Rajasthan scraps seed pacts

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/rajasthan-scraps-seed-pacts0 Comments

Author(s): Latha Jishnu
Issue: Nov 30, 2011

ICAR tells Rajasthan to wait for guidelines on benefit sharing, biosafety

imagePhoto: Amit ShankarON NOVEMBER 4, the Rajasthan government called seven seed companies to its offices in Jaipur to give them the bad news: the memorandums of agreement (MoUs) signed last year to collaborate on agriculture research had been scrapped after being in limbo for 15 months. The public-private partnership (PPP) envisaged in the agreements was comprehensive and of far-reaching significance, at least in the case of one, that with Monsanto Company of the US, the world’s largest purveyor of seeds and biotechnology.

The MoUs had been inked over six weeks, starting July 2010, with two of the world’s leading agri-biotech companies, Monsanto as represented by its wholly owned subsidiary Monsanto India Ltd and the majority-owned Monsanto Holdings Pvt Ltd, and PHI Seeds Ltd, the Indian arm of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a DuPont business. The others were with top Indian biotech seed companies, Advanta India, JK Agri Genetics, DCM Shriram Consolidated, Krishidhan Seeds and a local outfit, Kanchan Jyoti Agro Industries. An eighth agreement with Bayer BioScience Pvt Ltd, Indian subsidiary of the German giant Bayer CropScience, although finalised, was not signed in the wake of the controversy over the earlier seven.

imageThe agreements had resulted in a furore when these were brought to light by Down To Earth (‘Rajasthan opens farm gates’, November 1-15, 2010) because they allowed the private sector free access to the state’s research facilities along with a guaranteed market for their hybrid seeds and other technologies. It was the first such initiative by a state government and involved wide-ranging partnerships with the four state agriculture universities and with the agriculture and horticulture departments. Involving a total recast of agriculture, it raised questions about the impact of such tie-ups on the farming community.

Apprehensive farmers had demonstrated before the Vidhan Sabha in March, demanding that the MoUs be scrapped, and so had some NGOs who, however, diffused the issue by turning it into an anti-Monsanto protest.

A senior Rajasthan government official told Down To Earth: “We are scrapping the MoUs on the advice of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which has said it is best we wait for the guidelines it is preparing for PPPs before implementing these agreements.” The official said he had sought the opinion of several agriculture experts, among them M S Swaminathan who is popularly referred to as the father of India’s Green Revolution, but had received no clear response on what it should do with the contested MoUs. With opposing pressures building up—from influential politicians, Sajha Manch, a collective of farmers’ organisations, on the one hand, and the biotech industry on the other—the state government approached ICAR in May for a way out.

The reply sent by ICAR to the Rajasthan director of agriculture after a critical review of the MoUs makes it clear that PPPs with foreign companies are out. State governments cannot sign any agreement relating to research and development with foreign companies without the approval of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), it says. DARE is a department of the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

ICAR also cautions Rajasthan on tie-ups with private companies in agriculture research because there is as yet no established mechanism for such PPPs. The worry is that “they raise several issues, such as those of intellectual property rights, costs, sharing of benefits, biosafety, etc.” DARE/ICAR is in the process of establishing a proper mechanism.

For Rajasthan, the ICAR advisory has come as a relief. A top-level official admits tacitly that the MoUs have been a mistake. “The companies were only interested in selling their seed and not in research. Nothing much was offered from their side to implement the MoUs. So we didn’t see any point in pursuing these agreements.”

NCPRI opposes the introduction of Biotechnology Regulator y Author ity of India Bill [BRAI], 2011, calls it undemocratic.

righttoinformation.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/NCPRI-Statement-on-introduction-of-BRAI-Bill.doc

Press Statement:

7th September 2011

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) strongly condemns the anti-transparency
provisions proposed in the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) 2011 and the attempt to
override provisions of the Right to Information Act by empowering the proposed authority as the final decision
maker in matters of release of information. The Bill is in violation of the provisions and spirit of the Right to
Information Act.

The provisions laid out in section 2, section 28, section 70, Section 77 undermine the fundamental right to
freedom of speech and expression , and the right to life, by violating provisions and protection of the RTI Act.
and also by preventing civil courts to have jurisdiction on any matter under the Act.

The BRAI Bill is also a regrettable attempt to curtail spaces for people’s participation and democratic oversight
in decisions that could affect the lives of the entire population of our country.

The BRAI bill in its present form seems to be an effort to sweep aside public concerns and public participation
on an issue as important as our food and farming.

