Farm suicides on the rise: AP

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Farm-suicides-on-the-rise/articleshow/20836650.cms

TNN | Jun 30, 2013, 12.33 AM IST

MAHBUBNAGAR: Excessive use of chemical pesticides, erratic rainfall, heavy debt burden, and spurious seeds are taking a heavy toll on farmers in the perennially drought-hit Mahbubnagar district.

As many as 20 farmers have committed suicide in the district in the last three months. They have taken the desperate step unable to bear the losses due to frequent crop failures or clear the mounting agricultural debts. Insufficient loan advances by banks and high interest rates collected by private moneylenders too have played their part in the sucides.

District officials refuse to admit the increasing instances of farm suicides, but don’t’ deny that Mahbubnagar district is “vulnerable” thanks to a combination of factors ranging from high consumption of pesticides and fertilisers to unpredictable climatic conditions. The authorities wait the post-mortem reports for disbursal of compensation.

On Saturday a tenant farmer, Venkataiah, 35, from Pervetipally of Upunuthala mandal committed suicide by consuming pesticide. Only a day before, a tribal-farmer, Shankar Naik (50) of Badrigani thanda of Veldhanda mandal, ended his life following crop loss. Last week, P Srisailam of Manganoor village of Bijinapally mandal took the same extreme path.

Srisailam borrowed Rs 4 lakh to cultivate his five acres of land but could not repay the loan as the crop failed.

Mahbubnagar agriculture join director KV Rama Raju blames farm suicides on the indiscriminate use of pesticides. “Farmers here spray pesticides in quantities more than required. They thus not only spend more money on pesticides, but end up in losses or get low yield as excessive spraying of chemicals change the texture of the soil”.

Rama Raju said farmers sowing cotton crop are the most vulnerable of the lot. They invest big amounts on things not needed. “Many farmers do not follow the advice of agricultural extension officers on the optimum use of fertilisers and pesticides,” he added.

The rate of suicide is relatively higher among farmers who grow non-assured crops like cotton than those who go in for crops like paddy and maize. Some crops bring in minimum profits, but the returns are guaranteed.

“Farmers in Mahbubnagar district are vulnerable,” admits district collector M Girija Shankar, though he evades a reply on the exact number of farmers committing suicide in the district.

The district administration has so far distributed Rs 25 lakh as compensation to the families of about 70 farmers who committed suicide, “The situation is grim in case of SC/ST farmers,” he said adding that distribution of compensation is often delayed for technical reasons.

Clinical psychologists point out that farm suicides are mainly a psychological problem. “Such deaths can be prevented or at least minimized if we counsel farmers at frequent intervals,” said Dr M Radha Krishna Rao, senior clinical psychologist.

Last year about 120 farmers committed suicide in the district. Many farmers could not take up cultivation last season as the monsoon played truant in the district even as the groundwater levels plummeted.

“The crop in our five acres dried due to lack of water. We incurred heavy losses. This forced my husband to commit suicide,” said G Yadamma of Govonipally village in Nawapet mandal. Her husband G Pentaiah (43) consumed a pesticide on June 30 finding no means to pay Rs 80,000 he borrowed from a private moneylender.

Half a dozen tribal-farmers committed suicide so far this season. Eraguntla thanda of Bijinapally mandal recorded four suicides. Govind (38), Deshya (30), Mnya (28) and Madhya (35) committed suicide in the last two months in the mandal. Ironically, these farmers could not procure loans from banks and had to approach private moneylenders to raise crops. “Private moneylenders are responsible for the death of my husband,” says Madavath Devli, the widow of Govind.

Farmers, who took up cotton cultivation are the worst hit in the district, said Balu Naik of Kalwakurthy. Many tribals have migrated to other parts of the country leaving their agricultural fields behind. K Krishna Reddy, district president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, alleged that banks had stopped issuing fresh loans unless farmers clear the old dues. He said the crop insurance compensation for the year 2011 is yet to reach farmers.

Four cotton growing states records 68% of the Farmers Suicides: NCRB 2012 data shows

National Crime Records Bureau Report-2012 shows increasing agrarian crisis in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra

The latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that the total farmers suicides recorded during the year 2012 were 2,84,694 in the last eighteen years. NCRB started documenting the ‘Farmers Suicides’ as a separate category under self employed from 1995 onwards.

Four states Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh which are predominantly growing cotton in rainfed conditions records 68% of the farmers’ suicides. The two major states Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have shown increase of 13% and 17% respectively compared over last year and together account for 46% of the total farmers’ suicides.

Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials

#GMFieldTrails #GMFreeIndia
Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials.
Urges it to keep our food and farming free of GMOs

The Coalition for a GM Free India today congratulated the Central govt on responding to the growing scientific evidence and opposition fromstate governments against Genetically Modified (GM) crops and putting a hold on all open field trials approved in March, 2013. According tomedia reports the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to reverse the permissions given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in March, 2013, given that there is a case in the Supreme Court on the matter and there is a need for widespread deliberations on a matter of such significance.

Reacting to the this new development Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM free India said, “It is heartening to see that theMinistry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the Union Government are finally being responsible to science and responsive to the citizensin the matter of open air experiments of risky GM crops.” He further stated, “One hopes that the government will not be arm twisted to permitopen environmental releases/field trials of GM crops by the powerful biotech seed industry and their promoters within the government”.

Earlier this week GEAC had put out the minutes of March 22nd meeting in the public domain after a delay of almost 2 months . The minutesshowed that the 16 member GEAC has given approvals for almost all the applications that they had received on field trials of GM crops. Thisincludes GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, cotton and castor. There were 25 applications which included majority of which were forextension of the approvals given last year, and which couldn’t be conducted due to State governments denying permission or refusing to giveNOC for field trials in the respective states. One of the permissions pertained to RoundUp Ready Wheat by Mahyco, with the American seedgiant Monsanto’s proprietary technology.

RR wheat and Monsanto has been embroiled in the latest GM contamination scandal in USA, where RR wheat from field trials done yearsago was found in a farmer’s field in Oregon State. While Monsanto and USDA, which gave permissions for these trials, are still unable to findthe reasons for this contamination, American farmers have been severely impacted with Japan, South Korea, Philippines and the EuropeanUnion banning or restricting imports of wheat owing to threat of GM contamination. A similar contamination had rocked the US in 2006 whenfield trials of herbicide tolerant GM rice, LL rice, of Bayer, had ended up contaminating the rice supply chain. Bayer Crop Science had tofinally settle a class action suit filed by affected farmers for 750 million US dollars. Interestingly the LL rice of Bayer has also been approvedfor field trials by GEAC in the last meeting.

“It is shocking that even after repeated lessons on how field trials can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply GEAC is mindlesslygiving approvals for field trials left right and centre. This, despite published evidence on the impacts of GM crops on human health, ourbiodiversity and farmers livelihoods and repeated statements by state governments denying permission for such open field trials” said ArunaRodrigues, one of the petitioners of the PIL on stopping all environmental releases/field trials of GM crops. The Union of India is therespondent in the case. She further stated that “GEAC seems to be in a hurry to permit field trials disregarding the fact that the SupremeCourt is slated to hear on the final report by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) it has set up to look into this matter”.

The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) comprising of experts from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity, nutrition scienceetc was set up by Supreme Court., In October 2012, it submitted its interim report highlighting the potential impacts of GM crops and theinadequacy of the existing regulatory system to assess the impacts of GM crops to human health, environment and socio-economic aspectsand to safely conduct field trials. It has recommended a total revamping of the system, pointing to the potential impacts to agro biodiversity,which is critical for further development of crops. It has also recommended against genetic modification of crops like rice for which India is acentre of origin. Besides this, it has also reccomended a 10 year moratorium on any open release/field trials of Bt crops and a moratorium onherbicide tolerant HT crops until an independent assessment is done on its impacts on human health, environment and farm livelihoods.

Hundreds of scientists, atleast 20 farmer Unions and more than 500 public-interest organisations had sent letters to the Supreme Courtendorsing the recommendations of the TEC’s interim report.

The Coalition for a GM free India hails this decision by the MoEF to withhold the permissions for field trials across the country. It further requested that the MoEF should inform respective state govt. about its decision. The State Governments should stop giving permissions in the state & if permitted, they should inform project proponents to stop field trials with immediate effect.

The Coalition for a GM free India also urges the Union government not to bow to pressures from multinational seed corporations and stand bythe interests of the citizens of the country. Reiterating the demand to keep our food and farming free from GM crops, it also urged thegovernment to drop the BRAI Bill and instead bring in a regulatory system that would safeguard biosafety from the introduction of riskytechnologies like GM crops.

For more information

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (09995358205)

Kavitha Kuruganthi (09393001550)

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 andfarms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.

