the total capacity of godowns sanctioned in the country while Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat are picking up.

Lack of storage capacity is what is resulting in rotting of the surplus grain which could have been made available to the needy. The report recommends direct linking of farmers to the market and creation of scientific storage capacity with allied facilities in rural areas and involvement of private sector to speed up things. Gramin Bhandaran Yojna, a government scheme to this end launched in 2011 has sanctioned more than 24,000 such godowns since its inception.

Source: GOI Monitor

Negative Report on GM Crops Shakes Government’s Food Agenda: Science

sc committee report Science

Science

Dated: August 17, 2012

Title: Negative Report on GM Crops Shakes Government’s Food Agenda

By: Pallava Bagla

 Vol. 337 no. 6096 p. 789

DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6096.789

India : Negative Report on GM Crops Shakes Government’s Food Agenda

 Pallava Bagla

NEW DELHI—Sounding what some regard as the death knell for the development of genetically modified food crops in India, a high-profile parliamentary panel here last week recommended that GM crop “field trials under any garb should be discontinued forthwith,” and that agricultural GM research should “only be done under strict containment.” In a press conference after the report’s release, the panel’s chair, Basudeb Acharia, was unequivocal: “India should not go in for GM food crops.”

If implemented, the report’s recommendations would paralyze research and erode India’s food security, warns India’s chief of crop research, Swapan Dutta, a rice geneticist and deputy director general here at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. “It would be better if India should end all research on GM crops if the country can’t embrace it,” he says. The government must take a stand on “whether it seeks to embrace or shun biotechnology,” adds vaccine specialist Maharaj Kishan Bhan, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology here. If it comes down in favor of a ban, he says, hope for GM research in India is lost.

Decisiveness won’t be easy, considering that the federal government has been sending mixed signals about its commitment to agricultural GM technology. In 2002, the government gave a green light to the first commercial GM crop in India: cotton carrying the gene for the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, which is toxic to some insects. Today more than 1100 Bt varieties account for 93% of all cotton sown in India; production has skyrocketed from 0.02 million hectares in 2002 to 9.33 million hectares in 2011. In February, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated his support of GM crops in an interview with Science (24 February, p. 907). “In due course of time,” he said, “we must make use of genetic engineering technologies to increase the productivity of our agriculture.”

But some of Singh’s own ministers haven’t been toeing that line. In 2010, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh put an indefinite moratorium on commercialization of Bt brinjal, a kind of eggplant, after the ministry’s scientific advisory panel had given the GM variety a thumbsup. Then in June, environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan told Science that “genetically modified foods have no place in ensuring India’s food security.”

The panel came down squarely on the side of GM skeptics. Chaired by Acharia, a member of parliament representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the 31-member panel labored for 2 years on its 492-page report. It blasted GM crops in part on economic grounds, observing that “the experience of the last decade has conclusively shown that while it has extensively benefited the industry, as far as the lot of poor farmers is concerned, even trickle down is not visible.”

GM crop researchers in India were under considerable duress well before the report came out. Since 2011, state governments have refused to issue certificates that would allow GM crop field trials to commence. As a result of this de facto ban, “virtually no new proposals come to us to fund research on GM crops,” says Bhan, whose department has funded work on 30 kinds of GM crops, from rice to rubber. “Today the pipeline has almost dried up,” he says.

The Acharia panel assailed India’s notable GM success, Bt cotton. It pointed out that all Bt cotton grown commercially in India is derived from technology sold by the multinational food giant Monsanto and incorporated in Indian seed varieties. “It is the fear of multinational control of food security that usually leads to a negative approach on recombinant DNA technology,” says agriculture scientist M. S. Swaminathan, chair of the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai.

The panel notes that 70% of India’s 1.2 billion people are farmers, who mostly have “no alternative but to buy Bt cotton seed” because the yields are higher. In the last few years, thousands of heavily indebted farmers in India’s cotton-growing regions have committed suicide. In one of its more contentious statements, the panel asserted that “there is a connection between Bt cotton and farmers’ suicides.”

In a statement to Science, Monsanto noted that India has reaped big benefits from Bt cotton: “India has seen a cotton revolution with farmers doubling cotton production using better seeds and technologies along with improved farming practices and other agri inputs.” The company did not address the issue of farmer suicide. Taking more direct aim at the panel, N. Seetharama, executive director of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises-Agricultural Group in Bangalore, said that “the partial and one-sided arguments put forth in the public domain could harm the national interest.”

Ministries now must digest the report and later explain to the panel whether and how they plan to implement the report’s recommendations, which carry political weight but are not mandatory. If the government doesn’t make a forceful case for GM crops, Bhan says, there may be no alternative but to “stop all use of GM crop technology till it has been totally made in India.” And if Monsanto becomes “a nuisance,” he added, “it can be kicked out.”

