How Agribusiness Corporations are Pushing hard to Privatize and Monopolize our Seed – GRAIN

The world’s agribusiness corporations are pursuing their attempts to privatize and monopolize our seeds. Their goal is clear: they want to convert the millennial practice of plant breeding into a crime, for their own profit and nothing else. Latin America is one scene of such attacks on public property.

Much of this corporate activity is being carried out under the aegis of an international convention known as UPOV, but not all of it – some Latin American governments have come up with farm-unfriendly provisions of their own devising, involving patents on biotechnology “events,” health standards, marketing standards, certification laws, various types of record keeping requirements, tax rules, the misnamed “good agricultural practices,” research programs, seed market establishment policies, and more.

Eight years ago we wrote, “If we look at them today, seed laws are all about repression. They’re about what farmers can’t do. They dictate what kind of seeds can’t be sold, can’t be exchanged and in some cases can’t even be used. All in the name of regulating trade and protecting food growers! In this sense, seeds laws go hand in hand with intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes like plant variety protection and patents. The two kinds of laws – marketing regulations and property rights – reinforce each other.”1

If anything has changed since then, it is that privatization strategies have become more numerous, extreme, and ambitious. What the multinationals and the governments were not expecting was the level of the popular resistance that has emerged at the national and regional levels.

What is UPOV?

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization with its head office in Geneva, Switzerland. UPOV came into being with the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The Convention was adopted in Paris in 1961 and was revised in 1972, 1978, and 1991. The mission of UPOV is, according to the organization, “to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection, with the aim of encouraging the development of new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society.”2 In UPOV-speak, “protection” means privatization.

The history of UPOV is that of an ongoing and apparently limitless expansion of seed company rights along with a concomitant shrinkage of farmers’ rights and freedoms. The original convention only granted property rights over varieties developed by the party requesting them; it granted little more than an exclusive right to market a private variety and did not establish specific sanctions. With its subsequent revisions, UPOV now grants monopoly rights over “discovered” varieties and the production, marketing, export and import thereof. In addition, it allows property owners to apply for the confiscation of crops, plantations, harvests, and products derived from the harvest. It even allows companies to file criminal complaints, which can lead to prison terms for farmers.

UPOV 91 is the version of the convention now being imposed around the world under the pretext of “protection.” However, it has been clearly demonstrated that UPOV 91 violates farmers’ individual and collective right to save seed for replanting and allows corporations to monopolize biodiversity. These provisions give the corporations total commercial control over seeds and knowledge that were once owned collectively by whole communities. A further menace represented by UPOV is that it accelerates the erosion of biodiversity by promoting varietal uniformity. This is tremendously risky because uniformity can lead to crop loss and greater food insecurity. Finally, seed privatization hinders research and the free flow of knowledge.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the following countries are UPOV members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. Of these, only Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Peru are currently applying UPOV 91.3

The bottomless pit of corporate ambition

The seed laws now being drafted amount to the wholesale application of UPOV 91 and in some cases go even further. For example:

a) They allow for the privatization of “discovered” varieties. Not only is this nonsensical from the standpoint of intellectual property law (only human inventions are patentable), it is absurd when applied to plant varieties, which are mostly the work of many human beings over long periods of time. In other words, the new laws allow companies or research institutes to take what does not belong to them: the indigenous plant varieties developed by farmers. This theft is facilitated by the absence of any provision in the laws that would prevent varieties shown to be already circulating in peasant agriculture from being declared “new.”

b) The theft becomes truly outrageous where new laws grant property rights over “similar” varieties as well, regardless of how long these have been in existence. That is, UPOV laws legalize retroactive theft. One such clause, included in ICA Resolution 970 in Colombia, touched off a farmers’ strike that forced the government to withdraw the resolution.

c) Penalties for those who refuse to make sense out of this nonsense are significantly increased. Not only can seeds be confiscated, so can the crops, plantations, harvests, and products derived from them. The offences are summary in nature, meaning that complainants can avoid lengthy evidentiary proceedings and still obtain the confiscation of the materials in question. Practical experience provides good reasons to fear that the corporations will try to scare farmers and peasants who dare to rebel by hitting them with multiple complaints under these laws. The situation is exacerbated by the option for the corporations to file criminal complaints, which can result in jail terms for the farmers.

This is the nucleus of the UPOV laws. Some of them go even further: in the Chilean case, the law initially gave enforcement power to the seed companies, creating a de facto private police. The Argentine bill creates a mandatory registry of “seed users” – meaning anyone who grows food, for a living or otherwise.

And the UPOV laws themselves are only part of the story. Certification and marketing laws have been a central feature of seed privatization campaigns in Mexico and Colombia. Brazil has turned to marketing standards. In Argentina, the privatization of biotechnological “events” is making unfortunate headway, while throughout the Southern Cone, corporations are creating a parallel legal universe by forcing their customers to sign royalty-bearing private contracts. Almost everywhere we find credit and technical assistance policies being made contingent on the use of seeds produced by corporations or research institutes.

All these mechanisms work together towards a single goal: absolute corporate control over seeds.

Resistance is growing and spreading

But it’s also in Latin America where citizens have successfully many such attempts to take away their rights. It is here that the most committed resistance has been seen. The following is a rundown on ongoing popular and peasant campaigns that have been key to the defeat of these corporate machinations.


The UPOV offensive in Chile differs little from what is taking place in other countries. Various provisions facilitate the appropriation of local seeds by corporations and criminalize peasants’ use of their own seeds. Absurd situations are created in which companies registering any variety as their own can stop people from using varieties “similar” to it. And the threat of confiscation of seeds, crops, and plantations is among the new measures imposed on peasant families who dare to continue doing what they have always done.

What the corporations and the government did not expect was the societal reaction against these measures. The first act in the drama was the passage on first reading, in 2010, of the UPOV 91-compliant Seeds Act, this over fierce opposition by peasant organizations (especially ANAMURI and CLOC-VC) and civil society groups.

Despite this initial defeat, the organizations continued to raise public awareness to the dangerous aspects of the act. As a result of their efforts, by the time Chile joined UPOV 91, domestic opposition had become much broader and more vehement. A group of senators appealed to the Constitutional Court to declare Chile’s UPOV membership unconstitutional. This initiative too was unsuccessful, but public education efforts continued under the impetus of the widespread social mobilization that has taken place since 2011.

Today, rejection of seed privatization and the “UPOV 91” Act has become a broad-based national concern which has, so far, kept the bill from being passed. Under pressure from the US government, the right-wing government fast-tracked the bill, attempting to push it through before the opposition could react. This time, mobilization took place all across the nation and involved high-profile marches, Internet-based information campaigns, radio programs, TV interviews, information sessions in rural communities and universities, meetings with religious authorities, conversations and discussions with senators, and so forth.

The impact of all this mobilization work was to break the silence on the issue in Chile and to convince a majority of senators (21 of 38) to vote against the bill. Faced with this new situation, the government withdrew the bill, intending to postpone voting until after the November 2013 elections, when a number of its senatorial opponents will have retired.