Coalition for a GM-free India

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

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

India’s Food Security Rots in Storage

http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/06/indias-food-security-rots-in-storage/

By Manipadma Jena 

Paddy stock being salvaged from open space storage in Bhubaneswar as monsoons arrive early this year. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPSPaddy stock being salvaged from open space storage in Bhubaneswar as monsoons arrive early this year. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

BHUBANESWAR, India, Jun 21 2013 (IPS) – Shooing off a quartet of hens that come pecking, 24-year-old Kamala Batra sits guard over a sack of coarse rice spread out on the courtyard. After small black insects slowly crawl away in the sun’s heat, she gathers it to cook for the day’s free midday meal – a pan-India government food security scheme for students.

Batra, a member of the women’s collective that cooks school meals in Kosagumuda village, in the tribal Nabrangpur district of the eastern state Odisha, says government supplies of old and almost inedible food grains under the subsidised public distribution system are not uncommon.

A recent report from the national auditor, tabled in parliament, found that India did not have space to store 33 million tonnes of foodgrain worth 12 billion dollars, which it had bought from farmers for various government food security schemes.

“Thirteen percent of [India’s] gross domestic product (GDP) is wasted every year due to wastage of food grains in the supply chain.” — Dinesh Rai, India’s Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority.

 

This constituted a 40-percent shortage in storage space, for a total stock of  82 million tonnes that was held by the Food Corporation Of India (FCI) in June last year.

A 1964-born monolith under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, FCI procures, disburses and maintains buffer food grains, mainly rice, wheat and coarse grains, countrywide.

FCI has recently resorted to wheat export to ease the storage problem.

“How will it handle additional quantities that will have to be mandatorily procured when India formalises the National Food Security Bill (NFSB)”, asked food security activist Badal Tah from tribal populated Rayagada distric, which in 2002 saw a national uproar over deaths due to starvation.

Malnourishment and inequitable access to food are unwieldy issues India is currently grappling with as the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reach closure in 2015.

The NFSB will provide legal entitlement to subsidised food grains to around 67 percent of India’s over-two-billion population. It is likely to cost the exchequer about 21 billion dollars.

Tah is joined by a strong section that says India may well be comfortably placed in regard to the availability of food grains, but its present infrastructure and approach to crop management need structural changes before it can implement the food security law.  The bill has been debated in parliament since December 2011.

Assessing a five-year period from 2007 to 2012, a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) tabled in parliament in May of this year, severely indicts the FCI for colossal mismanagement in food procurement, storage and evacuation.

While a volley of recent studies reiterates colossal food wastage owing to inadequate and unscientific storage infrastructure, up to 20 percent of India’s population live on 1.25 dollars a day.

A 2013 report from the London-based Institution of Mechanical Researchers, “Global food: waste not, want not”, finds India wastes a quantity of wheat equivalent to the entire production of Australia every year, of which 21 million tonnes perishes every year due to a lack of inadequate storage and distribution.

FCI itself admits India lost 79 million tonnes, or nine percent of total wheat produced over a four-year period from 2009 to 2013.

“Thirteen percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) is wasted every year due to wastage of food grains in the supply chain,” said Dinesh Rai, a senior official of the federal government’s Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority.

Aside from food grains, India loses 12 million tonnes of fruits and 21 million tonnes of vegetables every year due to a lack of cold storage facility, according to a 2009 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In India’s remote areas, in a bumper harvest year, fast perishable vegetables like tomatoes are sold at dump prices for two rupees, or 25 cents, per kilogramme.

Lack of storage is a major tool in the middleman’s hands to exploit the small farmers.

“We wait for government procurement officials to get the minimum support price (MSP), but they have delayed these last two years,” Raju Jani told IPS from Odisha’s Koraput district.

They are heavily in debt, he said, for things like seeds and fertilisers, “So we give our harvest to the rice miller’s agent for whatever price he offers”.

With storage space shortfall and a go-slow government procurement, farmers are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea – the loan shark and the middleman.

The CAG report has questioned the basis for high a MSP, which is being viewed increasingly as a political sop to voters. According to current rules, if farmers come forth to sell at MSP, the government cannot decline to buy or set a cut-off procurement quantity.

This is yet another reason for excessive procurement of food grains over the last few years. It however benefits the large landholders more, say a section of political observers.

In 2012, it cost the federal government 16 billion dollars to overall handle the grain it bought at MSP, including transportation, storage and other overheads; its subsidised disbursement, in turn, fetched 4.7 billion dollars.

With the food security law, the government would procure much larger quantities for distribution, at subsidised prices of one to three rupees (about 0.02 to 0.05 dollars).