Pallava Bagla

Report of the Committee on Regulation of Sugar Sector in India: The Way Forward

D. Narasimha Reddy
1. The Committee mentions that sugar industry is has Rs.80,000 crore turnover, and hope that it would double to Rs.160,000 crore in the next four to five years. But this is not possible without farmers support and the benefits they should be seeing for themselves in such a growth. This Report does not mention how farmers would benefit from its recommendations.
2. The Report has conveniently ignored the industry of jaggery, which is a huge informal processing industry in India. Except a mention in one place, the Committee completely bypasses as a factor in balancing the farmers and consumers interests. It also ignored the consumption levels of sugarcane by this segment. Jaggery has helped the farmers in distress, due to failure of sugar industry and otherwise.
3. the committee has completely ignored the implications of their recommendations or expectations on increased consumption of water or electricity. A double growth, based on increased acreage under sugarcane, is possible only with increased irrigation facilities. Or ground water. Same is the case with electricity, as the Committee looks forward to more capital intensive sugar production. It has not estimated availability or factors which can play a role in such availability, and the cost implications on environment, economy, farmers and people.
4. The committee recommends withdrawal Jute Packaging Order, for packing sugar, on the sugar mills. this will have a serious negative impact on jute industry and the employment therein. Environmental implications of higher usage of poly-bags for sugar packing is another hazard. Further, there is likelihood of contamination as sugar may get packed in recycled poly-bags, from non-food, hazardous packaged products. At a rate of 40 paise per kilo, the load of jute is not higher, or unreasonable.
5. The committee says cost of conversion from sugarcane to sugar will decrease with increase in capacity, bringing up size as an issue. thus, the committee is recommending for higher capacity sugar mills, favouring phasing out of small khandsari, cooperative and probably even private mills. With liberal FDI policies, it is likely that the Committee is expecting FDI flows into sugar industry as well, with stress on modernisation.
6. The Committee bases most of its recommendations on avoiding what is sees as cyclical problems in sugar industry. It laments that such cyclical volatality is affecting the profits of sugar industry, and goes on to recommend dereservation of cane area, decontrol of price regulation and encouragement of exports. However, the Committee has largely ignored the resultant volatility on remuneration price for farmers. as it is with regulatory framework, including State Advisory price, levy, etc. farmers are not getting proper prices for their produce. With decontrol, farmers are likely to be further short-changed.
7. The committee also recommends a value-sharing ratio of 70:30 for remuneration to farmers, based on its calculations of costs, at each level. However, these calculations show that cost incurred by farmers is 69 percent of total cost of conversion of sugarcane to sugar. Thus, the committee is saying farmers can take only the cost they incur and not more from sugarcane. In addition, it says industry should provide benefits to farmers in by-products, such as molasses, in the same ratio. While this appears rational on paper, in practice, who and how the government ensures that mills pay farmers in such a ratio is not laid down by the Committee.
With the mechanism of State Advisory Price not responding to farmers needs, with legal framework, i would be well nigh impossible for farmers to get better prices from the sugar industry voluntarily, in the absence of such a framework. Instead of recommending a better regulatory framework, the Committee expects lack of it of will help farmers – an optimism that would shared by a very people.
8. the committee has not included cogeneration (of electricity) in value sharing ratio. Cogeneration is also a byproduct of sugar industry and needs to be shared as well with the farmers.
9. This is a Committee of economists. Yet the committee recommends incineration of spent wash, without understanding or analysing the implications of such a recommendation on environment and costs.
10. The timing and content of the report is linked with other economic liberal policies announced by the government, especially in foreign trade, investment, taxes, etc., which means that this is a report to suit the larger direction of economy and economic policies, and not suited to sugar industry, and definitely not the sugarcane farmers.
12. Dereservation of cane area is likely to increase the vulnerability of sugarcane farmers to the machinations of individual sugar mills and their syndicate behaviour.
13. While the committee recommends ‘free’ foreign trade in sugar, yet it recommends higher tariffs to protect domestic industry. If efficiency lies in competition, the bias of the Committee towards sugar industry is apparent. The same bias is not shows for sugarcane farmers.
14. the Committee has not consulted representatives sugarcane farmers and their unions, while it did elaborate consultations with the sugar industry. It also consulted three Chief Ministers, and not Andhra Pradesh, which has significant sugarcane production and processing.

Farmers protest open air field trials of GM corn; demand an immediate ban

Supreme Court Expert committee recommends moratorium on GM Field trials
Farmers protest open air field trials of GM corn; demand an immediate ban

Kurukshetra/New Delhi, October 18, 2012: Hundreds of farmers from Bharat Kisan Union carrying banners and monster corn placards reading “Monsanto GM corn Quit India” gathered together in a peaceful protest outside the Regional Research station of Choudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (CCHAU) at Kurukshetra today, to show their resentment towards open air field trials of genetically modified (GM) corn in the state. American multinational seed giant, Monsanto, is conducting the open field trials of its herbicide tolerant GM corn variety in the research station here. The farmer’s protest comes close to the heels of the recommendation of the Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to put a 10 year moratorium on all field trials of GM crops in India owing to the potential risks involved.

