MONSANTO SEED WITHDRAWN FROM GUJARAT GOVT PROJECT

BKS & ASHA welcome Gujarat Govt’s decision

project sunshine rapid appraisal rpt-ASHA-feb2012 finalAhmedabad/New Delhi, 26th April 2012: The Gujarat government’s cabinet decision yesterday to withdraw controversial American MNC Monsanto’s proprietary seed from ongoing government projects was welcomed by Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). BKS state President Maganbhai Patel, Kapil Shah of Jatan and Prabhakar Kelkar, National President of BKS organized a press conference in Ahmedabad today, thanking the government for its decision, having protested and campaigned against the unscientific, controversial and unsustainable aspects of Project Sunshine for several seasons now. Earlier, a Cabinet Sub-Committee has recommended the withdrawal of Monsanto’s seed from government projects.

The seeds of Monsanto, under the brand name “Prabal”, a double-cross hybrid of Maize, were being distributed to more than half a million tribal farmers of Gujarat since the inception of Project SunShine under Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana in 2008. This project came under great criticism not only from within the state but also at a national level by various agencies including farmers’ organizations, tribal organizations and leaders, organic farming promoters, ecologists and scientists. It is estimated that the Gujarat Govt has procured seeds from Monsanto worth of 500 million rupees in the last four years, to be distributed in turn to poor tribal farmers, thereby providing ready markets for this controversial corporation seen by many as anti-farmer. It is not clear whether proper bidding and other transparent procedures were followed or not while favoring Monsanto in this project, apart from several questions on the scientificity of proprietary hybrid seed being chosen to be distributed to resource-poor, vulnerable farmers.

Several efforts were put in by various groups and individuals against this project, through letter campaigns, rapid appraisal visits, public debates and personal meetings with policy makers. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the largest farmers’ organization in Gujarat, has also been demanding withdrawal of Monsanto and its ‘Prabal’ seed from such government support. This proprietary hybrid seems to have been selected against the opinions of agricultural scientists. There has been increasing opposition in the state since the past couple of years against such encroachment of MNCs in State’s agriculture. In February 2012, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) released a Rapid Appraisal Report visiting tribal farmers of project villages and pointed out to several problems and flaws in the project. The last Assembly Session witnessed a debate and questions being raised on Monsanto’s seed. It appears that finally, the government has sought opinion of State Agriculture Universities, which gave their scientific opinion against these seeds for distribution to tribal farmers.

Four reputed scientists having enormous experience of working with maize and agricultural universities including two past Vice Chancellors were requested to opine about selection of ‘Prabal’ for distribution through government project.

All of them have opined about it in writing and have voiced strong views against the inclusion of this proprietary brand..

Dr. M. C. Varshneya, Former Vice C hancellor of Anand Agriculture University said, “Prabal variety of maize  was selected by tribal department without consulting Research Scientists.
1. Prabal is suitable only for deep soils.
2. Prabal needs more water than other varieties.
3. Heavy doses of fertilizers are needed for Prabal.
4. Prabal is not suitable for Godhra (where the maize Research Station is located) conditions where shallow soils and rainfed crop is taken”.

He adds, “ Inspite of candid opinion of University Scientists, Prabal seed was distributed to the farmers. Rather to say it was pushed on farmers without caring for technical suitability of the variety for that area.” As per his view SAU was not given a fair chance to supply its seeds. Showing his helplessness he says “Nothing could be done to stop the Monsanto released variety Prabal from entering in Gujarat.”

A well known maize breeder Dr. S. N. Goyal (awarded by the state government for his remarkable work) who worked as a Research Scientist for Maize at Anand Agricultural University for 12 years (from 1994 to 2006), and during whose tenue some of the most popular maize varieties in Gujarat were released, opined that, “My considered opinion about “Prabal” hybrid is, being a late-in-maturity, yellow-coloured and dent-type seed, “Prabal” is unsuitable for majority of maize growing areas of Gujarat. He described the following seven reasons for his view.