The NCPRI is of the opinion that if the draft bill is introduced in Parliament in its present form, it will be a
highly retrograde step on behalf of the government that has been repeatedly appreciated for bringing about
progressive transparency legislation, the Right to Information Act 2005.

The fact that this Bill has been listed for introduction in Parliament with no discussion of its contents in the
public domain is an indication of the intent to push this bill through without discussion and debate.

NCPRI urges the Union government not to table this bill until it is publicly discussed and debated in light of the
public concerns on GM crops, serious violations of constitutional rights, the breach of constitutional guarantees
and arbitrary exercise of power and authority that this bill seeks to provide the government and the regulatory
authority.

Signed:

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Trilochan Shastry, Venkatesh Nayak, Ramakrishna Raju, Angela Rangad
(For the NCPRI)

278, SFS Apartments, DDA Flats
Hauz Khas
New Delhi-110016
Website: www.righttoinformation.info
Email: ncpri.india@gmail.com

Open letter to Prime Minister on Anna Hazare-Shiv Vishwanathan

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I am writing this to you as I always assumed you were a decent man. I was waiting for your speech on August 15th, hoping you would somehow say something meaningful on corruption that would redeem your long silence.

Your speech was disappointing. What you said was inane and trite, while you held on to the tenet the corruption cannot be fought with hunger strikes. I think you did more to insult the Indian independence movement which fought through reason, fought through faith, fought through the reasonableness of the fast and the hunger strike. Hunger strikes do not threaten you. They only ask you to look deeper within your self. Gandhi fasted so that a society and he could literally come back to its senses.

You seen a very timid man, Mr Prime Minister, you call on us to follow proper procedure. You seem to think politics is only a bit of table manners which does not allow people to object to what is allegedly served as food on the table. I think you are wrong Mr. Prime Minister and wrong in more ways than one. When you stood at Lal Qila, this time, one realized your goodness was not enough, because your goodness hides the arrogance and incompetence of your colleagues.

Think of Anna Hazare, Mr Prime Minister. He is another mild man like you and today he stands for the ideals the Congress has forgotten. Let me list them out- the dreams of honesty and idealism, the diligence that politics demands and the intelligence that morality requires.

For the young, Hazare represents the national movement today. He is a reminder of what the nation could have been. You are reminder of what the nation has become, a goodness that became timid as it fell prey to power. The sadness Mr Prime Minister is you should have protested. Mentioning tamely that you do not mind being under the scrutiny of the Lok Pal is not enough. Such coyness would be dismissed by your colleagues who know it is not meant for you but for Prime Ministers in waiting. You can still create history by joining Hazare.

One does not have to ask permission to fast. We do not need it. History and ethics do not ask permission from the inanity of politicians. Step down from power to be powerful again Mr Prime Minister. Join Hazare. Walk with the people. Dispense with blue turbaned technocrats and your conniving colleagues. They are forgettable anyway. Hazare has a sense of the lived past. He is showing the possibility of a cleaner future.

I am telling you all this Mr Prime Minister because someone must tell you that you have let down a generation that believed in you. Long years ago James Otis, the American politician, said, “No taxation without representation.” Another great American, whose writings Gandhi thrived on talked of The Duty of Civil Disobedience. It is out of Thoreau’s ideas that Gandhi wove his ideas of Satyagraha. Now Mr Prime Minister it is time to tell you representation without responsibility is corruption, legislation without accountability is a farce.

You and the Congress have perpetuated this situation. It is time you accept that a legislator who breaks the law or connives so that others break it, cannot be above the law. He no longer represents the people. Corruption is an act of legislative betrayal. It hollows out the act of representation and destroys democracy.

Anna Hazare and his team will go on fast, the battle of JP Park will begin. Hazare’s team has asked you and your government for permission for space. They have tried to dialogue with you and your cabinet colleagues. Mr Prime Minister, the role of dynasties is over and it is time that you recognize that no Prime Minister can be above the law.

I admit Hazare is a difficult man. I think there are many who feel he is overheating legislation by speeding it up. By prefabricating legislation you might actually be disinstitutionalizing the very processes you want to sustain. Maybe this is the point and it is a valid one. It is the kind of argument Aruna Roy and others might have made. But what deflates your view is your move to deny Hazare and the people the right to protest at Jantar Mantar.

To treat truth as a law and order problem is unforgivable Mr Prime Minister, to think that Section 144 can control the fight against corruption is the final irony of law, to use law against those fighting the lawless is the final sign of an empty regime. Arresting Hazare shows the emptiness of your colleagues. Forget 2G and 3G and all the other scams you slept through. When the ABC of democracy is taught, you and the Congress will appear anti- democratic and cowardly about your responsibility. Timidity becomes unforgivable at this moment in history.