At time of writing, in early October, peasant and civil society organizations are continuing to mobilize to ensure that the bill goes down to defeat.


The bill to amend the Seeds Act in Argentina is the fruit of pointed lobbying by Monsanto beginning in 2003. It was then that the company began to request “legal certainty” for its investments in GMOs. Since the government of the day was not receptive to its overtures, the company announced that it was withdrawing from the country and would not introduce new events. In its battle to collect royalties, Monsanto asked the European courts to stop whole shiploads of GE soybeans from departing for Argentina because Argentina refused to pay for the genes they allegedly contained. The courts threw out Monsanto’s claim.

At the end of the last decade, the government repeatedly announced that it was going to table a new Seeds Act in Congress, but it was only in 2012 that a radical change of official stance took place. In June 2012, President Cristina Fernández announced at the Council of the Americas that further to conversations with Monsanto, the company would be making new investments in the country, focusing on a GE corn processing plant in the Malvinas Argentinas district of the city of Córdoba.

A few months later, in a joint press conference, Minister of Agriculture Norberto Yahuar and Pablo Vaqueros, President of Monsanto Argentina, announced the approval and launch of a new genetically modified soy variety called “Intacta” (resistant to glyphosate and insecticide) and an amendment to the Seeds Act to protect investors “because of the high costs they incur.” A commitment was made to table the corresponding bill in Congress before the end of 2012.

Civil society organizations reacted immediately, and with even greater vehemence when it became known that the draft under discussion was being negotiated in secret by the Ministry of Agriculture with the large seed trade associations and landowners. The call to reject the Seeds Act amendments spread across society and was taken up by a great many associations. It led to a range of oppositional activities, mobilizations, presentations, and documents.

An analysis of the leaked draft, obtained by its opponents, showed that it includes amendments to the existing act (dating from 1973) designed to incorporate nearly the entirety of UPOV 91 into domestic law.

The National Indigenous Peasant Movement, Friends of the Earth, and GRAIN started a petition campaign which, by late November, had garnered the support of more than 500 civil society organizations and 3,500 individuals.

The document “10 motivos para luchar contra el proyecto de ley que pretende privatizar las semillas en la Argentina”4 reads as follows: “the bill does not protect knowledge or biodiversity; it merely promotes privatization and protects property rights to what is in fact the collective heritage of our peoples, especially the peasant and indigenous communities. In this way, it puts forward an unacceptable principle: that it is possible and acceptable to privatize knowledge and various life forms.” It continues: “This paves the way to further expropriation and privatization of agricultural and wild biodiversity in Argentina. The bill makes possible the greater privatization of Argentina’s genetic resources and native biodiversity by expanding so-called plant breeders’ rights. In addition, it makes illegal or gravely restricts practices that have existed since the beginning of agriculture: seed selection, breeding, improvement, saving, reproduction, and exchange based on the previous harvest.”

The document concludes with a call to “reject this bill, which represents a grave attack on every inhabitant of this country. Agriculture fulfills an eminently social function, that of sustaining and feeding the entire population. To jeopardize the food security and sovereignty of Argentina by granting new privileges to transnational agribusiness corporations is to take the road of surrendering our national sovereignty.”

Due to the broad-based rejection of the initiative, the bill never made it into Parliament, and its opponents claimed a partial victory. In the initial months of 2013, the Minister of Agriculture announced that the bill would not be sent to Congress in an election year. However, he soon announced (under pressure from Monsanto, it seems clear) that the bill would be submitted to Congress right after the elections.

In the meantime, Monsanto is keeping up its offensive by forcing people who buy the new “Intacta” RR2 soybeans to sign an “extended royalty” contract. Monsanto states on its web site for this variety5 that “growers wishing to opt, at their own discretion, to use soybean seeds containing the Intacta RR2 technology must sign with Monsanto a limited-use license for the technology.” This provision attests to a very peculiar understanding of the concept of discretion that verges on the illegal.

Argentine civil society continues to monitor these developments closely and to act accordingly. One important step is a blockade, spearheaded by the groups “Asamblea Malvinas Lucha por la Vida” and “Mothers of Barrio Ituzaingó Anexo,” of the intended construction site for a Monsanto plant, which has been ongoing for three weeks.


In April 2012, the Colombian Congress passed Bill 1518 adopting the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties, thus complying with its obligation to protect the interests of agribusiness corporations under the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.

Colombian civil society immediately denounced the fact that the law had been passed without regard for higher-order provisions and international legal frameworks which obligate the government to guarantee the rights of everyone under its jurisdiction and, more specifically, to preserve the country’s food sovereignty and security.

According to Grupo Semillas and the “Semillas de Identidad” campaign, UPOV was ratified “without regard for the fundamental right of ethnic minorities to prior consultation,” and its main goal is to achieve “the granting and protection of plant breeders’ rights. The strategy begins by establishing a set of conditions that native and indigenous varieties cannot meet because their genetic improvement was the result of farmers operating according to entirely different principles from those of modern plant breeders. It continues by enacting provisions for the protection of [corporate] economic interests and essentially forces farmers to use these seeds at the behest of the transnationals.”6

Based on this analysis, a number of organizations appealed to the Constitutional Court and, in December 2012, obtained a decision declaring Law 1518 unenforceable.7 In so doing, they halted the progress of UPOV 91, arguing that the government had failed to consult the indigenous and tribal peoples in regard to legislative or administrative measures affecting them directly, as required by Article 6 of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO). While the threat of UPOV’s approval still looms, the consultation process required by the Court has yet to be put in place. This decision caused consternation on the part of the United States, which asserted in the media its entitlement to sue Colombia for losses caused by the Constitutional Court’s decision to declare the unenforceability of Laws 1518 and 1520, since these laws were intended to bring the country into compliance with the FTA.8

During 2013, events related to peasant struggles put the fate of seeds back in the spotlight. A documentary film, 9.70: la historia de la semilla privatizada,9 by the young director Victoria Solano, sent shock waves through Colombian society as people woke up to the impact of seed privatization.

Resolution 9.70 of the ICA (Colombian Agricultural Institute) dates from 2010 and is intended to control the production, use, and marketing of seeds. This resolution applies the concepts of intellectual property law to seeds and was passed as a requirement for approval of the US-Colombia FTA. “The documentary analyzes the impact of the resolution, focusing on the case of Campoalegre, a town in southern Colombia where it was applied. In 2011, the ICA went to the town and confiscated 70 tons of rice. It later returned with law enforcement officials, and ultimately dumped the rice into a landfill, claiming that it was illegal,” said the filmmakers.

