Green revolution never improved farmers’ condition: CD Mayee

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Green-revolution-never-improved-farmers-condition-CD-Mayee/articleshow/15011145.cms

NAGPUR: The green revolution increased productivity of all crops and helped developing countries like India feed their populations. However, sadly, it could never improve the farmers’ economic condition, said former chairman of Agriculture Scientists Recruitment Board CD Mayee on Monday. He was delivering the Juwarkar memorial lecture at National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri).

Mayee said the benefits actually percolated down more to the input industries like seed, fertilizer and pesticide industries. “Also, though the green revolution increased the production of food grains manifold, it destroyed soil fertility to an extent that scientists are now careful while working in the direction of second green revolution to conserve all natural resources like soil, water, environment,” he said.

Mayee described the second green revolution as specifically aimed at increasing productivity without compromising on soil quality, while utilizing available land and water resources. “The first green revolution was based on a tripod strategy of improving seed quality through geneticimprovement, water availability and use of chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides). This led to depletion of soil fertility, pollution of natural resources with increase in cost of cultivation. The second revolution tripod includes sustainability and environmental safety,” he said.

The second revolution should bring additional 12 million hectare waste land into net cultivable area, enhance irrigated area to 85 million hectare from existing 60 million hectare, strengthenfarmers markets and rural storages, create infrastructure, increase investment in agriculture in both private and public sector, and farm resource management. It also involves an increase of sales in seeds, fertilizers, farm mechanization, and credit flow growth rate from 25 to 40% ratio. With all these, food grain production is expected to reach 400 million tons.

Mayee said area under agriculture has increased from 131.89 million hectare in 1951-52 to 172.63m ha in 1980-81, and then to 195.10m ha in 2010-11. There was also an increase in gross irrigation from 22.56m ha to 49.78m ha and 88.43m ha during the same years. The consumption of fertilizers has increased from just 0.66kg/ha in 1951-52 to 210kg/ha in 2010-11. But the contribution of agriculture to GDP has fallen from 35% to 30 and then to 15% in 2010-11. There has been an overall growth of food grains from 203.41 million tons in 2000-01 to 320 million tons in 2011-12, an annual growth of 4.21%. These figures for fruits are 152.50 million tons in 2000-01 to 300 million tons in 2011-12, which again means an annual growth of 6.36%.

Earlier, Tapas Nandi, head of waste water technology division of Neeri and acting director, appraised the gathering about the contributions of Ashok Juwarkar, who died in a plane accident while on duty. Juwarkar is known for his immense contribution in converting barren mine dumps into fertile areas. He said Neeri continues to work in the area and has rejuvenated many mine dumps around the city into extremely fertile land and grown lush green trees on them.

Group. The Greed : Mega RevolutionFoundations, Agribusiness Muscle In On Public Goods

Big Agribusiness Influence Threatens to Override Public Interest in Greed Revolution

A new 30-page report that documents the growing influence of agribusiness on the multilateral food system and the lack of transparency in research funding has been released today by the international civil society organization ETC Group. The Greed : Mega RevolutionFoundations, Agribusiness Muscle In On Public Goods presents three case studies – one involving the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and two involving CGIAR Centers (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) – which point to a dangerous trend that will worsen rather than solve the problem of global hunger. The report details the involvement of, among others, Nestlé, Heineken, Monsanto, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Syngenta Foundation.

“It is unacceptable that the UN is giving multinational agribusiness privileged access to alter their agricultural policies,” said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, who has been involved in the field for 40 years. “It is ridiculous that the key organizations responsible for agricultural research have no credible data on the extent of corporate involvement in their work and that CGIAR’s biggest funder – at $89 million – is somebody called, ‘Miscellaneous!’ Governments and UN secretariats have forgotten that their first task is to serve the public – not the profiteers.”

The report shows that multinational corporations are now seeing their future profitability in “emerging economies,” and they are finally taking notice of the international institutions that have been quietly working throughout the global South for half a century. However this new interest in UN agencies is causing “mandate-muddle” as companies demand that policy be rewritten to better reflect their interests, including allowing privileged access to publicly held germplasm. Public institutions are tending to look the other way when Big Ag harms peasant agriculture.

“Public institutions related to food and agriculture are mandated to support the poor and hungry.

Governments need to address the big- and small-scale conflicts of interest, beginning with a long overdue investigation of the links between the international public and private sectors in food and agriculture. Based on our initial conversations with UN officials about this research, we are hopeful that this will happen,”donate concludes Mooney.

 

For more information:

Pat Mooney, ETC Group (Ottawa), etc@etcgroup.org+1 613 241 2267; cell: +1 613 240 0045

Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group (Mexico City), silvia@etcgroup.org+52 55 5563 2664;  cell: +52 1 55 2653 3330

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The Toxic Consequences of the Green Revolution

http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2008/07/07/the-toxic-consequences-of-the-green-revolution

In India, farmers find that benefits of pesticides and herbicides may come at a tragically high cost

JAJJAL VILLAGE, INDIA—Four decades after the so-called Green Revolution enabled this vast nation to feed itself, some farmers are turning their backs on modern agricultural methods—the use of modified seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides—in favor of organicfarming.

Click here to find out more!

This is not a matter of producing gourmet food for environmentally attuned consumers but rather something of a life-and-death choice in villages like this one, where the benefits of the Green Revolution have been coupled with unanticipated harmful consequences from chemical pollution.

As driving their actions, the new organic farmers cite the rising costs of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides, and concerns that decades of chemical use is ruining the soil. But many are also revolting against what they see as the environmental degradation that has come with the new farming techniques, particularly the serious pollution of drinking water that village residents blame for causing cancer and other diseases.

“People are fed up with chemical farming,” says Amarjit Sharma, a farmer for 30 years who began organic farming four years ago. “The earth is now addicted to the use of these chemicals.”

For now, their numbers are small, perhaps 5 percent of farmers around the agricultural region in the Punjab state, known for its cotton production. But this is a trend that could become important if their numbers grow and cut into India’s agricultural productivity in an era of tightening global food supplies.

Starting in 1965, India’s Green Revolution transformed the country’s few fertile regions into veritable breadbaskets, quadrupling India’s output of wheat and rice. The revolution brought new irrigation techniques, hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and mechanization. Punjab’s farmers became heroes of a self-sufficient India no longer dependent upon shipments of foreign grain and making a clean cut with a past full of mass starvation and food aid from the United States.

Times have changed, says Prof. R. K. Mahajan, an agricultural economist at Punjabi University. “The Green Revolution is not as green as it was earlier—it has now become brown and pale,” he says. “The profit margins have skewed to the minimum.”

The Green Revolution hardly seems to have made much of an impact in terms of well-being here. Rural poverty abounds, malarial mosquitoes breed in stagnant pools of water, and bullock carts far outnumber motor vehicles.

And behind the walls villagers speak of cancer, which they say is on the rise along with other ailments such as renal failure, stillborn babies, and birth defects that researchers attribute to the overuse and misuse of pesticides and herbicides. Punjab represents only 1.5 percent of India’s geography but accounts for nearly a 20 percent share of its pesticide consumption.

In many cases, rural farmers don’t know proper usage and disposal techniques, with few using protective clothing or equipment when handling highly toxic chemicals. In farming villages, pesticide containers are sometimes reused as kitchen containers. And many farmers assume that applying more pesticides and herbicides is better, without understanding that the heavy use is gradually poisoning water supplies.

Lying under a tree on a charpoi, a traditional bed made of taught rope, Santosh Rani, 30, believes she is one of the victims. “I have cancer,” she says, her voice barely above a whisper as she clenches her stomach. Since 2001, 40 people have died from various forms of cancer in Rani’s village of about 3,300; until 10 years ago, village residents say cancer was very rare or at least largely unknown by villagers who now regard it as a menace stalking all of them.

Some research does support their fears. A recent Punjabi University study found a high rate of genetic damage among farmers, which was attributed to pesticide use. The study found DNA damage affecting a third of the sample group of 210 farmers spraying pesticides and herbicides, a level apparently unaffected by other factors such as age, smoking, and dietary habits. A second study, also made public this past year, found widespread contamination of drinking water with pesticide chemicals and heavy metals, all of which are linked to cancer and other life-threatening ailments.

The government’s top civil servant for health and family welfare in Punjab, Health Secretary T. R. Sarangal, says more time is needed to study the problem. “Certainly, we are in a danger zone as far as the toxicity and danger of fertilizers are concerned,” says Sarangal. But the last time cancer rates were measured officially in southern Punjab—about seven years ago—the rates were actually below the national average. The state government is now commissioning two new cancer survey studies in an effort to document the extent of the problem, and it is also financing two new public-private partnerships for the construction of cancer hospitals in Punjab.

“It is a perception by the hospitals and by the households that cancer rates are much higher than in previous decades,” says G. P. I. Singh, a public health expert who has worked in southern Punjab for over 25 years. “The entire area of Punjab today is overloaded with pesticides. What is troublesome are the chronic effects. They take generations or decades to manifest themselves.”

Some doctors, like Singh, and activists are pressing farmers to go back to earlier agricultural techniques, even at the expense of reducing India’s farm production. “What are you achieving by feeding people at the cost of their health?” says Singh.

Umendra Dutt, a towering, energetic environmental activist with chest-length locks and a thick beard, goes a step further, arguing that “the Green Revolution has devastated the entire ecosystem of our society—the ecology and economy—we have lost almost all of our biodiversity. [It] is input intensive, techno-centric, resource-guzzling. It is not a cultural transformation leading to self-sufficiency.” Not in the way that organic farming is, he argues. “Our [organic] farmers are living a life that is much more sustainable,” says Dutt.

The organic movement, if it qualifies as a movement, is running up against the strong incentives the government provides farmers to support Green Revolution techniques: from the minimum price support the government offers farmers for wheat and rice made with the aid of fertilizer and pesticides to the social pressure to prevent farmers from changing decades-long practices.

Can the economics pay off? That’s unclear. Sharma, who is now the custodian of his village’s organic seed bank, says his wheat yield is half that of his neighbors, who used pesticides and fertilizer. But he is able to sell his organically grown crop for something more than twice the going price. In addition, he doesn’t have to buy costly supplies such as hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, purchases which put many farmers into debt at the start of each growing season.

Sharma uses traditional homemade pesticides such as cow manure mixed with urine, soured milk, garlic, chilies, and the leaves of a native plant to ward off parasitic insects. He is making a bet that over time, organic farming will narrow the productivity gap if his methods are able to improve the quality of soil damaged by chemically intensive farming. The major difference between chemical farming and organic farming is that with chemical farming, the yield either decreases or stays stagnant over time while with organic farming, the quality of the soil increases, he says. “After two or three years, the yield will be equal.”

But while some farmers talk of going organic, India faces what could become a new controversy over expanding the use of genetically modified seeds in what supporters envision as a second Green Revolution. This may promise salvation for a hungry world but, in rural India, the pluses and minuses of the first Green Revolution are still being tallied.

Green Revolution in India Wilts as Subsidies Backfire

[IUREA]Akshay Mahajan for the Wall Street JournalPritam Singh, who farms 30 acres in Punjab, says the more desperate farmers become, the more urea they use. Overuse is stunting yields.

SOHIAN, India—India’s Green Revolution is withering.

In the 1970s, India dramatically increased food production, finally allowing this giant country to feed itself. But government efforts to continue that miracle by encouraging farmers to use fertilizers have backfired, forcing the country to expand its reliance on imported food.

Popularized during the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, fertilizers helped boost crop yields and transformed India into a nation that could feed itself. But now their overuse is degrading the farmland. WSJ’s Geeta Anand reports.

