‘Soil deficiencies due to imbalanced fertilization’

Times of India | January 31, 2013
VARANASI: The vegetable-growing soils of Varanasi are fast losing their fertility due to imbalanced fertilization.
According to Prof Surendra Singh, head of the department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, the fact is based on the analysis of a large number of soil samples collected from vegetable fields and data published in the journal of Indian Society of Soil Sciences. He said the investigation showed that soil response to fertilizer application in terms of vegetable production has declined over the years. A part of Shahanshahpur village under Arazuline block of the district has been put under intensive vegetable farming of chili, tomato, brinjal and pea since 1980. In the present scenario of vegetable cultivation, farmers of the area have started to use more nitrogenous fertilizers but proportionally less phosphatic and potassic fertilizers in cultivation of vegetables.
He said such imbalanced fertilization practice has aggravated the problem of deficiencies in available nutrients and is the root cause of deteriorating soil fertility and productivity of vegetables. Results further revealed that the intensively cultivated soils of the area showed deficiency of phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc to extent of 54, 22, 46 and 33 per cent respectively. This suggests that excessive use of nitrogen over phosphorus and potash fertilizers and little use of organic source of nutrients have resulted in depletion of other soil available nutrients in the vegetable growing area. According to him, the decline in productivity in these soils over the years is a matter of great concern. Balanced fertilization of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc along with application of farmyard manure, compost, green manure and biofertilizers should be practiced for sustained soil health and enhanced productivity of vegetables in the years to come, he suggested.

18 die of cancer in Punjab everyday

18 die of cancer in Punjab everyday
33,318 deaths reported in last five years, says first state-wide survey

Tribune News Service

Punjab State Report on Cancer Awareness and Symptom based Early Detection Campaign

Chandigarh, January 28
The first ever state-wide survey of cancer victims in Punjab has revealed high incidence of cancer in the Malwa belt, even as the cancer cases in the state are only a little more than the national average.

The survey has also reported average cancer prevalence of 216 cases per lakh population and suspected cancer cases of 319 per lakh population. If these two figures are taken into account, it seems a large number of cancer cases have been going undetected till now and that cancer incidence figures in Punjab could be much more than have been reported even in this survey. This was confirmed by Secretary, Health Vini Mahajan.

According to the survey, the overall figure of 90 cases per lakh population is only slightly more than the national average of 80 cases per lakh population. The situation, however, is grim in the Malwa region. The Malwa region has reported 107 cancer cases per lakh population as compared to 88 cases per lakh in the Doaba region and 64 cases per lakh population in Majha.

The report, which was released by Health Minister Madan Mohan Mittal today, states that the Muktsar district in the Malwa region has witnessed 136 cancer cases per lakh population – the highest in the state. Mansa comes a close second with 134.8 cases per lakh population, Bathinda third with 125.8 cases and Ferozepur fourth with 114 cases per lakh population. The survey has taken into record cancer cases reported to state health department workers who carried out a door-to-door campaign.

In Doaba, the cancer incidence is highest in Kapurthala district, which has reported 99 cases per lakh population. The Majha belt has least number of cancer cases. Tarn Taran has the least number of cases (41).

The Health Minister said a total of 23,874 cancer cases had been reported in the survey. As many as 33,318 cancer deaths have occurred in the state in the last five years (the break up comes out to be 18 deaths per day.) The survey data reveals that there are 84,453 persons in the state who have cancer-like symptoms.



Efficacy of employment generation programs in providing water security: an assessment of MGNREGS in Madhya Pradesh

A majority of the permissible works being carried out under MGNREGS relate to building of assets aimed at enhancing rural water security. The present study attempts to assess how durable these assets have been and how effective MGNREGS has been in helping improve rural water security. The results based on a case study in the state of Madhya Pradesh show that despite the restrictions imposed on non-use of any machinery for construction of structures and several other limitations, the water structures that have been built are of a reasonably good quality and hold a great promise in improving rural water security. There are, however, some impediments in converting water available in these structures into utilisable water. Successful mediation through appropriate intervention strategies can not only enable beneficiary farmers to use the available water more productively, it can also enhance more productive utilisation of MGNREGS money invested in asset creation.
Author: R.P.S. Malik
Source: IWMI – Tata Water Policy Program
Published Date: December 2012

 Download this from http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/iwmi-tata/pdfs/2012_Highlight-32.pdf


Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health

Adam S. Davis1*, Jason D. Hill2, Craig A. Chase3, Ann M. Johanns4, Matt Liebman5

1 United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service, Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America, 2 Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America, 3Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, United States of America, 4 Department of Economics, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Osage, Iowa, United States of America, 5Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, United States of America


Abstract Top

Balancing productivity, profitability, and environmental health is a key challenge for agricultural sustainability. Most crop production systems in the United States are characterized by low species and management diversity, high use of fossil energy and agrichemicals, and large negative impacts on the environment. We hypothesized that cropping system diversification would promote ecosystem services that would supplement, and eventually displace, synthetic external inputs used to maintain crop productivity. To test this, we conducted a field study from 2003–2011 in Iowa that included three contrasting systems varying in length of crop sequence and inputs. We compared a conventionally managed 2-yr rotation (maize-soybean) that received fertilizers and herbicides at rates comparable to those used on nearby farms with two more diverse cropping systems: a 3-yr rotation (maize-soybean-small grain + red clover) and a 4-yr rotation (maize-soybean-small grain + alfalfa-alfalfa) managed with lower synthetic N fertilizer and herbicide inputs and periodic applications of cattle manure. Grain yields, mass of harvested products, and profit in the more diverse systems were similar to, or greater than, those in the conventional system, despite reductions of agrichemical inputs. Weeds were suppressed effectively in all systems, but freshwater toxicity of the more diverse systems was two orders of magnitude lower than in the conventional system. Results of our study indicate that more diverse cropping systems can use small amounts of synthetic agrichemical inputs as powerful tools with which to tune, rather than drive, agroecosystem performance, while meeting or exceeding the performance of less diverse systems.

Citation: Davis AS, Hill JD, Chase CA, Johanns AM, Liebman M (2012) Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47149. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047149

Editor: John P. Hart, New York State Museum, United States of America


Received: July 12, 2012; Accepted: September 10, 2012; Published: October 10, 2012

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

Funding: Funding for the study was provided by the US Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative (Projects 2002-35320-12175 and 2006-35320-16548), the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Projects 2004-E06, 2007-E09, and 2010-E02), the Iowa Soybean Association, and the Organic Center. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

* E-mail: adam.davis@ars.usda.gov

Conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture on “Doubling Food Production in Five Years” – Ignoring Parliament – In brazen support of corporate interests at the expense of farmers

Coalition for a GM-Free India

New Delhi



Shri Sharad Pawar,

Ministry for Agriculture,

Goverrnment of India.

Re: Conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture on “Doubling Food Production in Five Years” – Ignoring Parliament – In brazen support of corporate interests at the expense of farmers’ – reg.

It has come to our attention that the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is organising a Conference on “Doubling Food Production in Five years” from February 1-3, 2013 at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. On the face of it, it appears to be a regular program of the Ministry. However, two things draw our attention to this particular Conference : first, the predominance of vested interests acting behind it i.e, the ones promoting the Conference with full page advertisements in national newspapers – the Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India(PMFAI), the National Seed Association of India(NSAI) and the biotech lobby group-ABLE and second, some of the “eminent” speakers selected to address the Conference – some of them controversial figures well known for their support of GM crops without supporting scientific facts or evidence.

Sir, you know very well that the Standing Committee on Agriculture of the Indian Parliament has in its path-breaking report of August 2012, come down heavily on this dangerous path that your Ministry is leading the country into. It said “In their tearing hurry to open the economy to private prospectors, the Government should not make the same fate befall on the agriculture sector as has happened to the communications, pharma, mineral wealth and several other sectors in which the Government’s facilitative benevelonce preceded setting up of sufficient checks and balances and regulatory mechanisms, thereby, leading to colossal, unfettered loot and plunder of national wealth in some form or the other, incalculable damage to environment, biodiversity, flora and fauna and unimaginable suffering to the common man.” [Para 3.48].

Many of the members of the Committee were UPA Parliamentarians, as you are aware.

It is grossly irresponsible, unscientific, misleading and completely unethical for the Ministry to blatantly promote technologies such as GM crops, when as a country, India is trying to come out of the pesticide tread-mill and make its production, agriculture and its farmers livelihood sustainable, safe and remunerative. It is also reprehensible that the Ministry of Agriculture, which is answerable to the larger public and the farmers is acting at the behest of the industries who stand to profit from these unneeded, hazardous technologies. We would also like to point out that the Ministry’s own inquiry through the Sopory Committee has brought to the fore egregious failings with regard to transgenic research and regulation in this country.