Public opposition has been building up ever since the field trials of GM food crops like GM corn of multinational seed companies had started in the public sector research stations in the state. Various organisations under the banner of Allaince for GM free Haryana had met the state Agriculture Minister Mr Paramvir Singh last month and requested him to stop all open air field trials in the state; however the state government is yet to take any constructive step. In their submission they had pointed out that there is a growing scientific evidence on the negative impacts of GM crops on human health and environment. Concerns were also raised on the manner in which seed companies are taking control of our seed sector using their proprietary GM seeds as was seen in the case of Bt Cotton, the only commercially cultivated GM crop in India.

Addressing the gathering Gurnam Singh, Haryana State President of BKU said that “A month has passed since we met our agriculture minister but the government has failed to act on our behalf. The onus is now on us”. He urged the farmers to stand united in the fight for their farms and food free from GM contamination and corporate control and declared that BKU will not permit any more field trials happening in the state.

The field trials currently taking place in Haryana include GM corn which have bacterial genes inserted in them for giving herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. While field trials have been permitted for Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta and Dow Agro Sciences, Monsanto leads the pack with one small scale (BRL 1) of its herbicide tolerant (HT) GM corn and one large scale (BRL 2) field trial of its stacked gene GM Maize which has one bacterial gene for both herbicide tolerance and one (Bt) for insect resistance. The alliance in its letter also had pointed out that these field trials are happening in the absence of any biosafety assessments that proves their safety to human health and environment.

“It is unfortunate that Haryana is becoming the testing ground for risky GM crops which have been rejected by other states in the country” said Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convenor, Coalition for GM Free India. Addressing the assembled farmers he further stated that “Massive opposition from all quarters in the past forced the central government to put a moratorium on Bt Brinjal 2 years ago but now the governments, both at the centre and state, are permitting back door entry of GM crops through such open field trials”.

“Experiences from the few countries that grow GM corn commercially, shows that this eventually leads to super weeds that are tolerant to these herbicides and the farmers will end up using more and more herbicides with less and less impact. What is worrisome is the recent scientific studies that points to the potency of herbicides like Monsanto’s Glyphosate(commonly called as Round Up) to cause cancer, birth defects, female hormone disruptions etc.” said Dr Ramkumar, retired Senior scientist, CCHAU. He further stated that “By promoting such GM crops, companies like Monsanto make double profits by selling its proprietary seed and its chemical herbicide”

Speaking at the occasion Sunder Lal, Chairperson, Svashaasan Mission, Khori, Haryana urged the state govt to immediately stop the field trials and opined that “Given that GM crops in general & the GM corn in particular pose a grave threat to the health of the state’s people, our food & farming the state govt. should take the side of the people and not that of biotech seed companies who have nothing but profits in their mind”.

The Technical Expert Committee set up by the Supreme Court of India in its interim report submitted to the court on Monday this week has recommended a 10 year moratorium on all field trials of GM crops. The TEC, comprising of eminent scientists in the country on the field of molecular biology and biotechnology, after doing wide spread consultations with experts said that the moratorium is necessitated by the potential harm of GM crops to human health, that of livestock and biodiversity and the possibility of field trials to contaminate our regular crops and our food supply. The concern was also because of the inadequacy of the current regulatory system to assess the safety of GM crops and its ability to safely conduct field trials.

In August this year the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture comprising of 32 members of the parliament cutting across party lines in its report on GM food crops, tabled in the Parliament had clearly recommended the ‘stopping of all field trials under any garb’ 2.

Talking to farmers about these developments Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India said that “It is unacceptable that after repeated recommendations from such credible agencies, both legislative and judicial, our government continues to permit open releases of GM crops in the country in the name of field trials” he further stated that “the Minister of Environment and Forests, Smt Jayanti Natarajan, under who sits the nodal agency for open releases of GM crops, should immediately stop all open air releases of GM crop including field trials.”

Those gathered demanded the central and state governments to stop the promotion of destructive agricultural technologies like GM crops and support ecological farming which is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. They also took a solemn pledge to keep both the state and the country free from GM crops and to take action if any open releases of GM crops are permitted in the name of experimental trials.