Amid the losses, many NGOs are calling for the reinstitution of  village level grain banks.

“Farmers lost their self reliance, all because of the centralized food production of wheat and paddy. Multi-cropping should be brought back,” Thooran Nambi, of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, told IPS from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu State.

He’s in favour of abolishing subsidised food for rural people, saying it should be given during emergencies only, he added.

In its study, the Institute of Mechanical Researchers recommends developed nations transfer their engineering knowledge, technology and design know-how to developing countries.

Meanwhile, “The storage and warehousing sector should get infrastructure status,” Suman Jyoti Khaitan, who heads a policy advocacy group, told IPS. “So that finances are availabe and the private sector can get in, too.”

 

Turn down the heat : climate extremes, regional impacts, and the case for resilience – full report (English)

ABSTRACT

This report focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia. Building on the 2012 report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, this new scientific analysis examines the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, and coastal vulnerability for affected populations. It finds many significant climate and development impacts are already being felt in some regions, and in some cases multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea level rise, more severe storms, droughts and floods are expected to have further severe negative implications for the poorest. Climate related extreme events could push households below the poverty trap threshold. High temperature extremes appear likely to affect yields of rice, wheat, maize and other important crops, adversely affecting food security. Promoting economic growth and the eradication of poverty and inequality will thus be an increasingly challenging task under future climate change. Immediate steps are needed to help countries adapt to the risks already locked in at current levels of 0.8°C warming, but with ambitious global action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C.

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2013/06/14/000445729_20130614145941/Rendered/PDF/784240WP0Full00D0CONF0to0June19090L.pdf

Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest

Abstract

An agroecosystem is constrained by environmental possibility and social choices, mainly in the form of government policies. To be sustainable, an agroecosystem requires production systems that are resilient to natural stressors such as disease, pests, drought, wind and salinity, and to human constructed stressors such as economic cycles and trade barriers. The world is becoming increasingly reliant on concentrated exporting agroecosystems for staple crops, and vulnerable to national and local decisions that affect resilience of these production systems. We chronicle the history of the United States staple crop agroecosystem of the Midwest region to determine whether sustainability is part of its design, or could be a likely outcome of existing policies particularly on innovation and intellectual property. Relative to other food secure and exporting countries (e.g. Western Europe), the US agroecosystem is not exceptional in yields or conservative on environmental impact. This has not been a trade-off for sustainability, as annual fluctuations in maize yield alone dwarf the loss of caloric energy from extreme historic blights. We suggest strategies for innovation that are responsive to more stakeholders and build resilience into industrialized staple crop production.

Indigenous Peoples’ food systems & well-being: FAO Report

Interventions & policies for healthy communities

Download Full Report  – 19.5Mb

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2013
ABSTRACT

Indigenous Peoples in cultural homelands of the most rural areas of developing regions experience challenges in using their traditional food systems and to ensure food security and health despite the treasures of food biodiversity that could support well-being. This book is the third in a series promoting use of local food systems by Indigenous Peoples; the first defines the process to document local food resources, and the second describes food systems in 12 diverse rural areas of different parts of the world. Here we describe processes and findings from more than 40 interdisciplinary collaborators who created health promotion interventions for communities using local food systems. Included are participatory processes using local knowledge and activities specifically for local food; global overviews of Indigenous Peoples’ health circumstances, environmental concerns, and infant and child feeding practices; and nine specific case examples from Canada, Japan, Peru, India, Colombia, Thailand and the Federated States of Micronesia. Common themes of successful interventions and evaluations are given along with chapters on human rights issues and implications for policies and strategies. Throughout the 10 years of this research we have shown the strength and promise of local traditional food systems to improve health and well-being. This work is in context of the second United Nations’ International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Table of Contents