This blatant attempt by the Ministry makes it clear that MoA is not genuinely interested in addressing food security in any lasting fashion or acting in a scientific way when it comes to many problems in our farming, but is interested in blindly promoting certain technologies, for private and possibly vested and corrupt interests.

Food security of a country like India is not an issue the MoA should let vested interests sabotage; it requires serious efforts from the Ministry and its officials to listen to all stakeholders and to arrive at a well thought out and optimal solution to address it, drawing from various areas of expertise, experience and knowledge domains. We reproduce what the Parliamentary Standing Committee had said on this matter.

The present worrisome situation” as regards food security is primarily because of “faulty procurement policy, mismanagement of stocks, lack of adequate and proper storage, hoarding and lopsided distribution, massive leakages in the public distribution delivery system, etc.” It also adds categorically that “If these shortcomings and problems are attended to along with liberal financial assistance to agriculture and allied sectors, proactive measures are initiated to arrest the decreasing trend in cultivable area and farmer friendly and sustainable agricultural practices are put in use, there would not be any compelling need for adopting technologies which are yet to be proven totally safe for biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health and which will encourage monoculture, an option best avoided.”

The committee finally recommends that “the Government come up with a fresh road map for ensuring food security in coming years without jeopardizing the vast bio-diversity of the country and compromising with the safety of human health and livestock health.” [Para – 7.71].

It is unclear how your Ministry thinks that food security can be achieved with the help of the pesticide industry, the seed industry (that is increasingly playing into the hands of the biotech majors such as Monsanto) and the biotech industry with a single agenda of promoting genetically modified seed that is not only inadequately tested but also adequately patented so as to ensure a complete rout of our agricultural sovereignty!!! It is quite perplexing how the post-modern science and discourse in agriculture has evolved towards sustainability and agro-ecology all over the world, but is being denied vehemently by your Ministry in this country. The same applies to the nuanced understanding around the complexity of hunger and malnutrition, including structural poverty-related issues, whereas your Ministry wants unproven techno-fixes to be deployed as a one-size-fits-all solution.

It is surprising that solutions offered by globally recognised initiatives such as the IAASTD do not seem to have attracted your attention at all. And again here the Standing Committee on Agriculture has some excellent suggestions. It says “the Committee would like to remind the Government of India that they are a signatory to this path breaking effort (IAASTD Report) and in the opinion of the Committee, the Government would do well if they adopt this Report as the way forward for development of agriculture and allied sectors in India, in a sustainable and environmental friendly manner, and with no unwanted risks to biodiversity, human and livestock health, flora and fauna. The Committee also desire to be apprised of the concrete action taken by the Government on each of the findings contained in IAASTD Report during the four years after the release of the Report.” [Para 5.52]

All said and done, the Ministry of Agriculture seems to be least interested in anything that is even remotely connected to sustainability (farm as well as farm livelihood) and is only interested in helping corporate and MNC powers to dominate and profit, even at the cost of the lives of farmers and the hapless Indian consumer. There is also deep disrespect being shown towards the Indian Parliament, whose report your Ministry is ignoring and acting in contravention to its recommendations.

Hence, we are writing this letter to express our deep anguish and anger at the really worrying direction that your Ministry and hence the Government of India is leading Indian agriculture into. The fact that you are hosting people like Dennis Avery, Peter Raven, Patrick Moore and Mark Lynas to name a few demonstrates the desperation that your Ministry shares with the GM and pesticides industries to shove such dangerous technologies down the throats of the Indian public. As recently as last week the ruling party in its conclave promised that it will listen more to the people of the country, and this is definitely not the peoples wish!

Therefore, we are sending this letter to express our condemnation of such blatant vested interests being involved in policy-making and within the government. Moreover, there are accountability questions with public funds utilised for such promotional activities of profiteering industries and unscientific worldviews. The government should appreciate that this will only instigate a greater public outcry from citizens for their science, knowledge, experience and worldviews to be heard and taken on board, while shaping future directions.

We urge you not to go ahead with such a wrongly-founded Conference and also urge you to not host these controversial speakers and provide a platform to hazardous industries and waste precious public funds on events such as these.

With due respects and concerns

ridhar Radhakrishnan


Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Copy to :

  1. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

  2. Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance

  3. Sri.Jaipal Reddy, Minister for Science and Technology

  4. Smt.Jayanti Natarajan, Minister of State for Environment and Forests

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions, consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food and farms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.