India has been providing farmers with heavily subsidized fertilizer for more than three decades. The overuse of one type—urea—is so degrading the soil that yields on some crops are falling and import levels are rising. So are food prices, which jumped 19% last year. The country now produces less rice per hectare than its far poorer neighbors: Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Agriculture’s decline is emerging as one of the hottest political issues in the world’s biggest democracy.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet announced that India would adopt a new subsidy program in April, hoping to replenish the soil by giving farmers incentives to use a better mix of nutrients. But in a major compromise, the government left in place the old subsidy on urea—meaning farmers will still have a big incentive to use too much of it.

 

The setback of the Green Revolution matters enormously to India’s future. The country of 1.2 billion has positioned itself as a driver of global growth and as a significant commercial power in coming decades.

India likely will struggle to get there, and to return to the heady days of 9% economic growth, unless it figures out how to reinvigorate its agricultural sector, on which the majority of its citizens still rely for a living.

India’s Food Crisis

Akshay Mahajan for The Wall Street JournalBhupinder Singh’s wheat yield on this 10-acre plot used to increase every year. But for the last five years it’s been barely holding steady.

Agriculture has lagged behind other industries such as manufacturing and services, posting less than 2% growth in the latest reports on gross domestic product. And double-digit food inflation and declining yields spell less money in the pockets of rural Indians.

India spends almost twice as much on food imports today as it did in 2002, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Wheat imports hit 1.7 million tons in 2008, up from about 1,300 tons in 2002. Food prices rose 19% last year.

To be sure, there are bright spots. Indian officials say the country may produce a record wheat harvest this year because of good weather conditions, unless rain or hail appear. The wheat harvest last year was better than expected, making some hopeful that the importing trend will be reversed.

Behind the worsening picture is the government’s agricultural policy. In an effort to boost food production, win farmer votes and encourage the domestic fertilizer industry, the government has increased its subsidy of urea over the years, and now pays about half of the domestic industry’s cost of production.

European Pressphoto AgencyIndian commuters pass a rice shop as a shop keeper waits for customers in Calcutta, India, on Feb. 18.

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Mr. Singh’s government, recognizing the policy failure, announced a year ago that it intended to drop the existing subsidy system in favor of a new plan. But allowing urea’s price to increase significantly would almost certainly trigger protests in rural India, which contains 70% of the electorate, political observers say.

The ministers of fertilizers and agriculture each declined requests for interviews.

“This is politically very difficult,” says U.S. Awasti, managing director of the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd. and an informal adviser to government officials on the issue. The cooperative of 50 million farmers is the largest fertilizer producer in the country.

Farmers spread the rice-size urea granules by hand or from tractors. They pay so little for it that in some areas they use many times the amount recommended by scientists, throwing off the chemistry of the soil, according to multiple studies by Indian agricultural experts.

Like humans, plants need balanced diets to thrive. Too much urea oversaturates plants with nitrogen without replenishing other nutrients that are vitally important, including phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium and calcium.

The government has subsidized other fertilizers besides urea. In budget crunches, subsidies on those fertilizers have been reduced or cut, but urea’s subsidy has survived. That’s because urea manufacturers form a powerful lobby, and farmers are most heavily reliant on this fertilizer, making it a political hot potato to raise the price.

[IUREA]

As the soil’s fertility has declined, farmers under pressure to increase output have spread even more urea on their land.

Kamaljit Singh is a 55-year-old farmer in the town of Marauli Kalan in the state of Punjab, the breadbasket of India. He says farmers feel stuck. “The soil health is deteriorating, but we don’t know how to make it better,” he says. “As the fertility of the soil is declining, more fertilizer is required.”

Increased demand and the soaring price of hydrocarbons, the main ingredient of many fertilizers, have taken India’s annual subsidy bill to more than $20 billion last year, from about $640 million in 1976.

“The only way for agricultural yields to rise again is for the government to give farmers the incentives and the products to provide balanced nutrition to their crops,” says Bimal Goculdas, chief executive officer of Dharamsi Morarji Chemical Co., one of the oldest fertilizer firms in India.

Agriculture experts say the country can’t afford to wait. “There are big problems for the future of food production in India if these problems are not addressed now,” says Reyes Tirado, an agricultural scientist and researcher for Greenpeace Research Laboratories, an arm of advocacy group Greenpeace International.

Under the new plan, the government will offer subsidies to fertilizer companies on the nutrients, such as sulphur, phosphorus and potassium, from which their products are made, rather than the fertilizer products themselves. The idea is to provide incentives for farmers to apply a better mix of nutrients.

Ultimately, the government plans to pay the subsidy directly to farmers, who will be able to buy products of their choice, including but not limited to urea.

Mr. Singh’s government, however, said it would continue to subsidize urea, although it would set the price 10% higher.

[IUREAmap]

Mr. Awasti, the fertilizer cooperative head, says the continuing urea subsidy means that farmers likely will still use too much of it. “The government is opting, as with any very difficult change, to adopt it in phases,” he says. He says he believes that the urea subsidy will be dropped altogether in a year.

In the early years after India gained independence in 1947, the country couldn’t even dream of feeding its population. Importing food wasn’t possible because India lacked the cash to pay. India relied on food donated by the U.S. government.

In 1967, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imported 18,000 tons of hybrid wheat seeds from Mexico. The effect was miraculous. The wheat harvest that year was so bountiful that grain overflowed storage facilities.

Those seeds required chemical fertilizers to maximize yield. The challenge was to make fertilizers affordable to farmers who lacked the cash to pay for even the basics—food, clothing and shelter.

Back then, giving cash or vouchers to millions of farmers living all over India seemed like an impossible task fraught with the potential for corruption. So the government paid subsidies to fertilizer companies, who agreed to sell for less than the cost of production, at prices set by the government.

The subsidies were designed to make up the difference between the production price and sale price—and to give the producers a 12% after-tax return on any equity investment.

Akshay Mahajan for the Wall Street JournalBhupinder Singh’s wheat yield has been barely holding steady lately.

IUREA2

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Fertilizer manufacturing companies sprang up around the country. Nagarjuna Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. became one of the most profitable publicly listed companies in India.

In 1991, with the cost of the subsidy weighing heavily on India’s finances, Manmohan Singh, then finance minister and now prime minister, pushed to eliminate it. Most fertilizer companies lobbied fiercely to retain the program. Many legislators also resisted ending the subsidy, fearing a backlash from farmers.

“The business interests lobbied and the business interests prevailed,” says Ashok Gulati, the director in Asia of the International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank, who was involved in the policy discussions at the time. A last-minute compromise eliminated the subsidy on all fertilizers except for urea.

“That’s when the imbalanced use of fertilizers began,” says Pratap Narayan, ex-director general of the industry group, the Fertilizer Association of India.

With urea selling for a fraction of the price of other fertilizers, farmers began using substantially more of the nitrogen-rich material than more expensive potassium and phosphorus products.

In the state of Haryana, farmers used 32 times more nitrogen than potassium in the fiscal year ended March 2009, much more than the recommended 4-to-1 ratio, according to the Indian Journal of Fertilizers, a trade publication. In Punjab state, they used 24 times more nitrogen than potassium, the figures show.

“This type of ratio is a disaster,” Mr. Gulati says. “It is keeping India from reaching the production levels that the hybrid seeds have the power to yield.”

Producers of phosphorus-based fertilizers struggled. The government reintroduced a small subsidy on phosphorus fertilizers, but at times it didn’t cover the difference between the government-set price and the actual cost of production. Dharamsi Morarji, one of the oldest fertilizer companies in India, closed some plants.

With scant domestic supply, India had to import seven million tons of phosphorus-based fertilizers last year, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

Twenty-one percent of the urea, 67% of the phosphorus-based fertilizers and 100% of the potash-rich fertilizers sold in India in the fiscal year ended March 2009 were imported, according to a report this month from Fitch Ratings.

In the northern state of Punjab, Bhupinder Singh, a turbaned, gray-bearded 55-year-old farmer, stood barefoot in his wheat field in December and pointed to the corner where he had just spread a 110-pound bag of urea.

“Without the urea, my crop looks sick,” he said, picking up a few stalks of the young wheat crop and twirling them in his fingers. “The soil is getting weaker and weaker over the last 10 to 15 years. We need more and more urea to get the same yield.”

Mr. Singh farms 10 acres in Sohian, a town about 25 miles from the industrial city of Ludhiana. He said his yields of rice have fallen to three tons per acre, from 3.3 tons five years ago. By using twice as much urea, he’s been able to squeeze a little higher yield of wheat from the soil—two tons per acre, versus 1.7 tons five years ago.

He said both the wheat and rice harvests should be bigger, considering that he’s using so much more urea today than he did five years ago. Adding urea doesn’t have the effect it did in the past, he said, but it’s so cheap that it’s better than adding nothing at all.

Land needs to be watered more when fertilizer is used, and Mr. Singh worries about the water table under his land. When his parents dug the first well here in 1960, the water table lay 5 feet below the ground, he says. He recently had the same well dug to 55 feet to get enough water.

“The future is not good here,” he said, shaking his head.

Balvir Singh, an agriculture development officer for Punjab state, says it is as if farmers have become addicted to urea.

“One farmer sees another’s field looking greener, so he adds more urea,” he says. “A farmer will become bankrupt, but he will not stop using urea.”

The fertilizer industry, which had lobbied to retain subsidies back in 1991, now sees them as a problem. That’s because the government, trying to rein in spending, has been squeezing the reimbursement promised to fertilizer companies.

The subsidy theoretically gives companies a 12% profit margin. Today, in part because of the way the government calculates the subsidy, it offers the average company a 3% margin, according to K. Rahul Raju, joint managing director of Nagarjuna Fertilizers & Chemicals, and Mr. Awasti, the fertilizer cooperative head.

Farmers in Punjab are increasingly glum. “Farming is in shambles,” said Kamaljit Singh, standing with fellow farmers in the courtyard of the village agriculture cooperative. “If we have to support our growing families and our increasing population on this land, we must get higher yields. Otherwise our families and our nation will suffer.”

—Arlene Chang contributed to this article.

Green Revolution: A Blue-Print to Control India’s Agriculture – Indo-US Treaty, New Seed Act

a old but interesting article http://sanhati.com/excerpted/2698/

August 27, 2010

Written by – Dr. Abhee Dutta Majumdar, Dr. Siddharta Gupta, Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, Mrinmoy Sengupta

Published by – Lokayata Sahitya Chakra, May 7, 2010.
Translated by – Sanhati

From the nineties, India opened herself to the world market. As prescribed by the US based IMF and World Bank, India also undertook ‘structural adjustment’ programme. This had a two-fold effect: on the one hand it resulted in diminishing governmental spending, reduction of subsidies in different social welfare projects, divestment and privatization, while on the other hand it eliminated all hurdles to monopolistic capital to take over the production in the country. The erstwhile regulations were lifted to engineer a new paradigm where capital and product can freely travel across boundaries of the nation state.

All the essential services of civilized life, like education, health, drinking water, transportation have been effectively transformed into commodities. Rivers, mountains have been sold, forests occupied.Coastal zones regulations have been relaxed, land ceiling laws have been flouted to commission SEZs. In effect, the entire country is being sold in pieces to private capital, resulting in widespread social inequity, hungerpoverty and starvation.

According to Forbes magazine, the number of trillionaires in India jumped from 27 to 52 just in the year 2006-07. In a recent article Forbes also informs that 56 Indian firms figure in its elite list of 2000 multinationals. Though India is behind US (502) and Japan (210) in numbers, her industrialists are placed right behind those from Canada and China. After the last Loksabha elections, the number of multi-billionaires in the parliament became 300, while only the previous one had 128! In between 1989-90 and 2001-02, only 20 percent of the urban population had an increase of commodity consumption (by 40 percent), while the same period saw a net decrease in rural commodity consumption by 80 percent.

