12 March 2003
MONSANTO SHOULD BE "BLACKLISTED" - CONGRESS/INDIA’S AP TO COMPENSATE CULTIVATORS OF MONSANTO’S BT COTTON
This is, of course, the same crop that Mahyco-Monsanto's figures, according to an analysis in an article in Science, say yielded 80% more in India providing a model for what other Third world nations should expect from GM crops! In some parts of India 95 percent of Bt Cotton farmers have reported losses.
1.INDIA'S AP TO COMPENSATE CULTIVATORS OF BT COTTON CROPS
2.The Bt cotton failure + food aid - AgBioIndia
1.INDIA'S AP TO COMPENSATE CULTIVATORS OF BT COTTON CROPS
DATELINE: HYDERABAD, March 11
Asia Pulse March 11, 2003
Northern Territory Regional
Andhra Pradesh government Monday promised to compensate the farmers whose Bt cotton crops failed even as the Opposition demanded that Monsanto Corporation, which introduced the crop, be "blacklisted".
There have been reports that the first genetically engineered cotton crop in Andhra Pradesh has failed. Voicing concern over extensive losses suffered by farmers who opted for genetically modified cotton seeds, introduced by multinational seed major Monsanto, the opposition Congress members demanded that the company be blacklisted and compensation be paid to farmers.
While admitting that Bt cotton crop's yield was 'lower than expected resulting in reduced market value realisation', the state Agriculture Minister V Shobhanadreshwar Rao said the genetically engineered seed was only designed to fight 'Bollworm' pest which was the cause of extensive crop damages in the past. As many as 6,929 farmers in 1,520 villages had raised the cotton crop last year spread over 9.341 hectares in the state. This followed approval for commercialisation of Bt cotton seeds by the federal government.
"Certain farmers have complained of smaller Boll size and lesser staple length for Bt cotton compared to other hybrids in the market," the Minister said, adding that the farmers would be 'informed about the experience' gained during the current season.
more on the Bt cottonfailure in Andhra Pradesh - Star TV video
MBt cotton proves a failure in Andhra Pradesh - article
2. Bt cotton proves a failure in Andhra Pradesh
2. The AgBioIndia Bulletin
Sub: Compensate farmers for Bt cotton failure
Following innumerable reports of the failure of Bt cotton from central and southern India, where it was approved for commercial cultivation, the New Delhi-based NGO, Gene Campaign, has demanded adequate compensation to affected farmers under the newly enacted Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers Right Act 2001. It may be recalled that in Vidharba region of Maharashtra alone, farmers had demanded Rs 5000 million as compensation for the loss suffered on account of the inferior seeds that did not match the claims made by Mahyco-Monsanto.
The Agriculture Ministry is however likely to dilly-dally. Directing the MNCs to cough out huge compensatory payments would send a wrong signal for foreign investment, the minister is likely to say. After all, this is exactly what the former Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had said a decade earlier in his cover-up provided to some foreign banks for swindling the nation to the tune of Rs 70,000 million under the securities scam !
The plant varieties law is therefore not meant to act against the erring seed companies. It has been framed with the intention of only facilitating and helping them to spread their business tentacles !!
At the same time, the GEAC's decision to reject the appeal for importing GM food as part of food aid, has left many a questions unanswered. It is tragic that the governments concern is only limited to the food being genetically safe. The issue of food import at the time of food surplus and the consequent transport subsidy when domestic food is rotting in the silos doesn't seem to be a compelling concern.
1. Compensation payable under PVP& FR Act, 2001 for failure of the Bt cotton variety -- Suman Sahai
2. Food aid at times of surplus -- Sudhirendar Sharma
1. Text of letter sent by Gene Campaign to the Indian Agriculture Minister, Sri Ajit Singh, demanding Compensation payable under PVP& FR Act, 2001 for failure of the Bt cotton variety.