The powerful public impact of the documentary coincided with the beginning of peasant mobilizations on August 19, which shook the country. The peasants’ rejection of Resolution 9.70 became a central component of their demands. As a result of these campaigns, Resolution 9.70 was “frozen for two years” – an immense triumph for Colombia’s peasants and civil society organizations. However, the central demand of the people of Colombia has yet to be granted: the outright repeal of the resolution along with any attempt to impose UPOV 91 through other channels.10


In Venezuela, a bill to amend the Seeds Act is making its way through the legislative process and causing great concern among civil society organizations. The situation there is complex because the initiative inaugurates an intellectual property regime even as it takes the salutary step of banning GMOs.

The GMO-free Venezuela campaign11 has been monitoring this bill and has called for “a ban on transgenic seeds in the country, a ban on any type of intellectual property rights or patents over seeds, and an expanded debate over the bill with a view to building an appropriate legislative framework in conjunction with the revolutionary popular collectives and movements.”

The bill’s proponents have stated in public that it will ban GMOs in Venezuela, but the popular campaign has expressed concern in regard to the “language of the bill, which continues to recognize plant breeders’ rights, does not clearly define the mechanisms that will be used for surveillance and punishment of those who violate the transgenic seed provisions, establishes a strict oversight regime for indigenous or common seed, establishes sanctions that may result in the criminalization of traditional seed exchange practices, and still lacks mechanisms for public participation. We consider all these aspects to be issues of concern to the popular movement in the continuing debate over this bill.”

The commitment to a broad public debate and the intense mobilization on the part of Venezuelan social movements have opened up the political space necessary for amendments to be made to the bill so that it meets popular demands.


With the entry into force of NAFTA, a sequence of laws were passed12 – first the Plant Varieties Act (1996),13 followed by the Biosafety Act (2005)14 and the Seeds Act (2007)15 – whereby the Mexican legal system took a big step towards seed registration, certification, patenting, and privatization. It is a clear attempt to force farmers to use lab-created seeds and to criminalize the saving and exchange of native seeds, even though these practices have formed the basis of indigenous, peasant, and indeed the entire country’s food systems for millennia.

Although Mexico did not sign the 1991 version of the agreement, its Seeds Act of 2007 explicitly provides for the criminalization of native seeds by establishing arbitrary quality and “stability” criteria that essentially amount to the freezing of varietal traits in time. It is as if seed evolution itself is being outlawed, and farmers are being made accomplices to the crime.16

This law, along with the Plant Varieties Act of 1996 (enacted to comply with UPOV) and its regulation of 1998, paved the way for the privatization of plant varieties and breeding materials, as well as for-profit variety concessions and sales under regulations highly favourable to the corporations.

In 2012, a vast coalition of peasant and civil society organizations succeeded in halting the UPOV 91 amendments to the Plant Varieties Act. The amendments would have had the grave outcome of granting private breeders “monopolies to obtain exclusive profits from the sale of seeds and other plant material for up to 15 years, or 18 in the case of perennial ornamental, forest, or orchard plants – even when the plants they used to develop the new varieties are in the public domain.”17 Genetically modified organisms were included pursuant to the Biosafety Act, which was absurd “since GMOs are created by introducing genetic material from non-plant species.”18

The “reloaded” version of the Plant Varieties Act would have given a key boost to the Seeds Act of 2007 in that it would have inaugurated a seeds policy along with a search and seizure system for uncertified or unregistered seed – absurdly termed “pirate seed” for lack of an invoice, when these varieties have been saved and exchanged for at least 6000 years. The amendments to the Plant Varieties Act have been postponed, but it would be a mistake to suppose they have been abandoned.19

In the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, the situation varies depending on whether or not an FTA has been signed with the United States. This is the case for Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, which have had to change their domestic laws in accordance with CAFTA, and for Peru, which also has an FTA with the United States. As for the rest of the continent, while there are no active attempts to push through UPOV 91, the general pattern of industry influence over government continues, and we may well see a push for UPOV in the coming months (e.g., in Paraguay).

Resistance bears fruit

The surprising thing in a context of regional agribusiness ascendancy is that resistance to corporate control of seeds has borne fruit in nearly every country where campaigns have been mounted.

In Argentina, the draft of the Seeds Act being discussed in secret never emerged from the Ministry of Agriculture to be tabled in Parliament.

In Chile, societal mobilization helped secure a majority of senators to vote against the “Monsanto Bill.”

In Colombia, peasant mobilization put a temporary stop to Resolution 9.70.

In Venezuela, there are firm commitments to keep the principles upheld by Hugo Chávez from being betrayed.

And in Mexico, societal campaigning prevented the Federal Plant Varieties Act from being revised for compliance with UPOV 91.

This brings us to October 2013. We don’t know what will happen in the coming months, but it’s clear that these wins do not mean the battle is over. The social movements are well aware of the continuing challenges involved with coordinating activities, raising awareness, and finding new allies to fend off future attacks. If we are to defend seeds as a heritage for all peoples, nothing less will do. We must all continue to dedicate ourselves to the success of the Seeds Campaign of Via Campesina.


పోరు వాక పొలం వదలి వీధికెక్కిన రైతన్న విత్తనం కోసం రైతన్న అగచాట్లు.. ధర్నాలు, ఆందోళనలు, నిలదీతలు

మార్చిలోనే చేతులెత్తేసిన మహికో..
ప్రత్యామ్నాయంపై సర్కారు ఉదాసీనత
బ్లాక్ మార్కెట్ పాపం డీలర్లదే అంటున్న విత్తన కంపెనీలు
వరంగల్ జిల్లాలో సోదాలు..
‘నల్ల’ విత్తనాల పట్టివేత, కేసులు నమోదు
ఖరీఫ్ పర్యవేక్షణపై మంత్రి కన్నా దృష్టి.. అమెరికా పర్యటన రద్దు
రుతు పవనాలకు ‘ఎల్‌నినో’ గండం.. ఆగస్టు చివరి నుంచి ప్రతికూలతలు?
కృష్ణా డెల్టాకు నీటి కష్టాలు.. ఇన్‌పుట్ సబ్సిడీపై సీఎం సమీక్ష
పంపిణీ వేగవంతం చేయాలని ఆదేశం..
సరిపడా ఎరువులున్నాయని భరోసా

ఏరువాక… దానితోపాటే మొదలైన పోరువాక! విత్తనాల దగ్గరే రైతు చిత్తు చిత్తు! విత్తనాలున్నాయని ప్రభుత్వం చెబుతుంది. కానీ… రైతు కోరుకునే విత్తనాలు మాత్రం బ్లాక్ మార్కెట్‌కు వెళ్లిపోయాయి. ఈ సమస్య అలా ఉండగానే… ఎరువుల దరువు మొదలైంది. బుధవారం అటు విత్తనాలు, ఎరువుల ధరలపై పలు జిల్లాల్లో రైతులు రోడ్డెక్కారు. ఆందోళనలకు దిగారు. విత్తన సమస్యపై మంగళవారం ఏబీఎన్‌లో మంత్రి కన్నా లక్ష్మీనారాయణతో రైతులు స్వయంగా తమ గోడు వినిపించుకున్నారు. బ్లాక్ మార్కెట్ బండారాన్ని బయటపెట్టారు. మంత్రి ఆదేశాలతో అధికారులు కదిలారు. వరంగల్ జిల్లాలో ‘నల్ల’ విత్తనాలను బయటపెట్టారు. ఖరీఫ్ సీజన్ ఊపందుకున్న నేపథ్యంలో… ఈనెల 29 నుంచి వెళ్లాల్సిన అమెరికా పర్యటనను కన్నా రద్దు చేసుకున్నారు.

