Tea companies commit to Non-Pesticide Management in tea; Unilever and Girnar lead the way

After 50 hours volunteers climb down the billboards

August 13th, 2014, Mumbai: In an encouraging turn of events, two of the leading tea companies have come forward in support of Non-Pesticide Management (NPM) in tea. Earlier this week, Greenpeace India released its report “Trouble Brewing”1 highlighting pesticide residue in tea samples. Since then, companies have been coming forward to engage with us. In response, Unilever2 and now Girnar Tea3 have both committed to support the NPM approach, which could lead to phasing out pesticides in tea cultivation. Pilot studies will be the first concrete step in this direction.

“It is very encouraging that the tea companies are taking steps to provide their consumers pesticide-free tea. Unilever and now Girnar Tea have taken the first step in this direction. Greenpeace will continue to urge the tea industry to move towards a holistic, ecosystem-based approach that will gradually phase out pesticides and clean our chai,” said Neha Saigal, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

To highlight the urgency of the issue, volunteers had climbed up seven billboards at the Bandra Reclamation Road urging the tea companies to “Clean Chai Now”. After spending 50 hours on these billboards, the volunteers today climbed down acknowledging the progress shown by tea companies.

“We are happy that our efforts are paying off and companies are coming forward to engage with us in a positive way. We look forward to a day when all our tea is free from pesticides,” said Bindu Vaz, one of the volunteers.

Notes to the editor:

1) http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Greenpeace-calls-on-the-industry-to-save-Indian-tea-from-pesticides/

2)http://www.unilever.nl/nieuwsenmedia/persberichten/2014/UnileverstartonderzoekinIndianaarmogelijkheidtheetetelenzonderpesticiden.aspx

3) https://twitter.com/TeasAtGirnar

For more information: http://grnpc.org/cleanchai

Follow us on twitter: @GreenpeaceIndia

Contacts:

Shashwat Raj: Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +91 9971110144sraj@greenpeace.org

Neha Saigal: Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +917760968772nsaigal@greenpeace.org

ASHA statement on IB’s report on ‘Impact of NGOs on Development’

IB’S REPORT ON “IMPACT OF NGOs ON DEVELOPMENT” (dated June 3rd 2014) and THE GMO-FREE MOVEMENT IN INDIA: Statement from ASHA

 An Intelligence Bureau report dated June 3rd 2014 that is seen by many to have been deliberately leaked to select media houses, is creating a public sentiment in India at this point of time on civil society movements coming in the way of India’s economic development. The said report summarily concludes that the negative impact on GDP growth [from “concerted efforts by select foreign funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects” which is the subject of the 21-page report] is assessed to be 2-3% p.a.

This is a note from ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) on this IB report, as the said IB report makes a mention of Kavitha Kuruganti (one of the Convenors of ASHA) as an individual activist and about ASHA and IFSF (India For Safe Food, a campaign for pesticide-free/GMO-free farming and food systems) as two of the NGOs listed under its anti-GMF section (Section 3 – Anti Genetically Modified Organisms activism).

About ASHA:

ASHA is an alliance/coalition of hundreds of organizations and individuals, including numerous farmers groups, from more than 20 states of India and works on promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable farm livelihoods. It refers to its work as that of protecting our Food, Farmers and Freedom (seed and food sovereignty (please visit www.kisanswaraj.in for more information).

From the dialogues that emerged during the Kisan Swaraj Yatra undertaken by more than 220 individuals and nearly 400 organisations in 2010 when ASHA was created and subsequent work, ASHA articulates a 4-pillared Kisan Swaraj Neeti and calls on governments to adopt the same. This policy articulation provides a framework for a forward-looking agricultural policy approach for India. The four pillars of Kisan Swaraj are (1) income security for farm households; (2) ecological sustainability of agriculture; (3) people’s control over agricultural resources like land, water and seed; and (4) access to safe, healthy, nutritious and sufficient food for all.

The work of ASHA is centred around (1) setting up ecological farming alternatives, (2) ensuring seed diversity revival and secure seed self reliance, (3) highlighting any negative unsustainable approaches in farming – for eg., the UPA government’s BGREI (Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India) programme based on corporatisation of seed resources, chemicalisation of eastern Indian agriculture, water use intensification etc., (4) seeking minimum living incomes for farm households to enable them to continue a dignified life in agriculture, (5) understanding and advocating a different dispensation to adivasi agriculture and food security, and (6) campaigning against hazardous agri-chemicals including pesticides and fertilizers through the India For Safe Food platform (7) creating an informed debate on risky technologies in agriculture like GM crops, especially centered around the issues of biosafety and seed sovereignty.

ASHA’s stance on GMOs in our environment, and its work on creating an informed public debate on the matter comes out of its understanding that transgenics are unsustainable and incompatible with agro-ecological, organic farming, apart from being potentially detrimental to consumer health and conservation of biodiversity as one of the bedrocks of economic and ecological sustainability. Experiences across the world and in India have shown that GM crops also facilitate the control of our seeds into the monopolistic hands of a few multinational seed corporations, which is not just a threat to livelihoods of our farmers but our nation’s sovereignty itself. It is an established fact that one US company Monsanto now controls more than 95% of the cotton seed market in our country through its proprietary Bt cotton. In fact, even the Planning Commission in the 12th Five Year Plan document points this out as a worrisome scenario.

ASHA is a coalition and associated organizations and individuals raise their own respective resources, foreign or Indian, for the cause of sustainable farm livelihoods and safe food.  Some organizations indeed receive foreign funds for setting up ecological farming alternatives, for agro-diversity conservation, for creating awareness on GMOs, for taking up relevant research etc. These organizations and individuals comply with prevalent laws. Greenpeace India, Navdanya, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, INSAF and Gene Campaign are only a few of the hundreds of organizations and lakhs of Indians who subscribe to healthy GM-free food and farming. This is neither an anti-national or anti-development agenda except perhaps in the eyes of corporations and those who are unaware that GM in agriculture is a technology rejected by most countries around the world.

ASHA’s contribution or the contribution of organizations and individuals associated with ASHA towards building sustainable rural livelihoods and to reduce agrarian distress is a constructive and transparent agenda on record, on its website and in the public domain.

The (non-) accusations of the IB report:

On Page 9 of this secret IB report called “Impact of NGOs on Development”, the accusations against the GM Free India activists are that they received “free-funding” (this is a new coinage by India’s Intelligence officials). It accuses ASHA and its IFSF campaign to be headquartered in one address in Katwaria Sarai in New Delhi, along with 4 other NGOs. Yes, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture is headquartered there from where INSAF operates, and yes we run a campaign against pesticides called India For Safe Food. It is not clear however what is illegal or objectionable to this, to have several outfits share a space within their meager resources.

The IB report also makes a mention of INSAF’s FCRA registration being frozen in 2013 but does not reveal that the Delhi High Court, after hearing INSAF’s petition against this action, has subsequently ordered a de-freezing of the account on procedural grounds, allowing INSAF to function with its resources, foreign or otherwise.

Page 10 continues its accusations against ASHA thus: “the above NGOs were active facilitators of news articles, liaison with other activists and social media activism, which contributed to the three-year-old moratorium on Bt brinjal and the ban/moratorium regimes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court (October 7, 2012).

Indeed, ASHA does bring information and news with regard to GMOs into the public domain, so that an informed debate is created on the subject. And yes, liaisoning with other activists and using social media are part of what we do. This is part of spreading awareness on a technology which ASHA has sound evidence to believe is not in the interest of farmers, consumers, environment, national seed or food sovereignty – it is unclear once again what is illegal or objectionable about this.

