Right to Homestead Bill: Task force to finalise draft

After legislating the Right to Information and Education — and making a stab at the Right to Work and Food through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Food Security Act respectively — the government’s next step seems to be aimed at legally upholding the right to a home of your own.

On Tuesday, a task force set up by the Rural Development Ministry — including government officials and civil society members — is expected to finalise a draft of the National Right to Homestead Bill 2013.

The Bill aims to ensure that “every shelterless poor family has a right to hold homestead of not less than 10 cents … Within a period of 10 years commencing from the date of notification,” according to the draft to be discussed by the task force on Tuesday, a copy of which is available with The Hindu.

According to the National Land Reforms Policy draft — which may also be finalised at the meeting — more than 31 per cent of households in the country are landless. Almost 30 per cent own less than 0.4 hectares, meaning 60 per cent of the population owns only five per cent of the country’s land.

Jan Satyagraha impact

The Jan Satyagraha movement, spearheaded by the Ekta Parishad last year, brought thousand of landless people together to protest this state of affairs. Their march to Delhi ended in Agra when Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh agreed to a charter of demands, with the Right to Homestead and a National Land Reforms Policy heading the list.

The task force, headed by Mr. Ramesh, has held three meetings so far to try and fulfil that agreement. The draft Bill calls for State governments to notify an implementation plan within one year to identify beneficiaries, make an inventory of available lands and acquire more, and develop and allot plots. It mandates that the Central government will bear 75 per cent of the cost — through a National Homestead Guarantee Fund.

Eligibility criteria uncertain

The draft seems uncertain about the specific eligibility criteria for beneficiaries. The Bill is aimed at poor families in rural areas only. Government employees, landowners, income tax payers are all exempt. Other criteria, including a maximum income level, have not yet been finalised. The title to the homestead will be given in the name of the adult woman member of the household.


Weaving a soft cottony story

Published: February 24, 2013 16:12 IST | Updated: February 24, 2013 16:12 IST


Back to the basics: Vijayalakshmi and Mani believe going back to organic is the only way. Photo: BHagya Prakash K.

Mani and Vijayalakshmi tell us the fascinating story of how farmers in Karnataka and weavers in Tamil Nadu together bring out an ethical and sustainable range of weaves that includes all.

If you began this story with ‘Once upon a time…’ it would sound fairly long ago and suitably fairytale-like. But the story of Mani Chinnaswamy and Vijayalakshmi Nachiar is not so distant, though at the end, everybody lived happily. It’s a story that travels between Pollachi in Tamil Nadu and H.D. Kote in Karnataka. It’s a story that travels between farmers here and weavers there. It’s a story that travels from the farm to boutiques.

At a time when the country is opening up to MNC clothing companies , Mani and Vijayalakshmi decided to go back to the fabric synonymous with India — cotton. Mani, a third-generation inheritor of the family’s cotton mill Appachi Cotton, in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, decided in 2006 that they should be an “ethical” business. “So we quit our conventional business,” say Mani, an MBA graduate from the U.S.A. The couple were recently in Bangalore for an exhibition of their products.

It was a decision driven by a whole chain of thought — cotton farming in India had gone beyond being chemically intensive to genetically modified (GM). A traditionally organic farming culture, with overuse of fertilizers, had failing soil, subsequent crop loss, farmers forcibly moving to GM crop because of low yields, farmers being in debt, leading to suicides… “Over 10 years we lost almost all our native seeds. The solution to reviving the soil, we thought, was going back to organic…it’s the only way. And it’s no rocket science. Most of our farmers have been organic by default. We are only making it a planned event.” And so started their Eco-Logic Project.

They partnered with the Savayava Krishikara Sangha in Karnataka, buying up native seeds that were in cold storage for three years from the Karnataka State Seeds Corporation, Hebbal. But why Karnataka? “Every cotton crop requires a climactic specific condition,” says Vijayalakshmi. “For example, varieties like the Dharwad Cotton Hybrid revived looms from Bengal to Trivandrum. Moreover the weather in Karnataka is best suited for cotton crops. Native seeds are hardy, and the shine and lustre of the cotton is intrinsically built into our picking and weaving traditions. Our interest lies in protecting our own identity,” says Mani. Mani had earlier experimented with the idea of contract farming, providing the farmer assurance that all his cotton crop will be bought, in 2000, with Tibetean farmers settled in Mundgod, in Uttara Kannada district.

The area they worked on reviving organic cotton farming was in H.D. Kote on the banks of the Kabini river in Karnataka. It’s a UNESCO-recognised site as part of the Nilgiris Biosphere where 65,000 acres was under cotton cultivation on the edge of the forest zone. When the Kabini dam was built, farmers were moved out of their agricultural land and had consequently turned to GM crops. “It takes about three years for a farm to get certified as organic,” says Mani. They have about 165 farmers in their network now. They don’t offer farmers a pre-fixed price, but a minimum support price; else, a market committee is formed that fixes the price in keeping with market rates.