10 March, 2003
Dear Sri Ajit Singh
The results from the first commercial cultivation of Bt cotton are coming in and all evidence points to the fact that the crop has not done well. It has reportedly failed in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
To protect the interests of the farming community, we request you to take immediate steps to ensure that Mahyco- Monsanto, the company that owns the failed Bt cotton variety, is made to pay adequate compensation to those farmers who have recorded crop losses. This is in fact mandated in the Indian law.
According to the law, any company that provides poor quality seeds, the performance of which does not match the claims made by the company, is to be held liable for the failure of the variety. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001 provides for a liability clause, by which farmers are protected from being deceived or by the producer or seller of the seed. The Act states that other conditions being stable, if the seed sold to the farmer fails to realize its expected potential viz. in areas like yield, quality, pest resistance, etc; as had been disclosed by the breeder, the farmer will retain the right to claim compensation from the breeder of that variety. The determination of the validity of such a claim will be by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority.
I invite your attention to the relevant section of the law.
Clause 39(2) of the act states that:
"Where any propagating material of a variety registered under this Act has been sold to a farmer or a group of farmers or any organization of farmers, the breeder of such variety shall disclose to the farmer or the group of farmers or the organization of farmers, as the case may be, the expected performance under given conditions, and if such propagating material fails to provide such performance under such given conditions, the farmer or the group of farmers or the organization of farmers, as the case may be, may claim compensation in the prescribed manner before the Authority.."
It is important to take action against Mahyco- Monsanto and ensure compensation is paid by them to farmers so that farmers, as so often in the past, are not made the guinea pigs of new, uncertain technologies and then left to fend for themselves when the product does not work. It is also very important for the Indian authorities to demonstrate that having put in place a new law to protect the farmers, they will not hesitate to invoke the law to procure the rights that are due to farmers, that they will not let big companies get off the hook.
Bt cotton is the very first GM crop to be grown in this country. It is therefore particularly necessary in this case to set the correct precedence and to send the right signals, that the implementation of GM technology will not be done in a shoddy, careless manner and if the technology is poor, the farmer will not be allowed to suffer.
It is the duty of the Agriculture Ministry to ensure that any technology meant for the farmers is fully tested before they release it for use. If there has been a lapse, and the technology has failed to deliver, as in this case, the Agriculture Minister must invoke the law of the land and make sure the farmers are compensated for the losses they have incurred due to crop failure.
2. FOOD AID AT TIMES OF SURPLUS
The rejection of corn-soya blend from US for distribution amongst the poor, on account of it being suspected of being genetically modified, has come as a sigh of relief to those opposing the genetically modified (GM) food. By upholding the earlier decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). its new chairperson Ms. Sushama Choudhary has reiterated government's stand on proper certification as a pre-condition for any approval of the kind.
Only two months ago, the GEAC had rejected the request made by CARE-India and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), two of the leading US-based relief organisations, to allow them to import genetically modified corn-soya blend for distribution amongst the poor. The import was rejected on the ground that it might contain the genetically modified and controversial StarLink corn, which is suspected to cause allergy and which, has been banned for human consumption in US.
The CARE-India proposed to import 15,000 tonne of GM corn-soya blend and the CRS about 8,000 tonne. According to reports, this shipment is a part of $ 100 million US government's annual food aid to parts of India that suffer from chronic malnutrition. While appealing against the GEAC ruling, the US had made clear that it cannot guarantee that any shipment of maize to be free of GM content since GM foods are regularly mixed with non-GM foods in that country.
Despite desperate attempts by the US, including a visit by Senator Christopher Bond to wild political pressure, the government has stood its ground. While many activist groups are likely to take credit for this significant action by the government, the controversy unfolds another serious development dimension that is likely to go unnoticed. Should the country depend on food aid when its godowns are overflowing with 48 million tonnes of food grains?
While it exposes the government's inept management and distribution of food stocks on one extreme, it also brings to light the unmindful approach hundreds of non-governmental organisations follow (to assist CARE-India and CRS) in distributing this food aid to the poor. Neither have these organisations contested the idea of food aid at the time of surplus nor have they questioned the quality of the food that they take pride in distributing amongst the poor.