It appears that the IB has nothing to note or object to, about foreign MNCs like American seed giant Monsanto spending their vast resources to take up their aggressive PR work, including advertisements that have been found to be baseless and the corporation pulled up for the same, inserting “paid news” in leading national dailies and taking journalists on junket trips including to the USA. These are incidentally corporations that have been convicted of various crimes and offences.

The informed public debate contributing to the Government of India putting a moratorium by ‘being responsive to society and responsible to science’ is something to be welcomed. However, to believe that the Government of India which placed a moratorium on Bt brinjal, and various institutions and panels like the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (which included UPA members as well as NDA members in its unanimous report) or the SC’s TEC can be influenced only by our ‘facilitation of news articles, liaisoning with other activists and social media activism’ is a serious insult to these credible and democratic bodies. Is the IB employed by the Government of India accusing its Ministers and elected Parliamentarians of being incapable in their work?

Like stated earlier, foreign corporations, foreign funded industry bodies, foreign funded public sector bodies are also ‘facilitating news articles, liaisoning with each other other and active on social media’. When the PSC and the TEC have given their independent analysis and recommendations on the subject, it would be an insult to credible individuals, experts and people’s representatives to claim that they have been swayed by activism alone and not by the substantive scientific and socio-economic evidence on the negative impact of GMOs across the world. Such evidence was provided by leading biotech and agricultural experts, amongst others, who debunked the claims made by biotechnology corporations and fully foreign-funded NGOs and industry associations that promote GM in Indian agriculture.

On Page 11, the IB report accuses INSAF of transferring FCRA NGO funds to non-FCRA NGOs, and that there are individual recipients of such funds too. But as mentioned earlier, it is this accusation with which MHA froze INSAF’s FCRA account. However, the Delhi High Court ordered the de-freezing of INSAF’s account subsequently. And if individuals have received some funding, there is nothing illegal about it.

Para 11 further accuses that “pro-GM researchers, biotech companies and other field enquiries have not been able to verify any such deaths, raising questions on the credibility and integrity of reports generated by these activists”, citing the case of sheep and cattle dying after ingesting Bt cotton leaves in Warangal district.

 

It is laughable that the IB expects pro-GM researchers and biotech companies to verify such deaths and bring to light the facts. There have indeed been field enquiries including by government departments in AP which have supported the NGO reportage. Further, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture points out to a scientific study which reinforces the NGO findings. NGOs do a national service when they flag such problems for investigation in the interest of sustainable development, and it is not for the IB to decide what is appropriate ‘development’.

In fact, what the IB overlooked is the tremendous contribution that civil society organizations/NGOs working in the field of sustainable agriculture have made in helping our farm communities come out of the input-intensive corporate-controlled paradigm of agriculture which catapulted them into the current agrarian distress, into one that is an ecologically-sustainable, economically-viable and socially-just paradigm. One of the many examples of that is the Non Pesticide Management (NPM) Programme in Andhra Pradesh which has spread to more than 30 lakh acres in the state over the last 9 years and which is now being promoted by other states like Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc. This has not only helped farmers get out of the debt and suicide cycles but also is ensuring poison food for our citizens.

All of this brings us to a question on how intelligent is this IB report, actually.

How intelligent is the IB report?

This is important to debate since the government is expected to take cognizance of such reports.

The IB report appears to be shoddy with no actual content to project.

This is a report that has unnecessarily stamped itself “Secret” for no good reason, since the organizations and activists named in the report (and ones not named) have not garnered and mobilized so much support by disguising their intent: they have expressly shown their commitment to social and environmental justice, and citizens of the country have responded. In fact, it is citizens’ own causes that have been picked up by many activists to ensure that marginalised voices are heard in a democracy. Similarly, the plans of these organizations are in the open, and the IB report just picks some bits and pieces here and there, and makes it look sinister.

Its plagiarized portions or unconnected, illogical arguments or even absence of any sound accusations are apparent. In the anti-GMO section too, it shows itself for very poor research and analysis. The IB’s lack of knowledge and information of current scientific research across the world that has led to many bans and restrictions, including recently by China in the case of its army rations, is visible in this report.

The IB cannot be expected to understand the scientific issues here. Just as it cannot be expected to arrive in any rigorous fashion at its conclusions related to how much GDP growth got affected by the NGOs it named. As media articles indicate, even the most liberal pro-market analysts are scoffing at the IB’s ability to assess such impacts and are asserting that NGOs can do very little economic damage. The Intelligence Bureau of India has no business coming up with such a report when the best of econometric analysis cannot make such definitive cause and effect correlations related to GDP growth rate. More importantly, the IB cannot be expected to arrive at conclusions about what is good development.

The report also has factual errors. There is no Karuna Raina who is an anti-GM campaigner, for instance. Kavitha Kuruganti did not join this campaign from 2010 onwards, as another example. Activists named have not received increasing support and resources from Greenpeace International in the last four years as stated in the report, as yet another instance.

When the IB prepares such reports, what is also of importance is to check the magnitude of such funds and be able to assess whether a few lakh rupees of foreign funds, countered by crores of foreign corporations’ PR funds, would have indeed created the impact of the kind that the IB makes a bogey of as the impact on India’s development and whether it believes that all legitimate concerns should be muzzled in a democracy. Some analysts have already done so in popular media articles from the time the debate has been created on the subject a few days ago, and the IB analysis has indeed become a laughing stock there.

Just one glance at the report is enough to note the extremely shoddy way in which certain pre-decided narrative was laid out, without any basis or logic. It is shocking that India’s government is expected to act on such poor quality “intelligence”.

Foreign Hand/Funding:

The foreign hand bogey is not new. It is well known that this was used by the Indira Gandhi regime and that the Manmohan Singh government used it too, as an intimidation tactic and as a tactic to dilute public support on particular issues. It is apparent that this IB report was prepared for the UPA government and was for some mysterious reasons shoddily put together now and presented to the current government.

However, this argument around foreign funding ignores the fact that it is not just NGOs, foreign funded or otherwise, which are creating public debates on particular issues. Governments themselves are foreign-funded. Government policies are being directed or influenced heavily by foreign agencies including by large charitable foundations that promote the larger agendas of their governments and corporations in their countries.

What about the fact that political parties have been found to have violated FCRA rules by receiving funds from foreign corporations (High Court of Delhi WP ©131/2013, with judgement delivered on March 28th 2014?)? How is it that the IB does not find any relevance to this fact in its analysis?

In the GMO debate in India, more foreign funds are being spent by foreign MNCs than any NGO. It is reported that just one American biotech major has recruited the services of at least eight PR agencies in Delhi alone for its pro-GM work. If this is about foreign forces influencing domestic decisions in India, why is it that the IB does not think that it is objectionable that biotech industry led by these foreign MNCs is into heavy lobbying, PR and influencing? Incidentally the whole project through which Bt Brinjal was created under a project called Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme (ABSP II) is initiated by foreign agencies like USAID and Cornell University with active funding from Multinational corporations like Monsanto.

It appears that the mandate given to the IB, probably by the UPA government, does not include any investigation into these aspects.

As ASHA, our loyalty is towards Indians, both farmers and consumers. Our commitment is to India’s interests and India’s sustainable development. However, can this be said of various foreign agencies that seem to wield a lot of clout in this country, with their accountability to their shareholders and their allegiance to their (super) profits alone? Their loyalty is not to India and its people – it is to their own ‘development’ agenda supported by the agendas of the developed world they are based in.