The 2009 United Nations human development index places India at 134th spot amongst 182 countries. In 2007-08 India was 128th. India is ranked first in infant mortality. The most diminutive and disabled children are born in India. The maximum number of hungry and malnourished kids can be found in India – as per the World Bank report. The annual per capita food grain availability (not purchase power) which was 177 Kgs in 1990 has gone down to 152 Kgs in 2005. The latter number is equivalent to the food grain availability in a famine-like situation. It is in such a critical juncture that Indian agriculture policies are about to be transformed radically.

Post 2009 Loksabha elections, the main ruling party in the central government has started to widely advertize a second phase of reforms. This year, the union finance minister has given the call for a ‘second green revolution’ in Eastern India. The essential idea is to promote widespread contract-farming and replacing cultivation of food-crops with cash-crops. Also, there will be surge in producing fruits and flowers and a voluminous increase in horticultural products, food-processing, dairy products and processed fish-meat products. Food grains will start getting imported from the government-subsidized farms of Europe and the US. The ‘first green revolution’ introduced petro-technology dependent agricultural practices which led many medium, small and marginal farmers to give up agriculture as they could not afford the high cost of adapting to the new age of farming. History will cruelly repeat itself as we prepare to embrace the ‘second green revolution’ – we shall hear the same cry of ‘farming is no longer profitable’ and the new bio-tech guided, petro-power driven farming will cause even more farmers to leave the land for the Tatas, Birlas, Mittals and Ambanis to delve into corporate farming.

The ‘seed act’ supplements this ‘revolution’. The farmers’ natural right of seed preservation is taken away. Using only the seeds sold by companies will become the norm. Already the agriculturalgiants, through their bio-tech innovations and experimentations on seeds and farm animals are exercising considerable control in this sector. The real price will be paid by the farmers of this country and this is most essential for this ‘second revolution’ (SGR). We shall demonstrate later in this booklet how exactly has the multi-national fiefdom been schemed in the veil of a ‘second greenrevolution’. The ultimate aim is to bring about a transformation of our self-sufficient agriculturalsystem into a market-driven commercial system.

Long before this public call for the SGR that we hear now, the process has been initiated through many farming contracts where the multi-nationals tied up with Indian firms to enter the business of agro-products. The Bharti-Walmart or the Tata Kisaan-Tesco joint ventures are only couple of such instances where American or British retailers have tried to tap in this untouched sector. German Metro Cash and Carry or American PepsiCo has already invested in agricultural production in India. They want to capture the huge domestic market in India as well as re-engineer Indian agriculturalproduction to perfectly match the needs of the west. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta together control 40 percent of the seeds market and own 47 percent of the seeds. Bayer, Dow and a few more completely control the farm-chemicals market. Only 10 pesticide companies have 89 percent share of the market. Wal-Mart, Kroger, Carrefour and Tesco together control 40 percent of retail. And the unifications and mergers that these corporations frequently undergo are a product of the immense control that financial market exercises over them.

The centre has already admitted the failure of the ‘first green revolution’. The need for the SGR is rationalized by citing that there is currently a technological stalemate in the farm sector so that we can no longer maintain the high yields. But the new agro-policies make even more vigorous use of petrochemical dependant agriculture. The epitome of India’s green revolution, Punjab, has seen a huge reduction of soil fertility as admitted in a government report.

The rural people of Punjab are still suffering from the ill effects of the FGR. People are suffering from numerous health problems. Chemical pesticides are supposed to be the reason behind many cancer cases here. Train number 339 which passes through this region carries many cancer patients from Punjab to the government cancer hospital in Bikaner every day. It is known as the “cancer-train” there.

It is beyond any doubt that like the FGR, the SGR is also a US government approved, western multinational designed scheme. The plan for corporate domination is a much clearer aspect of this ‘revolution’ rather than it being ‘green’. The state as always will provide the necessarily legal and administrative insurance. It will quell any fuming discontent. But all this will happen in a much wider and more aggressive scale. Thus, a comparative study of the FGR and the SGR is imperative. At the same time, it is desirable to consider SGR as continuation of the process set by FGR. It is an irony that what is claimed as a ‘green’ revolution is definitely going to be ‘bloody’ – the experiences of the farmers in Vidharva, Maharashtra with the BT cotton will tell the disastrous results of bio-tech experimentations in agriculture. The astronomical proportions of farmer suicide forced a legislation to keep the morgues open 24 hours a day. The greenrevolution hot-bed of Punjab has similar such bloody stories to tell.

Let us reiterate that like the FGR, SGR is also a US driven project. As a part of the greater neo-liberal design, this scheme is to utilize all the tools that multi-nationals have invented to exercise complete control over world-wide production of food and also the agro-market. It is remarkable that our country’sagricultural policy is crafted by a few agricultural universities and United States Agency for international Development (USAID). There is a concerted effort to link the food processing, seeds, fertilizer, pesticide, farm equipment, retail and have each segment controlled by a few multinationals. The entire process is driven by an even bigger profit motive. The research on genetically modified organisms (GMO) conducted by the Land Grant University in the US is funded by corporate money. The president of South Dakota State University has been hired as a member of the board of directors on Monsanto for an extremely high compensation.

 

What do multinationals want?
 

That investment is essentially directed to strategic production of certain crops and its export. This will be accompanied by setting up of agro-produce processing, food processing and spinning centers. May be some agro-chemical industries will follow. India will be the home for labor-intensive farming and the associated exportable agricultural products. The industrialised west wants to use India as their agricultural and food basket. There is also a clear intention of taking control of India’s mineral deposits, forest produces and coastal resources. To be precise, India is to be the supplier of raw material for the west. And, also a large market to sell the finished products. This neo-imperial attack is the same horror as the British East India Company.

 

July 18, 2005 – Joint Statement:

On July 18, 2005, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a number of agreements with the US president George W. Bush in Washington DC. Of these, only the civil nuclear agreement was highlighted. The parliamentary left made a big fuss about this and cried foul as the sovereignty of the country was being jeopardized (however, the urgency to organize widespread public protests against this was sadly lacking). On the same day was also signed another treaty that would affect the lives and livelihood of at least 84 percent of India’s population, though it was hardly discussed anywhere or by anybody. This is the draconian Agricultural Knowledge Initiative (AKI). Recall, about 65-70 percent of Indian population is involved in agricultural production. Add to that another 14 percent who are associated with retail trade. This treaty will essentially evict all these people from their livelihood. Exercising control over the agriculture of an agricultural country like India is like controlling its entire economy.

Already, the policies that the third world governments have adopted at the behest of the IMF or the WB have all been a bane to the agriculture and also to the people related to agriculture. Reducing the import duties on the import of food crops, reducing farm subsidies, new preservation policies, genetically engineered seeds and animal proteins have all gone to fill the coffers of these multinationals.

The single most important objective of AKI is to orchestrate the SGR in India. In his speech to the US Congress, in the context of the Indo-US joint declarations and signed treaties, Manmohan Singh remarked, “US had helped India immensely during the FGR. We hope that the AKI will usher in a SGR in India”. The disastrous effect of this treaty in the entire chain from cultivation to retail has already been outlined.

AKI is no windfall. It is a recipe for disaster that has been carefully perfected and fits in a greater design. The importance of 18th July, 2005 can hardly be over-emphasised. The joint declaration is undoubtedly a landmark historical document, one that is more likely to be treated as a testimony to the unimaginable betrayal of the Indian people. In every line of this declaration is hidden such abominable clauses that illustrates how using the tools of neo-liberalism and free-trade, India’s policies are tailored to suit the needs of the United States of America.

The foremost subject that is captured in this declaration is the US-India Economic Dialogue. This is essentially an attempt to revive the Indo-US economic discussion and use the private sector energy to establish a CEO-platform to cement the economic ties. Trade, Investments and technology transfers would accelerate the economic growth of both the countries through cooperation. It is in this paragraph that AKI has been mentioned. Apart from this, there is reference to Indian Space Research, Indian Democratic Framework, Legal Structure etc; the American intervention in all internal matters of the country is crystal clear.

Incidentally, the 2005 tour of Manmohan saw him in the company of Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Baba Kalyani, Yogi Deveswar, Deepak Parekh and such other industrialists – these are the people who design the economic policies of the country. We discuss all this in detail below.

AKI Treaty:

Although this treaty is publicized as a ‘knowledge initiative’, the treaty in its entirety is spelled out as – US-India Knowledge initiative on Agriculture education, Teaching, Research, service and Commercial Linkages. The complete name conveys the expanse of this treaty. This treaty is in fact an integral part of a greater treaty called US-India Strategic Economic Partnership. A deeper inspection reveals the essential purpose of this treaty, which is to put Indian education and research to the use of the American multinationals. The recommendations of the haloed ‘national knowledge commission’ or the topics that dominate the Indo-US Science and Technology Forums reveal how this purpose is being served through the treaty. Questions related to our national sovereignty needs to be raised at this hour which are even more grave than those asked about the 1-2-3 nuclear treaty.

We have already pointed out that US multinational corporations are eager to establish their monopoly control over the Indian agricultural system through the AKI. Not only farming, the tentacles of AKI are spread from seed production to retail and wholesale trade, food processing, education and research, distribution of agricultural produce. The US administration, USDA (US department of agriculture), USAID (US agency of international development), different US universities have launched this attack in a concerted manner. For instance, the business school of Michigan University has drafted the contract farming document of ITC. Cornell University is involved in BT crop research.

Primarily, four fields were targeted in this pact. These were:

a) The field of education, syllabus selection, research and training.

b) Food processing and the utilization of fossil fuels.

c) Biotechnology.

d) Irrigation methods.

As usual, the pact will be implemented by a private – public partnership, or by a “PPP” model, which means that while the government will pay for the infrastructure development, the profit will only go to certain individual owners of large multinationals. These private actors would like to convert the entire world into a large food production unit, and for that purpose, are replacing agricultural production with trade-based contract farming, replacing cultivation of normal crops with farming for cash crops and production of flowers. The main objective of this is to increase export. One can say that this process is bringing back the times of the indigo cultivation, though this promises to be a lot more horrifying.

In brief, lets focus on few aspects of this treaty.

a) The main thrust of the “second green revolution” is the increase of agricultural output using large quantities of geneticaly modified crops. The recent turmoil about BT Brinjal is a direct result of the this treaty. After BT-Brinjal, other BT crops like BT rice are in the pipeline. This will be discussed in detail later.

Not only produce, genetic engineering is going to be used in changing fish and poultry as well. Along with this the issue of patents is also going to be highlighted. This is how the Company Raj is going to be imposed on the farmers of India. The induction of genetically modified crops will drastically reduce seed diversity and the farming of conventional crops. Farming will become so expensive that farmers will be forced to give up their occupations. Apart from permanently taking away the control of seeds from farmers, the special “Biotechnology Regulatory Act” is being formulated so that any sort of protest will also be stifled. This is how the freedom of speech and democratic rights will be usurped.

b) US multi-multinationals will sponsor the training of different Indian agricultural researchers in their own country. This is how foreign companies will develop and control the Indian agricultural research system. Needless to say, this cost will be borne by the Indian government. The BT Brinjal scam exposed clearly how it is possible to have reports favorable to multinationals penned by a few researchers, and how government permission obtained by completely illegal means.

c) The syllabus of the agricultural universities of India will be restructured. The curriculum of different institutions will be made favourable for the second green revolution. As a result of this pact, US corporations and universities will be getting the permission of taking seeds from India to their own country. They can then genetically modify these seeds and re-introduce them in India, as new, patented seeds.

d) One main aspect of this is contract farming. There are many examples of this in Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. These will then rapidly spread to the other parts of the country following the declaration of the second green revolution. Futures trade would be based on this, and farmers will completely lose control over crop selection in the future. All such selection will be determined by the market, which will mainly promote the growth of food crops that can be exported and processed. This will be the future of the agricultural policy.

AKI board:

The high powered joint committee created for the implementation of Indo-US pact is represented prominently by Walmart, which is the world’s number one retailer, Archers Daniel Midlands which is the world’s largest food trader, and biochemical, seed and biotech giant Monsanto corporation which unilaterally control the seed market. Recently, in India FICCI and CII have joined this advisory committee.