1.     Majority of maize growing areas, especially eastern part is rain-fed for where early maturity varieties are recommended and grown. Late maturity hybrids grown under rain-fed condition may not set seeds and chances of crop failure will be high which may lead to farmer’s distress.

2.     To overcome the risk of total crop failure in rain-fed area, farmers grow maize with other crops as an inter-crop which is not possible with “Prabal” Hybrid which is meant only for sole cropping.

3.     “Prabal” hybrid requires high inputs involving more expenditure which is not desirable under rain-fed condition, especially for resource poor farmers.

4.     Considering the AAU report, despite of high dosage of NPK application to “Prabal” hybrid, marginal depletion in NPK and Zinc level have been observed in maize fields, which will result in soil deterioration in the long run.

5.     Storability of “Prabal” Grain / seed, which is dent type is less compared to flint type, which may lead to food insecurity for tribal families.

6.     “Prabal” hybrid is double cross hybrid. Double cross hybrids are less uniform and unattractive as compared to single cross hybrid. Double cross hybrid has high cost of seed production. Now-a-days, only single cross hybrids are developed and released. Using double cross is considered as an age old technology in the scientific forums. Double cross hybrid technology is rejected in USA also. World over, including at ICAR and SAUs in India, single cross hybrids are developed.

7.     Economic survey of “Prabal” growing hybrids in Gujarat revealed that financial gain is achieved only to 25% to 30% sample farmers in Dahod, Panchamahal and Vadodara and 40-50% in Sabarkantha and Banaskantha district, where as in rest of the area, it had no significant impact on economy.

 

Another retired senior plant breeder and former Research Scientist for forage crops at State Agricultural University Dr. J. P. Yadavendra, told that, “The crop varieties are developed and released as per regional requirements and specific agro-ecological niches.  Any crop variety/hybrid which has not been tested in a particular environment and disseminated for general cultivation among farmers poses a great danger in the long run. To safeguard the farmers’ interest, there should be an honest follow up of the official guidelines set up for the purpose by the state agricultural universities.  In case of cross-pollinated crops, the contamination of the well-adapted local cultivars may lead to the loss of valuable existing gene pool. In my opinion, the popularization of Prabal maize hybrid amongst the tribal farmers of Dahod and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat has been done without considering the proper procedures and opinion of the cultivators.” It is important to note that he is working in tribal areas of six states of India through an NGO called Gramin Vikas Trust.

Padmashree Dr. M. H. Mehta, Former Vice chancellor of Gujarat Agricultural University opined that, “ We do not seem to have given enough back up and large scale extension support to promising new maize varieties of Agri. University in Gujarat. Instead there seems a stronger support and preference to the varieties of multinational company. I have watched the organic model of Bihar where through a state level lead up & the package of eco-friendly agri. bio inputs, excellent yields of vegetables could be achieved in some of the poorest & backward districts. Low input cost, eco-friendly technology is the most appropriate for tribal people. It is time to adopt such a model for Gujarat farmers.”

Multinational seed companies including Monsanto are encroaching upon Indian agricultural fields by using government funds. At least four other states began spending public money to buy such seeds in the name of farmer/tribal/rural welfare, emulating the Project Sunshine model and serious opposition has been mounted against this in the other states too, with Odisha dropping this support after piloting it for one season.

“Gujarat’s Project Sunshine is a classic case of how Agri-MNCs like Monsanto bypass scientific opinion and administrative procedures and promote their unscientific and risky products. It is also a matter of investigation whether proper bidding was done to buy these seeds or not. It is the same companies like Monsanto that also promote GM crops and sell patented technology. Even as genetically modified maize is knocking on the door, pushed by corporations like Monsanto, ready ground is being created for this controversial technology by replacing public varieties through various questionable practices.”, said ASHA.

