150 scientists raise concerns about GM crops, write to Natarajan

NEW DELHI: More than 150 scientists have written a letter to the environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan on Saturday raising concerns about genetically modified (GM) crops. Their primanry concern is that Ministry of Agriculture is allegedly making a case for GM crops by stating that the technology is ‘absolutely needed’ for India’s food security.

They referred to a recent affidavit filed by the ministry of agriculture in the Supreme Court claiming that nation’s food security will be jeopardized without GM crops. “It also argues that open-air field trials of GMOs are absolutely essential for this.”

The scientists in their letter said that there are “many serious scientific and policy fallacies” in the argument made by the Ministry of Agriculture. This affidavit was filed in response to a Supreme Court appointed technical committee report on GM crops which had advised a ten year ban on GM crops because of its unpredictable impacts on the environment. It had also said that we have not conducted adequate research to confirm the safety of GM food crops.

On Saturday, the scientists and the GM free coalition of organisations also celebrated the third anniversary of a moratorium on transgenic Bt Brinjal which was imposed when Jairam Ramesh was environment minister and urged Natarajan to make sure that the moratorium is not lifted.

In response to Agriculture ministry’s argument, the letter said: “An overwhelming majority of countries worldwide do not grow GM crops. They are grown on a mere 160 million hectares that comprise 3.2% of the global agriculture land. Just four crops cover 99% of the area under GM crops: soybean (47%), maize (32%), cotton (15%) and canola (5%).” It also summarised the experiences of various countries including the US who have commercialised GM food crops.

They quoted US Economic Research Service’s report for 2011, which says: 17.9 million households were food insecure at some point in the year. “This means that an unprecedented 50.1 million people (1 in every 6 Americans) live in food insecure households in this nation that has the largest area under GM crop cultivation in the world, after having begun commercializing crops with this controversial technology way back in 1996.” It said.

The letter also tries to dissociate the issue of food production with shortcomings of distribution. “Food security, is a problem not only of production but of distribution and access/purchasing power. Today India’s paradox of overflowing godowns/rotting grains, with 320 million people going hungry is well-known. The world over and in India, most of the hungry people are ironically partaking in the food production process. Clearly hunger is a more multi-faceted problem than what can be fixed by using a particular seed or cocktail of chemicals,” it explained.

The letter recommends various other approaches to resolve food insecurity in the country and urges MOEF to stress on agro-ecological approaches with low external inputs.

http://m.timesofindia.com/india/150-scientists-raise-concerns-about-GM-crops-write-to-Natarajan/articleshow/18422031.cms

Parliamentary Panel recommends food entitlements for 67 p.c. of population

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs has suggested that food entitlements under the National Food Security Act be made available to 67 per cent of the population, leaving out the 33 per cent who pay taxes, have a pucca house and so on.

It wants the ‘priority’ (Below Poverty Line) and ‘general’ (Above Poverty Line) categories to go and be replaced with “inclusion” and “exclusion” categories.

The identification of beneficiaries for subsidised rice and wheat under the Public Distribution System will be done by State governments.

The committee, headed by Vilas Muttemwar, has decided to speed up submission of its report to the Lok Sabha Speaker as the issue is likely to come up in the Congress party’s “ chintan shivir ” in Jaipur, later this week.

According to informed sources, the panel has assessed the total requirements of foodgrains at 62 million tonnes per annum with a subsidy bill of over Rs. 1.15 lakh crore.

The Central government will make subsidised foodgrains available to 67 per cent of the population, including 75 rural and 50 per cent urban, even though States have different estimates of the poor.

The Act was referred to the Parliamentary panel in December 2011 after it was tabled in the Lok Sabha amid demand for a universal food security bill.

Zaheerabad to be recognised as biodiversity heritage site soon

Elated:Women taking part in mobile biodiversity festival at Ippapally village in Zaheerabad mandal in Medak district.- PHOTO: MOHD ARIF

The crop fields of the women of Deccan Development Society (DDS), an NGO working for the last 25 years in Medak district, would be soon recognised as biodiversity heritage sites by the Government of India.