హైదరాబాద్, జూన్ 20 : తొలకరి తర్వాత సజావుగా ఏరువాక సాగించాల్సిన అన్నదాత అష్టకష్టాలు పడుతున్నాడు. ప్రకృతి కరుణించినా..విత్తనాలు, ఎరువుల కొరత, అధిక ధరలు, నకిలీ విత్తనాల సమస్యతో తల్లడిల్లుతున్నాడు. మెదక్‌లోని జహీరాబాద్‌లో జనుము, సోయాబీన్ విత్తనాల కోసం రైతులు వ్యవసాయ శాఖ అసిస్టెంట్ డైరెక్టర్ కార్యాలయం ముందు ధర్నా చేశారు. నారాయణఖేడ్‌లో సోమవారం విత్తనాల కోసం టోకెన్లు పొందిన రైతులు బుధవారం ఉదయం నుంచి సాయంత్రం వరకు షాపుముందే పడిగాపులు పడి నిరాశగా వెనుదిరిగారు. నర్సాపూర్‌లో విత్తనాలు అందుబాటులో లేకపోవడంతో రైతులు ఆందోళన చెందుతున్నారు. సోయా విత్తనాలు సరిపడా రాకపోవడంతో నిజామాబాద్ జిల్లా రైతులు ప్రతీరోజు రోడ్డెక్కుతున్నారు.

బిచ్కుందలో వ్యవసాయ శాఖ కార్యాలయానికి తాళం వేసి ఉండడంతో ఉదయం నుంచి మధ్యాహ్నం వరకు పడిగాపులు కాసిన రైతులు.. అధికారులు రాకపోవడంతో ఆగ్రహం చెంది ధర్నా చేశారు. అలాగే బాల్కొండలో రైతులు తహసీల్దార్ కార్యాలయాన్ని ముట్టడించారు. కాగా, ఖమ్మం జిల్లా కారేపల్లి మండలంలో మహారాష్ట్రకు చెందిన నకిలీ నీరజ, బ్రింట్ రకం విత్తనాలు వేసి రైతులు మోసపోయారు. కారేపల్లి విత్తన దుకాణం వద్దకు వెళ్లి గొడవ చేయడంతో యజమానులు కొందరికి డబ్బు, మరికొందరికి వేరే బీటీ విత్తనాలను అందించారు.

ఎరువుల ధరలపైనా ఆందోళన..
ఎరువులను అధిక ధరలకు విక్రయించడంపై కూడా రైతులు ఆందోళన వ్యక్తం చేస్తున్నారు. అధిక ధరలపై మహబూబ్‌నగర్ రైతులు కన్నెర్ర చేశారు. సీపీఐ ఆధ్వర్యంలో ఆందోళనకు దిగారు. బిజినేపల్లి మండలం లట్టుపల్లికి చెందిన భద్రయ్య అనే రైతు మండల కేంద్రంలోని వెంకటేశ్వర ఫర్టిలైజర్స్‌లో ఎనిమిది డీఏపీ సంచులను కొనుగోలు చేశాడు. అందుకు రూ.8,016 తీసుకోవాల్సి ఉండగా.. దుకాణం యజమాని 9,300 తీసుకొని రసీదు ఇచ్చాడు. వెల్గండకు చెందిన కృష్ణారెడ్డి డీఏపీ బస్తాను కొనుగోలు చేయగా రూ.1002కు గాను 1,260 తీసుకున్నాడు. విషయం తెలుసుకున్న సీపీఐ కార్యకర్తలు అక్కడికి చేరుకుని ధర్నా చేశారు.

ఏడీఏ ఆంజనేయులుగౌడ్, ఏవో హరినాథ్ సంఘటనా స్థలానికి చేరుకోగా దాడికి దిగారు. అనంతరం ఏడీఏ, ఏవో.. దుకాణంలోని రికార్డులను పరిశీలించి స్వాధీనం చేసుకున్నారు. నిజామాబాద్ జిల్లా కామారెడ్డిలోని విత్తన, ఎరువుల దుకాణాలపై విజిలెన్స్ అధికారులు బుధవారం ఆకస్మిక దాడులు నిర్వహించారు. రైతులు ఎక్కువ ధరకు ఎరువులు కొని రసీదులు తీసుకున్న కొద్ది సేపటికే రాష్ట్ర విజిలెన్స్ అధికారి అశోక్‌కుమార్ ఆధ్వర్యంలో.. మూడు దుకాణాలపై దాడులు చేసి బస్తాలను స్వాధీనం చేసుకున్నారు.

కాగా, మహబూబ్‌నగర్ జిల్లా అచ్చంపేటలో అనిల్ ట్రేడర్స్ ఎరువులను అధిక ధరలకు అమ్ముతోందంటూ బుధవారం మంత్రి కన్నాకు ఫోన్ చేసి ఫిర్యాదు చేశారు. దీనిపై స్పందించిన మంత్రి.. వెంటనే పరిశీలించి నివేదిక పంపాలని జిల్లా కలెక్టర్‌ను ఆదేశించారు. కాగా, ప్రస్తుతం రాష్ట్రంలో 7.82 లక్షల టన్నుల ఎరువులు నిల్వ ఉన్నట్లు వ్యవసాయ శాఖ బుధవారం ఒక ప్రకటనలో పేర్కొంది. అందులో డీలర్లు, మార్క్‌ఫెడ్ వద్ద కలిపి యూరియా 1.55 లక్షలు, కాంప్లెక్స్ 3.68 లక్షలు, యూరియా 1.94 లక్షలు, ఎంఓపీ 62600 టన్నులు నిల్వ ఉన్నట్లు తెలిపింది.

బిగ్ డిబేట్‌తో అధికారుల్లో కదలిక
‘ఏబీఎన్ – ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి’ ఎండీ వేమూరి రాధాకృష్ణ మంగళవారం నిర్వహించిన ‘బిగ్ డిబేట్’ సంచలనం సృష్టిస్తోంది. ఈ కార్యక్రమానికి వివిధ జిల్లాల నుంచి రైతులు ఫోన్ చేసి.. వ్యవసాయ శాఖ మంత్రి కన్నాతో మాట్లాడారు. వారంతా విత్తనాల బ్లాక్ మార్కెటింగ్‌పై ఫిర్యాదు చేయడంతో అధికార యంత్రాంగంలో కదలిక మొదలైంది. విత్తన కొనుగోళ్లలో రైతు దయనీయ స్థితిపై కొనసాగిన బిగ్‌డిబేట్‌లో మంత్రి కన్నా కూడా బ్లాక్ మార్కెటీర్లపై తీవ్ర ఆగ్రహం వ్యక్తం చేశారు. బ్లాక్ మార్కెటింగ్‌కు పాల్పడితే డీలర్‌లతో పాటు కంపెనీ యాజమాన్యంపై కేసులు పెట్టాలని ఆదేశించారు. దీంతో అధికారులు ఉరుకులు, పరుగులు ప్రారంభించారు.