BKS appreciates the Gujarat Government’s move and strongly demands withdrawal of such seeds & projects in all states of India. At the same time, it warned the state government to be extra cautious to ensure that the same seed does not take back door entry. It is high time to set up a non-corrupt, transparent, efficient and scientific system so that such case never occurs in future

Gujarat Govt should ban Monsanto and GM crop trials in the state

Various groups in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country are now demanding a ban on Monsanto and various GM crop trials allowed in the state of Gujarat. This was in the context of Gujarat Government’s decision to withdraw this controversial agri-business corporation’s proprietary seed from government projects in the state. Monsanto’s seeds worth crores of rupees have been distributed without proper scientific basis and by bypassing proper administrative procedures. The Press Release added that “Monsanto is the company along with other corporations trying to introduce GM crops including Bt Brinjal, Roundup Ready Bt maize and so on. This company already controls around 93% of India’s cotton seed through its proprietary Bollgard technology when it comes to GM cotton. It is also being proceeded against by the National Biodiversity Authority for violations in Bt brinjal development, while being investigated by Indian biosafety regulators for violations in its GM maize trials”.

The Gujarat government decision to withdraw Monsanto from Project Sunshine is significant in the context of GM crop trials also. Last year, Rajasthan government had annulled agreements that it made for seed-related R&D with Monsanto and other corporations while Odisha did not pursue a Public Private Parntership programme initiated in the state after one season.

In India, at least eight states including Bihar, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka have decided not to allow any GM crop trials, while Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have also said NO to such trials. Some of them have declared their desire to remain totally GM free. Only three states have allowed trials of this controversial and hazardous technology: Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. In Gujarat, NOC by state govt was given to about 10 “events”, all of which have proprietary right of MNCs. It was also found that this was done without the legally obligated institutions in place for monitoring and supervision. It is also worth noting that illegal planting of GM crops has been recorded in the past without any liability being fixed.

Why Gujarat Should Ban GM Crop Trials

There are various important reasons to ban such trials in Gujarat as mentioned below:

1.     The very need of Bt Maize, HT Maize and HT cotton has not been assessed or decided by scientists and farmers and there are safer alternatives available with SAUs. Need assessment and assessment of alternatives is not governing GM crop trials-related decisions.

2.     Open air trials precede biosafety clearance (biosafety testing runs parallel to such open air trials) and these open air trials pose a great risk since this technology is a living, imprecise, unpredictable, irreversible and uncontrollable technology.

3.     Open Air Trials are permitted based on privately-generated safety data and not even independent scientific analysis. This was also stated as an argument against such crops being released by very senior and credible scientists in the country.

4.     All the GM crops trials are sponsored by the seed developer. (No Blinding is done). This may lead to biased results. There is a need to cut off the relations between company and evaluating agency.

5.     There are chances of contamination from novel organism to local germplasm as the facilities and isolation requirements to avoid the contamination are limited and questionable. Moreover, the agri-campuses where such trials take place are also repositeries of valuable germplasm collections.

6.     As per the EPA, there is a need to have State Biosafety Coordination Committee (SBCC) in function, In Gujarat, SBCC is non-functional with different agencies washing off their hands on their responsibility.

7.     There are mounting evidences depicting risks related to transgenic crops including unexpected changes in the organism, ecological and health risks.

8.     Even the export and trade of certain farm products will be at risk (as example of rice in China and basmati rice in India). Field trials have been known to cause enormous damage to trade security in various parts of the world in the past.

9.     The seed owner wants to enjoy IPR restricting the very right of farmer to produce their own seeds. We cannot have such trials until several basic things are made clear.

10.  GM crop trials are disallowed in an overwhelming majority of states in India. Why should Gujarat allow them, and on what additional scientific basis and regulatory capability?