Indo US CEO forum:

In his US visit of the US in 2005 by Manmohan Singh, the Indo-US CEO forum was formed under the supervision of the US-India business council. The primary objective of this forum was to supervise US investment in India and create conditions which would allow unfettered access for foreign capital. In reality, this group will try to implement all economic policies and ideas of the AKI pact. RatanTata has been designated the CEO from the Indian side, and William Harrison of JP Morgan as the CEO from the American side. Besides these, US board members are drawn from Cargill, Citigroup, Pepsico, McGrawHill, Xerox, while India is represented by Pratap Reddy of Apollo Hospital, Baba Kalyani of IndianForge Ltd, Ashok Ganguly of ICICI, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance, Yogi Deveshwar of ITC LTD, Deepak Parekh of ICDFC, to name a few. It is the proposal created by this group of corporates which was finally accepted in the parliament.

It is worth mentioning that many of these committee members were directly and indirectly connected to biotech research and agricultural retail croporations like Kishan Sansar of the Tata’s and Reliance Fresh of the Ambani’s. Besides, US companies that are closely affiliated are taking advantage of the treaty through the export market and are also changing the laws of the country for promoting their own interests. It is notable that the traveling companions of Manmohan Singh in 2005 were Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Baba Kalyani, Y.C.Deveshwar, Deepak Parekh, etc. In one word, the promotion and individual growth of of particular large business and trade interests is being protrayed as the way to help in development of the nation.

Documents of the CEO forum: Tactical Economic Partnership of India and US:

In 2006, the CEO forum published an agenda, which in one word could be said to be the list of demands of the corporate houses. These demands are reflected in the many so called development projects and have different legal aspects.

Starting from infrastructure, and encompassing energy security, different sectors like trade and business intellectual property rights, direct foreign investment, insurance / banking / pension, SEZ, defense, special investment areas, agriculture, and even several aspects of the Indian legal system have been earmarked for “cooperation” within the document published by the CEO forum. In brief, let us try to look at the main points in the document.

1. Public-private partnership (PPP) needs to be encouraged. The Indian government will need to increase the transparency and efficiency of the bidding process in order to attract more US-based corporations. The legal system in India will need to be modified to protect the interests of foreign investors.

2. Large Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s) will need to be set up in India, which will service both the domestic and foreign markets. These zones will have international standard infrastructure, developmental projects, energy and transporation advantages, single window of clearance, internationally competitive labour laws and administrative transparency. A task force comprising of various Indian and foreign industry representatives will coordinate with state and national governing bodies / agencies.

3. Foreign corporations are very interested in investing in electricity, petroleum, gas, etc. therefore the govt. should enact more aggressive reforms in these areas, and give special attention to investment.

4. In the way the US based firm Enron was facilitated to invest in the “Dabhol Electricity Project”, similarly Dow Chemicals should be allowed into Union Carbide in Bhopal, and all obstacles for such investment should be removed. The restrictions placed on the price of medication by Dr. Pranab Sen’s task force need to be reviewed. The government needs to take up the task of building infrastructure. Public-private partnerships need to be welcomed in the fields of investment, all of which could be joint Indo-US ventures.

5. Barriers in investing in the small scale retail market need to be removed. Similarly, hindrances in investment in real estate, media, satellite broadcasts should be reduced. The food processing industry should be opened up to foreign investment, and special investment zones (different from special economic zones) need to be opened up to to attract foreigh investment. These places would have lax labour laws.

6. The CEO forum has emphasized on control over higher education and research in the context of human resource development. They have advocated the establishment of ties with different Indian and American universities and have demanded complete independence in the determination of fees and syllabuses for the affiliated universities. It has been clearly mentioned that the AKI treaty will be specially used in the field of collaborative research between Indian and US universities.

7. The food processing industry will need to be completely privatised. To rejuvenate the food processing industry, a cold storage chain needs to be established. All obstacles in the transport of imported and internal agricultural produce need to be removed. The Agricultural Produce Market Committee regulation needs to be revisited as this poses an obstacle for buyers and food processors for investing and increases the costs of agricultural goods. The import and taxation policies on vegetable oil, oil producing seeds, agricultural produce, need to be relaxed and all barriers to foreign investment in food and agri-business needs to be removed.

8. An US-India agricultural research institute needs to be set up as a part of the AKI pact, and joint research will need to be encouraged. The US and India should jointly try to commercialise biotechnology and encourage in the investment of products and goods that are generated from biotechnology. The appropriate framework for this needs to be created.

9. Direct foreign investment needs to be accelerated. Barriers to retail trade will need to be loosened. Besides, real estate, media, broadcasting, cable TV, etc should have any investment limits removed. Insurance/banking regulations need to be relaxed.

Only selected parts of the document of the CEO forum are discussed here. As the main thrust of this is agriculture, many changes are coming in this sector. These are reforms according to the government, but are in reality a blueprint for corporate takeover.

Like the establishment of SEZ’s, food grain export, food processing, the entrance of large capital in retail industry, changes in the APMC law, changes in policies related to education and research, were mentioned to the show the connection between the corporate interests in the two countries. On the Indian side, the signatory was Ratan Tata. In this context it should be mentioned that the golden quadrilateral that came up during the nineties, and the way the rail and land corridors and shopping malls are sprouting up, are all parts of the new agricultural policy. Needless to say this will result in increased food shortages, malnutrition, widespread poverty and starvation.

First Green Revolution versus the Second Green Revolution:

In the 60s a change had been noticed in the agricultural policy that had been termed the first greenrevolution. A joint venture of the Ford Foundation of Henry Ford, and the Rockefeller Foundation of Standard Oil had made the world’s agricultural system more dependent on energy and mineral oil. This was an indivisible part of the strategy of making the world more dependent on petroleum. Behind this “green revolution” there were other motives than just improving the Indian agricultural output. The fulfillment of the self-interest of the US was much greater, especially the fulfillment of the plans of the oil companies who wanted to create a permanent market for themselves through this process. The aim of the first revolution was to introduce petrochemical dependency on farming and make inroads in the fields of ownership of seed distribution, take control over the sectors of pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, etc.

The initiative to start the first green revolution had begun in Mexico in 1943. At that time, due to the initiative taken by the US based Rockefeller foundation, a joint effort by the US agricultural ministry and the USDA established the wheat and corn research center CMMYIT. Following this, the International Rice Research Center was established in the Philippines. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation were also involved in this effort. Among their different objectives, one was to create hybrid seed varieties that would grow well on nitrogen based fertilisers. The IR-8 variety was created by hybridising PETA of Indonesia with Dee-gee Woo Gen of China. After that, several such research efforts have taken place. This was the first attempt to establish private control over the seed sector.

After the WW II, the spectre of communism chased the US all over the world. In their own country, the US established a military economy by striking a deal with labour unions for setting labour policies. If revolutionary movements were afoot in any country, the US would try to identify the roots. There was a specific economic objective to this. And in these efforts, CIA was called in if needed to implement the policies of the World Bank and the IMF.

Even in the areas of improvement of irrigation in Mexico and in the creation of high yielding varieties in Philippines, Indonesia, China, the green revolution was made a model of agricultural growth. At the initiative and due to the funding by the Ford Foundation, the Corn Development project (CDP) gave impetus to the agriculture in this country. After that, the Intensive Agricultural District Region (IADR) was started in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and in some provinces of North-Western UP from 1965.

In this context, it should be mentioned that the way the rich ruling class of this country tried to use the technology and resources of both Russia and the Western nations simultaneously. Due to this, there was some hesitation in accepting the green revolution. Hearsay said that after the US president Lyndon Johnson threatened to withdraw PL-480, the ruling class conceded to implement the required policies to facilitate the first green revolution.

The green revolution entered India by exploiting the food crisis. When a nationwide food crisis was going on in the country in the beginning of the 60’s, the green revolution package entered the country through the medium of export reform. Firstly, India was told that a nationwide survey of soil fertility needed to be conducted. The sale of farming equipment in India heralded the use of expensive machinery in Indian agriculture. Also, technology related to chemical fertilizer production was made sophisticated at this time. This was followed by the induction of high yielding seed varieties. Punjab was chosen as the incubation center for the green revolution. Along with the revolution, diesel pump-sets came into India. All of this was tied to the selfish profit motives of the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations. These technologies were not introduced to alleviate India’s hunger.

In order to turn the popular tide of public opinion towards the green revolution, a large scale effort was undertaken to train the scientists who would support it. The US undertook the responsibility of establishing an agricultural university in Punjab. After that, such universities were established in different places like Hyderabad, Tamil Nadu.

Correspondingly, US universities were deputed to prepare the curriculum. It was decided that theagricultural universities in this country would be modeled after the Land Grant based university model of US. In this period, around 33 institutes came to be, including 25 state farming universities, 1 centralagricultural university, 1 horticultural and forestry related university, 2 veterinary universities, to list a few. 4 national research centers were also created.

By directly becoming involved in the establishment of 5 universities of the first phase, US established roots in the Indian agricultural education and training arena. National universities had very close associations with US based universities, which often influenced their policy decisions. Examples of such collaborations were the involvements of the Ohio University in Punjab, Michigan University in Tamil Nadu, Purdue, Iowa university in Bangalore.

This is how the green revolution established itself in India. This same idea was applied in other countries.

Tales of increased yield from the green revolution were circulated. Starting from the school textbooks, people were brainwashed on the positive effects of the green revolution. But nowhere were its negative aspects mentioned. While statistics of increased yield were presented, the price for this yield increase was not mentioned. There were three main subjects of the green revolution.

1. Increase in amount of land under agriculture.
2. Fertile lands were directed to have double crops and increased irrigation.
3. Increased use of high yielding variety seeds.

It is not clear why on earth one would need the great opinions of American experts regarding the first two abovementioned steps. There was no need for the eminent experts to tell us that more grain can be produced by cultivating more land which would help in building up the farming system of the country. Second, neither is there any doubt that production would rise if two crops are grown instead of one. The third advice was for securing their hold in seed market. This raised per acre yield undoubtedly. But one also has to consider that cost of production has gone up in the same rate. There is no efficiency gain in obtaining more power by spending more power.

In newly independent countries like India where the bourgeoisie rules, the “green revolution” was accorded the status of national agricultural policy. In order to protect from the danger of second world war and world wide economic depression, the interest of the saviour of world capitalism, namely the United States, and that of the Indian bourgeoisie converged on the same point.

In the agricultural system of colonial age the government was not concerned about the food availability of common people. Without attaining any development in agriculture many exportable crops such as jute, coffee, tobacco, cotton were grown. In the interest of imperialism through permanent settlement, zamindari, mahalwari, ryotwari tenure systems capitalist production were carried on. The main aim of the British government was to collect taxes, to that end it compromised with the local feudal structure.

Immediately after independence therefore food crisis, problems of all around rural development cropped up along with problems of expansion of capitalism in agriculture. The reason why the Indian capitalist class interest started following the blue print prepared by the two American organisations, Rockfeller and Ford Foundation are as follows,

1.In the newly independent country the torch bearer of democracy, the Congress Party, followed a system of mixed economy to achieve welfare for all. But while doing so crisis on food front became the biggest issue. To reach food to industrial workers and ordinary citizens control should be exercised over supply of food and its price. Therefore, the central government adopted green revolution orientedagricultural policy to quell possibilities of imminent rebellion and insurrections.

2.Some investments were legitimately taking place in agriculture. A major part of the compensation paid to the princely states also got invested in industries and share market. But in spite of all this the capitalist structure in agriculture was not taking a robust shape because of elements of semi-feudalism, slavery, begar system (bonded labour system in agriculture). So land reform, technology oriented farming, high yielding variety seeds, expansion of irrigation and such measures were taken.