We also want to point out that in India’s independence struggle also, the Father of the Nation Gandhi ji, has received foreign funding. In nation-building, foreign funding has played a part and will continue to do so and this cannot be used as a bogey to silence genuine debates on matters of national interest by Indian citizens. The question that needs to be asked and answered is whether such initiatives lead to keeping our country the sovereign, socialist, secular republic that our Constitution envisages.

Muzzling of Debate and Dissent:

What is objectionable is that the IB report is not just about foreign-funded NGOs. It is about quelling of dissent and opposition, including of groups which are not NGOs, or funded or foreign-funded; this is apparent from some of the details included in the Report of some non-funded outfits.

 

This IB report pre-supposes that we as a nation have decided on a particular development paradigm and GDP growth as the sole agenda, even to the extent of riding roughshod over issues of social, economic and environmental justice, democracy, plurality and sustainability. It is by debate that a nation arrives at its own collective wisdom on such issues and stifling such peaceful and democratic debate is short sighted at best.

 

It is not clear if the IB is saying that evidence and experience that the activism brings to the fore (including of violations of Indian laws, and denial of constitutional rights) should be ignored or worse, stamped out? Is the IB saying that studies cannot be commissioned to research on particular potential impacts, and that public awareness cannot be created?

It should be remembered that most innovations that the nation benefited from in the field of development, came from dissenting NGOs which sought alternatives in various sectors, going against status quo. This is in the field of post-modern agriculture, natural resource conservation management, renewable energy, sanitation, food security etc., in addition to the social themes like human rights, decentralized, accountable and transparent governance etc.

There are a number of movements created and led by local people to protect their lives and livelihoods. As a nation, we need to respect their views, voices and resistance, and their struggle to uphold their own dignity and way of life.

 

Social, economic and environmental justice are at the core of the debates that the IB so facetiously chose to do some sensationalism around. It cannot be a crime to raise issues of environmental and social justice, no matter where the funds come from. If India is not for economic, environmental and social justice, then it is indeed a matter of concern. As a nation, we must encourage debate and allow dissent, to preserve our democracy.

The Movement to keep our farms, food and environment free from GMOs will continue, since the technology does have potential adverse impacts, is based on unproven claims of benefits, and because it is unneeded:

For the Intelligence Bureau’s information, we would like to state once again that transgenic technology in our food and farming systems and in our environment does have adverse impacts, which have been scientifically documented. This has been presented to the Indian government and public by groups like ASHA time and again in the national interest. This has also been brought to the fore by various experts and scientists. It is also apparent that real, lasting solutions lie in agro-ecological approaches to farming and GMOs contaminate and irreversibly destroy the freedom to choose for both farmers and consumers.

The GM-Free India movement cannot be bracketed conveniently into “five activists and six FCRA NGOs who are foreign funded”. The current Home Minister to whom the IB report has been presented has indeed expressed his reservations about GMOs in the past in written statements supporting protest movements. There are hundreds of scientists including current and retired experts from the NARS and public sector scientific establishment who have been expressing their reservation on GMOs and advocating a precautionary approach. There are Ministers in the present and earlier government who have voiced their views and even recorded their decisions against GMOs. There are major farmer unions (including ones who are affiliated to the ruling dispensation) who are against GMOs including for reasons related to seed sovereignty and farmers’ rights. There are several retired Supreme Court judges who have expressed their concern about the right of choice which is destroyed for farmers and consumers once GM is adopted. The movement also has seen spiritual and cultural leaders coming out against such GMOs pointing to the socio-cultural as well as ethical dimensions of the debate.  Last but not the least, there are state governments who are saying NO to environmental releases of GMOs.

In fact, the BJP Manifesto itself in 2009 stated the following about GMOs: “No genetically modified seed will be allowed for cultivation without full scientific data on long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers. All food and food products produced with genetically modified seeds will be branded as ‘GM Food.’ The promise has been repeated by BJP in its 2014 election manifesto again.

It is therefore highly specious that the IB presents a picture of foreign-funded NGOs behind the active efforts to keep our country GM Free.

The GMO debate should and will continue in India, with or without foreign funds and Indian funds. Hasty decisions, citing economic growth arguments without clear evidence of safety and sustainable development, will indeed be resisted by people. The activists and NGOs named in the report will not be intimidated in their efforts to create an informed debate on the subject, keeping the best interests of our farmers, consumers and environment in mind. ASHA is committed to presenting sound evidence and experience on not only GMOS but on sustainable alternatives which create a win-win situation for everyone.

We urge the new government not to follow the practices of the previous government to use the Intelligence Bureau as a tool for promoting interests of large corporations, including foreign corporations. It appears that agents of such vested interests are playing an influential role in the offices of our policy-makers as well as the Intelligence agencies. We hope that the government will shield itself from such influences.

Meanwhile, ASHA urges the Government of India to pro-actively implement pro-people, pro-Nature policies and programmes, and fulfill the many positive commitments made to the people of this country in the BJP manifesto. We attach herewith our earlier letter to Shri Narendra Modi on the subject (http://www.kisanswaraj.in/2014/05/29/asha-letter-to-pm-narendra-modi-fulfilling-the-bjp-promise-of-according-highest-priority-to-agricultural-growth-increase-in-farmers%E2%80%99-income-and-rural-development/).

For more information, contact Kavitha Kuruganti at 09393001550; kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

 

Highlights growing scientific evidence on adverse impacts of GM crops

Highlights growing scientific evidence on adverse impacts of GM crops

 New Delhi, 21st November, 2013: At a time when the debate around Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the country is heating up, hundreds of Indian scientists have written to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, asking him to ensure that Government of India heeds to the voice of science and accepts the recommendations in the final report of the independent scientists in the Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee. They also urged for the stopping of all open air releases of GMOs in the country, as recommended by the majority TEC report. The letter initiated by five leading scientists from the fields of Molecular Biology, Agriculture Science, Immunology, Ecology and Science Policy Studies was released to the media at a press conference here by Dr Tushar Chakraborty and Prof Dinesh Abrol who are amongst the initiators. The letter has been endorsed by more than 250 scientists from various fields of expertise including 11 former and present Vice Chancellors of Universities across the country as well as 3 Padma awardees. The letter comes at a time when the Supreme Court is scheduled to have a crucial hearing in the coming week, to take a view on the recommendations of a Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up in a PIL related to environmental release of GMOs in India. Five independent members of the TEC, who are eminent scientists in the fields of Molecular Biology, Biodiversity, Nutrition Science, Toxicology, Sustainability Science etc., and therefore, highly qualified in commenting on the safety aspects related to GMOs, in their Final report to the Court had strongly reccomended against any open release of GM crops, including field trials, until ‘major gaps in the regulatory system’ are addressed. Speaking at the press conference, Dr Tushar Chakraborty, Head of the Gene Control Laboratory, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology and Member, State Biotechnology Council of West Bengal, pointed out that “there is an undue haste in getting GMOs released into the environment while the science behind its development is still controversial and evolving”. He further bemoaned the fact that “while there is a growing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops to human health and biodiveristy, there is hardly any effort from the Indian government or public sector research institutions to take up rigorous, independent safety assessment. We are instead in a dangerous and unneeded rat race of developing more GM crops and push them out into the environment without even understanding their longterm as well as cumulative impacts” The GM debate in the Indian scientific circles has seen a polarisation due to the contradicting views between the final report submitted to the Court by the 5 independent members in the TEC and a separate report by the sixth member inducted into the Committee on the insistence of the Agriculture Ministry, Dr R.S Paroda. Dr Paroda was brought into the TEC by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and other GM advocates after an interim report of the TEC recommended strongly against any open releases of GM crops until flaws in the regulatory system are corrected. There has been strong condemnation of the fact that somebody like Dr Paroda, who has an explicit conflict interest of being an advisor to Monsanto, the world’s largest biotech seed giant and of leading organisations which are funded by companes like Mahyco, the Indian collaborator of Monsanto, was made a member of the TEC, when the Supreme Court in this very case has time and again issued orders that upheld the importance of independent expertise driving decision making in this matter. “The history of GM crops, not just in India but across the world, has been laden with such conflicts of interest and corporate control of agriculture research” said Prof Dinesh Abrol, a science policy studies expert, and a visiting professor to Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