 

 

Contacts:

Maganbhai Patel, BKS:  09426394801

Kapil Shah, Jatan:  09427054132

Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA: 09393001550

WHO’S BENEFITING FROM PROPRIETARY HYBRID MAIZE PROMOTION IN RAJASTHAN, ASK CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS & FARMERS’ LEADERS

Press Release

Rajasthan hybrid maize Report-Download

Another controversial seed-based project favoring big corporations is emerging in Rajasthan, after the recent controversy around MoUs with seven seed companies by the state government which led to a scrapping of the agreements due to civil society pressure. Releasing a Fact Finding Report on Project Golden Rays of the Rajasthan Government here today, civil society activists and farmers’ leaders demanded to know how this project came about and who is really benefiting from the project. They pointed out that there is no scientific basis on which the large project has been undertaken with poor tribal farmers of the state, that accountability systems were completely missing, that food and nutrition security questions are coming to the fore with projects such as this and asked for an immediate scrapping of the project.

“The Rajasthan government has utilized around eighty crores of rupees from the public-funded central scheme called Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to expand the proprietary seed markets of anti-farmer corporations like Monsanto. It is apparent that there is no basis on which particular companies and particular brands of seeds have been chosen for this project called Project Golden Rays, in five tribal districts of the state. There is no process visible by which this project has been designed and implemented – why and how are such decisions related to Public Private Partnerships and other projects being taken? Why is it that public sector varieties tested for the growing conditions of farmers in these regions are not being promoted? Why is it that farmers’ preferred varieties are not being improved with these kinds of investments? Where is the ex-ante impact assessment of this project, which has assessed short, medium and long term impacts of such a project? Given that many of these villages are Schedule V areas, why is it that the local governance structures were not consulted and involved in the project formulation stage? Even the weak seed laws in the country do not seem to apply to these projects, increasing the vulnerability of farmers in case of failures as happened this year. There are several issues of concerns with this project as a fact finding visit show and the project should be scrapped immediately. Further, farmers who incurred losses should be compensated”, said Dr Alok Vyas of CECOEDECON, Jaipur.

Rajasthan government has been implementing Project Golden Rays from 2009, utilizing funds from RKVY, in Banswara, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Sirohi and Udaipur. The project is huge in its magnitude and in 2011-12, the project is supposed to have covered seven lakh farmers. The Fact Finding visit was undertaken in December 2011 by civil society activists from different parts of the country, for a rapid assessment of its implications on food and livelihood security in addition to environmental sustainability.

The Fact Finding team had the following to say: “It is obvious from our interactions with farmers from three districts (Udaipur, Dungarpur and Banswara) that the yields with proprietary hybrid maize from Project Golden Rays are not as high as claimed or projected; in fact, they are on par with desi varieties of the farmers. Further, there are emerging questions on food security with this project as farmers do not prefer consuming hybrid maize and the fact that shelf life of hybrid maize grain is significantly lower. Further, monocropping is increasing, which in turn affects resilience of a farm as well as food/nutrition security of a poor family, especially in the era of climate change. It is also clear from our interactions that the adverse weather conditions in which a majority of farmers cultivate their crops are not suitable for the hybrid maize seeds being promoted. The cost of cultivation is shooting up with hybrid maize and it is foreseeable that the poor farmers in the region cannot sustain the kind of investments that this technology requires. Our fact finding visit clearly shows that there is misplaced and inappropriate emphasis on hybrid maize and that too, proprietary hybrid maize in this project and we want to know who is ultimately benefiting from this project”.

Even though there are public sector maize lines (composite as well as hybrid) tested and cleared for these parts of Rajasthan, Project Golden Rays chose to promote seeds of Monsanto, an American MNC ignominous the worldover for its environmental pollution and anti-farmer behaviour. It is only in 2011 Kharif that the Rajasthan government, coming under pressure from critics of the PPP project, changed its seed procurement procedures to open bidding and included other seeds too in the project. There have been no questions asked about the high seed price charged by this corporation in two years of the project before the open bidding took place, even as no compensation has been paid to loss-incurring farmers.