Vijayalakshmi, a textile graduate, decided that the cotton they grew and ginned should be made into yardage; but that didn’t work because at that time there was no market for organic cotton; in fact perception in international markets was that Indian cotton was one of the most polluted. “That’s when the idea of value addition came in…weavers too have the same sad story as farmers. The weaver works for a wage, gets no recognition for his work, and so doesn’t want his children to continue in that profession,” she surmises. The couple built a 22-room studio with traditional jacquard looms. They also run a free-education school for the children of weavers.

“We finally felt the whole chain was ethical and included everybody — therefore, our brand ‘ethics’ and ‘us’,” she says. They decided to keep the Indian identity, make saris, but with a different look and feel to suit “occasional wear’ that the sari has become. They roped in designers to work with weavers.

Each of their products carries a tag with a picture of the weaver, his name, how long he took to weave it; they have over 50 weavers working with them now. Organic certified dyes have helped them break the colour palette of beige and brown; its more of jewel tones of reds, pinks, greens and blues.The use of mercerised cotton gives their saris, dupattas, scarves and stoles an almost silk-like lustrous finish.

Not a product, but a story

In 2009, Ethicus was finally launched, and boutiques all over the country were willing to stock their products under the original label. “We were sure we didn’t want to sell a product; we wanted to tell a story,” insists Vijayalakshmi. At the same time, they didn’t want people to buy in guilt, so they didn’t want to harp on the organic bit. Point out the high price of organic clothing, and Mani says, “Look at this way…you, as a customer, are paying a ‘conservation contribution’. We pay 10 per cent over what conventional cotton farmers get for their produce.” All the cotton can’t go into handlooms; so they started making machine-made linens, and knit baby garments, exported to Italy and Australia. Designers are invited to come and use the loom and work with them.

The farmer does multi-cropping and so has food for his family; they are now in a position to sell organic jaggery and ragi…a new area of organic food they are exploring. Of course there were many sceptics asking if such a rosy story was true…their clients were invited over to see for themselves everything from farm to weave. The couple saw another business opportunity and started the Eco Logic Tours!

To know more of their endeavour, check, www.ethicus.in

Food and nutrition security – a Position Paper

Food and nutritional security (FNS) is a complex issue given its reliance on climatic as well as non-climatic factors that are intertwined and interdependent. When climate change is superimposed, it further worsens the situation as food production, one of the critical ecosystem services, is impacted the most. This position paper explains WOTR’s proactive ecosystem based adaptation strategy crystallized from the ecosystem management and conservation work carried out in different states.
Author(s): Lalita Joshi, Marcella D’Souza
Source: Watershed Organization Trust
Published Date: January 2013



Too much power in too few hands: Food giants take over the industry

Small producers face poverty as ever more commodities are controlled by a coterie of multinationals #CorporateControl
 As you sip your morning coffee or tea, accompanied perhaps by a chocolate biscuit, or a banana for the more health-conscious, think hard about where your breakfast comes from. Increasingly, a handful of multinationals are tightening their grip on the commodity markets, with potentially dramatic effects for consumers and food producers alike.

The livelihoods of millions of smallholders who produce the drinks and snacks we consume every day are “seriously under threat”, warns a report to be published tomorrow to mark the start of Fairtraide Fortnight. Extreme price volatility, high food prices and more concentrated food markets threaten to leave farmers “condemned to poverty”.

Three companies now account for more than 40 per cent of global coffee sales, eight companies control the supply of cocoa and chocolate, seven control 85 per cent of tea production, five account for 75 per cent of the world banana trade, and the largest six sugar traders account for about two-thirds of world trade, according to the new publication from the Fairtrade Foundation.

Such tight control of the markets by multinationals – which can use their “buyer power” to dictate how the supply chain is run – can leave smallholders “marginalised”, surviving on precarious contracts, poverty wages, and with poor health and safety practices, the report warns. It stresses that, with the G8 summit to be held in Northern Ireland in June, this is the year “to put the politics of food on the public agenda and find better solutions to the insanity of our broken food system”.

More people may be shopping ethically – sales of Fairtrade cocoa grew by more than 20 per cent last year to £153m – but, according to the report, the world’s food system is “dangerously out of control”. Cocoa growers now receive 3.5 to 6 per cent of the average retail value of a chocolate bar; in the 1980s they got 18 per cent.