 The speakers pointed out to studies that show that scientists with relationship with industry are more significantly associated with data withholding than others, in genetics and other life sciences. Research also shows that existence of financial and professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light. Another study which looked at risk assessment studies found that such research is still limited, especially in particular crops; this study found an equilibrium in the number of research groups suggesting on the basis of their studies that a number of varieties of GM products to be as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns. It also noted that most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible for commercializing these GM plants. “All of this illustrates the lack of independent scientific research to the extent needed, in addition to lack of scientific consensus. Without addressing these issues, there is no urgent need to rush into GM crop open air releases”, Prof Abrol said.

The press conference also saw the release of the 2nd edition of the compilation of scientific references and abstracts of more than 400 peer reviewed papers on various adverse impacts of GM crops/foods published across the world2. The compilation also has brief commentarieswritten by eminent leading scientists like Dr M. S Swaminathan, Dr Pushpa Bhargava and Prof Madhav Gadgil, considered as doyens of agriculture science, molecular biology and ecology respectively, in India. Releasing the compilation, Kavitha Kuruganti, Coalition for a GM-Free India, stated that “There is no dearth of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GMOs in our food, farming and environment; what is needed is the eyes to see it, the wisdom to understand it and the conscience to accept it”. She further stated that “GM crops are one of the biggest scientific frauds that Biotech seed Industry, ably supported by some of our unscrupulous policy makers and public sector scientists, are pulling off on our country”.

 In another development on the biosafety research front, researchers from the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow, have confirmed the carcinogenic potential of Roundup herbicide using human skin cells exposed to extremely low concentrations of the world’slargest selling herbicide, used along with GM herbicide tolerant crops3. The study gains a lot of significance at a time when there are efforts from the Biotech Industry to release Herbicide Tolerant (HT) GM crops that will substantially increase the usage of herbicides like Roundup. The Final TEC report by the five independent members had strongly recommended against the release of any HT GM crops in India due to various such concerns.

The speakers urged the Prime Minister to be responsive to science and responsible to society when deciding on such risky technologies like GM crops which pose a threat to human health, biodiversity and farm livelihoods. They demanded that the Government of India stay clear of any vested interests and accept the recommendations of the TEC Final report as it is based on sound science, principles of sustainability and intergenerational justice. This, they said, would help in ensuring the speedy delivery of justice in the PIL on the issue of GM crops . Notes to the editor:

  1. The letter from Indian scientists to the Prime Minister on the issue of GM crops and their regualtion can be accessed athttp://indiagminfo.org/?p=654
  2. The 2nd edition of the compilation of scientific references and abstracts on various adverse impacts of GM crops/foods is available at http://indiagminfo.org/?p=657
  3. The study from Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow, can be accessed at http://www.hindawi.com/isrn/dermatology/2013/825180/

Contacts: Dr Tushar Chakraborty, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology and member, State Biotechnology Council of West Bengal, Mob: 09831746294 , email: chakraborty.tushar@gmail.com Prof Dinesh Abrol, Institute of Studies in Industrial Development, New delhi, Mob: 09868242691,email: dinesh.abrol@gmail.com Kavitha Kuruganti, Coalition for a GM Free India, Mob: 09393001550              email: kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com Rajesh Krishnan, Co Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India, Mob: 09845650032 email: rajeshecologist@gmail.com  

Huge Assembly of Citizens Demand that GMOs and Monsanto Quit India, and BRAI Bill be Withdrawn: PM Manmohan Singh gifted with a “non-Monsanto” Indian flag

Press Release of Coalition for a GM-Free India

Huge Assembly of Citizens Demand that GMOs and Monsanto Quit India, and

BRAI Bill be Withdrawn:

PM Manmohan Singh gifted with a “non-Monsanto” Indian flag

New Delhi, August 8, 2013: Thousands of citizens from 20 states of India came together at Jantar Mantar today for a day-long sit-in and marched towards the Parliament to demand that GMOs and Monsanto should Quit India and also demand in unequivocal terms that the government withdraw the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013. An Indian flag made out of organic fabric, which does not have Monsanto’s cotton seed used in its production was the centre of focus of this event; this flag was gifted by the congregation to the Prime Minister of India, urging him to unfurl this non-Monsanto, non-Bt cotton flag this year on August 15th.

The participant groups proudly waved the non-BT cotton Indian flags and Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convenor of Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “It is a shame that cotton and khadi, the symbols of our fight for independence, are today controlled by an American MNC due to our indifference and inaction. 93% of Indian cotton seed has the proprietary technology of Monsanto. On this Independence Day we will hoist non-Bt organic cotton national flags in all the 20 states from where people have joined this dharna; this is a symbolic beginning to regaining our seed sovereignty. We also request the Prime Minister to hoist this flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort this year.”

Addressing the gathering which also included farmers from all across the country, Saroj Mohanty of Paschim Odisha Krushak Samanvay Samiti said “On the eve of the 71st anniversary of the Quit India Day, we have come together from all over the country as GM technology and companies like Monsanto are threatening our seed sovereignty and livelihoods. He further opined that “Back then, it was the East India Company and now we have “Eat India Companies”! We demand that these companies quit India and strongly urge the Government of India to withdraw the BRAI Bill which has been brought in to facilitate the entry of GM crops, and stop the promotion of flawed and dangerous technologies like GMOs”.

The protest at Parliament Street comes at a time when the Union government has introduced the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013 in Parliament in the last (budget) session. This Bill has been facing strong opposition inside and outside the parliament as it would facilitate the fast track entry of GMOs into our agriculture and environment. The Bill proposes to set up a centralised single window clearance system which is designed to lower the bar for GM crop approvals with no independent long-term safety assessments or need assessment of a particular GM product. Besides this, it takes away the decision-making power of state governments on open field trials in their respective states. The Bill has also faced flak from Right To Information (RTI) groups as it proposes to override the RTI Act. The Bill is now under review of the Parliamentary Standing committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forest.

Pointing to the increasing evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) said “The latest among the growing scientific  reports which have detailed the problems with environmental release of GMOs is the final report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of Supreme Court (in the PIL on GMOs). The TEC has clearly stated that open air field trials of GM crops have to be stopped and effort to introduce Bt in food crops is not advisable. In addition the TEC has also said that herbicide tolerant (HT) GM crops, many of which are in the regulatory pipeline, are not suitable for India. Last year the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture emphasised that protection of biosafety is of paramount importance. PSC had asked for the creation of a comprehensive biosafety protection authority instead of the current BRAI. Why is the government ignoring these highly credible reports and promoting GMOs and pushing the flawed BRAI Bill?”

Rajesh Krishnan, Co-Convenor of the Coalition said, “At this critical juncture in Indian agriculture, clearing the BRAI Bill to ensure speedy clearance for GMOs would be detrimental to the interests of our citizens. Indian cotton farmers have already experienced the devastating consequences of the takeover of their seeds and fields by Monsanto through its proprietary  Bt cotton. We can’t surrender our food and farming to the onslaught of GMOs and multinational seed companies like Monsanto. Seed is a matter of sovereignty and this is our struggle to ensure that others don’t take control over our seed and food”.