3.Western influences were leaving deep imprint on the thinking, practice, values (especially in the field of technology) in the middle and upper class for decades before independence was attained. In the newly independent country that western influence, mainly in technology, became US oriented within a decade.

On the other hand as far as the harmful effects of green revolution are concerned the first is stability. The yield per acre could not be sustained. Two, countries which had adopted this technology are importing food at present. Possibly the global food merchants had this aim in mind. Three, hunger of the poor has not gone down, it has risen on the contrary. Serious harms were done to ecology. The farmers are finding farming no longer profitable courtesy adoption of the expensive farming system. Besides the well off farmers, conditions of small and marginal peasants have deteriorated (92% of peasants in West Bengal are small and marginal). Most importantly, the government itself is admitting that the first green revolution technology has lost efficiency. The edge has worn out in ten years. On can go on over this, but let us stop here for the time being.

 

India Produces: 

17% of world milk production, 41% of mango, 30% of cauliflower, 24% of cashewnut, 36% of greenpeas, 21% of sugar cane, 22% of rice, 21% of pulses, 15% of wheat, 28% of tea. Besides, there are fruits, herbs etc.

 

Farmer Suicide:

No matter how loud the leaders blow their trumpets over agricultural development, incidence of farmer suicide has been growing. Existence of crores of marginal and small farmers are at risk due to the attack of neoliberal economic policies. National Crime Records Bureau reports that between 1997 and 2008 1,99,132 farmers were forced to commit suicide. Five states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh contributed the most to this. Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra, is supposed to be the life centre of financial activities in India. The same state saw about 45000 farmer suicides. In 2008 alone Maharashtra clocked 436 and Karnataka 398 farmers suicides. In the five years 2003 to 2008 incidence of suicides has gone up by 1900 per year.

The Punjab Experience:

It is heard that Punjab has prospered a lot due to the first green revolution and the lives and livelihood of the farmers in Punjab have improved. After this propaganda the central government is preparing the grounds for the second green revolution. But what is the actual state of Punjab peasants? Of all states, the highest number of indebted farmers is in Punjab. The average level of indebtedness per agriculturist is about Rs 42000. The volume of total indebtedness is Rs 25000 crores. From 1998 to 2009, 2116 farmers have committed suicide in this state. According to non-official sources the actual number is several times more than this. About 60% of farmers are in debt. The price of the first green revolution by is being paid by small and middle peasants committing suicide. The finance minister of India Mr. Pranab Mukherjee has chosen the eastern states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa for unveiling the second green revolution. In this manner, the central government has arranged for mass scale farmer suicide in these states in near future.

Due to land reforms, small and marginal farmers own most of the land in West Bengal. They have succeeded in achieving all round improvement of agriculture in the state. West Bengal is one of the major states in agricultural production. One of the sinister aims of neoliberal globalisation is to establish the dominance of capital in agricultural business. Many infamous multinational companies and capitalists of this country have entered the fray to secure their business power in agriculture. These businessmen are eager to put into practice a capital and technology intensive agriculturalsystem. If they are successful the small and marginal farmers will either be thrown off their occupation and turn into farm labourers. Or they will choose the final option of suicide through the debt route.

It is well known that the aim of many national and international big capitalists is to grab large tracts of land, invest huge sums of money and modern technology and earn windfall profit in the agriculturalbusiness. To achieve this the first task would be to reverse whatever little land reform that has taken place. As it is, per capita land ownership is less in eastern India. After the land reform in West Bengal per family land ownership has gone down further. One of the aims of the second green revolution is to nullify the land reform system and establish the unchallenged dominance of big capitalists in place of the big landlords of yesteryears.

We must fend off this ominous future.

The Main Theme of the Second Green Revolution:

The first green revolution has failed, therefore more green revolution. We have already noted that the impact of the second wave is going to be much more lethal. The first revolution targeted capturing the market of farm implements or exporting agricultural produce after growing them domestically. The new revolution one hears is not restricted to sphere of production alone. From primary implements to the final distribution of the produce – the entire network is attempted to be swallowed up. In the first stage ordinary people could manage to benefit in a limited way through public distribution system, agriculture subsidy, internal market, procurement at remunerative price etc. There were flaws in all these. But the attack in the second stage is much more far reaching.

The main technological weapon in the second green revolution is biotechnology. Monsanto wants to exercise control over the entire seed stock of the world through this. Not only seeds the multinational corporations are keen to control over the entire animal kingdom. In cattle and fish production gene technology is already being used extensively. The multinational corporations have gained dominance over scientific research of all description. They are using scientific and technological research according to their own will and requirements. India has become part of their nefarious plan through many deals.

Genetically Modified Crop: The Main Weapon of the Second Green Revolution
BT cotton and BT brinjal: Ominous Project

If HYV seeds, chemical fertilisers, pesticides were the tools through which via the first greenrevolution agrarian economy of India and the third world were captured, the principal weapon of the so called second green revolution or forever green revolution is GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms. It includes cotton, potato, maize, rice, jawar, soya bean, canola, tomato, papaya and BT brinjal, the centre of the latest controversy. Gradually newer commercial crops, food grains, vegetables would be encompassed.

From the last decade of the last century a process of merger between the giant chemical companies, farm and seed monopolies started. For instance pioneer Hybreed and Dupont (1997), Novartis AG and Geneca (2002), Dow and Rohm and Has (2001) etc. These agglomerated giants started to monopolise the seed market, so that the third world farmers are not able to preserve seed, so that each year they get forced to buy seeds from Monsanto, Singenta, Dupont or Cargill at extortionary price, so that all over the world seed and crop market get monopolised by monopoly capital.

The first step in this direction is to biotechnologically modify one or two genes of crops so that the gene of a different organism gets established.

The second step, to relentlessly propagate that GM crop is more productive, pest resistant and has greater longevity. Less chemical fertilisers would needed, less harvest will get wasted – profits of the farmer would rise as a result. 90% of such propaganda is false, incomplete or based on unscientific research and lies. But agricultural scientists and researches of India would be used for the propaganda – with the help of foreign tours (in the name of training), research funding and gifts. The universities of India and the third world would be utilised for the same purpose.

In the third state, the government would be pressured to approve those untested and harmful side effects containing seeds so that they can be produced commercially for the domestic market. If need be at first the seeds would be distributed freely and they would reach the farmers through the government agricultural departments. This has happened in the case of BT cotton and attempts are being made for the same in case of BT brinjal. If things don’t work out simply extremely undemocratic and anti-national laws such as ‘Biotechnology Bill’ would be passed through the client governments.

The fourth stage is catastrophic. Within five, ten or fifteen years natural genome of all crops will get polluted through cross-pollination of infused outside genes. For example Cry 1ac gene of soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis has been infused in BT brinjal. This gene will enter the 25 varieties of brinjal in India and also other crops. Biodiversity created over thousands of years will get destroyed. It is worthwhile to recall that 2000 varieties of paddy have vanished because of the first green revolution. After 20 years perhaps only GM potato, maize and rice will be left with us.

The main game of giant companies unfolds in the fifth stage. Local seed stock has been destroyed. Only the distorted seeds of Monsanto, Syngenta are all we are left with. Farmers will have to purchase these year after year at a premium. Otherwise farmers may go to the jail or get fined courtesy patent law or the Seed Act, which is pending parliamentary approval.

The field where BT or similar crops have been cultivated get unsuitable for crops which are not genetically modified. This way the entire seed market of the country will be usurped by multinational giants or their national agent organisations.

However these high price seeds can not guarantee high crop yield. There is no certainty that the gene injected inside another crop by biotechnology, will succeed in yielding large harvest. Cotton growing areas of Vidharbha of Maharashtra is a cataclysmic example. We have discussed this elsewhere in this booklet. In short, after buying seeds and farm implements at exorbitant price, experiencing crop failure and therefore unable to pay the bank of money lender loans, thousands of BT cotton farmers have committed suicide. The suicide count exceeded 4000 in 2005-06 alone.

After soaking their hands in the blood of peasants, after doing business of billions of rupees, Monsanto (father of BT cotton) is now saying perhaps one of their GM seeds, ‘Bollgard- I’, has been a failure. Pests have become immune. Use of pesticide has not come down, neither has the yield gone up they admit. Therefore the company advices that their newest invention, two gene modified ‘Bollgard –II’ seed should be used. Massive success follow.

The false admit of error by Monsanto is part of their global business strategy. After the profit of the first stage seed has been completely appropriated they want to push the more expensive Bollgard – II. Transforming the blood and flesh of Indian peasants into profit is the blueprint of these multinational corporations.

Thus GM crops are an indispensable part of the second green revolution and India-US agriculturalknowledge initiative. It’s a such sure shot ammunition to secure all-encompassing of monopoly capital over Indian agriculture.

At present the much publicised story of high productivity yielding green revolution has taken an U-turn. Fertility of soil has plummeted. Ground water level has gone down alarmingly. Many toxic and poisonous particles are being detected in water. Due to relentless and extensive application of chemical manures and inorganic pesticides rural ecology and even the forests have been damaged.

The favourite projects of the central government such as the special economic zone (SEZ), due to large scale land grab by the big capitalists in search of minerals, the supply of land available for farming has gone down significantly. Besides, in spite of many cautions the central government has refused to restore the universal rationing system. It has instead embarked on a bizarre plan to provide food grain to the poor by introducing food coupon system. All these is part of a deep treacherous behaviour pattern.

After forward trading has been given permission big capitalists have taken to hoarding of food grain and black marketing. The Vajpayee government has weakened the essential commodities act. Manmohan Singh is walking the same path. As a result, punitive actions against black marketers and hoarders have become difficult to slap. Distribution of ration cards and correctly fixing the poverty line in the states are not being executed. The poor irrespective of caste, religion or creed are unable to afford food grain. Food crisis has grown deeper and deeper.

We have already discussed that an agricultural system oriented towards open market economy is fast gaining ground. The fallout of this is that food grains would not be grown for feeding the hungry, but the main aim of the farming would be to establish commercial agriculture. Agricultural diversity is getting destroyed. Agricultural production is becoming inconsistent with the rising population growth of the country. One shudders to think what danger food crisis may portend in near future.

It has to be pointed out, all over the world food crisis is taking an increasingly dangerous dimension. As the crisis deepens, demand for food rises exponentially. Consequently, the countries which are rich in agriculture, those which grow gold from land, face the gravest dangers from ruthless land grabbing predators.

Food is for People, It is a Right, It is not for Profit:

 

Demands: 

1.Seeds and right to preserve seeds cannot be snatched away from peasants.
2.Invasion of national or international big capital in agriculture and contract farming should not be allowed.
3.So called food coupon based distorted food security system cannot be allowed.
4.Universal rationing system should be implemented throughout the country.
5.Black marketing and hoarding should be stopped by making essential commodities act strict.
6.Forwarding trading of food grain should be banned.
7.Excessive water, high level chemical fertiliser and pesticide based agriculture system must stop.
8.Privatisation of distribution of water and irrigation should be stopped.
9.In the interest of the poor land reform should be implemented throughout the country.
10.Land cannot be taken under the dictates of big capital.
11.Not under the control of capital, the local agricultural society must be intensely involved in order to restructure procurement and distribution of crop.
12. All genetically modified seed based crops including BT cotton and brinjal should be banned.
13.Indo-US agricultural knowledge initiative must be scrapped.

 

The deepening crisis in agricultural production and distribution is entangling the entire nation in an unprecedented crisis. To fight against this vicious present and future all progressive people, those who are committed to the cause of humanity must come together. One cannot afford to be too discerning regarding the allies, that way no meaningful resistance against the despicable conspiracy can be forged. Consolidation of the largest number of people and a commitment towards an united struggle is the need of the hour.

At the present juncture one needs development of consciousness and propagation of the same to thwart the conspiracy of the Indian capitalist who acting as junior partners of imperialist powers. Sanskriti Parishad in involved in this task. We believe in the coming days booklets of this nature would be published on a bigger scale by ensuring participation of larger number of people.