Notes to the Editor:

1. http://indiagminfo.org/?p=461

2. The copy of the BKU and Alliance for GM Free Haryana letter to the state govt is attached.

3. The Parliamentary Standing committee report on GM Food crops is available at http://164.100.47.134/committee/committee_informations.aspx

For More Information:

1. Sunder Lal, Chairperson , Svashaasan Mission, Khori – Rewari , Haryana

Mob: 8607102111, email: sunder.khori@gmail.com

2. Gurnam Singh, State President, Bharat Kisan Union, Haryana.

Mob: 9812335244 email: bkugurnamsingh@gmail.com

3. Pankaj Bhushan, Co- convenor, Coalition for GM Free India,

Mob: 09472999999 email:mail.tarafoundation@gmail.com

4. Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India,

Mob: 09845650032 email: rajesh.krishnan@greenpeace.org

5. Dr. Ram Kumar, Sustainable Agri. & Social Activist , Dulina – Jhajjar , Haryana

Mob: 09991522270 email: ramkanwardulina@gmail.com

జీవ వైవిధ్యంతోనే ఆహార భద్రత – జి.వి.రామాంజనేయులు

మన దేశంలో ఇప్పుడు ఉత్పత్తవుతున్న ఆహారధాన్యాలు మన అవసరాల కంటే రెండింతలు ఎక్కువే అయినా ఆకలి, పేదరికం ఉన్నాయి. గ్రామీణ ప్రజలకి ఆదాయ భద్రత కల్పించకుండా ఆహార భద్రత అసంభవం. ఆహార భద్రత అంటే పోషకాహార భద్రత కావాలి. పర్యావరణ భద్రత కావాలి. అప్పుడే దేశానికి ఆహార భద్రత. అది కొత్త టెక్నాలజీలలో లేదు. జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని, పర్యావరణాన్ని, జీనవోపాధులు కాపాడుకోవడంలోనూ, ప్రకృతి వనరులను కాపాడుకోవడంలోనూ ఉంది.

మానవ మనుగడ అంతా కూడా ప్రకృతిలోని జీవజాతులని సమర్థంగా, సుస్థిరంగా వాడుకోవటంపై ఆధారపడి ఉంటుంది. ఈ జీవ వైవిధ్యంలో ఎక్కువ భాగం అభివృద్ధి చెందుతున్న దేశాలలో ఉంది. ప్రకృతి వనరులని విచ్చలవిడిగా వాడుకొని పారిశ్రామికంగా, వ్యాపారాత్మకంగా అభివృద్ధి చెందిన దేశాలు తమ భావి వాణిజ్య ప్రయోజనాలకు ఈ జీవ వైవిధ్యంపైన కన్నువేశాయి. తమ దగ్గర లేని ఈ జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని వాడుకోవటానికి అవకాశం, వాడుకోవటంలో వీటిపై మేధో సంబంధ హక్కులు సంపాదించుకోవటానికి పెద్ద దేశాలు ప్రయత్నించటంతో ఇరవై సంవత్సరాల క్రితం- ఈ పరస్పర వ్యతిరేక ఆలోచనలను, ఒక తాటిపైకి తెచ్చి సుస్థిర అభివృద్ధి సాధించటానికి ఐక్యరాజ్యసమితి ఆధ్వర్యంలో ‘జీవ వైవిధ్య సదస్సు’ ప్రారంభమైంది.

ప్రపంచంలో ఇప్పుడు సాగులో ఉన్న పంటలన్నీ పుట్టినవి ఎనిమిది ప్రాంతాలలో అని శాస్త్రవేత్తలు చెబుతారు. వాటిలో భారతదేశం ఒకటి. మన దేశంలో సుమారు 375 పంటలలో, 140కి పైగా పశువులలో వైవిధ్యం ఉంది. ప్రపంచ భూ విస్తీర్ణంలో భారత్ కేవలం 2.4 శాతం మాత్రమే. అయినా జనాభా 18 శాతం. ఇంతటి జనాభా ఉన్నా, మానవాళికి తెలిసిన 45వేల రకాల మొక్కలు, 91 వేల రకాల పశువులు మన దేశంలో ఉన్నాయి. ఇంతటి వైవిధ్యానికి పుట్టినిల్లు అయిన దేశంలో మనం ఈ జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని త్వరితగతిన కోల్పోతున్నాం. అం దుకు ఈ జనాభా పెరుగుదల, అభివృద్ధి అవసరాలు కారణం అని ప్రభుత్వం చెబుతున్నా, విశ్లేషణలు అన్నీ కూడా ప్రభుత్వం ఎంచుకున్న తప్పుడు విధానాలే కారణమని స్పష్టం చేస్తున్నాయి. ఆధునిక వ్యవసాయం పేరుతో జరిగిన /జరుగుతున్న విధ్వంసం కావచ్చు, ప్రాజెక్టుల నిర్మాణాలు కావొచ్చు, గనుల తవ్వకాలు కావచ్చు లేక పారిశ్రామికీకరణ పేరుతోనో, పట్టణీకరణ పేరుతోనే కావొచ్చు ప్రభుత్వ ఆధ్వర్యంలోనే ఈ విధ్వంసం కొనసాగుతూ ఉంది. ఇలాంటి విధ్వంసకరమైన అభివృద్ధికి వ్యతిరేకంగా చాలా ప్రాంతాలలో ప్రజలు తిరగబడుతూనే ఉన్నారు. స్థానిక జీవనోపాధులకు ఇలాంటి అభివృద్ధి ముప్పు అని గుర్తించి పోరాటం చేస్తున్నారు.

జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని ఆహార, వాణిజ్య, పారిశ్రామిక అవసరాల కోసం వ్యవసాయ రంగంలోనే ఎక్కువ వాడుకుంటాం. జీవ వైవిధ్యానికి ముప్పు వాటిల్లటంతో వ్యవసాయరంగానికి పెద్ద ముప్పు, తద్వారా మన ఆహార భద్రతకు పెనుముప్పు ఏర్పడే అవకాశం ఉంది. మన దేశ వ్యవసాయంలో ఒకప్పటి జీవ వైవిధ్యం: వరి- లక్ష రకాలు; మామిడి- 1000 రకాలు; జొన్న -5000 రకాలు; వంగ- 3500 రకాలు; ఆవులు -27జాతులు; మేకలు -22 జాతులు; గొర్రెలు-40 జాతులు; కోళ్ళు- 18 జాతులు; గేదెలు-ఎనిమిది జాతులు.

ప్రపంచంలో సహజంగా ఉండే మొక్కల్లో కొన్ని మొక్కలను తన అవసరాలకు వాడుకోవచ్చని మానవుడు గుర్తించటంతో వ్యవసాయం, తద్వారా స్థిర జీవనం, గ్రామాల అభివృద్ధి ప్రారంభమయ్యాయి. మన దేశంలో ఉన్న వివిధ ప్రాంతాల్లో భౌగోళిక పరిస్థితులు, వివిధ అవసరాల కోసం అనువైన వంగడాలు, వ్యవసాయ పద్ధతులు కాలక్రమేణా అభివృద్ధి చెందాయి. మన అవసరాలకు వాడుకుంటున్న పంటలన్నింటినీ మూడు వేల సంవత్సరాల క్రితమే సాగులోకి తెచ్చారు. ఆ తర్వాత ఇప్పటివరకు ఒక్క కొత్త పంటని కూడా మానవ జాతి కనుక్కోలేకపోయింది.

అయితే ఆధునిక వ్యవసాయం పేరుతో మనం ఎంచుకున్న విధానాలు ఈ వైవిధ్యాన్ని నాశనం చేస్తున్నాయి. మనకు స్వాతంత్య్రం వచ్చేసరికి మన ఆహార అవసరాలకు అనేక పంటలు ఉన్నా, కేవలం కొన్ని పంటలపై దృష్టి పెట్టడం వల్ల మిగిలినవి కనుమరుగైపోయాయి. ఆహారధాన్యాలు అంటే ఈ రోజు మనకు తెలిసినది కేవలం వరి, గోధుమ మాత్రమే. వీటికంటే ఆరోగ్యకరమైన చిరుధాన్యాలు ఈ రోజు సాగులో లేవు. వరి, గోధుమ సాగు పెరగటం వలన నీటి వినియోగం పెరిగింది. ఒక కిలో వరి బియ్యం పండటానికి దాదాపు 5000 లీటర్ల నీరు అవసరం; అదే జొన్న, సజ్జ లాంటి చిరుధాన్యాలకైతే కేవలం 200 లీటర్ల నీరు సరిపోతుంది.

ఇలా పంటల సరళిలో మార్పురావటం వలన నీటి వినియోగం పెరిగి భూగర్భ జలాలు తరిగిపోయాయి. అలాగే పెద్ద విస్తీర్ణంలో ఒకే పంట వేయటం వలన పురుగులు, తెగుళ్ళ సమస్యలు, ఒకే పంటను మరలా మరలా భూమిలో సాగుచేయటం వలన భూసారం కోల్పోవటం జరుగుతోంది. దీనివలన పురుగు మందుల వినియోగం, రసాయనిక ఎరువుల వినియోగం పెరుగుతోంది. అలాగే మన రాష్ట్రంలోని ఒంగోలు జాతి ఆవులు కానీ, పుంగనూరు ఆవులు కానీ, దక్కనీ గొర్రెలు కానీ, అసిల్ కోళ్ళు కానీ అన్నీ మన ప్రాంతాలకి అనువైనవి. వాటిని ప్రోత్సహించకుండా కేవలం బయట దేశాల నుంచి తెచ్చిన వాటినే ప్రోత్సహించటం జరుగుతోంది.

