Agriculture gets highest ever allocation in Tamil Nadu

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has set an ambitious foodgrains production target of 120 lakh tonnes for the coming financial year despite the damage to crops due to the Cyclone Thane and floods this year. The budget estimates that foodgrains production will be 105 lakh tonnes during 2011-12 as against a projected 115 lakh tonnes.

However, former Union revenue secretary and finance secretary to the Madhya Pradesh government, M R Sivaraman told TOI that the projected 15% jump in foodgrains production would be a tall order.

While the budget has provided 500 crore for the system of Serial Rice Intensification (SRI) to cover an extended area of 27.55 lakh acres, there is a problem as a large workforce would be required to work in the fields, he pointed out.

This is because many of these farm hands may prefer to take up work under the more remunerative MNREGA scheme and marginal farmers would find it tough to get labour. Carrying this logic further, a similar problem could dog the measure to improve production of pulses under the system of Serial Pulses Intensification ( SPI) proposed to be implemented in 1.6 lakh acres based on the ‘Whole Village Concept’.

Armed with a vision of chief minister J Jayalalithaa to usher in a second green revolution, the budget has made highest ever allocation of 3,804.96 crore for agriculture. An Agri-Market Intelligence and Business Promotion Centre is to be established at Trichy during 2012-13 to disseminate information on prices and render crop and market advisory services to farmers. The budget has set a target of 10 lakh farmers to be covered under agricultural insurance and 200 crore is allocated to ensure that farmers get more remuneration over and above the minimum support price. The government is providing 100% subsidy for small and marginal farmers and 75% subsidy for others for installing micro-irrigation systems. The Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative Programme will be implemented in 15,000 acres.

An enhanced area of 1,73,000 acres would be covered during 2012-13 under micro-irrigation for which 75 crore is granted as subsidy. A new system of disbursing subsidy directly to farmers will be introduced.

Farmers would continue to be exempted from VAT on fertilizers and the present interest-free loan to Tamil Nadu Cooperative Marketing Federation Ltd (TANFED) to procure and distribute fertilizers would be enhanced to 150 crore.

“The budget is silent on establishing an organic mission for Tamil Nadu which will encourage best agricultural practices to safeguard the interests of small and marginal farmers,” said V R Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance.

‘Panel formed to check pesticide residues in fruit, veggies’

PTI | 07:03 PM,Mar 20,2012

New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI) The Centre has formed an expert committee to examine periodically the fruits and vegetables, available in the open market, to ascertain if they contain pesticide residues, the Delhi High Court was informed today. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A S Chandhiok told a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Rajiv Shakhder that the senior Union Agricultural Ministry had on February 14 convened a meeting of its senior officials with those of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Delhi government’s Health Ministry on the issue. “A six-member committee headed by the joint director of the Agriculture Ministry was constituted for framing a policy for periodic checks to detect pesticide residues in the vegetables and fruits,” the law officer told the court in an affidavit. Besides, Chairperson Sarita Bhalla, others members include FSSAI Director Dhir Singh, scientist N K Sharma, Delhi government’s Food Analyst S M Bhardwaj, Union Agriculture Ministry official Vipin Bhatnagar and senior advocate V K Rao in the committee, the ASG added. After perusing the affidavit, the bench suggested to the the government to include a non-government expert in the committee and posted the matter for next hearing on March 27. Counsel V K Rao, who had been appointed amicus curiae in the case by the court, had earlier suggested for a policy to conduct periodic checks on the vegetables and fruits to prevent the use of pesticides in them beyond permissible limit. The bench had asked various authorities of the Central and the state governments to convene a meeting to chalk out a solution to the problem affecting the health of citizens. (MORE)

‘Review genetically modified cotton policy’
Posted: Tue, Mar 20 2012. 6:47 PM IST

‘Review genetically modified cotton policy’

India’s policy on the use of genetically modified cotton seed needs to
be reviewed in the wake of lower than expected productivity
Ruchira Singh

New Delhi: India’s policy on the use of genetically modified cotton
seed needs to be reviewed in the wake of lower than expected
productivity, said members of Coalition for a GM-Free India on

“This year there has been large scale failure in the cotton crop.
Failure in that the yields have been less than 50% in states like
Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra,” said Kiran Vissa, co-convener of the
Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture at a press
conference. ”In the last seven years, Bt (Bacillus
thuringiensis)cotton’s yields have been almost flat.”