 

Do we need a second green revolution after four decades?

http://www.dailypioneer.com/334548/Do-we-need-a-second-green-revolution-after-four-decades.html
April 27, 2011   8:30:50 AM

Prescience or perceptual percipience of pathetic predicament of the peasantry could have propelled the authority to pull them out from the pernicious penury. Preposterous perception and perfunctory implementation of policies couldn’t read the presage writ large for the pro-rata increase in woes of the peasants. The perplexing prattles and prophesies without delving deep into the cause of precarious position of peasantry have made our pithy postulates look helpless.

The resultant paradoxical position is that while we profess for progress and present a picture of advanced agriculture and improved socio-economic conditions of the farmers, but at the same time we are facing the prang as the field realities have not been properly perceived. As such, the agriculture sector with a majority of small and marginal farmers has borne the burnt, and wilting under the pressure from global competitors, burden of bank borrowing and unfavourable climatic conditions. Lastly, the poor peasant has to fight against the onslaught on agricultural lands by the propertied estate developers for perpetration of the concrete juggles on agricultural lands.

Presumptions, however accurate they may be, cannot predicate a pragmatic procedural solution. The causes of the resultant precipitation of present predicament of the peasantry are to be found out first. Over dependence on monsoon, lack of irrigation facilities, heavy burden of debt, escalation of prices of pesticides and fertilisers, competition from global market as a result of globalisation, excessive dependence on paddy cultivation and negligible production of alternative crops and the lack of backward and forward linkages sometimes resulting in sale of the produce in a low rate have prompted the peasantry to proliferate the propensity of despair.

Each point mentioned in the preceding paragraph if analysed and explained would be as lengthy as research paper. But for brevity, the prominent yet perturbing cause which should be pummelled first is the overdependence of agriculture sector and the vagaries of monsoon. Whereas in case of Punjab above ninety-five per cent of cultivable land is irrigated, in Odisha the total area under any kind of assured irrigation system is very less. That leaves the peasantry under the claws of perpetual uncertainties. The need of the hour is creation of irrigation potential through various practical ways, starting from euphemistic proposal of joining major rivers to creation of small water reservoirs with canalisation of water potential and every effort in this regard would be laudable. Even the not so successful concept of lift irrigation in our State maybe given a second thought because there is no alternative to this method in dry areas and this method has taken Punjab to the pinnacle of success in agriculture sector. The other problems besetting the farmers are heavy debt burden, the escalating cost of fertilizers and pesticides and non-availability at the proper moment and supply of quality seeds for cultivation of the crops in time. These prominent points need no further explanation but need a serious consideration by the secretary agriculture department to profess support to apparently shaken peasantry in a paradigm shift of approach.

The scope and profitability of alternate and multiple cropping should be explained to farmers even through demonstration in the fields of rich peasants in their locality. The apprehension associated with these cropping methods in the mind of cultivators regarding marketability of these produces should be allayed. The concept of backward and forward linkages or in a plain way leaving these high sounding jargons, the marketing support and the concept of support price should be extended to primary cultivators. Though the authorities declare support prices for the major crops but the important thing is that the benefit should reach the cultivators. Without marketing support, development of growth centers, krushak bazaars the poverty-stricken peasantry would find it difficult to come out from the present position and without the supports poor peasants should not be exposed to experimentations with regard to alternate and rotational cropping methods, etc.

The present situations emerging out of globalisation are not very conducive for Indian farmers and especially the farmers of Odisha and have set the precognition of a situation of global competition even in food products, and, therefore, preparation to save and equip the farmers to face the unavoidable situations should become the prime most thing in the agenda of the Secretary of the Agriculture Department. The fragile financial condition of the farmers for varied reasons portrayed in the previous paragraphs cannot sustain the jolt because of this economic imbroglio precipitated by globalisation and global competitions. A firm support in various fronts should be provided to this community to prepare, face and survive and succeed even in the global competitive arena. Even we can also strengthen and develop the agricultural produce export policy to pronounce our arrival in global scene.

At the macro level, the Indian agricultural sector and at the medium and micro level, Odisha’s agriculture sector need a little pampering and pat from the authority as agriculture is still our mainstay. Do we need a second green revolution after about four decades?

— The writer is a senior IAS officer


Green revolution's cancer train

 

Pesticides and cancer: a murderous concoction, a massive environmental and health disaster, while people are dying in village after village of Punjab
By Sandeep Yadav Faridkot/Muktsar
Despite the relentless suffering, 41-year-old Karamjeet Kaur is not scared of death. Member of a proud, landed family in Kotbhai village in district Muktsar, this mother of three has been diagnosed with uterus cancer. The revelation has brought no change in her daily chores, except that she has to travel long distance for periodic check-ups at the Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Treatment and Research Centre, at Bikaner, in Rajasthan. Her hair has turned white due to illness and heavy medicines, and her face is weary in the fading daylight. Yet, she tells her story with immense dignity, so distinctive among the strong, hardworking women of Punjab. And it doesn’t matter if it is her cancer she is talking about.
Karamjeet is one of the five battling cancer in her village. The Jhoke Sarkari village, in Faridkot district, has 10 cancer patients. There have been 15 cancer-related deaths in the last five years here. Even children, as young as ten- year-old, are suffering from joint pains, arthritis and greying of hair. Their suffering is starkly visible.
It’s the same story in several villages of Punjab—Jhariwala, Koharwala, Puckka, Bhimawali, Khara. Recently, a 12-year-old boy died of cancer in Khara village and a 25-year-old woman has been detected with breast cancer. Similar cases of cancer deaths (apart from farmers’ suicides) have become the norm in the whole of Malwa region of Punjab, comprising the districts of Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Sangroor and Bathinda. Although the government has claimed 172 cancer deaths in Muktsar district in the last two years, Manpreet Badal, the Shiromani Akali Dal MLA from Giddarbaha, contested the claim. He has a list of 300 cancer deaths from Giddarbaha constituency alone. “In the 50 villages falling in my constituency I have attended close to 300 funerals of people dying due to cancer in the last three months,” says Manpreet.
“Punjab is in the grip of a terrible environmental and health crisis emanating from the intensive farming practices involving large doses of chemicals and pesticides in use for the past four decades,” says Devinder Sharma, agriculture policy analyst. The green revolution has not really been so green. The environment has been intensely contaminated by the rampant use and abuse of chemicals and pesticides. The underground water is clinically unfit for drinking or for irrigation.
A comprehensive study conducted in the area by the prestigious Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, brings out unequivocal evidence that the use of indiscriminate, indiscreet, excessive and unsafe pesticides is directly responsible for the rapid and significant rise in the number of pesticide-related cases of cancers and cancer deaths. Studies by the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) have established that Punjab is facing a serious second-generation environmental crisis.
Malwa region, in the southwest of Punjab, is a cotton belt that is now growing the controversial, genetically modified Bt cotton only. Gurmail Singh, a cotton farmer of Jaitu village, says that about 14 years ago the cotton in the region was attacked by the American ball worm— a deadly pest. “I used about ten pesticide sprays over three acres of land and still could not kill the pest,” he recalls. There are many farmers who used more than 20 sprays of pesticides to kill the pest, but were still unsuccessful.
Unaware of the harmful effects of the mindless use of pesticides pushed by the nexus of unscrupulous agencies and private companies, the people of the region are paying a terrible price for their folly. Often wrongly advised by influential agricultural lobbies and profit sharks, the greed of high yield overruled prevailing health concerns. Indeed, Punjab has 2.5 per cent of the total agricultural land in the country, but is using the highest amount—more than 18 per cent of pesticides in the country. All this has contributed to widespread social devastation in individual and community life.
Predictably, Dr Harinder Singh, Agriculture Development Officer, Muktsar, categorically blames the farmers for not adhering to the precautions related to the use of pesticides. He says that a pesticide called Monocrotophose is banned from being used on vegetables and fruits, but the farmers don’t follow the warning. “The precautions are not binding as an official order since there are no such laws. Hence no legal action can be taken,” says Singh.
Umendra Dutt, executive director of Kheti Virasat Mission, an NGO in Faridkot, argues that the entire tragedy is a result of a conspiracy hatched between the scientists of the influential Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) and pesticide companies, which convinced the innocent farmers with a false promise: more pesticides, more yield. “The PAU continues to push pesticides, knowing too well that these were not required in the first place. In the case of cotton, scientists have compounded the problem by turning the ‘insect profile’ hostile, who, instead of being eliminated are breeding heavily. There were six or seven kinds of pests that worried the farmers in the 1960s; today, the number of cotton pests has multiplied to over 60,” says Dutt.
Almost 40 years after the green revolution, the International Rice Research Institute, at Manila, in the Philippines, now publicly accepts its mistake in promoting pesticides. It is on record that “pesticides were a waste of time and efforts” in Asia for the cultivation of rice. Farmers in Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines have successfully opted for pesticide-free cultivation. But the irony of Punjab is that the agriculture establishments are not open to this bitter realism about pesticides. They are still gloating in the green-revolution mindset, insulated from alternative paradigms for sustainable agriculture, environment and development.
After Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, raised the issue of pesticide content in the blood of the people of Punjab last year, the Punjab government constituted two committees — one high-profile committee, headed by Chief Minister Amrinder Singh, and another expert group headed by Dr K.K. Talwar, Director, PGIMER, Chandigarh. The expert group met at least once but the high-powered committee failed to meet even once in the last ten months. Meetings were fixed not less then five times but were postponed for one reason or another.
While the Punjab government is busy clearing multi-crore SEZs, it has not been able to provide its people a proper cancer treatment facility in the Bathinda region. Poor cancer patients are forced to go to distant Bikaner, in Rajasthan, for their treatment. According to the National Cancer Registry Programme, out of 424 cancer patients from Bathinda district, 328 were being treated at Bikaner. So much so, the train plying between Muktsar and Bikaner has been rechristened as the ‘cancer train’ by the locals.
While NGO’s such as Kheti Virasat Mission, are doing their best to educate the farmers about health and environment issues, even to the extent of asking them to pledge that they will do only organic farming, the state government’s role is starkly insensitive and lackadaisical. The Punjab government paid a meagre relief amount to some cancer patients. But can half-hearted doles of monetary help stop the epidemic?
How will the government stop the ecological degeneration and health crisis, and save the people from cancer and other
diseases directly related to top-heavy policies and the vested interests of pesticide lobbies?
The wake-up call has been buzzing non-stop and for a long time. But no one’s listening, certainly not the powerful green-revolution lobby. While the people die, or survive, waiting for death, in abject pain

WSF 2007- Green Revolution? A Warning from India with Dr. Vandana Shiva

Africa Biodiversity Network, Centre for Development Initiatives (Uganda) & Navdanya (India)

An initiative funded by US billionaire Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation is pouring millions of dollars into research to bring a “New Green Revolution for Africa” as a solution to hunger and poverty. But will this initiative, bringing more fertilizers, pesticides and Genetically Modified crops, really address the causes of hunger in Africa, or will it only serve to exacerbate the continent’s problems?

Renowned Indian Activist Dr Vandana Shiva (Watch Video) will be at the World Social Forum to share the experience of Indian farmers who have suffered under India’s Green Revolution. Genetically Modified crops, expensive agrochemicals and hybrids have taken their toll on farmers, land and food security, and have increased the levels of hunger and poverty. Farmer suicides have reached epidemic rates. The failure and problems caused by the Green Revolution in India should serve as a stark warning to African countries against this new initiative driven by the West.

The world cannot continue to rely on industrial agriculture based on expensive inputs made from petroleum oil and which contribute to climate change. The Gates/ Rockefeller initiative will reinforce this type of agriculture, which increases use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. The only solution to climate change is to draw from local knowledge, local cultures and traditions, local seeds and local inputs.