Making a strong case for Multinational Seed corporations to quit India Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Thanal said, “Monsanto has voluntarily withdrawn its transgenic product applications in Europe recently, citing public rejection there; we are here to show Monsanto and such corporations that Indian citizens too do not want or need their products. It is time they withdrew from here”.

The gathering urged farmers in the country to follow the path of agro-ecological farming with due recognition for women farmers and in consonance with nature.

The assembly also demanded that the government stop promoting GMOs and invest urgently in sustainable agricultural solutions to ensure food and livelihood security. “Public sector agricultural R&D system should be made both responsive to the real needs of small farmers and responsible to the people”.

They urged the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, reviewing the BRAI Bill to recommend to the government that it withdraw the Bill.

They also demanded that all the political parties should pay heed to the democratic voices that are opposing GMOs in our food and farming and declare their commitment to ecological farming, and take a firm stand against GMOs in our food, farming and environment. “It is time that all political parties told the nation whether they stand on the side of sustainable agricultural development based on farmer-controlled, safe, affordable, agro-ecological approaches, or not”.

The gathering saw senior leaders from various political parties including Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Janata Dal (United), Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, Telugu Desam Party, DMK etc address the gathering and pledge support on this people’s struggle to keep their food and farming  free from GM crops, and multinational seed corporations and promised to oppose the BRAI Bill in the Parliament (1).

Farmer leaders from various states and other social movements like the Right to food campaign, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan, National Federation of Indian Women, Greenpeace India etc also addressed the gathering.

The colourful and vibrant events of the day while showcasing the diversity of the country also highlighted this common struggle for food, farming and freedom.The farmers from Gujarat performed a rousing play, while students of Delhi, through street theatre and voluntary work for the event showed that the youth of India reject transgenics; youth from Kerala sang songs about ecological farming for sustainability of farming and food security. Many groups like Desi seed savers’ groups of Karnataka, Beej Bachao Andolan and Vrihi displayed the rich wealth of seed diversity in India, showcasing the splendour of natural wealth that would die or be contaminated if gates are opened for GMOs.

Notes to the Editor

1. Attached are the quotes from senior political leaders who addressed the gathering.

For more information contact:

Rajesh Krishnan: 09845650032, rajeshecologist@gmail.com

Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550, kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com  

Pankaj Bhushan: 09472999999, mail.tarafoundation@gmail.com

 

POLITICAL PARTY PEOPLE WHO LENT SUPPORT TO THE CAUSE, AND WHO SAID WHAT:

 

 

 

A delegation met with Ms Sushma Swaraj, Opposition Leader in Lok Sabha and presented her with a non-Monsanto Indian flag . She assured the delegation that she expressed her solidarity with the cause. She also said that she supports the cause of ecological farming.

 

2 BJP MPs also joined the dharna on Parliament Street. This includes the Party General Secretary, Mr Dharmendar Pradhan (who is a RS member and also a part of Agriculture Standing Committee) and senior leader Dr Murali Manohar Joshi.

 

5 DMK MPs, including Mr TKS Ilangovan, Mr Selvaganapathi, KP Ramalingam, AKS Vijayan and A Thangavelu expressed their demand that the BRAI Bill be withdrawn and a Biosafety Protection Bill be tabled. MDMK’s Ganesha Murthi said that his party supports all such causes that are in the interest of farmers.

 

From CPI (M), Mr Basudeb Acharia explained how the Standing Committee on Agriculture had studied the issue of GM crops and BRAI Bill in depth and found it so flawed that it recommended that BRAI Bill never be tabled in the Parliament. Mr M B Rajesh, LS member of the same party said that their party extends full support to the main demand of this one-day protest.

 

From CPI, Mr Raja challenged the Congress party to ask Monsanto to Quit India, if they respect Gandhi at all.

 

Three MPs from JD (U) expressed their opposition to GMOs and BRAI Bill. This included Mr Shivanand Tiwari, Mr Kaushalendra Kumar and Mr Anil Sahni. Ms Putul Kumari, an independent MP from Bihar exhorted women farmers to take charge of seed once again, in Indian agriculture. 

 

From Congress Party also, two parliamentarians joined the assembly and appreciated the fact that citizens are concerned about seed and food sovereignty issues. This included Mr Hussain Dalwayi and Mr Bhakta Charan Das.

 

BJD’s Mr Rabi Narayan Mohapatra who could not make it to the event extended his support through a letter of solidarity.

 

All major farmer unions were part of the protest – this includes Congress Kisan Cell, BJP Kisan Morcha, Bhartiya Kisan Union, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh. All India Agragamee Kisan Sabha, Kisan Seva Samithi of Rajasthan, Kerala Jaiva Krushak Samithi, Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers’ Federation, Organic Farming Association of India etc.

 

All political party representatives were presented with a non-Monsanto (seed that is not from Monsanto) Indian national flag, which is also organic.

 

 memorandum prime minister final

political parties memorandum

 

 

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

RIGHT TO FOOD CAMPAIGN REJECTS THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY BILL CLEARED BY THE CABINET

 
THE CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE PROTESTING FOR A COMPREHENSIVE FOOD SECURITY LAW
 
THIS IS A MERE SOP, A FOOD INSECURITY LAW AND NOT A FOOD SECURITY LAW

 

Jantar Mantar, New Delhi
19th March, 2013

More than 500 people of the Right to Food Campaign sitting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi rejected the National Food Security Bill 2013 which was passed by the cabinet of the UPA Government today evening and will now be placed in the Parliament in this session.

NO TIME FRAME FOR IMPLEMENTATION

People were shocked to learn that according to the Bill that was passed, the law will not be applied in one stroke. The language of the law is that different dates may be appointed for different states and different provisions for the implementation of the Act.  This clearly means that there is no time frame for full implementation or objective criteria for phased implementation. It means the government in power has the choice to decide which state and what provisions need to be implemented. We condemn this as being against the fundamental rights of the people and the federal nature of the Indian state.  This also clearly shows that the Government is not really committed towards ensuring the end of food insecurity of the teeming millions of the country.

FLAWED FRAMEWORK

The Campaign feels strongly that there is a basic flaw in the framework of the Bill as there is a complete absence of guarantees for farmers’ livelihoods, increasing production, guaranteeing Minimum Support Price along with decentralised procurement and decentralised storage. These issues remain unaddressed and only lip service has been given to them by putting them in Schedule III (enabling provisions) of the Bill.

PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (PDS) A MOCKERY

The Bill entitles only 67 per cent of the population to subsidised foodgrains under the PDS. This would continue the legacy of dividing the population into APL – BPL categories and the associated problem of unfair exclusion of food insecure households from the PDS.

Only the 2.5 crore households currently covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (10 per cent of the country’s total population) will get 35kg of foodgrains a month. The rest of the population entitled to PDS will get only 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month. However, according to ICMR norms, the monthly foodgrain requirement of an adult is 14 kg, and of a child is 7 kg. The monthly provisioning for only 5 kg of cereal per person not only makes a mockery of the intent of the bill, but also goes against the Supreme Court order which entitles every BPL household to 35 kg of foodgrains a month under the PDS. Is this a Food Security Bill or a Food Insecurity Bill, we would like to ask. Especially when the godowns are bursting with foodgrains this entitlement could have been raised.

The absence of entitlements to pulses and oil in the PDS shows that the Bill fails to ensure good nutrition of the county’s population.