Reiterating the demand to the Rajasthan government to immediately scrap the project, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) which organized the fact finding visit, along with Astha and Vagad Mazdoor Kisan Sanghatan, questioned whether such aggressive promotion of maize is really supposed to cater to enhanced food security needs of the country. “If that is the case, why is the larger picture showing that 51% of maize is being utilized for Poultry Feed, 11% for Animal Feed (62% in all for Feed!), 11% for Starch, 1% for Seed, 1% for Breweries and only 25% as Food in India? If that is the case, why are cultivars which are not suitable for local food consumption, but for other purposes being promoted? Why are cultivars that cannot be stored by the farmer’s family for more than 2-3 months being promoted? Why are agronomic practices that increase mono-cropping being promoted? Will this benefit industry or poor tribal farmers, in the name of Food Security?”, she asked. She lamented the fact that sustainability and accountability, in addition to self-governance for development by tribal communities are all critical missing components in the project.

Nilesh Desai of Beej Swaraj Abhiyan, who was also a part of the fact finding visit pointed out that seed sovereignty is being compromised by these ill-thought-out projects by governments, where medium and long term concerns are being given the short shrift. “It is not as though alternatives to such projects, which will focus on livelihood improvement of the farmers, are not present. There are certainly several examples which show that alternate seed production and supply mechanisms can be put into place which do not compromise seed sovereignty, which rely on suitable composite lines etc.. Further, agro-ecological approaches to cultivation will ensure higher net returns rather than promoting chemical-based intensive farming. We would like governments to scale up such efforts”.

The fact-finding team demanded for the immediate scrapping of the project in Rajasthan, and instead asked for appropriate financial investments on projects that promote food security and seed self-reliance at the grassroots level.

 

Golden rays don’t glitter, say farmers

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article2972101.ece

JAIPUR, March 8, 2012

A Centrally-funded scheme to promote hybrid maize in Rajasthan has come under attack by farmers’ organisations and civil society groups after a fact-finding study found it to be of no substantial value to the tribal farmers in the selected districts.

While “Project Golden Rays”, introduced first during the 2009 Kharif season under the National Agriculture Development Programme, was meant to help the farmers, it has turned out to be yet another seed project to help proprietary seed corporations and multinationals like Monsanto, say the groups. Only recently the State Government was forced to scrap the Memorandums of Understanding signed with seven seed companies following civil society pressure.

A team from Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, which took up an evaluation of the project in December in the districts of Udaipur, Banswara and Dungarpur, in its report released here has termed the claims on the project both “misplaced and inappropriate”. The team preferred immediate scrapping of the project.

The evaluation was undertaken by civil society activists from different parts of the country on a request from CECOEDECON, a Jaipur-based NGO working for sustainable agriculture and climate change, to ascertain the project’s implications on food and livelihood security in addition to environmental sustainability.

Rajasthan is a major maize-producing State in the country, with 16 per cent (1.10 million hectare) of the total area under maize in India falling in its territory. The maize productivity in Rajasthan averages 18.60 quintals per hectare, while at the national level it is 24.35 quintals per hectare. Maize is mostly grown in the districts of Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Pratapgarh, and Rajsamand besides in Bundi and Jhalawar districts.

The study team, which took the support of Astha, Udaipur, and Vagad Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan, interacted with farmers in Sagwada, Bichchiwada and Aspur of Dungarpur district and in Kushalgarh tehsil in Banswara and in Girwa block in Udaipur.

“The Government has utilised around Rs.80 crore of public money for this Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to expand the proprietary seed markets of anti-farmer corporations like Monsanto. It claims to have involved seven lakh farmers, but there is apparently no visible basis on which particular companies and particular brands of seeds have been chosen in five tribal districts,” said Kisan Sewa Samiti Mahasangh secretary Bhagwan Sahai Dadhich.

The report alleged that there had been no transparency in the designing and implementation of the project. “Why is it that the public sector varieties tested for the growing conditions of farmers in these regions are not being promoted? Why it is that farmers’ preferred varieties are not being improved with these kinds of investments? Where is the ex-ante impact assessment of this project, which has assessed short, medium and long term impacts of such a project?” it asked.

The report also pointed out that the local governance structures were not consulted and involved in the project formulation stage despite many of these villages being Schedule V areas.