As a citizen, I must protest, as a teacher and an academic I must state that you have violated the rules of dialogue and the norms of protest. I must accept that civil disobedience becomes the only alternative.

I wish there was a virtual Jantar Mantar and I am sure there soon will be. So at this virtual monument I, as a citizen, protest against your unlawful use of Section 144. It is not Hazare’s battle. It is now the dream of every Indian to fight corruption and fight it with a courage and commitment your politics lacks. Not all of us will be in Delhi tomorrow but now at this virtual Jantar Mantar, this network as sacred space, let us openly say it is time to defy you and your regime. Corruption has to be fought and fought truthfully. You, Mr Prime Minister, have forgotten the difference between being correct and being true and even if you did, you seem to prefer the first.

Think of the symbolic contrast between morning and evening of Independence Day. At the Red Fort one saw the dull rituals of a tired state being enacted inanely. At Rajghat, a Khadi clad man sits waiting quietly in an act of prayer, silent in reflection as if waiting for a message from the Mahatma himself. The point is Mr Prime Minister that it is not your twenty two point riders that he has to answer. It is his questions about freedom that you must respond to. What according to the Government is freedom? Is election merely the increased circulation of corruption every five years.

There are moments when protest is a form of duty. When citizens realize that a government has abdicated its responsibility. So at this new Jantar Mantar I light my candle and send my SMS message of protest against a regime that denies the dream of the future. Civil disobedience is my right and now my duty. You give me no alternative, Mr Prime Minister. In arresting Hazare, you have made a mockery of democracy.

As a citizen who believes in the rule of law, as a democrat who believes in the necessity of governance and as an Indian who recognizes what history means, I stand by Hazare and what he fights for.

Regards,

Shiv Visvanathan

The world’s biggest Baingan Bharta -click to add a baingan

Dear friend,

Click here to keep your food safe
Are you ready to make a World Record to save your food from genetic modification? The government is gearing up to table the suspicious Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill.[1]

If created, BRAI will become an absolute authority, easing the approval of genetically modified (GM) crops in our country. Then we will not be able to stop them. We need to persuade the Prime Minister to protect our food and to do that we need to make the demand against GM food more visible.

We can do this by making the World’s Biggest GM Free Baingan Bharta.[2] The size of this Bharta depends on the number of signatures on the petition asking the PM to stop the bill. One lakh signatures on the petition will help make this World Record.

You should ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop this bill because it is not transparent and is against our right to safe food.

http://www.greenpeace.in/take-action/save-your-food/set-a-gm-free-baingan-bharta-record.php

Thousands of people across the country came out to protest against GM crops on Quit India day, yesterday. Public opposition saved the brinjal from genetic modification.[3]Now we need to save all our vegetables from this threat.

The last known version of the bill leaked by the media allowed BRAI to escape the purview of the Right to Information act.[4] The bill will create an autocratic body which will mess with our food.
Ask the PM to stop this bill now!

http://www.greenpeace.in/take-action/save-your-food/set-a-gm-free-baingan-bharta-record.php

Thanks a billion!

Sources:

A law unto itself, www.outlookindia.com, March 8, 2010
http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?264454
What is Baingan Bharta?
http://tao.merseine.nu/wiki.cgi?FrontPage/Recipes/Side_Dish/Baingan_Bharta
India says no to Bt brinjal, for now, www.rediff.com, February 9, 2010
http://business.rediff.com/report/2010/feb/09/india-says-no-to-bt-brinjal-for-now.htm
Biotech Bill: Sweeping powers, glaring omissions, www.rediff.com, March 11, 2010
http://business.rediff.com/column/2010/mar/11/guest-biotech-bill-glaring-omissions.htm

Should we encourage biopirates to expand their business in India?