Other members of the Coalition for a GM-Free India claimed the crop
had grown resistant to pesticides resulting in no decrease in overall
use of fertilizers. They also claimed that organic and hybrid cotton
seeds were being edged out by the marketing might of Monsanto, the
seller of Bt cotton seed brand called Bollgard in India.

Rajasthan Puts GM Crop Trials on Hold: Orders burning of the field trials

Rajasthan Puts GM Crop Trials on Hold

The Rajasthan government has put on hold all trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the state.

In an order dated 13 March, the Principal Secretary, Agriculture, government of Rajasthan stated “ trials of GM crops should be conducted in the State until final decision in this matter is taken.”

“The issue (of permitting trials of transgenic crops) indeed being fraught with concerns as no unanimity has arrived at, either in their favour or against them. The government, after considering different aspects of it, has taken a view to wait until a national consensus is evolved. It has also been decided that discussions should be held with all stakeholders and to form a view in this regard keeping in mind the guidelines issued by GEAC and GoI,” the order said.

Significantly, the order comes close on heels of the government’s withdrawal of the controversial no-objection certificate (NoC) recently issued by it to the Delhi University for conduct of GM mustard trials in three locations in Rajasthan. The trials had started in Bharatpur, Alwar and Sriganganagar and were nearing harvest. Responding to media reports and questions raised in the assembly, the government had ordered that the NoC be withdrawn. “On March 9th, the NoC was withdrawn and the crop ordered to be destroyed,” confirmed Anil Gupta, deputy secretary, department of agriculture.

So far, international seed majors Monsanto, Dow Agro Sciences and Pioneer have applied for and got permission from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the centre to conduct trials of Ht/Bt Corn in Rajasthan this year, but this was subject to a mandatory no-objection certificate from the state government. With the state’s recent decision not to permit GM trials for now, the trials planned by these companies in the coming season hangs fire.

The order, for the first time, sends a strong signal that Rajasthan is not up to indiscriminately permitting trials of transgenic crops having questionable environmental consequences, without an informed debate. So far, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka have said an outright ‘ no’ to GM crop trials in their respective states, while Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra have not yet issued NoCs.

Earlier, GM crop experiments were approved directly by the GEAC under the central govenrment. However, state NoCs became mandatory since July 2011 after Nitish Kumar objected to GM trials taking in Bihar without the state government’s consent, as agriculture is a state subject.


No GM crops in West Bengal: Mamata

Kolkata, Mar 12: On a day when the Budget session of the Indian parliament opened, West Bengal Mamata Banerjee told a group of youths, representing various colleges in the city, that she will never allow Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the state.

he youths who called on her at her residence on Monday reminded the Chief Minister about the impending danger that the food, farming and environment of the state faces from the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill, 2011 which is expected to be tabled in the current parliament session.

The youths presented Banerjee with a bouquet of vegetables and urged her to write to the Central government to stop the BRAI bill from being tabled in the current form.

The BRAI Bill, 2011 was listed for introduction both during the monsoon and winter session of last year but had to be stopped because of the opposition inside and outside the parliament.

The bill is expected to create a single window clearance system that will lower the bar for the approval of genetically modified crops which are in a controversy around the world owing to the potential dangers they pose to human health, environment and livelihoods dependent on farming.

Congratulating the CM on her government’s decision to ban GM seeds in West Bengal, the youths highlighted the fact that current BRAI Bill proposes to override the state governmen’s decision making power on matters related to GM crops.

We believe that our Chief Minister will stand on the side of the people of the state and formally write to the central govt to scrap BRAI said Natasha Upadhyay, a student of Jadavpur University and a member of the youth team who met the CM at her residence on Monday.

The youths also carried banners which said ‘Didi mein hein dum karein BRAI khatam’.

The state governments of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have already written to the Central government for the withdrawal of the BRAI bill in its current form given its inadequacies and demanded consultations with all stakeholders before any such proposals are formulated.