From within Africa, however, a movement for “Seed Diverse and GE Free Zones” is doing exactly this, starting with Gambella regional government in Ethiopia, declared a “Seed Diverse and GE Free Zone” in 2005. Farmers and local governments in other parts of the country are also taking similar initiatives.

This movement recognises the importance of rebuilding locally-adapted seed diversity, farmers’ varieties and traditional seed saving knowledge. Seed diversity brings food security, and will enhance communities’ ability to adapt in the face of climate change. In the face of pressure from seed companies to accept GM crops, the declaration of African Seed Diverse and GE Free Zones aims to protect and enhance African genetic diversity and sustainable agriculture from the threat of patented and polluting GM crops. This movement is an important signal that Africa is defining its own solutions that return food sovereignty into the hands of African farmers.

The Africa Biodiversity Network (ABN), with Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI) Uganda and Navdanya (India) invite you to join this event on the 21st January. The following day, a second workshop on “Building a Movement for Seed Diverse and GE Free Zones in Africa” will invite African organisations working on food security and sustainable agriculture to join the discussion for strategising to strengthen an African movement.

For more information, please contact

Davis Ddamulira, Centre for Development Initiatives, Uganda
ddamulira@hotmail.com
+256 775 88252
+256 751 339933

The Great Gene Robbery

The Great Gene Robbery
(First published by the Illustrated Weekly of India in its issue dated March 23, 1986
By Claude Alvares
In 1982, Dr M S Swaminathan withdrew from his position as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SACC) and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission – he was also earlier secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture – and defected to join the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based at Los Banos in the Philippines as Director-General. The word ‘defected’ is used here on purpose: in no other country of the world, would a scientist in such a strategically important position, privy to all the country’s scientific secrets particularly of those related to food, be permitted to leave and overnight become the employee of an institution controlled by two private foundations so closely allied to American capitalism and US foreign policy interests.
IRRI had been set up in 1960 as part of America’s efforts to control and direct rice research in Asia, even though American is hardly a rice eating country.
A famous plant-breeder had once said, in regard to rice: ‘He who controls the supply of rice will control the destiny of the entire Asiatic orbit. The most important thing to the majority of the Asia is not capitalism or socialism or any other political ideology but food which means life itself, and in most of Asia, food is rice.’
Earl Butz, a former US Secretary of Agriculture, is notorious for one sentence that he uttered in a course of an otherwise utterly insignificant life: ‘If food can be used as a weapon we would be happy to use it.’
And today, as we near the end of the twentieth century, we have to admit that the research concerning the two major cereals that rule our lives – wheat and rice – is wholly directed and controlled by institutions set up under American imperialism.
In many ways Dr Swaminathan’s appointment to IRRI would have been considered a demotion. While in India, he had lorded it over a scientific establishment that employed thousands of scientists, in the Philippines he would have not more than 200 scientists under him. The principal compensation, however, was the money, income tax free.
Already this international institute, always run by American directors, was facing the collapse of its High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) strategy, as seed after seed fell victim to waves of pest epidemics. Urgently required was a massive expansion of IRRI’s rice germplasm, genes from which were essential for passing on resistance to the HYVs. The largest collection of rice varieties, of rice germplasm, remained in the Indian sub continent. Swaminathan’s appointment was critical to this quest.
The IRRI is not a premier institute of science. It is a privately-controlled agricultural research centre. Even so, it is difficult to conceive of a man with Swaminathan’s record becoming its director general. Unless of course the person being appointed is known more for his ability to get things done than for his scientific work. Certainly no scientist with an equivalent scientific record would have found an appointment as director of, say, the Max Planck Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), or the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). I ask knowledgeable people in the Philippines how Swaminathan could have been appointed to the post of director general of IRRI. The most plausible answer was also the funniest.
There were apparently three applicants for the post. The first, a vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundation, insisted on coming to the institute with both his wife and his mistress, if he got the job. The second candidate, from West Germany, was found, upon examination, not to have a degree that he had stitched on to his name. In comparison, Dr M S Swaminathan whom an article in the 1979 Yearbook of Science and the Future, published by the Encyclopedia Britannica, put in the company of Paul Kammerer and Cyril Burt, two of the leading scientific frauds of the twentieth century, appeared white as snow.
_____________________________
India is rice country. Rice is a critical component of a complex eco-system, tied to legends, used as symbol, essential witness at religious ceremonies and rituals. Such an immense preoccupation with rice would, which is to be expected, call forth its own brand of competence to grow it; so we find a bewildering number of techniques, some of which even today, place Indian rice farmers, some Adivasis, in a class far ahead of international science (see box).

In the Jagannath Temple at Puri in Orissa, I was told, freshly harvested rice is presented to the deity everyday, and various varieties of rice, placed in pots, one on top of the other, with a single flame beneath the lowermost, still cook simultaneously. In Chattisgarh region there is a rice variety called Bora, which can be ground directly into flour and made into rotis. Other varieties have fascinating names, like the kali-mooch of Gwalior, the moti-chur and the khowa; the latter, as its name signifies, tastes like dried milk. The dhokra-dhokri, with its length of grain over 14 mm is the longest rice in the world and the variety Bhimsen has the largest width; there is variety called udan pakheru – because of its long, featherlike structure.
There may have been as many as 1,20,000 varieties of rice in the country, adapted to different environments, and selected and evolved by farmers for specific human needs. These varieties are a product of nature’s desire for diversity, eagerly husbanded by indigenous and non-formal science.
The Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), at Cuttack, had been working on the different problems associated with rice culture ever since it had been set up in the late 1950s. Dr R H Richharia took over as its director in 1959, and a number of competent scientists had come up with interesting work that sooner or later would converge into a strategy to produce more rice. Already in 1963, C. Gangadharan, a CRRI scientist had, for example, produced a mutant variety that was short-statured and produced high yields. The institute had also been working on Taiwanese and Japanese varieties. The work was slow because it takes time to discover which varieties are stable, and resistant to diseases and pests.
Gangadharan has placed the history of rice research in India into three major periods and the developments are highly suggestive. The first phase, from 1912 to the 1950s, concentrated on pure line selections, and by the end of the period, a total of 445 improved rice varieties, mostly the result of pure line methods of selection, were bred.
But what is interesting for our purpose and which starkly illuminates the major schism that would soon develop between indigenous science and ‘international science’ is the broad list of objectives of this early research. Gangadharan lists nine including earliness, deep water and flood resistance, lodging resistance, drought resistance, non-shedding of grain, dormancy of seed, control of wild rice, disease resistance and higher response to heavy manuring. Since pure line selection is itself based on natural selection occurring over centuries, there was no problem of incompatibility between genes and the environment, and therefore no pest problem.
The second phase was less promising. It involved the initially unsuccessful effort at hybridising the Japonica and Indica varieties. The objective, writes Gangadharan, ‘was to transfer the high yielding ability and response to fertilisers that characterise the Japonicas into local Indica varieties which are adapted to local conditions of culture and to the prevalent diseases and pests. Japan had used chemical fertilisers from the beginning of this century and Japonicas showed a response under Japanese conditions whereas the Indicas had not been cultivated under high fertility conditions.’
Only four successes were reported from this programme. The problem was that the Japonicas were both photo-period and temperature sensitive and additionally the seed had been brought from some of the coldest regions of Japan. When these varieties were planted in the tropical environment, they not only gave different but negative results. The introduction of the Philippines semi-dwarf varieties put an abrupt end to this line of research. Later the CRRI imported seed from the milder, temperate region of Japan. This time the efforts were successful but IRRI’s control over the rice research programme would effectively keep these efforts out of circulation, and science.
Which brings us to the third phase inaugurated by IRRI, and also the subject of this investigation.
IRRI was established on the basis of a note written by a Rockefeller official in 1959. Both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations put up the money to start the institute, which was established formally in 1960 and began functioning fully in 1962. From start to finish, the CRRI would be no match in an unequal battle all the way. The IRRI officials would literally buy rice scientists from different parts of Asia, and take over most of the outstanding talent simply because of IRRI’s ability to offer them salaries not only in dollars, but out of proportion to what they received in their own countries, and its ability to provide accommodation, and opportunities for educating staff children anywhere in the world.