Sanjha Manch convener Ashok Mathur said the farmers’ organisations would not rest till the Government declares Rajasthan a GM-free State. Alok Vyas of CECOEDECON questioned the Government’s intention behind promoting Monsanto while remaining insensitive to the long-term interests of farmers and agriculture in the State.

Reiterating the demand to scrap the project, Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture questioned the link between aggressive promotion of maize and food security needs in the country.

“The larger picture shows that 51 per cent of maize is being utilised for poultry feed, 11 per cent for animal feed, 11 per cent as starch, 1 per cent for seed purposes and another one per cent in the breweries, with only the remaining 25 per cent going into direct human consumption in India,” she noted. The fact that cultivars, which are not suitable for local food consumption but meant for other purposes, are being promoted and that the cultivars cannot be stored for more than two months to three months betrays the motive behind the project, she charged.


  • Centrally-funded scheme to promote hybrid maize found to be of no substantial value to farmers
  • “Yet another seed project to help proprietary seed corporations like Monsanto”

 

Hybrid maize yields less than 50 % of Govt projection’ in Madhya Pradesh

 

INDORE: The state government’s ambitious plan to increase maize production through hybrid varieties appears to have come a cropper.

An umbrella group of voluntary organisations working to promote organic farming has reported that the actual increase is less than 50 per cent of governmental projections for maize yield using hybrid seeds. Incidentally, agriculture minister Ramkrishna Kusmariya has vociferously opposed Monsanto, which was awarded tenders for the pilot project, and has repeatedly exhorted the virtues of organic farming.
He has also written to Union science and technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh expressing reservation over the draft BRAI Bill (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill). When contacted director, agriculture DN Singh said there was a difference between hybrid and Bt and added “the government is against Bt not hybrid”.
The group, Association of Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), surveyed many farmers in Jhabua and Dhar– among the seven districts where subsidized hybrid seeds were distributed to tillers– under the state government’s pilot project, Hybrid Maize Promotion Project (HMPP), for the kharif season in 2011. The farmers were given a 90 per cent subsidy on seed purchase under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY). A fact-finding report prepared by ASHA, to be submitted to Kusmariya shortly, has raised questions about the increase in yield and, no less, the state government’s stand on organic farming. “Nowhere did we come across a single farmer who obtained 15.24 quintals per acre, as is being claimed in the project completion report. The yield differences at the most were reported to be one or two quintals more for hybrid seed. At least half of the people met actually reported equal or better yields with their own seed,” said Nilesh Desai, a member of the fact-finding team. ASHA took up a factfinding initiative in the state of MP in December 2011.

The villages visited includeDevli, Kalighati, Dabdi and Mata Pada villages of Petlawad block in Jhabua (in Petlawad block, 687 farmers were covered under the project, with 4,592 kg of DKC7074 seed of Monsanto company distributed) and Kanjrota, Ringnod and Kumariya Khedi villages of Sardarpur block of Dhar district. The 15-page report further revealed that the cost of cultivation of hybrid maize is higher by at least 40-50% on paid-out costs in terms of seeds, chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Further, the real costs in such a highly subsidized project are not apparent to farmers.

Maize Matters

http://www.d-sector.org/article-det.asp?id=1693

By Pandurang Hegde

09 Sep 2011

Backed by government support, maize cultivation has spread to a large area of India to cater to increased demand from the industry. The shift towards maize will not only upset the delicate nutritional balance in dry regions but it will also pave way for agri-corps to push GM maize into India.


Maize cultivation is becoming popular (photo courtesy: Hindu)

The high priests of agricultural bureaucracy have been chanting the mantra of second green revolution for quite sometime. It seems the country is moving towards this through maize revolution. The vast expanse of the countryside in north and southern India is full of standing maize crop. This versatile crop, which can grow in any kind of ecological zones, is changing the agricultural landscape in India.

India is the fifth largest maize producing country contributing to 3 per cent of the global production, mostly grown during monsoon months.