An appeal for your URGENT support
Should we encourage biopirates to expand their business in India?
06 August 2011
Dear Friends,
As you are aware, the environmental release of the first ever Genetically Modified Food (Bt Brinjal – eggplant) in India, promoted by M/s Mahyco (an Indian subsidiary of US TNC Monsanto), was stayed by a February 2011 decision by then Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who ordered a moratorium on the product’s environmental and commercial release. This decision was the outcome of public opinion gathered in a series of nation-wide public consultations that he held and based also on a variety of scientific evidence and legal analysis. Fundamentally, Mr. Ramesh held that per the Precautionary Principle not enough was known of the environmental, public health, economic and social consequences of GMO foods. Therefore it was prudent to postpone the decision until there was absolute certainty that GMOs subserved the common good.
Moratorium decision on Bt Brinjal sidestepped biopiracy issue:
In addition to concerns over the public health and environmental implications of GMOs, Environment Support Group raised a serious concern that in promoting Bt Brinjal, Mahyco/Monsanto, along with it collaborators (University of Agricultural Sciences -Dharwad, Sathguru Consultants, Cornell University and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; collaborators under the ABSP-II project funded by USAID) had fundamentally flouted laws protecting biodiversity in India. The specific charge made was that these agencies had accessed at least 9 local varieties of brinjal in developing the Bt Brinjal product and all this was done without any prior permission from the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Board, Local Biodiversity Management Committees, as required per the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. Therefore, the action of bringing the Bt Brinjal product to a final decision of commercial release constituted an act of biopiracy: a very serious crime that is cognisable, non-bailable and additionally involves large fines. It was also submitted to the Minister that such actions seriously compromised and denied economic and social benefits to local communities under the Access and Benefit Sharing Regime.
Mr. Ramesh chose to sidestep this critical issue while ordergin moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal.
ESG complaint against biopiracy:
Environment Support Group, however, pursued the case, and filed a complaint before the statutory Karnataka Biodiversity Board on 15 February 2011 (copy attached). The Board took cognisance of this complaint, proceeded to investigate it thoroughly, issued notices on all agencies involved in promoting Bt Brinjal and also held hearings. In their defence, Bt Brinjal promoters Mahyco/Monsanto have absolutely denied violation of biodiversity protection laws while others, such as University of Agricultural Sciences – Dharwar have claimed that these laws do not at all apply to them. Based on this evidence, the Board has repeatedly requested the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to take appropriate action in accordance with law. NBA, however, has dithered on taking a decision on this critical complaint – for over a year now.
Monsanto now wants India’s onions:
Perhaps encouraged by weak regulation by NBA, Monsanto Holdings has now applied for accessing a variety of onions grown in India for potential hybridisation, commodification and commercial release. A copy of the application made by Monsanto is enclosed. As we understand, NBA has forwarded Monsanto’s application to relevant State regulatory authorities and applicable Biodiversity Management Committees (at Panchayat/Nagarpalika levels) with the demand that the application be cleared no later than 27 August 2011.
It is a matter of very serious worry that NBA which has failed to demonstrate urgency in dealing with complaint of biopiracy against Mahyco/Monsanto, has wasted no time at all in processing Monsanto’s application to access onions.
It is imperative for NBA to enforce India’s biodiversity protection laws and also act in conformance with the Public Trust Doctrine, Precautionary Principle, Principle of Intergenerational Equity and the Polluter Pays Principle and other applicable laws. We fear that such lax behaviour on the part of a key regulatory agency encourages businesses to continue their business-as-usual approach, untrammelled by any fear of punitive action for violating India’s biodiversity protection laws and for compromising India’s sovereign control over its biological resources.
Demand decisions in NBA meeting on 9th August 2011:
With this in view, we wish to demand that NBA in its meeting scheduled on 9th August 2011 must take a categorical decision on the charge of biopiracy against those promoting Bt Brinjal product based on comprehensive investigation and reporting by the Karnataka Biodiversity BoardPending adjudication of this matter, no fresh application for accessing India’s biological resources must be entertained from any agency being investigated for biopiracy. Such a norm is critical to safeguard ongoing investigations and protecting biological wealth of India, and is an approach that is in consonance with various Supreme Court decisions, most recently evidenced by banning mining by all in light of widespread illegal mining in Bellary.
If you wish to support this demand, kindly sign on the petition (enclosed) by providing your name, full address, and organisational affiliation (if any), no later than 11 pm on 8th August 2011. Kindly leave the subject as is to help us to process your endorsement.
To further assist you in endorsing this petition we have also made it accessible online at:http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/monsanto_biopiracy/
We seek this support from you so that India’s biological resources are protected and conserved to ensure ecological, food, economic and social security of present and future generations.
Thank you for your cooperation and support.
Yours sincerely,
Leo F. Saldanha
Bhargavi S. Rao