ఎక్కడ తప్పు చేశాం? చారిత్రకంగా చూస్తే చాలా రకాల పంటలు మన దేశంలోనే ఉద్భవించటంతో పాటు స్థానిక వనరుల ఆధారంగా వివిధ అవసరాల కోసం సాగు పద్ధతులు, పంట రకాలు ఉన్నట్టు తెలుస్తోంది. అయితే ఆధునిక వ్యవసాయం పేరుతో మనం అమెరికా వ్యవసాయాన్ని అనుకరించే ప్రయత్నాలు చేయటంతో కష్టాలు మొదలయ్యాయి. వరి మనకి ముఖ్యమైన ఆహార పంట. క్రీ.శ. 1700 ప్రాంతాలలోనే తమిళనాడులోని చెంగలప్పట్టు జిల్లాలో వరి దిగుబడులు హెక్టారుకి 9 టన్నులు ఉన్నట్టు తెలుస్తుంది. అయితే మెట్ట ప్రాంతాల్లో, కొండ ప్రాంతాల్లో సాగు పద్ధతులు, రకాలు వేరుగా ఉండేవి. వాటికి అనుగుణంగానే దిగుబడులు ఉండేవి.

స్వాతంత్య్రం వచ్చే నాటికి మన దేశంలో 50 వేల రకాల వరి వంగడాలు సాగులో ఉండేవి. అందులో సుమారు 55 శాతం మెట్ట వరి రకాలు. హరిత విప్లవం పేరుతో మనం వీటన్నిటిని నాశనం చేసి నీటి ముం పుతోటే పండించే కొన్ని అధిక దిగుబడి రకాలను ప్రోత్సహించాం. దీని వలన ఈ వైవిధ్యం అంతా కోల్పోయి ఈ రోజు మన దేశంలో దాదాపు 85 శాతం వరి కేవలం పది రకాల నుంచి మాత్రమే వస్తుంది. అంటే ఆశ్చర్యపడాల్సిందే. వరదలను తట్టుకునే రకాలు, కరువుని తట్టుకునే రకాలు, ఉప్పు నీటిని తట్టుకునే రకాలు అనేకం ఉండేవి. అలాగే ఎక్కువ విటమిన్‌లు, పోషకాలు ఉన్న రకాలు కూడా సాగులో ఉండేవి. అయితే ఇప్పుడు అవే లక్షణాలను జన్యుమార్పిడి ద్వారా ప్రవేశపెట్టటానికి ప్రయత్నాలు చేస్తున్నారు.

మనకి పోషకాలు కావాలంటే ఆహారంలో వైవిధ్యం ఉండాలి కానీ ఒక్క వరిలోనే అన్ని పోషకాలు ఉండేలా చేయాలి అనుకోవటం మూర్ఖత్వం. ప్రభుత్వ పరిశోధనలు, సబ్సిడీలు, మద్దతు ధరలు అన్నీ వరికి మాత్రమే సహకారం అందిస్తూ ఉండటంతో తృణ ధాన్యాల సాగు క్రమేపీ తగ్గుతూ ఇప్పుడు పూర్తిగా కనుమరుగవుతోంది. పోషకాల పరంగా చూస్తే వరి వీటికి ఏ మాత్రం సాటిరాదు. పైగా నీటి వినియోగం కూడా తక్కువ. పోషకాలు ఎక్కువగా ఉండే పంటలను ప్రోత్సహించకుండా ఇప్పుడు ‘గోల్డెన్ వరి’ పేరుతో జన్యుమార్పిడి వరి తేవటానికి ప్రయత్నం జరుగుతోంది. వరిలో విటమిన్ బి తయారీకి అవసరమైన బీటా కేరాటిస్ ఉత్పత్తి అయ్యేలా, అలాగే ఎక్కువ ఐరన్ ఉండేలా జన్యుమార్పిడి పంటలను తయారుచేస్తున్నారు. కొన్ని పంటలను, వాటిల్లో కేవలం కొన్ని రకాలు, కొన్ని రకాల పండించే పద్ధతులను మాత్రమే ప్రోత్సహించటం వల్లే సమస్యలు వస్తున్నాయని గుర్తుంచుకోవాలి.

యాంత్రికీకరణకు అనుగుణంగా పంట రకాలు, వ్యవసాయ పద్ధతులు మార్చుకోవటం ఇంకో పెద్ద సమస్య. దీనికి పత్తిని ఉదాహరణగా చెప్పుకోవచ్చు. ప్రపంచం అంతా ఆకులూ, చర్మాలూ కట్టుకునే రోజుల్లో మన దేశంలో పత్తి సాగులో ఉండేది. ప్రపంచ దేశాలన్నిటిలోనూ మొహంజోదారో నాటి నుంచి మన దేశం బట్టలకు ప్రసిద్ధి. అయితే పారిశ్రామిక విప్లవం తర్వాత వచ్చిన స్పిన్నింగ్ మిల్లులకై, బ్రిటన్‌కు పత్తి ఎగుమతి చేయటం కోసం అమెరికన్ పొడుగు పింజ పత్తిని ప్రవేశపెట్టారు. దేశీయ పత్తి మెట్ట ప్రాంతాలలో పండేది. పురుగు- తెగుళ్ళ సమస్య తక్కువ అయితే, ఈ అమెరికన్ పత్తి పంటకు నీటి వినియోగం ఎక్కువ.