TWO CHILD NORM IN MATERNAL ENTITLEMENTS AN INTENT TO CRIMINALISING WOMEN WITH MORE THAN TWO CHILDREN

The Standing Committee recommendation of two child norm for maternal entitlements for lactating mothers after delivery is accepted, although they have tried to be ambiguous and state that it will be according to the specifications of the Central Government scheme. As the scheme has two child norm, so it stays. This clause is almost criminalising women and higher order children by denying them this maternal entitlement.

ICDS AN INITIATIVE TO HAND OVER CHILDREN’S FOOD TO CONTRACTORS

While the Campaign is relieved that the Standing Committee recommendation of removing ICDS from the Bill has been has been rejected by the Cabinet, the continuation of Schedule II for ICDS and Midday Meals is very disturbing. This retains energy dense food and nutritional standards of the Women and Child Development Ministry, which can only be met if there is centralized factory based food production. The orders of the Supreme Court of keeping private contractors out of food schemes for children would be reversed as this opens the door for contractors and companies in supply of food in ICDS, in Take Home Rations in particular. Also the effort to provide local food through Self Help Groups etc also finishes.

NOT EVEN FOR THE DESTITUTES

The complete omission of community kitchens, starvation protocol and other support to vulnerable and destitute shows the complete lack of commitment of the Government towards the poorest who need the cheap food most.

OTHER ISSUES

Grievance redressal continues to begin at the district level which is ridiculous as people with grievances need redressal at the panchayat and gram sabha level.

Since UID and cash transfers were there in the original 2011 Bill, and there are no amendment related to them, they continue to be there. The Campaign demands their omission.

Tomorrow (20 March) members of the Right to Food Campaign will meet members of the Parliament and give them 165 gm of foodgrains (the daily consumption of PDS grain by a person entitled to 5kg of foodgrains a month) to show how paltry the provisions of the Bill are.

Also, a press conference will take place tomorrow at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi at 3:30 pm.

For more information, please contact Ankita Aggarwal (9818603009), Kavita Srivastava (9351562965) or Anuradha Talwar (9433002064).

With regards

Kavita Srivastava, Anuradha Talwar, Father Jothi SJ, Ashok Khandelwal, Balram, Neeta Hardekar, Rupesh and Sejal Dand

(On behalf of the Right to Food Campaign)

రాష్ట్ర రైతాంగానికి నిరాశ మిగిల్చిన 2013-2014 బడ్జెట్

రైతు కుటుంబాల సంక్షోభాన్ని దూరం చేయడానికి బడ్జెట్ కేటాయింపులు పెంచాలి -నిర్దిష్ట విధానాలు ప్రకటించాలి

 
రైతు స్వరాజ్య వేదిక, సుస్థిర వ్యవసాయ కేంద్రం డిమాండ్

2013-2014 సంవత్సరానికి ప్రత్యేక వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్ ప్రవేశ పెడతామని రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం గత కొన్ని నెలలుగా  పదే పదే ప్రకటిస్తూ వచ్చింది. కానీ ఈ రోజు అసెంబ్లీ లో జరిగిన ఘటనలను  చూస్తే ఒక తమాషా ను తల పించింది . ప్రభుత్వం తాను యిచ్చిన హామీ నుండి వెనక్కు వెళ్ళింది . ప్రత్యేక బడ్జెట్ కొంతయినా సమస్యలను పరిష్కరిస్తుందని ఎదురు చూసిన రాష్ట్ర రైతాంగం నిరాశ చెందింది ఈ రోజు రాష్ట్ర అసెంబ్లీ లో వ్యవసాయ శాకా మంత్రి ప్రత్యేక వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్ ప్రవేశ పెడతారని ప్రకటించి,వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్ పేరుతో పుస్తకాలు కూడా ప్రచురించి, తీరా బడ్జెట్ ప్రవేశ పెట్టె సమయానికి  దానిని వ్యవసాయ సమగ్ర కార్యాచరణ ప్రణాళిక అని సవరించి మొదట్లోనే ప్రభుత్వం తప్పుటడుగు  వేసింది.
రైతాంగాన్ని మోసం చేసింది. ఒక వేళ బడ్జెట్ కాదనుకున్నా , కార్యాచరణ ప్రణాళిక అనుకున్నా అది కూడా సమగ్రం గా లేదు . ఈ  రోజు బడ్జెట్ ప్రసంగం  ఒక  టే ,వీ చానల్ లో గతం లో మంత్రి గారు యిచ్చిన వివరణకు ఏ మాత్రం భిన్నం గా లేదు అందులో కొత్త విషయాలూ లేవు.  సమస్యలను ప్రస్తావించకుండా ,వాటికి నిర్దిష్ట పరిష్కారాలు సూచించకుండా కేవలం యిప్పటి వరకూ తమ ప్రభుత్వం చేసిన పనులను చెప్పడం, కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వం రూపొందించిన పంచ వర్ష ప్రణాళిక లక్ష్యాలను ఏకరువు పెట్టడం ,వ్యవసాయ శాఖ ప్రతి సంవత్సరం ఇంగ్లీష్ లో ప్రచురించే సంవత్సర కార్యాచరణను ప్రకటించడం తప్ప అదనం గా ఈ పాలసీ ప్రకటన లో మరేమీ లేదు.  వ్యవసాయ, అనుభంద రంగాల కేటాయింపులన్నీ ఒక చోట  చేర్చి ప్రత్యేక బడ్జెట్ అంటారేమో అని గత కొన్ని రోజులుగా రైతు సంఘాలు వ్యక్తం చేసిన అభిప్రాయాలకు అనుగుణం గానే  ఈ రోజు బడ్జెట్ ఉన్నదీ . సమస్యలను పరిష్కరించే విధం గా కాకుండా , వాటిని కొనసాగించే విధం గానే ఈ రోజు ప్రతి పాదనలు ఉన్నాయి,
  • రైతులకు మద్దతు ధరలు అందించేందుకు ఏ ప్రతిపాదనలూ లేవు .. బడ్జెట్ కేటాయింపు లూ లెవు. రైతుల ఆలంబన నిధి పేరుతో కేటాయించిన 100 కోట్లు కూడా ఈ సమస్యను ఏ మాత్రం పరిష్క రించా లేవు .
  • వ్యవసాయాధార ప్రాంతాలకు కేటాయించిన నిధులన్నీ ఇప్పటికే కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వం వాటర్ షెడ్ కార్యక్రమాలకు యిచ్చే నిధులు మాత్రమే. అదనంగా ఈ రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం యిందు కోసం కేటాయించిన నిధులు లేవు .
  • కౌలు రైతులకు బ్యాంకులు రుణాలు యివ్వడం లేదు . ఇందుకోసం కౌలు రైతుల తరపున రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం కౌంటర్ గారంటీ యివ్వాలని రైతు సంఘాలు అడిగిన డిమాండ్ పై మంత్రి ప్రసంగం లో స్పందనే లేదు , ఈ సంవత్సరం కూడా  కౌలు రైతులకు  రుణాలు రావని తేలిపోయింది .
  • రాష్ట్రం లోని రైతులందరినీ వ్యవసాయ బీమా పరిధి లోకి తీసుక రావాలనీ, పరిహారం చెల్లించే భాద్యత ప్రభుత్వమే తీసుకోవాలనీ కొరామ్. కానీ ఈ విషయం లో నిర్దిష్ట ప్రకటన లేమీ లేవు .బద్జెత్ కేటాయింపులు కూడా పెంచలెధు. అంటే వ ఈ సంవత్సరం కూడా బీమా సౌకర్యం రైతులందరికీ అందదన్న మాట , అన్ని పంటలకూ,అన్ని జిల్లాలకూ గ్రామం యూనిట్ గా బీమా ఉండాలనే రైతుల కోరికను ప్రభుత్వం ఏ మాత్రం పట్టించుకోలేదు .
  • విత్తన బిల్లు విషయం ప్రస్తావించినా , విత్తన పధకం కోసం కేటాయించిన నిధులు మాత్రం విత్తన సమస్యను పరిష్కరించేవి కావు. కంపెనీలకు లాభం చేసే విత్తన విధానానికి ప్రత్యామ్నాయం గా రైతులకు హక్కులను కల్పిస్తూ నాణ్యమైన విత్తనాలకు హామీ యిస్తూ, ధరలను అదుపులో ఉంచుతూ  కొత్త విత్తన బిల్లును వెంటనే అసెంబ్లీ లో ప్రభుత్వం ప్రవేశ పెడితేనే రైతుల విత్తన సమస్య పరిష్కారమవుతుంది .
  • వ్యవసాయ అనుబంధ రంగాలకు కేటాయించిన నిధులు పోయిన సంవత్సరం కంటే తక్కువే..