 Coalition for a GM-free India

c/o INSAF, A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

Website: www.indiagminfo.org, email: indiagmfree@gmail.com, Facebook – GM Watch India


The announcement of the Conference lists atleast two Chief Ministers, many ministers and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. In addition there are representatives from FAO and ILRI. The CEO of one of the largest  agro-business corporations in Latin America and the President of EMBRAPA ( Brazil) find a place in the speakers list.  It also has four known  GM crop promoters. Some information on them is provided below:

A short note on the affiliations of some of the ‘eminent speakers’

  • Dennis Avery – Director of Hudson Institute1 , considered a conservative think tank, which is supported by large corporations including agri-business corporations2. He is an anti-organicfarming advocate and a strong supporter of biotechnology in agriculture, pesticides and a climate change skeptic.3 4
  • Mark Lynas  The biotech industrys newly minted star, according to his own profile is a speaker on climate change5, nowhere he is featured as an anti-GM activist. He began promotingGM crops since the last three years.6 He has claimed to have ‘helped start’ the anti-GM movement and also said to have ‘coordinated with Indian groups both untrue! The Coalition has already put out a detailed statement which can be accessed here.7
  • Patrick Moore Runs his own consulting firm which reportedly does “public relations efforts, lectures, lobbying.8According to Greenpeace (Moore uses his past link to GP even now)Patrick Moore is , “a paid spokesman for the nuclear industry, the logging industry, and genetic engineering industry, frequently cites a long-ago affiliation with Greenpeace to gain legitimacy inthe media.9 Greenpeace says “Patrick Moore frequently portrays himself as a founder or co-founder of Greenpeace, and many news outlets have repeated this characterization. AlthoughMr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace.10 It is interesting to note that even in this profile for the Conference of Ministry ofAgriculture, he gives his long ago Greenpeace affiliation( which ended more than 25 years back) rather than his lobbying work of the past 20 years .
  • Peter Raven President Emeritus of Missouri Gardens which has a long standing and close relationship with Monsanto and is an advocate of GM crops.11 Missouri Gardens has beenworking with and receiving funds from Monsanto since 1999. Even as recently as May 2012 Monsanto gifted three million dollars to the Missouri botanical gardens.12 In addition many of thefacilities in Missuori Gardens are funded by Monsanto like the Monsanto Hall, Monsanto Center etc.13 Along with Monsanto the Missouri Botanical Gradens was one of the key groupsinvolved in forming the Danforth Plant Science Centre, which promotes GM crop research.14

10 ibid

Monsanto’s GM corn Biosafety data raises serious concerns: Report

Greenpeace India demands the Union Minister for Environment and Forest, Jayanthi Natarajan, under whom sits the GEAC, to stop all open releases of GM crops, including those for field trials

New Delhi: Jan 29, 2013: In a startling development an independent scientific analysis released by Greenpeace India exposed major flaws in the Genetically Modified (GM) corn biosafety assessment process by the regulatory bodies in India.  Greenpeace India had asked Testbiotech, an independent research agency,  to assess data presented by the US biotech giant, Monsanto, to the Indian authorities ‘for biosafety tests prior to commercial approval’ of its GM corn variety.

The stacked gene GM corn (MON89034xNK603 ) with bacterial genes for pest resistance and herbicide tolerance leads the GM crop approval pipeline and has been released into fields several times in the past 4 years in the name of field  trials .

The biosafety and field trials data of the said GM corn data was accessed by Greenpeace through RTI procedures from the Department of Biotechnology(DBT) and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which is the nodal agency for all environmental releases of GMOs in India. The RTI exercise also saw the CPIO of DBT being reprimanded by the Appellate Authority for providing wrong information to the applicant.

“On one hand the GM regulatory system in our country tries to hide crucial public information like the biosafety data of GM crops and on the other hand allows open field trials of them, which can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply chain. These field trials have been permitted for the last 4 years without biosafety studies being completed” said Shivani Shah, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India. According to the response received from DBT, these trials were permitted based on biosafety data generated by Monsanto itself in its labs in USA.

The Testbiotech analysis highlights that even those assessments’ presented have been found to be incomplete and lacking in scientific rigor. Interestingly most of the data provided was for the parent lines with the single genes with almost no studies on the stacked gene corn for which was the application.

The review report concluded that based on the data presented by Monsanto, no decisions can be taken on the safety of the plants. Apart from missing data and inadequate investigations, there are in fact substantial indications for health and environmental risks.