Though Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh are the two leading states producing maize, its cultivation is catching up in all regions of India due to the state support in terms of assured cash subsidy as well as the purchase of the crop through minimum support price.

Though it may be driven by the attractive cash incentives, the driving force behind this maize revolution is the increased demand from industrial sector. It is a raw material that helps to produce starch, dextrose, corn syrup, and corn oil. It has the potential to supply the bio fuel through production of ethanol. It is estimated that about 75 percent of the maize produced in India is used by poultry and industrial sector.

Killing Millets

Lured by the state support and assured market, the shift towards maize has upset the delicate nutritional balance sheet of the rural regions, especially in the dry agri zones.

“This switch to maize cultivation abandoning the traditional millet based biodiverse farming systems has negative impact not only on food security but also on multiple securities such as health, nutritional, fodder, fuel and livelihood security.”

P. V. Satheesh of Millet Network of India says, “this switch to maize cultivation abandoning the traditional millet based biodiverse farming systems has negative impact not only on food security but also on multiple securities such as health, nutritional, fodder, fuel and livelihood security”.

The agri giants like Monsanto are already penetrating into rural hinterland in many states with their hybrid maize seeds. This replaces the age old self reliant, multi cropping cultivation system, being replaced by the monoculture industrial model of farming with high chemical inputs. Ironically, in majority of the cases several hundred crores of rupees of central government funds under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana is being used to spread maize cultivation.

In availing such subsidies, it is interesting to note that the Monsanto is able to influence most of the States governments like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh as well as Bihar ruled by different political parties. The bureaucrats and political leaders are paving way for maize revolution using people’s money, robbing the poor and helping companies to increase their profits!

The spread of maize revolution with the hybrid seeds of agri corporations is a precursor to Genetically Modified version in the coming days. Farmers once trapped into maize cultivation will fall prey to GM maize, loosing their self-reliance on seeds.

There is pressure form agro industrial lobby to lift the ban on bt brinjal, and the upcoming Biotechnology Regulatory Bill, with its draconian nature has already laid the foundation for introduction of GM (genetically modified) food crops in India. The experience of past decade of bt cotton, a non food crop has obviously resulted in extinction of local cotton varieties. And now farmers have no other option but to buy cotton seeds form corporates at high price.

Having lured farmers into shifting from diversified multi dimensional millet and coarse crops to maize, these corporations are bound to pressurize for introduction of GM maize with the false claims of increased productivity.

The spread of maize revolution with the hybrid seeds of agri corporations is a precursor to Genetically Modified version in the coming days. Farmers once trapped into maize cultivation will fall prey to GM maize, loosing their self-reliance on seeds.

We need to learn form the blunder committed in Mexico, the country where the maize originated. The dumping of cheap, GM corn from USA has already contaminated the local diversified maize seeds, eventually destroying their diversity and self-reliance. With contamination of GM maize in the center of origin, the Mexican farmers have no other option but to grow these for industrial purposes, sacrificing the nutritional security.

The process of second green revolution through maize has already overrun 2 million hectares that belonged to hardier cereal such as jowar and bajra. These coarse varieties are the food of poor, the tribal communities living in remote arid and forest regions of India. The state and central governments with their fiscal policies have systematically replaced the food for poor by the industrial demand for maize.

The basic question is whether such state policies are ethical? Is it ecologically sustainable? Does this address the issue of social equity?

The bleak scenario presents a scary picture. Practicing unethical methods, the agri companies have been allowed a free access to appropriate the resources of poor using taxpayer’s money. It is going to deeply entrench our farmers into chemical industrial model of farming that is ecologically destructive and unsustainable. Last but not the least; it is going to create social tensions, forcing farmers into the lap of corporate controlled agriculture systems.

Unfortunately, the political class, cutting across party lines is bent upon treading these unethical, unsustainable policies to lay the foundation for forthcoming genetically modified maize revolution in the country.

Hybrid Maize Mania-Down to Earth special story

Down to Earth special issue on Hybrid maize mania..