రైతు  సంఘాలు . ప్రస్తావించిన ఏ ముఖ్యమైన సమస్యనూ పరిష్కరించే ప్రతిపాదనలు  రాష్ట్ర బడ్జెట్ లో గానీ,  వ్యవసాయ మంత్రి ప్రకటన లో గానీ లేవు . దీనిని పరిశీలిస్తే రైతుల బాధల పట్ల  ఏ మాత్రం ఈ ప్రభుత్వానికి ఛిత్తసుద్ధి లేదనీ, రైతుల ఆత్మహత్యలను ఆపే లక్ష్యమేదీ లేదనీ అర్థమవుతుంది
.

రైతు సంఘాలు ,రాజ కీయ పార్టీలూ  ఒక్క గొంతు తో రైతుల సమస్యల పై మాట్లాడక పోతే ,ఉమ్మడిగా కార్యాచరణకు  దిగకపోతే  ఈ సమస్యలు పరిష్కారం కావు.

అసెంబ్లీ స్థాయీ సంఘాలపై మన ఒత్తిడిని కొనసాగించి  ప్రత్యేక వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్(  పాలసీ ప్రకటన) ను మరింత సమగ్ర పరుచుకునే కృషి ని  ఉమ్మడిగా
కొనసాగిద్దామని మేము విజ్ఞప్తి చేస్తున్నాం

“BIODIVERSITY AND BIOSAFETY KEY TO FOOD SECURITY” “TRANSGENICS WILL NOT MEET OUR FOOD SECURITY NEEDS”

National Seminar on GM Crops and Food Security asks for a Biosafety Law to be enacted

 New Delhi / Ahmedabad, February 15, 2013: The 2-day national seminar on “GM Crops and Food Security” jointly organized by Jatan Trust, Gujarat Vidyapith and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh concluded in Ahmedabad today by calling for a Biosafety Law to be enacted in the country. Speakers emphasized on Biodiversity and Biosafety being key to food security of the country, whereas the current aggressive promotion of transgenic crops is jeopardizing this.

Speaking on democratizing the debate and decision-making around GM crops, Kartikeya Sarabhai of CEE (Centre for Environment Education) pointed out that debate on GM crops cannot be just about production and yields, and that the discourse around food security as well as GM crops has moved on. “The debate on GM crops is around sustainability of farm livelihoods, sustainable use of environmental resources, control over critical resources like seed resting with community, farmers and consumers having a choice, socio-cultural and ethical issues to be addressed and so on. Talking about GM crops only in the context of improving yields is inadequate and inappropriate”. He stressed upon the need for an informed debate in which all citizens should be able to engage, since this is a matter pertaining to something as fundamental as Food. He pointed out that creating a debate is not about being “anti-science”, but asking for holistic science. A multi-disciplinary approach, which includes social sciences, is needed, since this is about livelihoods and development, he stressed. He called for independent studies and said that research approvals should be conditional on making the findings public.

Earlier inaugurating the seminar, Sri Mohini Mohan Mishra, National Secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said that in all his travels across the country and meeting farmers, he has realised that they aspire for their control over the very basic resources of farming – soil, water and seed. “In BKS, we believe that India does not need GM crops. Unfortunately, farmers have become victim of glorified propaganda of the Biotech industry. It is a pity that today non-Bt Seeds of Cotton are not available in the market”, he said.

Dr M H Mehta, former VC of Gujarath Agriculture University (GAU) and Chair of Science Ashram, speaking at the seminar, stressed on the need for focusing on economical and environmental friendly model of agriculture to feed the hungry. This will need an agro-ecological approach and not a GM crop based model. He pointed out that while science and technology need to be encouraged, any technology needs to be holistically viewed and the overall consideration of public good and wisdom must prevail.

Explaining how woefully inadequate the GM crop risk assessment is in India, Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign pointed out that our testing systems are simply not stringent enough and even the prescribed procedures are not followed by the companies or universities. Many scientific studies, including the ones conducted by the biotech companies themselves have shown adverse impacts on health and environment. In India, when the biosafety data of Bt brinjal was brought into the public domain, the inadequacy of the tests and the carelessness of the scientists doing the research, and the regulators reviewing biosafety came to the fore. This is not the way to do science, she stated.

Dr Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, presenting a fact sheet on issues related to Food Security in India, emphasized that there is enough evidence to say confidently that if land use planning is rationalized, land ownership issues are resolved, appropriate agronomical practices are introduced, nature’s own resources are used as farm inputs, the world can produce enough for the growing population.

Speaking on “Science & Technology for Food Security”, Dr Rajeswari Raina of NISTADS (National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, which is a science policy institute of CSIR) pointed out that what we need is “good science”. She explained that ‘good science’ is one that works towards economic, ecological and social progress, something that can tell us whether the existing evidence is enough or not, in terms of risk and impact assessment related to technologies like GM, in addition to giving due recognition and space to other knowledge domains and cultural values that ‘formal science’ has not studied thus far.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, said, “Transgenic technology is an unnecessary risk and costly distraction, while solutions for issues in our farming lie elsewhere. In the name of public sector research, resources are being mis-utilised, while something inherently unsafe will remain unsafe, whether it is from the private sector or the public sector”.

Dr Minoo Parabia, renowned botanist, biodiversity expert and Member of State Biodiveristy Board made a presentation on the rich biodiversity of Gujarat, including agro-diversity and expressed caution against transgenics. Dr Atul Mehta, senior rice breeder pointed out that while GM crops are being aggressively pushed, need assessment is sadly lacking, by presenting data of past 50 years to show that pest incidence (stemborer) on rice was low even though corporations are trying to push Bt rice as a solution for a problem that does not exist.

Speaking on the faulty framework of the proposed Biosafety Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA showcased how improvements in the regulatory regime over the years will be lost if BRAI Bill is allowed to be enacted. “Sustained civil society action, including judicial activism, in addition to the Bt brinjal public debate led by Mr Jairam Ramesh, the then MoEF, brought in some improvements; through the BRAI Bill, the Government of India is trying to lower the regulatory bar which is objectionable and unacceptable”, she said.

Earlier, latest scientific evidence related to adverse impacts of GM crops were shared by Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India. The Seminar also had presentations from the Biotech seed industry representatives, who presented on Bt Cotton in India and GM crop adoption in other countries. Participants of the seminar also included senior scientists from agriculture universities of the state, civil society members, seed and food industry representatives, members of various farmers’ unions and government officials, in addition to Members of the State Biodiversity Board.