By 1966, IRRI had come up with its first success. It is important to emphasise that whereas the CRRI had nine objectives governing its research, IRRI had only one. IR8 was a semi-dwarf rice variety, the result of a cross between an Indonesian tall rice plant and a Taiwanese dwarf variety. Distinctive of the plant was its ability to stand heavy fertilisation, and heavier yields, without lodging. (It also inaugurated a vast market for American fertilisers all over Asia). Without water, fertilisers and pesticides, IR8 did not perform extraordinarily better than the older rices. The disadvantage of the latter was solely that they tended to lodge when given extra nutrients, thus leading to losses.
The CRRI had, as mentioned earlier, been working with identical material and in fact had isolated dwarf varieties from Taiwan that were free from susceptibility to viral attacks. When the news arrived that the Indian government was planning, at the insistence of IRRI experts, to import the new IRRI seed in bulk into India, Dr Richharia, CRRI director, objected.
The government seems to have found Dr Richharia’s advice contradictory: earlier, it had been informed by the CRRI that Taichung varieties could provide a breakthrough in rice production; now Richharia was objecting to their import. The contradiction stemmed from the fact that bureaucrats and politicians have little grounding in genetics: they did not seem to understand that seed tested after numerous adaptive trials over many seasons, and then selected and multiplied, is radically different from seed imported in bulk from abroad. The latter, because of its mixed population, will contain seed carrying disease and which might be susceptible to pests. IRRI at that point of time was too keen to get its seeds grown on a large scale before decisions could be reversed, to subscribe to caution of any kind.
It was also the tremendous leverage that the Americans maintained over the Indian science establishment that enabled IRRI to ride roughshod over the protests of Indian scientists. Though the country was allegedly nonaligned in politics, most of its policies in science and economics were largely under the control of Americans. Thus the community development programme originated with Albert Myers. Douglas Emswinger of the Ford Foundation once boasted that he had better access to Pandit Nehru than any of the latter’s cabinet colleagues. Dr Richharia first came to know of his appointment to the director’s post at the CRRI from an American, Prof Claim. Dr. Robert Chandler, director of IRRI, reported directly to Agriculture Minister, C. Subramanam.
Chandler, in his recent account of the IRRI, An Adventure in Applied Science, has admitted that he had never seen a rice plant when he took over as director of IRRI. Yet, it was at his instigation, and because he had been castigated once by Dr Richharia for bringing rice seed into the country without a quarantine certificate, thus violating the country’s laws, that the government decided to retire Dr Richharia, at that time one of the world’s leading rice specialists.
Once IR8 and TN1 had become fairly established within India and all rice research oriented solely in the direction of semi-dwarfs using these parents, IRRI would naturally retain the lead, with large doses of political clout and advertising to make up for shortfalls in science. Rice scientists from Asia, if they wished to make a career, would have to support the IRRI research direction.
One additional significant factor that seems to have made an impact on the government at the time were the disastrous harvests of 1965 and 1966. What weighed with the Government of India (and also former President Marcos of the Phillipines) in choosing to uncritically deploy IRRI technology, was that the latter, for the first time, offered an almost automatic method of raising food that would place it within the control of the administration, taking it out of the hands of the peasants. If the government concentrated its resources in a few, well-endowed areas, using the HYV package, it could produce a sizeable output of food that would be independent of the whims of the monsoons. Again, the very method of agriculture, based on expensive inputs, required credit, and this assured the government that a good proportion of the grain thus produced would end up in the market, in the hands of government procurement agencies, and could then be used to keep prices stable in the cities.
Two major developments totally ruined the prospect of a promised land overflowing with rice and honey. The first was economic: the oil price hike of 1973 effectively limited a fertiliser-based agricultural strategy. It would make Green Revolution inputs so expensive that they would have to be subsidised by Governments, if farmers were not to give up using them forever. The second major problem, also irreversible, arrived in the form of disease and insects. The growing of varieties with a narrow genetic base (all with the same dwarfing gene, dee-gee-wo-gen), upset insect ecology and invented entire generations of pests. Dr Swaminathan has himself made quite a shameless summary of the fate of IRRI varieties, in a recent issue of Mazingira. He writes:
‘It is difficult to develop a variety that has a useful life of more than five to six years in tropical environments unless genes for horizontal (more stable) resistance are identified and incorporated. Year round rice cultivation causes disease and insect organisms to occur in overlapping generations and increases the chance of new races or biotypes developing; thus new pest problems continuously arise. Variety IR8, released in 1966, suffered from serious attacks of bacterial blight (BB) in 1968 and 1969. In 1970 and 1971, outbreaks of rice tungro virus (RTV) destroyed IR8 yields throughout the Philippines. The IR20 variety, released in 1969, had BB resistance and RTV tolerance, and it replaced IR8 in 1971 and 1972. However, outbreaks of brown plant hopper (BPH) and grassy stunt virus (GSV) in 1973 destroyed IR20 in most Philippine provinces. Variety IR26, with BPH resistance, was released in 1973 and became the dominant Philippine variety in 1974 and 1975. In 1976, a new BPH biotype attacked it and IR36 was released; it had a different gene for resistance to the new BPH biotype and replaced IR26 within one year. It is now the dominant variety in the Philippines. Its resistance to BPH has held till recently, but it is now being threatened by ragged stunt and wilted stunt (both new diseases), as well as by another new biotype of BPH (No. 3).
In India, the situation was equally horrifying. All of Dr Richharia’s predictions had come true. ‘The introduction of high-yielding varieties,’ noted a task force of eminent rice breeders, ‘has brought about a marked change in the status of insect pests like gall midge, brown planthopper, leaf folder, whore maggot, etc. Most of the HYVs released so far are susceptible to major pests with a crop loss of 30 to 100 per cent… Most of the HYVs are the derivatives of TN1 or IR8 and therefore, have the dwarfing gene known as dee-gee-wo-gen. The narrow genetic base has created alarming uniformity, causing vulnerability to diseases and pests. Most of the released varieties are not suitable for typical uplands and lowlands which together constitute about 75 per cent of the total rice area of the country.’
The IRRI counter-strategy against the pests involved breeding of varieties, with genes for resistance to such pests, taken from wild relatives of the rice plant and its traditional cultivars. All of a sudden it seemed critical that massive efforts be made to make as complete a collection of the older varieties: many of the traditional Indicas were found to be important donors for resistance. Gene incorporation strategy, in other words, required vast germplasm resources, most of which were to be found in India. The recruitment of Dr M S Swaminathan would be instrumental in the task of collection.
In India, again, Dr Richharia stood in the way.
After he had been retired from service at Chandler’s insistence, Richharia had gone to the Orissa High Court, where for three years, alone, he fought a legal battle that ruined his family, disrupted the education of his children, and brought tremendous strains on his wife’s health. The legal battle was successful, for in 1970, the Court ordered his reinstatement as director of the CRRI. He had redeemed his honour.
In the meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh government had appointed Dr Richharia as an agricultural advisor, and the rice man set about his disrupted rice work once again, with his usual zeal. Within the space of six years, he had built up the infrastructure of a new rice research institute at Raipur. Here, this extraordinarily gifted and imaginative rice scientist maintained over 19,000 varieties of rice in situ on a shoestring budget of Rs. 20,000 per annum, with not even a microscope in his office-cum-laboratory, situated in the neighbourhood of cooperative rice mills. His assistants included two agricultural graduates and six village level workers, the latter drawing a salary of Rs.250 per month. Richharia had created, practically out of nothing, one of the most extraordinary living gene banks in the world, and provided ample proof of what Indian scientists are capable of, if they are given proper encouragement.
An attack of leaf blight that devastated the corn crop of the US in 1970, and which had resulted from the extensive planting of hybrids that shared a single source of cytoplasm, and the continuous attacks on IRRI varieties, impelled IRRI to sponsor a Rice Genetic Conservation Workshop in 1977. Swaminathan attended it as an ‘observer’. The report of that workshop begins with the statement: ‘The founders of IRRI showed great foresight when in 1960-61 they planned the establishment of a rice germplasm bank.’ Nonsense. The certified aims and objects for the institute merely talk of a collection of the world’s literature on rice. The workshop, being held 17 years after the establishment of IRRI, indicated that the germplasm problem was becoming important only now.
After the workshop, IRRI’s covetous gaze fell on Richharia’s 19,000 varieties at the Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute (MPRRI). Not only had Richharia now uncovered a fascinating world of traditional rices, some of which produced between 8-9 tonnes per hectare – better than the IRRI varieties – he had also discovered dwarf plants without the susceptible dwarfing gene of the IRRI varieties. His extension work among the farmers would soon begin to pose a direct challenge to IRRI itself.
IRRI staff members journeyed to Raipur and asked for his material. Still moulded in the old scientific tradition, he refused because he had not studied the material himself. He was decidedly against any proposal for ‘exchange’, for this could only mean giving up his uncontaminated varieties for IRRI’s susceptible ones.
So the IRRI did the next best thing: it got the MPRRI shut down!
The ICAR floated a scheme for agricultural development in Madhya Pradesh, particularly for rice. The World Bank contributed Rs.4 crores. The condition laid down was: close down the MPRRI, since it would lead to a ‘duplication of work.’ At a special meeting of the MPRRI Board, Madhya Pradesh’s chief secretary who was not a trustee, was present. He had been earlier connected with the Ford Foundation. A resolution was passed closing down the Institute, and the rice germplasm passed over to the Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV), whose vice-chancellor, Sukhdev Singh, also joined the IRRI board of trustees. Scientists were sent to IRRI for training in germplasm transfer, and Richharia’s team was disbanded.
This time too, they locked Dr. Richharia’s rooms and took away all his research papers.
On June 4, 1982, Dr M N Shrivastava, rice breeder, JNKVV, wrote to P S Srinivasan, the IRRI liaison officer, addressed it care of Ford Foundation, New Delhi, enclosing two sets of material as requested by T. T. Chang of IRRI: ‘First set (264 accessions) is from our early duration collection and second set (170 samples) is part of those varieties which were identified to be popular with the farmers of Madhya Pradesh and Dr R H Richharia, former director of MPRRI, purified them and recommended replacing originals with these purified versions.’
But with Richharia out of the fray, nature herself now jumped into the ring. It responded with the necessary mutations, and began to lay low the new pest resistant varieties, rendering even the strategy of gene incorporation, of temporary utility. And then, in a fashion that only those with some respect for nature’s awesome ways would understand, it delivered the coup de grace.
The distinctive success of the HYVs lay in their being short stemmed, able to stand heavy nitrogen applications without lodging, when compared with the older varieties. The incorporation of more and more genes from traditional cultivars not only passed on resistance characters, but also the tendency to lodge. Ergo, modern varieties began to lose their non-lodging character, the main advantage they had against the older cultivars. Research Highlights for 1983, an IRRI publication, observes:
‘Modern rices produce high grain yields with large amounts of applied nitrogen. However, heavy applications increase lodging, which reduces yields. Additionally, as higher levels of insect pest and disease resistance have been bred into modern semi-dwarf varieties, lodging resistance has tended to decline.’
The green revolution in rice had begun to involute.
What then have been the ‘achievements’ of such corrupt and politically naive science? (One set of all IRRI germplasm has been sent to Fort Collins, the maximum security installation in the US, without the permission of the Indian government). Has such science achieved any of its declared aims? Bharat Dogra summed it up:
‘Starting from just five million hectares in 1970-71, over 18 million hectares or nearly half the area of (rice) has now been brought under the HYVs programme till 1982-83… Therefore, this crop must have received a substantial share of the benefit of the overall increase in irrigation and the increase in the overall consumption of NPK fertilisers. However, compared to the increase in the area under HYVs and the increase in fertilisers and irrigation, the production of rice has increased to a lesser extent. During the period mentioned above (1970-71 to 1982-83), the production of rice has gone up from 42.23 million tonnes to 46.48 million tonnes. Assuming the production of non-HYVs did not experience any increase at all and all the difference in rice production was on HYVs land, we get an increase in production of about 4 million tonnes as a result of extension of HYVs programme to nearly 13 million hectares of land. In other words, an increase of 0.31 tonnes was achieved with HYV per hectare. This is a relatively small accomplishment which could have been easily achieved even without the expensive HYV programme and its infrastructure by making better use of village-based resources.’
A 33-member official working group headed by K C S Acharya, additional secretary in the ministry of agriculture, has determined that the growth rate of rice production after the Green Revolution has been less when compared with the pre-Green Revolution period.
Millions of hectares of rice are now routinely devastated by BPH and other pests and no compensation is available to farmers who are induced to take to such ‘modernised’ agriculture. Such pest infestations have been introduced into the Indian environment. The IRRI officials knew what they were doing, and they did it for the cheap objective of wanting to assert IRRI primacy.
The unmonitored, hasty introduction of HYVs of seed has led to genetic erosion of tremendous proportions, as hundreds of priceless traditional varieties have been lost to mankind. It is only in the eighties that the IRRI has begun to acknowledge the true worth of the older varieties. What a curious circle of events!
The IRRI inaugurated the revolution in rice by holding in ridicule the basis of traditional agriculture – the traditional cultivar, itself the result of close trial and error experimentation by farmers over decades – and sought to displace it with its own product, the HYV. However, since the HYV was not closely adapted to any environment, it required extensive support, having attracted pest infestations on a mass scale. Protection could only come from the same traditional cultivars, which at the time of HYV propagation, had been loaded with abuse.
Is there a way out: how can such a state of science exist nearly 40 years after independence? Why does the director of the CRRI continue to remain as a trustee of the IRRI, which he has been since 1979? To continue and deepen the dependence? The IRRI has no future, politically, and also as far as research is concerned. Politically, its future was tied to former President Marcos, and Filipino farmers and scientists had already begun to demand its closure. As far as research is concerned, the IRRI has no new ideas, and is now eagerly visiting China to learn Chinese techniques of growing hybrid rice, the next frontier in rice yield enhancement.
The CRRI has ample talent to match Chinese science. It has still vital access to hundreds of indigenous cultivars (a recent count of rice collection centres indicated that there were about 44,000 varieties, whereas the IRRI has 70,000). What then should be done?
First, the CRRI should be upgraded to international standards, for that is the only sure guarantee of the funds it needs, and which it has been deprived of, ever since Indian politicians decided to back IRRI science. Today, the CRRI germplasm unit does not have even a jeep to operate its collection of rice cultivars.
Second, all further export of rice germplasm to IRRI should be banned, since germplasm is part of our national heritage, and its preservation is enjoined by the Constitution in the chapter on Fundamental Duties. Third, steps should be taken to gradually replace IRRI varieties, and all those having IRRI parents, with productive indigenous varieties in the fields. This is already happening in the Philippines: farmers are exchanging old varieties with each other, disowning IRRI seeds, aptly described as ‘seeds of imperialism’ and ‘seeds of sabotage.’
There seems to have been some awareness at the level of the government that the rice revolution had been grounded, due to environmental and economic factors. The late Prime Minister, Mrs Gandhi, had asked Dr Richharia for a rice production increase plan. After he submitted it, he heard no more about it. After an article by Dom Moraes on Richharia, the M. P. Government hastily set about attempting to find some funds to ask the latter to resume his work. Now that proposal has been scotched by the same forces that once got the MPRRI to close down.

More than 25 years have passed in this costly, wasteful, environmentally unsound, flirtation with the exogene. The sorry and sad record only serves to underline the principle – despite our continuing mesmerisation by western science – that for genuine development of any worthwhile kind, the indigene is still the best gene.
(Ends)