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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Indian Farmers attending World Trade Organization Ministerial in Buenos Aires warn government to take agriculture out of WTO

11 Dec 2017,  Buenos Aires: Indian farmers attending the World Trade Organization’s 11thMinisterial Conference from 10 to 13 December in Buenos Aires are demanding the Indian government and its delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister, Suresh Prabhu, to defend India’s food security and the livelihoods of millions of poor consumers and farmers. They warn Prabhu to not give in to rich country demands of ending India’s public food stockholding program and farmer subsidies which they deem as trade distorting.

India’s National Food Security Program currently covers up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population [1] and provides targeted subsidies to the poorest Indian’s especially women and children. At the same time, in order to maintain adequate food stocks for the program, the government supports Indian farmers by procuring certain grains from them at fixed and subsidized prices called Minimum Support Prices (MSP)[2].

While the MSP is quite low and doesn’t even cover the cost of production by farmers, developed countries still demand even these low and life-supporting subsidies to be removed. On the other hand farmers in developed countries continue to receive enormous subsidies. In India, the move towards dismantling the food security program has already begun, subsidized ration shops in some Union Territories have been closed [3].

At the WTO’s Bali ministerial in 2013 countries had decided on a peace clause until a permanent solution was found, whereby action would not be taken against countries breaching subsidy limits for their public stockholding programs[4]. Now rich countries are imposing all kinds of conditions upon the permanent solution which would make it difficult for developing counties to fulfil and maintain their food distribution programs [5].

Yudhvir Singh of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements (ICCFM) and representing farmers from across India said, “India must not entertain any new issues like e-commerce or conditions or compromises on any allied issues until the permanent solution is resolved.” Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said, “Indian farmers are committing suicide because of poor incomes, now they want to cut even this very low support that is keeping us farmers and the hungry from dying.”

S Kannaiyan, convener of the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements(SICCFM) said, “Rich countries wrote the  Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO to favour themselves. Agribusiness corporations in rich countries receive huge subsidies which distort international prices. They want to dump their agriculture products in our countries and want us farmers to go out of business and depend on them for food. Agriculture must be taken out of the WTO.”

Farmers representing millions of farmers across India protesting inside MC11 at Buenos Aires
Another farmer from the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha(KRRS), Gopal Papegowda said, “The Government should expand our Public Distribution Program to include pulses, oilseeds, millets, and vegetables which will benefit our farmers and poor consumers instead of dismantling it.”
Sellamuthu, of the Tamizagha Vyavasayagal Sangham(TVS) said “We have travelled far to fight for our basic right to an honest dignified livelihood. The Indian government cannot let us down this time. Giving in to the demands of the corporate controlled WTO will mean the sure death of the Indian farming community which is already reeling under severe agrarian distress.”

The farmers represent some of the largest farmers’ networks in India have been accredited to attend the WTO Ministerial Conference as Civil Society representatives of the international peasants’ movement, La Via Campesina [6].

Contact information for interviews: -

Yudhvir Singh, ICCFM: -+91-9868146405; Email: (English, Hindi)
Rakesh Tikait, BKU -+91-9219666799; Email: (Hindi)
Gopal Papegowda, KRRS: +91-9900198894 (Kannada)
Sellamutthu, TVS :+91-9443855667 (Tamil)
S Kannaiyan, SICCFM : +91-9444989543; Email: (English, Tamil)


[3] “According to the information provided by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament of India) on July 25, 2017, all the ration shops in Chandigarh and Puducherry have been closed. These two union territories were used to be allocated 91,584 tonnes of food grains for distribution among 857,000 consumers. This has been stopped from the year 2017-18 and replaced by direct cash transfers,” instead of procuring from Indian farmers.
[4] “According to the peace clause negotiated by India at the Bali meet in December 2013, no action will be taken against India, or other developing countries, in case the subsidies on their food procurement programmes breach the ceiling of 10 per cent of value of food production laid down by the Agreement on Agriculture”
[6] La Via Campesina is an international movement bringing together millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. La Via Campesina comprises 164 local and national organisations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether it represents about 200 million farmers. (

Friday, October 27, 2017

Indian farmers denounce UN Seed Treaty’s attempts to hand over people’s seed heritage to private companies

26 Oct, New Delhi: More than 50 Indian Farmers’ groups from the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM) [1],  have expressed concern over the proceedings of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (ITPGRFA) [2] in a letter submitted to Mr. R. K. Singh, the Treaty’s national focal point in India today [3].Farmers claim there was no national consultation process at India level and demands for an urgent meeting with the farmers community before the next round of negotiations.

The UN Treaty is up for discussion at the 7th Governing Body (GB) session scheduled between 30th October and 3rd November 2017 at Kigali, Rwanda.

As the Indian government prepares to present its position at this important conference, farmers’ groups are disappointed that the Government has not communicated it's statement with them or asked for any suggestions, despite the fact that the Treaty makes it mandatory for farmers to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

Under its aims to promote conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic material for food and agriculture, the Treaty established a Global Information System on Plant Genetic Resources by collecting seeds from across the world,to provide farmers, scientists and the private sector access to the same.Much of the exhaustive collection of the Treaty’s seed banks, the Multilateral System, is held by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which farmers say is a known lobby-group for the world’s largest agri-businesses and GMO companies.