Multinational seed companies and states are luring farmers to grow hybrid maize with promises of high yields and high returns. The cereal is overtaking farms growing millets and other staples. Is it a threat to India’s food security? Down To Earth team finds out

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/maize-mania

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/good-and-bad

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/killing-millets

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/monsanto-way

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/gm-question

A-maizing’ progress India has been hugely successful in increasing maize output

Breakthroughs in the production and productivity of wheat and rice in the sixties and of cotton recently have been much appreciated, but similar advances in maize have gone largely unnoticed and unsung. Maize output has soared in the past 10 years from a mere 12 million tonnes in 2000-01 to over 21 million tonnes in 2010-11. This increase can largely be attributed to a surge in crop productivity rather than higher acreage. Also, the technological triggers for this growth have come from public sector research, though seed production of new maize strains has remained mostly a private sector monopoly.

Maize has acquired a special significance in the farm economy because of its multiple uses as food, feed and industrial raw material. Around one-fourth of the maize grain harvest is consumed as food. A larger part, nearly 50 per cent, gets used as animal feed, mostly poultry feed. This demand is growing rather rapidly due to the poultry industry’s fast growth. The rest is used for producing starch and other industrial products. The crop’s biomass (leaves and stalks) is used as nutritious fodder for cattle.
An equally noteworthy feature of the maize revolution is that it is not based on any single parameter, such as high-yielding fertiliser-responsive dwarf varieties in the case of wheat and rice and gene-altered Bt-hybrids in cotton. The growth drivers in this case include the development of high-yielding and better quality single cross hybrids; yield-enhanced cultivars of specialty maize types like baby corn, sweet corn, waxy corn and high oil-bearing maize; and, most importantly, evolution of protein-enriched maize for manufacturing maize-based high-protein products. These developments have added to the utility of maize that will ensure a demand-driven sustained growth in production.

 

The New Delhi-based Directorate of Maize Research (DMR) reckons the requirement of maize to soar to 42 million tonnes by 2025. This would call for the need to double maize production from the present 21 million tonnes.

DMR Director R Sai Kumar is confident that the demand will be met thanks to the recent initiatives taken to promote new technologies and evolve plant types that are capable of withstanding pests, diseases and adverse impacts of climate change.

The single cross hybrids (first generation seeds derived by crossbreeding two desirable but distinctly different parents) are being promoted aggressively by DMR since the mid-noughties because of the advantages they offer. For one, these hybrids bear cobs of uniform size, shape, colour and quality that are preferred in the export market. Besides, these are highly productive and can adapt to different agro-climatic conditions, facilitating maize farming even in winter.

As a result, these hybrids have already made significant inroads into several parts of the country, especially in areas that face droughts, diminishing water resources and weather-related constraints.

Quick maturing single cross hybrids, which are drought-resistant, are becoming popular in Rajasthan. In many areas of Andhra Pradesh, where the water table is rapidly receding due to intensive rice cultivation, single cross hybrids have become a handy replacement for paddy in winter.

“With single cross hybrids, maize production has become more lucrative than several other traditionally grown crops in states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are, therefore, switching over to maize cultivation. In eastern states, rabi maize cultivation has helped double maize production,” says Sai Kumar.

Likewise, the cultivation of new hybrids of baby corn and other specialty corn is fast gaining ground in areas around big towns to cater to growing demand from hotels and discerning consumers. Such corn also has good export demand and growers are happy with the premium prices that they get for it.

The protein-enhanced maize, technically called “quality protein maize” or QPM, has the opague-2 mutant gene incorporated into them to boost their content of lysine and tryptophan — the two key forms of protein lacking in ordinary maize. Such maize has the potential to alleviate protein malnutrition. This is now being produced by farmers for manufacturers of protein-rich maize biscuits, corn chips and other nutritious products.

Though DMR, along with the Indian Maize Development Association, is encouraging the production of new maize hybrid seeds through public-private participation, more effort is needed to augment seed availability to expand modern maize farming.

surinder.sud@gmail.com