వరంగల్ జిల్లా రెవెన్యూ, వ్యవసాయ, పోలీస్ శాఖలు సంయుక్తంగా ఆకస్మిక తనిఖీలు నిర్వహించాయి. బ్లాక్ మార్కెట్‌కు తరలిపోయిన పత్తి విత్తనాలను వెలుగులోకి తెచ్చే దిశగా ఈ దాడులు సాగాయి. తమ తనిఖీలను గురువారం కూడా కొనసాగించాలని అధికార యంత్రాంగం భావిస్తోంది. వరం గల్ జిల్లా కురవిలో మంగళవారం అర్ధరాత్రి నుంచి తెల్లవారే దాకా వ్యాపారుల రహస్య గోడౌన్‌లపై అధికారులు దాడులు చేశారు. ఈ దాడుల్లో దుర్గా ఫెర్టిలైజర్ షాపు, మరి కొందరి ఇళ్లలో విత్తన పాకెట్లను స్వాధీనం చేసుకున్నారు. షాపును సీజ్ చేసి నల్లపు ఉపేందర్, నల్లపు రవి, గూడూరు ప్రసాద్‌లను అరెస్ట్ చేశారు.

ఈ ముగ్గురితో పాటు వీరికి విత్తనాలు సరఫరా చేసిన నల్గొండ జిల్లా సూర్యాపేటకు చెందిన జగన్మోహన్‌రెడ్డి, ఖమ్మంకు చెందిన నాగరాజులపై విత్తన చట్టం, 420 కేసులు నమోదు చేశారు. కాగా, వ్యవసాయదారులకు ఖరీఫ్‌లో కావాల్సిన వరి విత్తనాలను అందజేయడానికి ఆచార్య ఎన్జీ రంగా యూనివర్సిటీ సీడ్ రీసెర్చి టెక్నాలజీ సెంటర్ డైరెక్టర్ విష్ణువర్థన్ రెడ్డి బుధవారం ఆన్‌లైన్‌కు తెలిపారు. వివిధ ప్రాంతాల్లో గల పరిశోధన కేంద్రాల్లో విత్తనాలను రైతులకు అందుబాటులో ఉంచామని ఆయన చెప్పారు.

విత్తన కొరతను అధిగమించండి: సీఎం
హైదరాబాద్: ప్రస్తుత ఖరీఫ్‌సీజన్‌లో ఎరువులు, విత్తనాల కొరత రాకుండా చూడాలని వ్యవసాయశాఖ అధికారులను సీఎం కిరణ్ ఆదేశించారు. రైతులకు ఇన్‌పుట్ సబ్సిడీ పంపిణీని వేగవంతం చేయాలని. రైతుల వ్యక్తిగత ఖాతాలకే నేరుగా చేరేలా చర్యలు తీసుకోవాలని ఆయన సూచించారు. మధ్య దళారుల ప్రమేయం లేకపోవడంతో.. పారదర్శకంగా రైతుకు సబ్సిడీ అందుతుందని ఆయన పేర్కొన్నారు.

రాష్ట్రమంతటా విస్తారంగా వర్షాలు కురిసిన నేపథ్యంలో వివిధ శాఖల మంత్రులు, అధికారులతో బుధవారం ఆయన సమీక్షా సమావేశం నిర్వహించారు. రైతులకు ఎరువులు, విత్తనాలు సరఫరా చేసేందుకు అన్ని ఏర్పాట్లు పూర్తి చేసినట్లు సీఎంకు అధికారులు వివరించారు. డీఏపీ, కాంప్లెక్స్, యూరియా తదితర ఎరువులు అందుబాటులో ఉన్నాయన్నారు. 1.9 కోట్ల ప్యాకెట్ల పత్తి విత్తనాలను అందుబాటులో ఉంచామని చెప్పారు. వీటిలో ఇప్పటికే 60.73 లక్షల ప్యాకెట్ల పంపిణీ కూడా జరిగిందన్నారు.

5.43 లక్షల క్వింటాళ్ల వేరుశనగ విత్తనాలు అందుబాటులో ఉండ గా.. ఇప్పటికి 4.70 లక్షల క్వింటాళ్లు పంపిణీ జరిగిందని సీఎంకు చెప్పారు. ఎరువుల నిల్వలను పర్యవేక్షించేందుకు జిల్లా స్థాయిలో మానిటరింగ్ సెల్‌ను ఏర్పాటు చేశామని వివరించారు. రాష్ట్ర సరిహద్దుల్లో, ఇతర కీలక ప్రాంతాల్లో ఎరువుల రవాణాపై విజిలెన్స్ నిఘాను పెంచినట్లు తెలిపారు. ఈ సమావేశంలో వ్యవసాయశాఖ మంత్రి కన్నా లక్ష్మీనారాయణ, ముఖ్య కార్యదర్శి, కమిషనర్ పాల్గొన్నారు.

విత్తన ఇబ్బందితోనే మంత్రికి ఫోన్: రైతు సైదులు
“పత్తి విత్తనాల కోసం పడని పాట్లు లేవు. తిరగని షాపు లేదు. అయినా ఒక్క ప్యాకెట్ దొరికే పరిస్థితి లే దు” అని కురవి మండలం బలపాలకు చెందిన రైతు నామా సైదులు అన్నారు. “షాపుల్లో అడిగితే మహికో విత్తనాలు రూ.2 వేలు అంటున్నారు. ఏం చేయాలో తెలియక ఆలోచిస్తున్నా. మంగళవారం రాత్రి ఏబీఎన్ చానల్ చూస్తుండగా మంత్రి కన్నా లక్ష్మినారాయణ రైతులతో సంభాషిస్తున్నారు. వెంటనే.. ఇచ్చిన నెంబరుకు ఫోన్ చేశాను.

తొలుత పత్తి విత్తన కొరతపై ప్రశ్నించిన నేను ఆపై విత్తన బ్లాక్ మార్కెటింగ్‌పై అడిగాను. ఎక్కడ జరుగుతుందని అడగ్గా మా జిల్లా అంతా ఇదే పరిస్థితని చెప్పాను. డిబేట్ అయిపోయాక మంత్రి నాకు ఫోన్ చేసి, మీది ఏ మండలం? అని అడగ్గా కురవి అని చెప్పాను. రాత్రికి రాత్రే ఆర్డీవో బిక్షానాయక్, కురవి సీఐ రవీందర్ ఆధ్వర్యంలో దాడులు జరిగాయని, 143 పత్తి విత్తన ప్యాకెట్లను స్వాధీనం చేసుకున్నారని తెలిసి ఆశ్చర్యపోయాను” అని వివరించారు.