పైగా పురుగుల-తెగుళ్ళ సమస్యలు ఎక్కువ. ఈ అమెరికన్ పత్తులతోనే, ఇప్పుడు వ్యవసాయరంగంలో పెద్ద ఎత్తున వినాశనానికి కారణంగా వున్న ‘పచ్చ పురుగు’ (దీనిని అమెరికన్ బోల్ వార్మ్ అని అంటారు) వచ్చింది. వాటిని నియంత్రించటానికి రసాయనిక పురుగు మందులు, వాటికి తట్టుకునే శక్తి పెంచుకుంటే ఇంకా విషపూరితమైన పురుగు మందులు, ఇప్పుడు జన్యుమార్పిడి పత్తి ఇలా సమస్యకి తప్పుడు పరిష్కారాలు వెతుకుతుంటూనే ఉన్నాం. నిజానికి దేశీయ పత్తి రకాలని అభివృద్ధిచేసి, దానికి అనుకూలంగా స్పిన్నింగ్ యూనిట్లు తయారుచేసి ఉంటే సమస్య చాలా మటుకు తక్కువ ఉండేది. అలాగే పురుగుమందుల వాడకం పెంచుకుంటూ పోవటం, జన్యుమార్పిడి పంటలను అభివృద్ధి చేయటం లాంటివి కాకుండా స్థానిక వనరులతో చేసిన సుస్థిర వ్యవసాయ పద్ధతులను ప్రోత్సహిస్తే ఖర్చులు తగ్గటంతో పాటు జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని కూడా కాపాడుకున్న వారమవుతాము.

ఆధునిక వ్యవసాయంతో వచ్చే సమస్యల గురించి మాట్లాడినప్పుడల్లా ఆహారభద్రతకు ఇదే దారి అని వాదనలు వినిపిస్తున్నాయి. ఈ రోజు మన దేశంలో సుమారు 25 కోట్ల టన్నుల ఆహారధాన్యాల ఉత్పత్తి జరుగుతోంది. మన దేశ జనాభా 130 కోట్లు. అందరూ మూడు పూటలా భోజనం చేస్తారు అనుకున్నా మనకు కావలిసింది 9.5 కోట్ల టన్నుల ఆహారధాన్యాలు మాత్రమే (ప్రతి వ్యక్తికీ రోజుకు 200గ్రాముల లెక్క తీసుకుంటే). అంటే ఇప్పుడు ఉత్పత్తవుతున్న ఆహారధాన్యాలు మన అవసరాల కంటే రెండింతలు ఎక్కువ. అయినా దేశంలో ఆకలి, పేదరికం ఉన్నాయి. ప్రజలకి, ముఖ్యంగా వ్యవసాయం మీద ఆధారపడి జీవిస్తున్న గ్రామీణ ప్రజలకి ఆదాయ భద్రత కల్పించకుండా ఆహారభద్రత అసంభవం.

అలాగే ఆహార భద్రత అంటే కేవలం వరి, గోధుమ కాదు. తిండి గింజలు మాత్రమే కాదు. పోషకాహార భద్రత కావాలి. పర్యావరణ భద్రత కావాలి. అప్పుడు దేశానికి ఆహార భద్రత. అది కొత్త టెక్నాలజీలలో లేదు. వైవిధ్యాన్ని, పర్యావరణాన్ని, చిన్న సన్నకారు రైతుల, రైతు కూలీల జీనవోపాధులు కాపాడుకోవడంలోనూ, ప్రకృతి వనరులను కాపాడుకోవడంలోనూ ఉంది.

– జి.వి.రామాంజనేయులు
సుస్థిర వ్యవసాయ కేంద్రం (సీఎస్ఏ) ఎగ్జిక్యూటివ్ డైరెక్టర్,
వీణ రావు
సీఎస్ఏలో పరిశోధకురాలు
(నేడు ఆహార భద్రతా దినోత్సవం)

All field trials to be stopped, unless conditions met: SC Technical Expert Committee submits interim report

“10-year Moratorium on field trials of Bt food crops, Moratorium on field trials of Herbicide Tolerant crops (till independent assessment of impact and suitability) and Ban on field trials of GM crops for which India is Centre of Origin/Diversity”

In an Interim Report signed off on 7th October 2012 (D.No.1944/2005/SC/PIL in the Assistant Registrar PIL (WRIT)’s office, dated 17th October 2012), a 5-member Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005, with Aruna Rodrigues and others as the petitioners in a PIL pertaining to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), unanimously presented its view that all field trials should be stopped until the following conditions have been met:

i) Specific sites for conducting field trials have been designated and certified and sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials put in place.
ii) A panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops has been engaged for scrutiny and analyses of the safety data.
iii) Conflict of interest in the regulatory body has been removed (as discussed above).
iv) The requirement for preliminary biosafety tests prior to field trials including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals has been included.