Environment Support Group


[Environment, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives]
1572, 36th Cross,
Banashankari II Stage,
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Tel: 91-80-26713559-61
Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316
Email: esg@esgindia.org
Web: www.esgindia.org
Petition to National Biodiversity Authority:
Shri M.F.Farooqui, IAS.,
Chairman,
National Biodiversity Authority,
(Full Addl. Charge)
&
Additional Secretary,
Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Government of India,
5th Floor, TICEL Bio Park,
Taramani, Chennai – 600 113
Tel: 91-044-2254 1805
Fax: 91-044-2254 1073
8th August 2011
Dear Shri. Farooqui,
As you are aware, Environment Support Group has filed a complaint against M/s Mahyco/Monsanto and their collaborators in promoting Bt Brinjal in violation of India’s Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992. This complaint has been pending adjudication by the National Biodiversity Authority for over a year now, notwithstanding comprehensive investigations that have been undertaken by Karnataka State Biodiversity Board.
The Authority which has not found the necessary time and resource to adjudicate the matter with due dispatch, has now proceeded to process an application from Monsanto Holdings to access onions in India for hybridisation and possible commercial release. Such double standards is not an healthy indicator that the Authority is independently and rigorously implementing Biological Diversity Act in order to protect our biological resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
When the Authority meets on 9th August 2011, it is imperative that it takes a decision on the pending complaint of biopiracy against M/s Mahyco/Monsanto and its collaborators. Such action is imperative on the part of the regulatory Authority and will build public confidence that it is not dithering in taking a correct decision due to extraneous pressures.
We also demand that pending adjudication of this matter, no application must be processed for accessing biological resources of India from any of the agencies being investigated on grounds of biopiracy. Such a policy is consistent with best practices employed by the Government of India and also with various Supreme Court decisions – most recently in banning mining by all as a measure of taking action against widespread illegal mining in Bellary district of Karnataka.
We hope that the Authority will take appropriate decisions with due dispatch to safeguard India’s biodiversity and the wider public interest.


Govt’s food bill a “mockery” of food security: civil society

Right to food campaign activists write to prime minister
GN Bureau | New Delhi | August 02 2011

Civil society groups have come together to reject the draft national food security bill recently approved by an empowered group of ministers (EGoM).

Writing to the prime minister and his council of ministers, members of the Right to Food Campaign have criticised the draft bill calling it “a complete mockery of the idea of food security for all and dilutes even existing entitlements obtained through the supreme court.”

The letter accuses the UPA government of betraying the expectation of the aam admi and instead of increasing the investment in the schemes related to food security, in order to reduce the unacceptably high rates of malnutrition and hunger in India it has cleared a draft which minimises government’s obligations, restricts people’s entitlements and is devoid of any accountability.

“The bill interprets food security only as distribution of cereals and cooked meals and is completely silent on pulses, millets and oil,” the letter said.

Seed Bill concerns: Pls circulate as it would be tabled on 3rd August 2011 in Rajyasabha

Friends

Indian Government planned to introduce the Seed Bill in 2004 with controversial clauses including farmers not allowed to save/reuse seeds.  The bill faced with severe opposition from the farmers, farmers unions, civil society and political parties and was refered to Parliamentary Standing Committee.  in 2009 a revised version of the bill allowing farmers to save and reuse seed but prevent from selling seeds (particularly branded ones).  In the mean time, the Bt cotton experience showed that the IPRs on seed production technologies would be a serious issue as the royalties collected were huge.  For example, the Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (MMB) collected 50 lakhs as one time payment and Rs. 1200 as royalty on each packet of bt cotton seed which is 450 g sufficient for one acre.  After the AP government intervened in Monopoly and Restricted Trade Practices Commission, used the powers under Seed Control Order 1983 (powers drawn from Essential Commodities Act    1955 as cotton seed is listed as an essential commodity) the prices were reduced to 650 and later to Rs. 950 /packet this year.  The seed companies were powerful enough and got the cotton seed deleted from the Essential Commodity Act.  The Companies also made a kill by increasing seed rate per acre to two packets.

In addition when there was a massive crop failure in 2005 and confirmed that it was due to seed failure.  Company moved to court saying AP state has no power to ask for compensation as the Seed Bill 1966 do not give those powers.  Similarly, court cases were filed when AP government tried to regulate seed prices and royalties.

keeping in view all these we approached the  centre to introduce clauses which gives powers to state to regulate seed prices and royalties as the states (or centre) do not have the powers.  The Seed Control Order 1983 would be repealed now with this new bill.  Please find enclosed our letter to the Prime Minister and Agri Minister, Analysis of Seed bill and the Several State Governments responses

Representation on Seed Bill, 2010 to Prime Minister

AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY AP STATE GOVT FOR THE SEED BILL 2004

SEED BILL 2010 an analytical view

Standing_Committee-Report-on-the-Seeds-Bill-2004

Seed bill 2010 concerns and amendments proposed hindi

Seed Bill 2010 with Amendments

seed bill 2010 final analysis by govt