విత్తన సరఫరాలో సర్కారు విఫలం
సబ్సిడీ సొమ్ము ప్రైవేటు పరం..
బ్లాక్ మార్కెట్‌కు పత్తి విత్తనాలు
22న నిరసన ప్రదర్శనలు, జైల్‌భరో: కిషన్‌రెడ్డి

హైదరాబాద్: వర్షాల రాకతో రైతాంగం విత్తనాల కోసం ఎదురు చూస్తుంటే రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం మాత్రం కుంభకర్ణ నిద్ర పోతోందని బీజేపీ రాష్ట్ర అధ్యక్షుడు కిషన్‌రెడ్డి ధ్వ జమెత్తారు. నాలుగైదేళ్లుగా విత్తనాల సమస్య తీవ్రమవుతున్నా, ప్రభుత్వం విత్తనాల పంపిణీ విధానాన్ని మార్చకుండా.. బాధ్యతలను ప్రైవేటు కంపెనీలకు అప్పగించేసి కళ్లు మూసుకుని కూర్చుందన్నారు.

రైతులకు చెందాల్సిన విత్తన సబ్సిడీని ప్రైవేటు కంపెనీలకు ధారాదత్తం చేస్తోందని ఆరోపించారు. విత్తనాల కోసం రైతులు క్యూలలో నిలబడి, లాఠీదెబ్బలు తినాల్సి రావడం దేశంలో ఎక్కడా లేదన్నారు. పత్తి విత్తనాలు బ్లాక్ మార్కెట్‌కు తరలిపోయినా సర్కారు నుంచి చర్యల్లేవని ధ్వజమెత్తారు. కాగా కాంగ్రెస్ ప్రభుత్వ రైతు వ్యతిరేక విధానాలను నిరసిస్తూ ఈ నెల 22న అన్ని జిల్లా కేంద్రాల్లో నిరసన ప్రదర్శనలు, జైల్‌భరో కార్యక్రమం నిర్వహిస్తున్నట్లు తెలిపారు.

బీటీ విత్తనంపై పర్మిట్ తొలగించాలి
దీని వల్ల విత్తనాల లభ్యత మెరుగు: ఏపీ సీడ్స్‌మెన్ అసోసియేషన్

హైదరాబాద్: రాష్ట్రంలో ఓ కంపెనీ బీటీ విత్తనాలపై ఉన్న పర్మిట్ విధానాన్ని తొలగించాలని ఏపీ సీడ్స్ అసోసియేషన్ కోరింది. పర్మిట్ వ్యవస్థను ప్రవేశ పెట్టడం వల్ల ఆ విత్తనానికి అనవసరమైన ‘హైప్’ లభిస్తోందని, దీన్ని తొలగిస్తే దుకాణాల్లో అవసరమైన మేరకు విత్తనాలు దొరుకుతాయని అభిప్రాయపడింది.

రాష్ట్రంలో 1.27కోట్ల బీటీ విత్తన ప్యాకెట్లు అవసరముంటే అందులో 85 శాతం విత్తనాలు ఇప్పటికే పం పిణీ చేశామని ఏపీ సీడ్స్‌మెన్ అసోసియేషన్ కార్యదర్శి వెంకటరెడ్డి అన్నారు. కొన్ని ప్రాంతాల్లో రైతులు ఒక బ్రాండునే అడుగుతున్నందున సమస్య వస్తోందన్నారు. ప క్క రాష్ట్రాల నుంచి బీటీ విత్తనాలు తీసుకొచ్చి ఇక్కడ అమ్ముతున్నారని, వాటిపై తమ నియంత్రణ ఎలా ఉంటుందని సీడ్స్‌మెన్ ప్రతినిధి భాస్కర్‌రావు ప్రశ్నించారు.

మంత్రి కన్నా అమెరికా పర్యటన రద్దు
ఈ నెల 29 నుంచి తలపెట్టిన అమెరికా పర్యటనను మంత్రి కన్నా లక్ష్మీనారాయణ రద్దు చేసుకున్నారు. రాష్ట్రవ్యాప్తంగా వర్షాలు కురిసి ఖరీఫ్ సీజన్ ఊపందుకోవడంతో ఆయన ఈ నిర్ణయం తీసుకున్నట్లు మంత్రి కార్యాలయం ప్రకటించింది.

Seeds of Change

A healthy cotton plan
Seeds Of Change
Maharashtra sounds clarion call on hybrid crop liability

Competition is tough in the seed market, which may explain why marketing gimmicks are often used to woo farmers. It’s tougher still for the farmers to get compensation when the claims fail and they are saddled with a bad or damaged crop. Sometimes the state government steps in to offer compensation or the farmers turn to the consumer court for relief. Typically, of course, the lack of compensation leads farmers deeper into debt.

In a departure from the norm, Maharashtra agriculture commissioner Umakant Dangat recently directed multinational seed major Bayer BioScience to pay 164 farmers in Dhule district Rs 44.8 lakh compensation for damage to their cotton crop in 2010. The culprit: bacterial blight (the plants had stunted growth and leaf damage, which affected the quality of the cotton bolls)—even though the labelling on the seed packet had assured a good yield and the ability to resist pest or disease attack.

“The company’s claim was that the crop would be less susceptible to pest and bacterial (alternaria leaf) blight disease, but our inquiry found it to be a false claim,” Dangat tells Outlook. Prakash Sangale, district superintendent agriculture officer, Dhule, says inspection of the fields showed bacterial blight had damaged between 40-70 per cent of the crops of the 164 farmers who had complained about the Bayer’s SurPass hybrid cottonseed. The total number of affected farmers was much higher, he claims. The average crop area of the affected farmers was one hectare.

Bayer’s representatives were part of the field inspection team and also participated in the three-tier appeal system provided under the Maharashtra Cottonseeds Act 2009. In its defence, Bayer officials had told the committee of experts, which included members from the agriculture university and the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Jalgaon, that the complaints pertain to only 500 farmers from one area though 45,000 seed packets of the hybrid variety had been sold. The implication being that no direct correlation could be established between the blight and the seeds.
As the farmers wait for compensation, Bayer has challenged the agriculture commissioner’s order in the high court. In an official statement to Outlook, Bayer said, “As per our investigations, the yields below expectations in a few pockets are due to combination of inadequate crop management and adverse environmental conditions. We are in the process of contesting the unjustifiable claims through a legal course.”

The team inspects the damaged crops

In another case in Madhya Pradesh, Bayer was ordered in December 2011 by the consumer court in Khargone district to pay Rs 3 crore to farmers whose cotton crops failed to deliver the promised yield, allegedly due to poor quality of seeds. Declining to comment on the Maharashtra order due to lack of information, agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan points out, “In the report on biotechnology, submitted in 2004, I had recommended that seed companies should give an insurance policy to farmers who buy their seeds. Unfortunately, this has not been implemented so far.”