Importantly, the TEC recommended the following with regard to certain classes of products:

“9. Based on the current overall status of food safety evaluation of Bt transgenics including the data on Bt cotton and Bt brinjal examined by the TEAC and in accordance with the precautionary principle, the TEC recommends a ten year moratorium on field trials of Bt transgenics in all food crops (those used directly for human consumption).

10. In view of the concerns bearing on health, environmental and socio-economic considerations, the TEC recommends a moratorium on field trials of herbicide tolerant (HT) crops until an independent committee comprising of experts and stakeholders has examined and assessed the potential impact of HT technology and its suitability in the Indian context.

11. India is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol which recognises the crucial importance of biodiversity as a long term resource. The TEC accordingly recommends a ban on field trials of transgenics in those crops for which India is a centre of origin or a centre of diversity, as transgenics can contaminate and adversely affect the biodiversity.”

The TEC specifically recommended for a re-examination of all biosafety data for applications in process as well as those that have been approved for release by scientists who are qualified in biosafety science and experienced in evaluation of biosafety dossiers for transgenic plants. Citing its rationale as “given the findings of the TEC that there have been several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of the data in the safety dossiers”, the Committee recommended that the re-examination, “if necessary, be done by international experts who have the necessary experience”.

It also recommended long term and inter-generational studies in rodents to be added to the tests and performed for all products whether already approved or yet to be approved.

Further, “acute and sub-chronic feeding studies for all applications including those in progress should be completed before BRLI, as also molecular analysis and allergenicity tests. If these studies indicate potential risks of any kind, the GM event should be rejected outright to save time, resources and contamination”, the report said.

“Genome-wide expression analysis in the toxicity studies of the test organism (eg. rodent) that is being exposed helps to identify changes in biomarkers that are indicative of toxicity. This is an important test to be included as biomarkers are sensitive indicators and are capable of revealing changes before visible symptoms appear” read specific recommendation 4 of the TEC.

For BRLI and BRL II trials, ‘the regulator needs to designate and certify a defined number of sites in different parts of the country. All field trials should be carried out only at these sites. These sites should be used only for growing GM plants and not the non-GM material. Trials should not be conducted in farmers’ fields. This also applies to those trials for which permission may have previously been given by the regulator’, the TEC stated.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE TECHNICAL EXPERT COMMITTEE’S INTERIM REPORT HERE. SC TEch committee report

THE SUPREME COURT ORDER SETTING UP THE TEC, ITS CONSTITUTION AND ITS TERMS OF REFERENCE CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India welcomes this interim report from the Technical Expert Committee set up by the apex court of India and awaits the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 29th of October 2012 in the matter. While earlier inquiries and debates have been discounted by GM proponents as ‘political’, or ’emotional’, or ‘non-scientific’ inquiries and recommendations/decisions, it is worth noting that the TEC consists only of scientists, including of scientists from the government as its representatives. Further, 22 of the 31 submissions studied by the TEC in their nearly 4-month-long inquiry/study were from people with scientific background.

FDI IN RETAIL: ILLOGICAL CLAIMS / खुदरा व्यापार में विदेशी निवेश: अर्तार्किक दावे” – by P. Muralidhar Rao

FDI in Retail (Hindi)_Muralidhar Rao final

FDI in Retail (English)_Muralidhar Rao

AP to probe sucking pest attack on Bt cotton

OUR BUREAU

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 HYDERABAD, OCT. 14:

 

The Andhra Pradesh Government will probe the reported attack of sucking pests on Bt cotton in some parts of the State.

The Agriculture Minister Kanna Lakshminarayana has directed the officials to initiate a probe by the scientists of Acharya N.G. Ranga Agriculture University (ANGRAU) on the reported damage of Bt cotton crop due to the nagging sucking pests.

Reviewing the arrangements for the upcoming rabi season here on Friday evening, he said about 2.75 lakh quintals of groundnut seed would be distributed for the season.

The Agriculture Minister will hold a meeting with the Major Irrigation Minister P. Sudarshan Reddy on October 26 on the issue of releasing water for the standing kharif crops in the K C Canal and Krishna Delta areas. The farmers in these areas are demanding immediate release of water to rescue the crop in the absence of rains.

The Government would hold a 13-day campaign through out the State to popularise the Centrally-sponsored schemes and mechanisation in agriculture.

At the review meeting, the Minister had expressed his unhappiness over the poor mechanisation and on the slow progress in implementation of certain Central schemes.

kurmanath.kanchi@thehindu.co.in