The report is being published to coincide with the launch of a three-year food campaign by the Fairtrade Foundation, to “pull our broken food system back from the brink and make it work for all”. Its recommendations include asking governments to ensure greater transparency and “fair competition” in international supply chains.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Putting too much power into the hands of too few companies increases the risk of exploitation in food supply chains, where producers have no choice but to sell for low prices, while consumers face a bewildering array of products on shop shelves even though their purchases benefit only a small number of brands.

“Unless we do something now, millions of small farmers are condemned to poverty. If they are in crisis, and farmers see no future in farming, then many of our foods could be at risk.”

About 500 million smallholders produce 70 per cent of the world’s food, but make up half the world’s hungry. Women at are the helm – producing 60 to 80 per cent of the food in developing countries and acting as the main producers.

‘Last year I got $2.20 per pound, this year $1.40’

Gerardo Arias Camacho, 43, a coffee farmer from Costa Rica, has been producing coffee since he was taken out of school to help his father at the age of 10. He works 13 hours a day to produce coffee from five hectares. Mr Camacho, a board member of the first Fairtrade-certified co-op in his country, said this year he might struggle to profit at all from some of the coffee he sells.

“About 40 per cent of our coffee is sold to multinationals, but the problem with the free market is there is no minimum price. Last year, I got $2.20 per pound of coffee; this year it’s about $1.40. This is really bad for us, as the cost of producing is about $1.60.

“They really don’t care about what problems we have here in our village; we worry about having enough food, clothes, and enough money to send our kids to school. Small roasting companies have direct relations with us, know our needs and understand us. This makes a big difference.”



#RoundupReady #GMCrops #KnowYouFood

Caen, Feb. 21st, 2013 – In a new research published in the high ranked scientific journal Toxicology, Robin Mesnage, Benoît Bernay and Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, from the University of Caen, France, have proven (from a study of nine Roundup-like herbicides) that the most toxic compound is not glyphosate, which is the substance the most assessed by regulatory authorities, but a compound that is not always listed on the label, called POE-15. Modern methods were applied at the cellular level (on three human cell lines), and mass spectrometry (studies on the nature of molecules). This allowed the researchers to identify and analyse the effects of these compounds.

Context: Glyphosate is supposed to be the “active ingredient” of Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and it is present in a large group of Roundup-like herbicides. It has been safety tested on mammals for the purposes of regulatory risk assessment. But the commercial formulations of these pesticides as they are sold and used contain added ingredients (adjuvants). These are often classified confidential and described as “inerts”. However, they help to stabilize the chemical compound glyphosate and help it to penetrate plants, in the manner of corrosive detergents. The formulated herbicides (including Roundup) can affect all living cells, especially human cells. This danger is overlooked because glyphosate and Roundup are treated as the same by industry and regulators on long-term studies. The supposed non-toxicity of glyphosate serves as a basis for the commercial release of Roundup. The health and environmental agencies and pesticide companies assess the long-term effects on mammals of glyphosate alone, and not the full formulation. The details of this regulatory assessment are jealously kept confidential by companies like Monsanto and health and environmental agencies.

Conclusion and consequences: This study demonstrates that all the glyphosate-based herbicides tested are more toxic than glyphosate alone, and explains why. Thus their regulatory assessments and the maximum residue levels authorized in the environment, food, and feed, are erroneous. A drink (such as tap water contaminated by Roundup residues) or a food made with a Roundup tolerant GMO (like a transgenic soya or corn) were already demonstrated as toxic in the recent rat feeding study (2) from Prof. Séralini team.  The researchers have also published responses to critics of the study (3).  This new research explains and confirms the scientific results of the rat feeding study.
Overall, it is a great matter of concern for public health. First, all authorizations of Roundup-type herbicides have to be questioned urgently. Second, the regulatory assessment rules have to be fully revised. They should be analyzed in a transparent and contradictory manner by the scientific community. Agencies that give opinions to government authorities, in common with the pesticide companies generally conclude safety. The agencies’ opinions are wrong because they are made on the basis of lax assessments and much of the industry data is kept confidential, meaning that a full and transparent assessment cannot be carried out. These assessments are therefore neither neutral nor independent. They should as a first step make public on the Internet all the data that underpin the commercial release and positive opinions on the use of Roundup and similar products. The industry toxicological data must be legally made public.
Adjuvants of the POE-15 family (polyethoxylated tallowamine) have now been revealed as actively toxic to human cells, and must be regulated as such. The complete formulations must be tested in long-term toxicity studies and the results taken into account in regulatory assessments. The regulatory authorisation process for pesticides released into the environment and sold in stores must urgently be revised. Moreover, since the toxic confidential adjuvants are in general use in pesticide formulations, we fear according to these discoveries that the toxicity of all pesticides has been very significantly underestimated.

This study was conducted in the University of Caen with the structural support of CRIIGEN in the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER www.ensser.org).