It is rare for the farmers to get compensation directly from companies providing agriculture inputs like seeds. Whether it is the Rs 61 crore paid in 2010 for poor performance of hybrid maize in Bihar or the Rs 2,000 crore relief announced last year for cotton crop damage by Maharashtra, it’s generally the state government that picks up the tab. A notable exception is the compensation Mahyco was made to give in 2007 to farmers in Tamil Nadu.

“Seen together with the SC verdict last month recognising farmers’ rights as consumers, it is an important development outside the ambit of the Seeds Act 1966 wherein only seeds inspectors can initiate proceedings,” says Sudhir Panwar of the Kisan Jagriti Manch. Experts feel it’d be a fitting follow-up if other states heed the call and become voices of their farmers’ interests. But, farmers too need to fight unsubstantiated claims.

Nepal: In defense of seed sovereignty

Monsanto’s entry can provide grounds for an inevitable agrarian crisis

Monsanto, which intends to enter Nepal, is one of the most controversial corporations in the world, with a past full of unethical acts such as the production of Agent Orange, whose effects linger in Vietnam with more than 150,000 children suffering from genetic deformities.

The corporate giant is now offering a “miracle product” for Nepal, claiming it will uplift farmers’ livelihoods and resolve food insecurity.

Can we trust Monsanto? Let’s consider the case.

A hybrid seed is a closed pollinated pure breed seed in which pollens from a single flower are not allowed to fertilize ovary of other flowers in effort to preserve the pure breed and ensure that the desired trait is passed on to the next generation seeds.

The next generation of Monsanto’s seeds is sterile. Therefore, once Nepali farmers start using Monsanto’s “hybrid corn”, the farmers will lose control over their own seeds and will be obliged to purchase seeds from the company every year. Patent protection on seeds will undermine our food security by increasing dependency on corporations.

Patents on seeds makes farmers dependent on the corporations for the most critical input in agriculture, i.e. seed, explains Dr. Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned anti- GM activist and founder of Navdanya.

Additionally, there are evidences from all over the world depicting the failure of Monsanto’s corn.

“Monsanto does not have any liability clause to compensate the farmers upon the failure of their seed,” says Dr. Shiva. Our neighboring countries; particularly India and China have already been victims. When Monsanto’s “hybrid corn” failed in the state of Bihar, the farmers lost Rs 4 billion.

If Monsanto’s corn is introduced in Nepal, Nepal may experience similar consequences. Lack of economic capacity will make things worse.

Theoretically, we have already been a victim. In late 2009 and early 2010, there was a massive “corn failure” in various regions of Nepal, but there was no one to take the blame. Agronomists attributed the failure to contamination from Monsanto’s hybrid seed varieties.

Unlike hybrid seeds, GM seeds are produced by introducing new genes from other organisms into the seed to introduce a new trait, e.g. pest resistance. Although the science behind “GM seeds” is different from that of “hybrid seeds”, the economics and socio-political issues are similar, even worse.

Although reports suggest that Monsanto’s current program in Nepal aims to introduce hybrid maize seeds and not GM seeds, we must be vigilant. Past evidences suggest that entry of Monsanto’s hybrid variety serves as a gateway to introduce GM seeds. “Monsanto’s hybrid corn in Nepal will be rapidly followed by GM corn” says Dr. Shiva.

According to its promoters, including USAID, Nepal does not produce adequate maize and Monsanto’s “hybrid corn” will help farmers increase their yield and improve food security.

However, these claims have been invalidated by numerous scientific researches.

First, when compared to organic farming, GM and hybrid seeds produce comparatively less nutrition per acre and are vulnerable to climate change and pests. A Navdanya report attests that local, organic system can produce more food and higher farm incomes while reducing input costs. Similarly, a 30-year long study by the Rodale Institute shows that organic farming is better equipped to feed us at present and in the long-run.

Second, Monsanto’s hybrid corn will not improve farmers’ livelihoods. While, it might do so in the short term, the increase in input costs and the risk of crop failure overshadows the benefit. When farmers have to buy seeds every year and pay royalty, the cost increases. This has trapped many of the world’s poorest farmers in a cycle of debt, triggering suicide.

In the cotton belt of India, where Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt. Cotton has acquired monopoly control, suicides are more ubiquitous. Pro-GM experts blame alcoholism as the major reason for the suicides. Perhaps, such advocates of GM crop should make a trip to the Vidarbha region in India or watch the documentary Nero’s Guest.

Third, GMOs will not reduce the use of agricultural chemicals. Empirical evidences from Navdanya research in Vidharbha show that there has been a 13-fold increase of pesticide use by farmers since the introduction of Bt. Cotton. Likewise, the global citizens report on the state of GMOs, reported that in regions of China where Bt. Cotton is extensively cultivated, populations of pests have increased 12-fold since 1997.

Therefore, if our government allows Monsanto to promote hybrid corn in Nepal, it will inevitably be inviting an agrarian crisis.

Instead, we must train farmers to improve the yield while cultivating traditional open-pollinated varieties, which have been proven to grow well without high input. Priorities should be given to open “seed banks” where traditional varieties can be saved. We must take precaution to defend our food democracy from dictatorship by multi-national corporations. We must protect our seed sovereignty.

Hachhethu is a researcher at Navdanya, an India-based NGO working for farmers’ rights and organic agriculture

Grassroots scientists challenge seed monopolies

By Biju Negi

Beej Bachao Andolan is removing the veil of secrecy from the seed research and development process by training farmers in Uttarakhand on cross-breeding rice varieties, helping them reclaim this traditional knowledge and technology from the agri-chemical industries that monopolise the sector

Cross-breeding rice varieties

Traditional agriculture knowledge and systems have a profoundly scientific basis, and over generations, farmers have perfected their practices in all aspects of agriculture including developing new crop varieties by closely following natural practices. But if there is one thing they haven’t done themselves, it is developing new varieties through artificial or induced means. Indeed, producing new varieties through cross-breeding has for long been the sole preserve of agricultural research institutions and agro-chemical companies that have placed a veil of secrecy over the technology under the pretext of it being “scientifically strict and technically difficult”. This absolute control over seed research and multiplication has allowed them to totally dominate the market by swallowing up local knowledge and seeds and imposing an alien, high-input, monoculture-predominant agriculture.

In Uttarakhand, the small farmers collective Beej Bachao Andolan is demystifying the seed development process. It conducted a three-day workshop on ‘Crop Cross-breeding Training’ for farmers in Chamba (Tehri) recently in a first-of-its-kind initiative in the state. What the farmers learnt to do, through a precise yet simple technique, was to develop new rice varieties by cross-breeding two existing varieties.

The technique has been developed and successfully popularised by MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura), a “farmer-scientist partnership for development” in the Philippines.

Concerned with the failure of the green revolution in the Philippines, MASIPAG was formed in 1985 with the specific objective of developing an alternative agricultural research programme suited to the needs of poor farmers for appropriate seeds and technology. With the Philippines also home to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), farmers were also concerned about the loss of traditional rice, more than 4,000 varieties of which have been collected internationally by IRRI and replaced with high-yielding varieties (HYVs).