Over the years, both CARE-India and CRS have created a large network of grassroots organisations that have been capacitated to not only manage food supplies but also to link the same with drought relief, watershed development and community health related activities. As compensation for their labour, the food aid has been reaching some 10 million poor in as many as 10 different states in the country for past several years. Engaged in channeling food aid for decades, these agencies have developed a highly proficient system of food distribution. Food consignment reaches the go-downs set-up by the lead organisations, which in turn distribute the same to a network of grassroots organisations under their jurisdiction. Not only is the food hygienically stacked but its distribution is rigorously monitored too. But for the poor, it translates into `porridge and oil' for their labour.
Since porridge doesn't go well with rural most households, a major portion of the food aid is either fed to the cattle or is sold in the open market. No surprise as it has long been believed that all food consignments to India, including those under the PL-480 in the first three decades after independence, were of foodstuff that was either 'cattlefeed' or sub-standard. Consequently, the sub-standard food threatens more consumers than what has been originally estimated.
But the non-governmental organisations are unmindful of such risks and are indeed sustaining themselves by dumping food on unsuspecting communities. On the other hand, the government has played host by underwriting the cost of transporting food to remote corners of the country. The annual subsidy for transporting food aid to CRS alone amounts to Rs 7 crores (or Rs 70 million). This has been so when our own food-grains are rotting for want of adequate storage and distribution!
It has been reliably learnt that following the rejection of corn-soya import, the concerned agencies have started looking for suitable replacement from the food markets in the US. It is tragic that the governments concern is limited to the food being genetically safe. The issue of food import at the time of food surplus and the consequent transport subsidy when domestic food is rotting in the silos doesn't seem to be a compelling concern.
It is time the Indian government (as well as the international community, including the FAO) makes it mandatory for relief agencies to follow the example of the World Food Programme (WFP). This UN agency buys food stocks from within the country for distribution to the vulnerable groups. It is not an issue of compelling the donor. It is rather a cost-effective operation and quicker in process than to wait for the food aid shipments to arrive!
The present controversy opens up a rare opportunity for the non-governmental organisations engaged in food aid distribution to get their acts together. They must insist that food procured locally for distribution can better cater to the nutrition and tastes of the poor. Further, it is opportune moment to impress upon the government to withdraw transport subsidy if relief agencies like CARE-India and CRS fail to comply.
The AgBioIndia bulletins are an effort by the Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security to bridge the yawning gap in our understanding of the politics of food. We believe these bulletins will create wider awareness and understanding of the compexities of the crisis facing Indian agriculture and food security. We will keep you posted on the intricacies and games being enacted in the name of eradicating hunger.
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You can view previous issues at http://www.agbioindia.org/archive.asp
Blair won't be forgiven - ACTION ON IRAQ
Blair won't be forgiven, even if Iraqis dance in the streets
War leaders must sound adamant, but he didn't listen from the start
The Guardian , Wednesday March 12, 2003
"In this miasma of conviction, the prime minister ignores the damage done already, before a soldier's life is lost. The plunging stock markets, soaring oil price, vanished US tourists, decimation of pensions, destruction of the UN and the EU are prices too high to pay. Is it grubby to talk of money? The costs of the war are already astronomic: Britain could have built renewable wind and solar energy to make us green and self-sufficient for ever on the price it has cost us already. Add to that the spectre of smallpox or mustard gas attacks, the "when, not if" terrorist attack on London that might or might not have hit otherwise. Is it cowardly to be afraid? Or is it the better part of valour? ...One sign that he drifts in fairy realms is his triumphalist insistence that when this is all over, he will embark on that even greater challenge - the euro referendum. It is as if he has not understood how his war strategy has left no Europe to join... The prime minister will not be "vindicated" by dancing in Iraqi streets: even as a victor he will return not in triumph, but to a stony faced party."
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