NOTE: Great photo of the women's anti-GMO protest here:
The Deccan Development Society (DDS), is a two-decade old grassroots organisation working in about 75 villages with women's Sanghams (voluntary village level associations of the poor) in the Medak District of Andhra Pradesh. The 5000 women members of the Society represent the poorest of the poor in their village communities. Most of them are dalits ("untouchables"), the lowest group in the Indian social hierarchy.
COMMENT from PV Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society: Yesterday, as a part of the global anti GMO week observation over 500 women from the DDS communities from the mandals of Zaheerabad, Jharasangam, Raikode and Nyalkal took out a procession in Zaheerabad to protest against government inaction on the spread of Bt cotton in Medak, which they said is not only environmentally destroying the farmers but also is creating havoc with their economics. Farmers who are lured by the promise of Bt seed dealers of great returns are finding to their dismay that even 50% of the promised yields are not being realised.
Under these circumstances the women have demanded a total ban on the cultivation of Bt cotton in Medak District besides serious criminal cases against the Bt seed dealers.
The women took out in procession an effigy of a GMO DEMON and burnt it in front of the Tahsildar's office where they submitted their memorandum. Later they went to the District Collector, met him and submitted a copy of the memorandum.
Please see the full memorandum [English translation] below.
Memorandum demanding a total ban on the cultivation of Bt cotton in Medak District Deccan Development Society
April 13 2012
We, members of the DDS Food Sovereignty Trust, representing over 5000 dalit women from small and marginal farming households present the following demands for your kind consideration:
Medak is a district devoid of irrigation facilities. This is the only district in AP that does not have any canal irrigation. It is in this context that we, traditional farmers of Medak have been for centuries following significant rainfed biodiverse farming system. However since the last two decades, because of the government’s promotional policies and pressure from markets, cultivation of irrigation dependent crops such as sugarcane, potato, ginger etc have seen a frightening growth in our district. This has a deep impact on the underground water sounding alarm bells for Medak District. Since the last few years even millet farmers who cultivate their degraded lands for food crops in our district are being trapped by the cotton industry by making false promises that they can make heavy profit by growing cotton.
The new entrant into this scene is Bt Cotton whose cultivation is growing at a terrifying rate in the district. Since the advent of this cotton, food crop cultivation is declining in Medak. This district has been famous for growing millets which can grow even in the least fertile lands without irrigation. These crops have traditionally protected the food and nutritional security of the population of Medak District, especially of the poor.
We the members of the Deccan Development Society have initiated several research studies since last 20 years on the food crops and the food and nutritional security they offer and have been able to discover several new truths. We would like to bring them to your kind notice.
1. Our studies done this year in the four mandals of Zaheerabad, Jharasangam, Raikode and Nyalkal has revealed that the yields from Bt cotton is around 500-800 kgs per acre under dryland conditions and 1000-1200 kgs per acre under irrigated conditions. As per current market rates, the farmers are able to earn between 17000 to 40000 per acre depending upon whether they are dryland farmers or irrigated farmers. As a result the dryland Bt Cotton farmers are earning a net income of 8-10,000 per acre.
2. This has come as a rude shock who were dreaming of great gains by farming Bt cotton. Cotton cultivation does not yield no benefit apart from the monetary income No fodder, no uncultivated greens nothing. Besides as scientists are pointing out, Bt cotton fields are suffering from soil toxicity year after year resulting in toxic soils and soil fatigue. As a result of this, crops such as chillies which used to be grown after cotton is harvested are wilting on the field. Besides, there are several instances of Bt Cotton itself wilting on the field.
3. Apart from these problems, we have learnt from Bt cotton farmers in Warangal as well as from newspapers that cattle which have grazed on Bt cotton refuse have died of toxicity. Women who have laboured on Bt farms are suffering from skin diseases and respiratory problems. Our sisters in DDS Community Media Trust who have done regular filming month on month for three years in Warangal, Nalgonda and Adilabad districts have brought to light these truths in their video films.
4. In contrast to this toxic Bt farming, millet farmers enjoy homes full of grains, cowsheds full of fodder, and all season uncultivated greens. This offers them food and nutritional security. They are also protecting soil, water and environmental health through their ecological practices such as non chemical farming.
5. This year we in DDS carried out INSIMP [Initiative for Nutritonal Security through Intensive Millet Promotion] on behalf of the Government of Andhra Pradesh by ecological growing millets in a biodiverse environment in over 2500 acres. The studies carried out on these farms are revealing that dryland farmers [without irrigation] have been able to earn a household income upto ₹15-20,000 per acre through these farming practice
In view of all the above, we are placing the following demands in front of the Medak District administration and the Government of Andhra Pradesh
1. Keeping in view the environment and water resources of Medak District, Government must immediately ban the cultivation of Bt Cotton in the district.
2. Many companies have carried out false propaganda that Bt cotton cultivation results in great profits. Government must initiate criminal proceedings against these companies and ban them from trading in Bt cotton.
3. Pending the above, Government of AP must enact a legislation that Bt cotton companies must give a written undertaking that their cultivation will result in minimum yield of a certain quantity of cotton. If farmers do not get these promised profits Government must file lawsuits against them and force them to compensate farmers losses.
4. Hundreds of thousands of farmers in the mandals of southern Medak, viz., Zaheerabad, Jharasangam, Raikode, Nyalkal, Manoor, Narayankhed etc. are engaged in organic farming. Bt cotton cultivation must be prohibited in these mandals immediately in view of the fact that Bt cotton will genetically pollute the crops on these organic farms.
5. Government must recognise traditional farmers as conservers of environment, water resources, and frontline soldiers in the fight against climate change. Such farmers must be honoured with an annual honorarium of ₹5000 per acre for their ecosystemic services.
6. When Government honours farmers during the Ugadi and Sankranti Puraskaras these ecological, biodiverse farmers must be honoured as Progressive Farmers.
We request you to kindly place these demands of ours in front of the Government of Andhra Pradesh and help Andhra Pradesh to come out of the agrarian crisis into which genetically engineered crops are bound to push this state.
On behalf of the DDS Food Sovereignty Trust
1. Smt Malgi Satyamma
2. Smt Hulgera Narsamma
3. Smt Jeerlapally Satyamma
4. Smt Hoti-B Shamamma
5. Smt Khasimput Tuljamma
6. Smt Raipally Susilamma
7. Smt Krishnapur Chilakamma
8. Smt Dhanwar Ratnamma
9. Smt Rechintal Kamalamma
April 13 2012