A collaboration between farmers and scientists from the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, in the form of a ‘Piso-Piso Para sa Binhi’ (A Peso for the Seeds) project, was started to initiate research on the genetic conservation and improvement of traditional rice varieties, and to develop accessible and appropriate research designs and tools for farmers. Since then, over 750 traditional rice varieties have been retrieved and over 560 MASIPAG-bred selections created to suit specific agricultural conditions.

Farmers groups avail of the seeds by establishing trial farms where they select varieties for local adaptability, study genetic traits and performance, and undertake conservation and breeding.

Reetu Sogani (Samudayik Chetna Kendra, Nainital) and Bina Sajwan (Beej Bachao Andolan), who conducted the training in Uttarakhand, say: “The crop cross-breeding technique is really quite simple but needs precision and patience. Of course, with practise, the farmers will find the technique becoming simpler.”

The process

Rice is a self-pollinating plant, which means that both the pistil or ovary (female) and the stamens (male) are in the same spikelet. When the plant flowers, the stamens pollinate the ovary naturally, without any extraneous help. Therefore, anyone wishing to cross-pollinate two different varieties has to take a lot of care. Pollination between the same ‘mother’ and ‘father’ is avoided and artificially controlled to allow pollination between two different parents. This effectively means retaining the pistil in the ‘mother’ plant and bringing in pollen from the ‘father’ plant.

Timing is extremely crucial in this process. It must be done within a few days of the plant flowering, and when the hair at the end of the spikelet is about one-third or not more than half emerged. Around this time the anthers are fairly robust — more than half the spikelet emerging from its sheath would mean that pollination has already taken place within the spikelet.

The cross-breeding process is carried out over two days. On day 1, the seed on the ‘mother’ plant is emasculated; on day 2, pollen from the ‘father’ spikelets is sprinkled over the emasculated ‘mother’ seeds.

Emasculation is best done around 3-4 pm, as then the wind is generally still with minimal possibilities of accidental pollination by wind. Also, the pistil or ovary is fairly inactive at this time of day.

For emasculation on the ‘mother’ plant, the spikelet to be cross-bred is cut in a slant around the top-third. This allows for better viewing and more operating space within the seed sheath where one can now see an ovary at the centre encircled by six stamens (comprising anthers and filament), which hold the pollen. It is these six stamens which need to be removed. This is a delicate process and needs to be done with precision, concentration and very steady hands. The spikelet itself is so small, and the stamens so fine that the latter can be removed only by using a pincer. If necessary, one may use a magnifying glass for better viewing; in fact, it is advisable. Also, in the beginning it is always better for two or more people to work together on a single plant, with one doing the emasculation and the other holding the plant and/or providing a shield against the wind to prevent accidental pollination.

After completing one spikelet one may move on to another on the same panicle. The panicle is then covered with a glassine/muslin bag to prevent moisture or overnight dew from damaging the open spikelet.

The actual cross-pollination is to be carried out on day 2, around 9-10 am. Mornings are the best time as the cut on the spikelet opens to its maximum then, thereby allowing more pollen to enter the spikelet and increasing the chances of pollination.

The ‘father’ plant chosen must be mature, and at least two to four primary branches from its panicle cut carefully and taken for this purpose. Carried to the ‘mother’ plant prepared the previous evening, the ‘father’ spikelets are shaken over the emasculated spikelets for at least a minute or two so that pollen sprinkles on to the ovaries of the emasculated ‘mother’ spikelets. One may additionally place or tie a few ‘father’ primary branches (in an upside-down position) over and alongside the ‘mother’ panicle, and then cover it again with the bag. This will further ensure pollination. The ‘mother’ panicle worked on may be kept this way for the next three days — the period when the ovary is highly susceptible to cross-pollination after emasculation. To further ensure pollination, one may repeat the cross-pollination process over the next two days.

Remove the bag after three days. The plant must be checked continuously for the next 10 days, and then every now and then.

It is important to remember that in the first cross-breeding a farmer may be able to work on just a few spikelets, and, since the cross-breeding must be completed within two or three days (before the florets mature and self-pollinate), he/she can expect to get only a few seeds after the first season. It will take a few seasons to multiply the number of seeds to procure enough quantity.

Of course, after the first season, farmers will store the new variety seeds separately just as they would other seeds. From the second season onwards, the seeds on the plants will be allowed to self-pollinate and are subjected to the process of ‘selection’ over the next four to five seasons to stabilise the traits in the new variety. Only then, and when one has enough of the new variety growing, can one see the desired characteristics in the new variety emerge completely.

The montane regions of Uttarakhand have only one rice-growing season in the year, unlike in the Philippines which has three (and elsewhere in India where there may be two or three rice-growing seasons). And so here it may take up to five years before farmers can really claim to have developed or produced a new variety. Bina Sajwan explains: “The cross-breeding technique will show more rapid results in regions where paddy is grown more than once a year. At the same time, the technique can just as effectively be used in wheat and maize crops.”

Far-reaching significance

According to Vijay Jarhdhari of Beej Bachao Andolan, in whose fields practical exercises were carried out, “Our traditional practices of selecting and conserving good seeds — and even developing new varieties through natural pollination — is firmly scientific, but this training adds a further dimension to our farming capacity which will play an important role in increasing and strengthening our seed diversity, with attendant benefits.”

Indeed, this small beginning in Uttarakhand multiplies the possibilities of strengthening food security. More importantly, it will help farmers establish food sovereignty by encouraging them to delve into the deep reservoir of their traditional knowledge and agro-biodiversity, reclaim lost crop varieties, and develop new ones in accordance with their priorities and needs. For instance, as Kheema, an activist from Pithoragarh puts it: “Farmers can now consider developing and propagating varieties that are more resilient to the vagaries of nature.” Pushpa Devi from Paukhal (Tehri) reiterates: “We now have the possibility of growing crops the likes of which our mothers and grandmothers cultivated.”

Vijay Jarhdhari believes this initiative offers farmers the possibility of controlling decisions such as which seed varieties to grow, unlike now where agro-chemical companies, together with major research institutions hold all the keys to developing new varieties, with the sole objective of making ‘profits’.

Reetu Sogani says, “This sharing and capacity-building has political significance and ramifications. More than the fact of developing new varieties, it is an act of protest against seed development being the monopoly of just a few, and against the appropriation of people’s knowledge systems.”

At another level, it is not just the question of learning and mastering a technique or technology. It is the significance of farmers seeking a deeper engagement with their agriculture and their ecology from which they are forcibly being marginalised. They are seeking to become, once again, the masters of their own agriculture. And as farmers begin to cross-breed on their own lands, and others learn from them, they also begin to strengthen their claim to being the true agricultural scientists on the ground.

(Biju Negi is a writer, sustainable agriculture consultant and member of Beej Bachao Andolan)

Infochange News & Features, October 2011