This was announced by Dr. P. Balakrishna, chairman, National Biodiversity Authority (NBD), after formally launching 14th mobile biodiversity festival at Ippapally village in Zaheerabad mandal of Medak district on Monday. This would be the first such heritage site in India. The site would cover about 50 villages spread across three mandals in Medak district. He also said that to recognise this area as a biodiversity heritage site would be a matter of pride.

He has also full of praise for the uniqueness of the localised Public Distribution System (PDS) based on jowar pioneered by DDS for the last 15 years. This model of the PDS, which was a by-product of the rich biodiversity being practiced by the farmers of the DDS, would be propagated by the NBA all over the world as one of the best practices based on biodiversity, he added. Dr. Balakrishna explained that the Government of India was about to announce a new policy wherein about 5 per cent of all productivity in agriculture would be based on the biodiversity.

Dr. Hampaiah, chairman, AP State Biodiversity Board, said that the efforts made by the Sangham women were being recognised by the Board. The festival would be held for one month.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/zaheerabad-tobe-recognisedas-biodiversity-heritage-site-soon/article4311099.ece

MP to receive award from President for highest grain produce

By Suchandana Gupta

January 14, 2013

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/MP-to-receive-award-from-President-for-highest-grain-produce/articleshow/18023089.cms

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh has been selected to receive the Krishi Karman Award of the Union government for best performance in agricultural production in 2011-2012.

The cash prize award of Rs 2 crore will be given away by President Pranab Mukherjee to chief minister Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Chouhan’s agriculture minister Ramkrishna Kusmaria will also accompany the chief minister in the award giving function.

The Krishi Karman Award for year 2011-12 is being conferred to Madhya Pradesh for food production.

In addition, Raisen farmer Radhabai Dube and Hoshangabad’s Gambhir Singh Pal will be honoured by the President for best performance in organic farming. They will be given Rs one lakh in cash and a certificate each.

Elated over the selection as best performing state for agricultural production, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government claimed, Madhya Pradesh produced a record 216.08 lakh metric tonnes of food grains last year.

Compared to that, in 2010-11 the state’s maximum food production stood at 166.41 metric tonnes.

The government said that the chief minister made certain important decisions including the constitution of an agriculture cabinet.

Interest on cooperative loans to farmers was reduced to zero percent. Farmers were given Rs 100 per quintal bonus on wheat procurement and Rs 50 per quintal of paddy procurement.

It has been decided to give Rs 100 per quintal bonus on paddy also from this year.

High-yield varieties were promoted and weekly reviews of farm input supply was made. Seed production was increased by forming 1,217 seed production societies.

Besides, 83 percent seeds were sown after treatment and adequate increase was ensured in seed transplantation in wheat and paddy crops.

Micro nutrients like zinc phosphate were promoted. Irrigation facility was provided in 16.35 lakh hectare by enhancing irrigation potential of big dams.

Agriculture credit limit was increased to 30.5 percent for famers. Loans worth Rs 7,629.27 crore were distributed to farmers through cooperative banks in year 2011-12.

According to the agriculture department, Raisen district’s woman farmer Radhabai Dube has emerged as the state’s organic farming ambassador by establishing record of maximum organic crop production in the state.

She produced 23 quintal gram in one hectare land and proved that traditional Indian organic farming method are more beneficial the than use of chemical fertiliser.

When Radhabai receives the award from the President on Tuesday, she will be the first woman farmer of Madhya Pradesh to receive this prize.

Gambhir Singh Pal of Seoni-Malwa in Hoshangabad district will be felicitated for producing a record 74 quintals of wheat per hectare.

Biodiversity meet ignored interests of farmers: expert

STAFF REPORTER, THE HINDU, NOVEMBER 19, 2012

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/biodiversity-meet-ignored-interests-of-farmers-expert/article4109993.ece

Agriculture scientist G.V. Ramanjaneyulu has criticised that the recent international biodiversity conference in Hyderabad focussed only on how business could be done with bio-resources instead of suggesting measures to protect biodiversity.