Contact: criigen@unicaen.fr; phone +33 (0)231565684 (France). www.criigen.org
Notes :
(1) Mesnage R., Bernay B., Séralini G-E. (2013, in press). Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity. Toxicology http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tox.2012.09.006
(2)  Séralini G. E., et al. (2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology 50 (11): 4221-4231.
(3)  Séralini G. E., et al. (2013). Answers to critics: Why there is a long term toxicity due to NK603 Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize and to a Roundup herbicide. Food and Chemical Toxicology

The Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes Is Associated to Increased Oxidative Stress during Fruit Development


Tomatoes grown on organic farms accumulate higher concentrations of sugars, vitamin C and compounds associated with oxidative stress compared to those grown on conventional farms, according to research published February 20 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Maria Raquel Alcantara Miranda and colleagues from the Federal University of Ceara, Brazil.

2013 Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes is Associated to Increased Oxidative Stress during Fruit Development

This study was conducted with the objective of testing the hypothesis that tomato fruits from organic farming accumulate more nutritional compounds, such as phenolics and vitamin C as a consequence of the stressing conditions associated with farming system. Growth was reduced in fruits from organic farming while titratable acidity, the soluble solids content and the concentrations in vitamin C were respectively +29%, +57% and +55% higher at the stage of commercial maturity. At that time, the total phenolic content was +139% higher than in the fruits from conventional farming which seems consistent with the more than two times higher activity of phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) we observed throughout fruit development in fruits from organic farming. Cell membrane lipid peroxidation (LPO) degree was 60% higher in organic tomatoes. SOD activity was also dramatically higher in the fruits from organic farming. Taken together, our observations suggest that tomato fruits from organic farming experienced stressing conditions that resulted in oxidative stress and the accumulation of higher concentrations of soluble solids as sugars and other compounds contributing to fruit nutritional quality such as vitamin C and phenolic compounds.

Aurelice B. Oliveira, Carlos F. H. Moura, Enéas Gomes-Filho, Claudia A. Marco, 

  • Laurent Urban,


  • Maria Raquel A. Miranda




Greenpeace Challenges Sharad Pawar, says GM crops cannot offer food security Activists occupy FCI’s godown on eve of Parliament Budget session


New Delhi, February 20, 2013: Rejecting Sharad Pawar’s stance on GM crops being the answer to India’s food security, 17 Greenpeace activists unfurled a massive banner with the message “Say NO to GM, Yes to Food Security” at the Food Corporation of India’s godown in Delhi’s Mayapuri area. As the parliament prepares to kick off the budget session tomorrow, this act reiterates that the solution lies in adopting a holistic view of food security with focus on better food distribution systems rather than promoting false solutions like genetically modified crops (GM).

The police immediately came at the venue and detained the activists, they were later taken to Mayapuri police station. Commenting on the detention, eminent social activist Aruna Roy said, “The Greenpeace activists peacefully protesting against the position taken by Union Agri Minister, Sharad Pawar have been illegally detained. This detention is one more in a series of actions taken by the State to suppress dissent. They were infact protesting against the Minister’s attempt to trivialise the issue of food security by asserting that the controversial GM technology would, infact, offer security of food production. The Minister’s support for GM food crops is highly controversial and there is an ongoing international debate on this issue. We condemn the detention and demand immediate release of peaceful protestors.”

In the Monsoon Session of 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture tabled their report on GM crops. One of the clear recommendations of the report was for the government to come up with a fresh road map to food security that does not adopt risky technologies like GM but addresses the shortcomings of storage, distribution and mismanagement of stocks. That GM food crops are a panacea for food security is an argument made to serve the interests of the biotech sector.

Echoing the voice of the Parliamentary Committee, more than 150 scientists from across the country have written to Smt Jayanthi Natarajan, expressing their displeasure at the Government of India for promoting GM crops as a way forward for food security.

Neha Saigal, campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “So far there has been no single GM crop developed for increasing yields and it has failed to show any such increase in yield in nearly two decades of its existence. Instead of forcing risky GM food down our throats, Mr Pawar needs to address the fact that millions of tonnes of grains in storage facilities across India, consistently fail to reach the people. And, as the environment minister, Smt Natarajan should take an unequivocal stand on GM crops.”

Kavita Srivastava, convenor, Right to Food campaign said, “The issue of food security is broader than production. The problem lies in the lack of a political will for a Universal Distribution System. The UPA Government must not be distracted by GM crops as a solution to food security, but focus on an inclusive food security bill..”

Greenpeace urges the Minister of Environment, Jayanthi Natarajan, who is the decision maker on the environmental release of GMOs to intervene so that the MoA does not mislead the debate of food security.