For more information, contact:

Kapil Shah: 094-270-54132

Sridhar Radhakrishnan: 099-953-58205

Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550

FOOD SECURITY THROUGH GM CROPS FALLACIOUS”: SCIENTISTS

National Safe Food Day being celebrated throughout the country, on 3rd anniversary of Bt brinjal moratorium

Download the letter 130209 TRANSGENIC CROPS & FOOD SECURITY

(Please read this press release of the Coalition along with this letter : http://indiagminfo.org/?p=540)

New Delhi, February 9th 2013: On the 3rd anniversary of a moratorium on Bt brinjal in India, in a letter to the Minister for Environment & Forests (MoEF), more than 150 scientists from across the country pointed out that food security arguments around GM crops are baseless and fallacious, both from the scientific and global experience point of view. These scientists expressed disappointment that the MoEF, responsible for regulation of transgenics, allowed the Ministry of Agriculture to step into the Supreme Court PIL on GMOs on behalf of the Union of India. In their letter, they pointed out that Food Safety is an integral part of Food Security. Earlier in November 2012, the Ministry of Agriculture had argued in the SC that transgenic crops are essential for food security and that India’s transgenic regulatory regime was sound and robust.

The third anniversary of the moratorium on Bt brinjal, being marked as the National Safe Food Day, is witnessing dozens of events and activities around the country. Three years ago, Jairam Ramesh, the then MoEF placed an indefinite moratorium on Bt brinjal stating that as being “responsible to science and responsive to society”.

 

“We urge Ms Jayanti Natarajan, Minister for Environment & Forests, to show the scientificity and independence that her predecessor showed in placing a moratorium on what would have been India’s first GM food crop, Bt brinjal. In fact, the situation on the regulatory front is worse than it was thought to be during the time the nation-wide public consultations led to the moratorium in 2010. The Bt brinjal moratorium decision has set a good precedence in terms of a precautionary approach. The debate then raised questions around capabilities of biosafety review in an independent and scientific manner, apart from the need for long term independent testing.

It also highlighted the much-required element of needs assessment and assessment of alternatives, before going in for the GM option, which is absent in the current system. This has been pointed out time and again, starting with the Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology, headed by Dr M S Swaminathan in 2003, the report of which was formally accepted by Govt of India in 2004. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report tabled in August 2012, has captured the various nuances to the issue of transgenic food crops in great detail and had asked for a biosafety law to be brought in (instead of the BRAI Bill). The Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council (PM-SAC), listing the key characteristics of an effective regulatory system highlighted the need for sound scientific expertise within the (regulatory) organisation, through independent panels, as well as processes that ensure transparency and freedom from conflict. The Sopory Committee, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, had pointed out serious and objectionable issues with regard to our transgenic research and regulation, where crores of rupees of taxpayers’ funds have been expended. It also confirmed GM contamination. The Technical Expert Committee of the Supreme Court (SC TEC) also made recommendations on similar lines. It is no coincidence that so many inquiry processes are saying similar things. However, it is surprising that the Ministry of Agriculture ignores all of the above and continues with its biased and unscientific stand on GM crops. The Ministry of Agriculture’s continued aggressive promotion of GM crops is unacceptable and we want the Minister for Environment & Forests to be responsive to society and responsible to science. Therefore, we expect the Environment Minister to accept the first set of recommendations by the TEC”, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Explaining that food security is not connected with faulty techno-fixes like transgenic crops, Kavitha Kuruganti, Member, Coalition for a GM-Free India added: “The attached letter being sent by scientists from around the country to Ms Jayanti Natarajan clearly shows that non-transgenic solutions exist for increasing productivity in agriculture, if the belief is that it is a supply-side problem. However, it is important to realize that today, food security is not about food production, but poverty, livelihoods and development.

“Further, no transgenic crops have been created to increase intrinsic yield potential; as regards operational yields, it is a mixed and unimpressive picture. In the USA, it has been found that in corn, of the 28 percent increase in corn productivity between 1996 and 2008, about 24 or 25 percent was due to factors other than GE. This is about 86 percent of the total increase in yield in corn in those years. GE contributed to a mere 14% of the total yield increase between 1996 and 2008. In the case of soybean, it has been found that the herbicide tolerance gene provided no clear yield advantage, while based on USDA data, yields went up about 16 percent from 1996 – 2008, due to (conventional) breeding and agronomy.

“In India, yield growth of cotton was most impressive in the years prior to the expansion of area under Bt cotton. Yield increases are attributed to many other reasons (other than Bt technology of Bt cotton) by none other than the CICR Director (and state governments too).

“One of the most important things that the scientists’ letter highlights is that from 1995, when 12% of the US population was food insecure, America (the country with largest GM crop adoption) has moved to a situation in 2011 where 15% of the population is food insecure, the same period that they went from zero to the current level of adoption of GM crops. Brazil (the second largest grower of GM crops) continued to see a decline in its hunger profile. However, the pace of decrease has decelerated in the years when GM area expanded (Between 1999-2001 and 2004-06 (which is the pre-GM era), the percentage of undernourished in total population reduced from 12.1% to 8.7%; From then to 2010-12, it decelerated from 8.7% to 6.9%). Argentina, the third largest grower of GM crops, has seen no significant difference in its hunger situation, during the years of expansion of GM crops. Paraguay, which grows GM crops on 65% of its arable land, saw population experiencing hunger spiral up from 12.6% in 2004-06 to 25 % in 2010-12. Countries like Peru and Venezuela have on the other hand experienced tremendous improvement in their hunger situation even though they have not adopted GM crops. It is clear that GM crop adoption has not meant greater improvements in food security. GE, as several scientists have said, is a costly distraction for the solutions that we are seeking in farming. It is time that the Ministry of Agriculture became scientific in its outlook and analysis; it is also important that the MoEF does not allow itself to be misled”.

The Coalition pointed out that citizens are keen to have an informed debate on the subject and it does not help to have a unilateral view presented by the government that too using taxpayers’ funds. On National Safe Food Day, numerous events are being organized by dozens of groups across the country, ranging from public debates, to lectures, to colorful rallies, to poster exhibitions, to film screenings and safe food festivals. The coalition urges citizens to join the events nearest to them and engage with the issue of food safety. More information is available at: http://nationalsafefoodday2013.blogspot.in/

For more information, contact:

Sridhar Radhakrishnan: +91-99953-58205

Kavitha Kuruganti: +91-93930-01550

వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్-2013-14 కు రైతు స్వరాజ్య వేదిక, సుస్థిర వ్యవసాయ కేంద్రం, అఖిల పక్ష రైతుసంఘాల ప్రతిపాదనలు

అనేక సంవత్సరాల పోరాటం తర్వాత, ఆంధ్ర ప్రదేశ్ రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం ప్రత్యెక వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్ ప్రవేశ పెట్టడానికి సుముఖత వ్యక్తం చేసింది.  అయితే ఈ వ్యవసాయ బడ్జెట్ కేవలం నిధులు కేటాయింపు గా మాత్రమే చూడకుండా, వ్యవసాయానికి దిశానిర్దేశం చేసే విధంగా వుండాలి అని కోరుతూ, సుస్థిర వ్యవసాయ కేంద్రం, అఖిల పక్ష రైతు సంఘాలు, ఏ.పి. రైతు స్వరాజ్య వేదిక ఆధ్వర్యం లో చర్చించి చేసిన ప్రతిపాదనలు.

121227 AP Agricultural Budget Proposal చదవండి.