The deliberations completely ignored farmers and their interests and also their role in the protection of biodiversity. The conference deliberately sidelined the need to protect biodiversity, he said while delivering a lecture on ‘Farmer in Biodiversity’ organised by the Jampala Chandrasekhara Prasad Trust in memory of the late student leader, here on Saturday night.

State role

He said the government should have a major role in protecting biodiversity, environment and eco-balance for which it should involve the farming community. On the contrary, it was encouraging farmers to use dangerous pesticides and chemical fertilizers, he added.

In pesticides only one per cent was useful to kill pests and the rest would mix in soil and air polluting the environs. So also, in fertilizers only 45 per cent was useful to protect plants and the remaining 55 per cent would mix in soil and water. Dr. Ramanjaneyulu said pests were gaining resistance and the farmer was getting caught in a vicious circle by investing more money. Excessive use of fertilizer and pesticide make the food grains poisonous with their residues remaining in them. Pesticide residues were creating fat in human bodies, he said.

GM propaganda

In this backdrop, governments and corporates were resorting to propaganda on the necessity of GM crops for food security, but behind this lay business interests rather than human interests, he said cautioning that, “Our food habits are getting spoilt with such a false campaign.”

Listing out the ill-effects of fertilizers and pesticides, he said the Green Revolution in Punjab destroyed biodiversity and today one in every third family in that State was suffering from cancer. He said for the protection of biodiversity farmers should have freedom in cultivation.

‘Meet focussed on how business can be done with bio-resources instead of suggesting measures to protect biodiversity’

“Nalanda District (Bihar) – World Record SRI yields

“Nalanda District (Bihar) – World Record SRI yields” (page Nos. 1 to 10)
Author(s) by M.C. Diwakar, Arvind Kumar, Anil Verma and Dr. Norman Uphoff

Experimenting with SRI cultivation, five farmers of Darveshpura village in Bihar attract considerable attention with their bumper yield; the results indicate a viable alternative to the conventional methods of growing rice and other crops.

See on page 1 to 10 (http://www.pradan.net/images/Media/news_reach_july_aug2012.pdf)

Bt Brinjal is safe, claims NIN

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Bt-Brinjal-is-safe-claims-NIN/articleshow/16344961.cms

HYDERABAD: Is Bt Brinjal safe? The demonisation of BT crops got a push with the parliamentary committee on agriculture in its report submitted last month commenting that transgenics in food crops would be fraught with unknown consequences. But the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says that Bt Brinjal is safe.

A voluminous report on the laboratory experiments carried out on the safety of Bt Brinjal was submitted to the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation ( RCGM) of the Department of Biotechnology, ministry of science and technology.

B Dinesh Kumar, deputy director, Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre, at the NIN told TOI that in every respect, Bt Brinjal was found to be safe. “What now needs to be done is open field trials,” Dinesh Kumar said.

However, the problem arises here. In order to analyse the effects of Bt Brinjal in human consumption, it first needs to be introduced in the market. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will then need to allow introducion of Bt Brinjal, at least in a limited way, so that the effects can be evaluated.

When Bt Brinjal was sought to be introduced in the market a few years ago, it led to a controversy. However, on February 9, 2010, the ministry of environment and forests imposed a moratorium on Bt Brinjal. In the absence of scientific consensus and opposition from state governments and others, the ministry decided to impose a moratorium on the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal until all concerns expressed by the public, NGOs, scientists and the state government were addressed adequately.

Among those actively opposed to the introduction of Bt Brinjal is P M Bhargava, founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, who was nominated by the Supreme Court to the GEAC.

Bhargava who had even argued against Bt Cotton told the parliamentary committee on agriculture that GM organisms could be introduced only after adequate testing was done.

The pre-clinical tests conducted at the NIN show that Bt Brinjal is safe but activists who are against genetically modified crops need to be convinced about the study and its results.