Introduction ( Download   – 2 Mb )
Chapter 1
Why do Indigenous Peoples’ food and nutrition interventions
for health promotion and policy need special consideration? ( Download  – 730 Kb )
Chapter 2
Health disparities: promoting Indigenous Peoples’ health through
traditional food systems and self-determination ( Download   – 854 Kb )
Chapter 3
Global environmental challenges to the integrity of Indigenous Peoples’ food systems ( Download   – 819 Kb)
Chapter 4
Infant and young child complementary feeding among Indigenous Peoples ( Download   – 716 Kb)
Case Studies
Chapter 5
Promotion of traditional foods to improve the nutrition and health
of the Awajún of the Cenepa River in Peru ( Download   – 957 Kb)
Chapter 6
The Dalit food system and maternal and child nutrition in Andhra Pradesh, South India ( Download   – 1 Mb)
Chapter 7
Gwich’in traditional food and health in Tetlit Zheh, Northwest Territories, Canada: phase II ( Download   – 970 Kb)
Chapter 8
Inga food and medicine systems to promote community health ( Download   – 905 Kb)
Chapter 9
The value of Inuit elders’ storytelling to health promotion during times
of rapid climate change and uncertain food security ( Download   – 990 Kb)
Chapter 10
Culture-based nutrition and health promotion in a Karen community ( Download   – 2.2 Mb)
Chapter 11
The Nuxalk Food and Nutrition Program for Health revisited ( Download   – 846 Kb )
Chapter 12
Let’s Go Local! Pohnpei promotes local food production and nutrition for health ( Download   – 1.1 Mb)
Chapter 13
Tasty tonoto and not-so-tasty tonoto: fostering traditional food culture among
the Ainu people in the Saru River region, Japan (Download   – 871 Kb )
Future Directions
Chapter 14
What food system intervention strategies and evaluation indicators
are successful with Indigenous Peoples? ( Download   – 912 Kb)
Chapter 15
Human rights implications of Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and policy recommendations ( Download   – 1.1 Mb)
Chapter 16
Policy and strategies to improve nutrition and health for Indigenous Peoples ( Download   – 872 Kb)
References ( Download   – 1.3 Mb)
Appendices ( Download   – 1.5 Mb)
Index (Download   – 742 Kb )
Photographic section (Download   – 4 Mb )

More pests ‘resistant to GM crops’ across the World: study

(AFP) – 17 hours ago

PARIS — More pest species are becoming resistant to the most popular type of genetically-modified, insect-repellent crops, but not in areas where farmers follow expert advice, a study said on Monday.

The paper delves into a key aspect of so-called Bt corn and cotton — plants that carry a gene to make them exude a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, which is toxic to insects.

Publishing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, US and French researchers analysed the findings of 77 studies from eight countries on five continents that reported on data from field monitors.

Of 13 major pest species examined, five were resistant by 2011, compared with only one in 2005, they found. The benchmark was resistance among more than 50 percent of insects in a location.

Of the five species, three were cotton pests and two were corn pests.

Three of the five cases of resistance were in the United States, which accounts for roughly half of Bt crop plantings, while the others were in South Africa and India.

The authors said they picked up a case of early resistance, with less than 50 percent of insects, in yet another US cotton pest.

And there were “early warning” signs (one percent resistance or less) from four other cotton or corn pests in China, the United States and the Philippines.

The scientists found big differences in the speed at which Bt resistance developed.

In one case, it took just two years for the first signs to emerge; in others, the Bt crops remained as effective in 2011 as they were 15 years earlier.

What made the difference was whether farmers set aside sufficient “refuges” of land for non-BT crops, said the study’s authors.

The idea behind such refuges comes from evolutionary biology.

The genes that confer resistance are recessive, meaning that insects can survive on Bt plants only if they have two copies of a resistance gene — one from each parent.

Planting refuges near Bt crops reduces the chances of two resistant insects mating and conferring the double gene to their offspring.

“Computer models showed that refuges should be good for delaying resistance,” study co-author Yves Carriere, an entomologist at the University of Arizona at Tucson, said in a press release.

Practical evidence of this is shown in the case of a cotton-munching pest called the pink bollworm, said his colleague, Bruce Tabashnik.

Bt crops in the southwestern United States, where growers work closely with scientists to devise a refuge strategy, do not have a resistance problem.

In India, though, local pink bollworms became resistance within six years, simply because farmers did not follow the guidelines or get this support.

The researchers cautioned that resistance to Bt crops was simply a matter of time, as all pests eventually adapt to the threat they face. But refuges were the key to braking it.

“Either take more stringent measures to delay resistance such as requiring larger refuges or this pest will probably evolve resistance quickly,” said Tabashnik.

Farming groups have been furiously debating the value of refuges, and in recent years the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relaxed its refuge-planting requirements.

More than a billion acres (420 million hectares) of land have been planted with Bt crops since the mid-1990s.

In 2011 alone, 66 million hectares (164 million acres) of land was planted with Bt crops.

That year Bt corn accounted for 67 percent of corn planted in the United States and Bt cotton for between 79-95 percent of cotton planted in the US, Australia, China, and India.

Transgenic crops are opposed in Europe and other parts of the world where green activists say they are a potential threat to human health and the environment.