This stacked gene variety of Monsanto’s corn had been in controversy earlier  in 2011 when Greenpeace had exposed grave violations of field trial rules by the company in its trials at Bijapur District in Karnataka.

In the light of increasing evidences of  failure of the GM regulatory system in India and the potential impacts of GM crops to our health, environment and socioeconomic realities   Greenpeace Indiademands the Union  minister for Environment and Forest, Jayanthi Natarajan, under whom sits the GEAC, to stop all open releases of GM crops, including those for field trials.

Notes to the Editor:-

  1. Link to the report- http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/publications/Analysis-of-the-data-submitted-by-Monsanto-to-the-Indian-authorities-on-genetically-engineered-maize-MON89034-x-NK603/


Common pesticides ‘can kill frogs within an hour’

New research suggests the chemicals are playing a significant and previously unknown role in the global decline of amphibians


  • questions on biodiversity and species loss : Red-Eyed Treefrog
A red-eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas): more than one-third of all amphibians endangered. Photograph: Peter Lilja/Getty Images

Widely used pesticides can kill frogs within an hour, new research has revealed, suggesting the chemicals are playing a significant and previously unknown role in the catastrophic global decline of amphibians.

The scientists behind the study said it was both “astonishing” and “alarming” that common pesticides could be so toxic at the doses approved by regulatory authorities, adding to growing criticism of how pesticides are tested.

“You would not think products registered on the market would have such a toxic effect,” said Carsten Brühl, at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany. “It is the simplest effect you can think of: you spray the amphibian with the pesticide and it is dead. That should translate into a dramatic effect on populations.”

Trenton Garner, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, said: “This is a valuable addition to the substantial body of literature detailing how existing standards for the use of agricultural pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers are inadequate for the protection of biodiversity.”

Amphibians are the best example of the great extinction of species currently under way, as they are the most threatened and rapidly declining vertebrate group. More than a third of all amphibians are included in the IUCN “red list” of endangered species, with loss of habitat, climate change and disease posing the biggest threats.

Brühl had previously studied how easily frogs can absorb pesticides through their permeable skins, which they can breathe through when underwater. But pesticides are not required to be tested on amphibians, said Brühl: “We could only find one study for one pesticide that was using an exposure likely to occur on farmland.”

His team chose widely used fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. The most striking results were for a fungicide called pyraclostrobin, sold as the product Headline by the manufacturer BASF and used on 90 different crops across the world. It killed all the common European frogs used as test animals within an hour when applied at the rate recommended on the label. Other fungicides, herbicides and insecticides also showed acute toxicity, even when applied at just 10% of the label rate, with the insecticide dimethoate, for example, killing 40% of animals within a week.

The study, published on Thursday in Scientific Reports [will be live after embargo], concluded: “The observation of acute mortality in a vertebrate group caused by commercially available pesticides at recommended field rates is astonishing, since 50 years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring one would have thought that the development of refined risk-assessment procedures would make such effects virtually impossible.”

A BASF spokesman disputed the findings: “This study was performed under laboratory ‘worst-case’ conditions. Under normal agricultural conditions amphibians are not exposed to such pesticide concentrations. According to our knowledge, no significant impact on amphibian populations has been reported despite the widespread and global use of the fungicide pyraclostrobin.”

Brühl said the method, a single spray directly on to the frogs, sometimes at just 10% of the label rate, was a “realistic worst-case” scenario. He added that in the field, multiple sprays of a variety of pesticides was likely and that chemicals might run off into ponds where frogs lived.

Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth’s nature campaigner, said: “From frogs to bees, there is mounting evidence that the pesticide bombardment of our farmland is having a major impact on our precious wildlife. Strong action is urgently needed to get farmers off the chemical treadmill.

“As well as banning the most toxic products, governments must set clear targets for reducing all pesticides and ensure farmers have safe and thoroughly tested alternatives.”

Earlier this month, the world’s most widely used insecticide was for the first time officially labelled an “unacceptable” danger to bees feeding on flowering crops, by the European Food Safety Agency. The agency had previously stated that current “simplistic” regulations contained “major weaknesses”.

“There is an urgency to address [the amphibian issue] as pesticides will be applied again soon because it’s spring, and that’s when we have all these migrations to ponds,” said Brühl.

“We don’t have any data from the wild about dead frogs because no one is looking for them – and if you don’t look, you don’t find. But the pesticides are very widely used and so have the potential to have a significant effect on populations.”