The Bill has been widely criticized for its undemocratic nature and promotional approach it has towards GM crops instead of taking a precautionary one.

A legal assessment of the report released by environmental organization Greenpeace last month highlighted the fundamental flaws in BRAI Bill as its provisions do not conform with several principles which form the core of Indian and international environmental jurisprudence like absolute liability for hazardous and dangerous activities, polluter pays principle, precautionary principle, onus of proof on those who want to change the status quo, effective public participation in environmental decision making and access to biosafety information.

BRAI bill is nothing but an effort by the Central govt to circumvent the massive opposition that GM crops are facing in our country from all section of the society and also from state governments said Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

He said: It is a pity that instead of focusing on promoting socially and ecologically sustainable farming our union government is gambling with the food safety and food security through such risky technologies like GM crops.(IBNS)

Agri survey bats for pvt participation

The first agriculture survey, tabled in Parliament on Monday, called for more private participation to boost farm sector investments, rather than heavy doses of subsidies.

“There is always a trade-off between allocating money through subsidies or by increasing investments. The investment option is much better than subsidies for sustaining long-term growth in agricultural production and also to reduce poverty faster,” said the survey, State of Indian Agriculture 2011-2012. It was tabled by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

“The private sector responds much better and faster to incentive structures in farming because of which almost 80 per cent of the total investment in agriculture comes from the private sector,” it noted. The survey also called for improving marketing infrastructure in eastern India in view of surplus production in several states. “For areas where the private sector has not shown much interest, the role of public research system would continue to be critical,” the report said.


The government’s report card on the farm sector, which will be an annual affair henceforth, noted the need for major reforms in marketing and investment, along with new technologies, to improve the share of agriculture in the country’s GDP. It has halved to around 15 per cent in the last two decades. “Achieving an 8-9 per cent rate of growth in overall gross domestic produce (GDP) may not deliver much in terms of poverty reduction unless agricultural growth accelerates,” the survey noted.

Agriculture has to be kept at the centre of any reform agenda or planning process to alleviate poverty and malnutrition, and to ensure food security, the report said. Stating that price rise has become a major concern, it said the solution lies in increasing productivity, production and in decreasing market imperfections.

“In India, the recent food inflation is largely due to inadequate supply response to demand increase, aggravated by logistic and market related constrains. Inflation affects the poor disproportionately and adversely impacts achievement of removal of poverty.”

The pre-Budget document also called for introduction of VAT on farm produce in place of varied state taxes, besides stressing on creation of vibrant land lease and credit market.

The report projected that the average farm growth in the XII Five-Year Plan (2007-2012) is expected to be higher at 3.4 per cent per against a target of 4 per cent. In the X Five-Year Plan (2002-2007), agricultural growth stood at 2.4 per cent.

Manmohan blaming NGOs for Bt brinjal moratorium criticised

Special Correspondent

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The Hindu

The Coalition for a GM-Free India has expressed “outrage” at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that foreign-funded NGOs were the reason for the moratorium on Bt brinjal.

“It is a clear attempt to undermine and disrespect the exercise of democratic rights by the citizens of this country regarding critical issues that concern one and all,” Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convenor of the coalition has said.

In a statement, Mr. Radhakrishnan said the issue was not one of NGOs or foreign funding; that was merely a ruse that the Prime Minister had seized upon to cover his and his government’s unwillingness to listen to the people.

The more troubling aspect of Dr. Singh’s stand was that he seemed to have made up his mind on pushing agricultural biotechnology and ignoring the genuine scientific concerns, with or without the consent of the people.

In the recent past, the same approach was apparent in the issues involving the Jaitapur and Kudankulam nuclear plants and FDI in retail.

In all these cases, transnational corporations, with enormous clout, stood to make tremendous profits, he said.

The Bt brinjal moratorium decision was taken by the then Minister for Environment and Forests, who clearly detailed the rationale to the nation, Mr. Radhakrishnan said.

According to him it was a deep irony that Dr. Singh was resurrecting the “foreign hand” ruse from the 1970s and the Emergency era – while being at the forefront of inviting foreign investment and allowing the U.S government and multinational companies to push policy changes.