"These seeds are a public heritage that farmers have developed over millennia.Apart from the bio-piracy threat posed by CGIAR, the Treaty is now considering digitalizing the genetic information of the seeds in these seed banks which will make it easier for private companies to patent native genetic information, which will mean a certain death of the Treaty" said Tanmay Joshi, of Nagpur Beejotsav Gat and Shetkari Sanghthan.

Though there is a clause that any commercial benefits arising out of the use of these materials should be shared with the countries where they have originated, there is no legally binding obligation. Indian farmers are thus made even more vulnerable in this era of rampant bio-piracy practiced by large agri-businesses.

Farmers groups are dissuading the Government from entering into any collaboration with the multilateral Global Information System or the DivSeek programme, both of which are aimed at dematerialising peasant seeds by converting it into data of their genetic information, until stronger provisions are made for safeguarding their rights over seeds and against intellectual copyrighting.

“We hope that our concerns are well heard and acted upon. Upholding the democratic principles that lie within our constitution, we expect and request our Government representatives to have prior discussions with us before presenting at international conferences. Our seed security is at stake”, said Yudhvir Singh, convener of the AICCFM.

India is a megadiverse nation of rich plant genetic heritage with thousands of varieties in each food crop species. Many of these native crops have proven traits against the effects of climate change like droughts, floods, submergence and salinity. Efforts should be taken to protect, preserve and promote their cultivation without any risks of private patent restrictions. The Kigali Conference will determine whether India’s food sovereignty and the natural rights of our food producers can be protected at the global level.

Contact Information for Interviews
1.      Yudhvir Singh– +91-9868146405; Email:
2.      Tanmay Joshi– +91-8087502186; Email:

[1] The Indian Coordaintion Committee of Farmers movements is a national alliance of mass based farmers movements formed in early 1990s and comprises of big farmers movements such as Bhartiya Kisan Union, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, The Tamilaga Vyavasayigal Sangam, Shetkari Sanghatna and Kerala Coconut Growers Association . Collectively they represent more than 300 million farmers nationally.

[2] The objectives of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture are the conservation and sustainable use of all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security. See:

[3] Mr. R.K. SINGH is the Indian focal point for the treaty -
Department of Agriculture and Cooperation
Joint Secretary (Seeds)
Krishi Bhavan
New Delhi - India
Phone Number: +91 1123389241
Fax Number: +91 1123387669
Email Address:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Corporate vision of the future of food promoted at the UN

Press release – La Via Campesina, ETC and Grain

(Rome, Monday 15 February, 2016) Just when the biotech companies that make transgenic seeds are merging, the corporate vision of biotechnology is showing up at FAO. At today’s opening of the three-day International symposium on agricultural biotechnologies convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, more than 100 civil society and social movement and organizations (CSOs) from four continents have issued a statement denouncing both the substance and structure of the meeting, which appears to be another attempt by multinational agribusiness to redirect the policies of the UN agency toward support for Genetically-engineered crops and livestock. 
The global peasant and family farm movement, La Via Campesina, invited CSOs to sign the letter when the symposium’s agenda became public.  Two of the FAO keynote speakers are known proponents of GMOs, and the agenda and side events over the three days include speakers from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (a biotech trade group in the USA), Crop Life International (the global agrochemical trade association), DuPont (one of the world’s largest biotech seed companies) and CEVA (a major veterinary medicine corporation), among others. FAO has only invited one speaker or panellist openly critical of GMOs.  Worse, one of the two speakers at the opening session is a former assistant director general of FAO who has pushed for so-called Terminator seeds (GMO seeds programmed to die at harvest time forcing farmers to purchase new seeds every growing season), in opposition to FAO’s own public statements. The second keynoter’s speech is titled, "Toward Ending the Misplaced Global Debate on Biotechnology" – suggesting that the FAO symposium should be the moment for shutting down biotech criticism.
In convening the biased symposium, FAO is bowing to industry pressure that intensified following international meetings on agroecology hosted by FAO in 2014 and 2015.  The agroecology meetings were a model of openness to all viewpoints, from peasants to industry. But the biotech industry apparently prefers now to have a meeting they can control.  This is not the first time FAO has been drawn into this game. In 2010, FAO convened a biotechnology conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, that blocked farmers from its organizing committee, and then tried to prevent their attendance at the conference itself. 
"We are alarmed that FAO is once again fronting for the same corporations, just when these companies are talking about further mergers amongst themselves, which would concentrate the commercial seeds sector in even fewer hands" the CSO statement denounces. 
It is clear, according to the Civil Society Statement, that industry wants to use FAO to re-launch their false message that genetically engineered crops can feed the world and cool the planet, while the reality is that nothing has changed on the biotech front. GMOs don't feed people, they are mostly planted in a handful of countries on industrial plantations for agrofuels and animal feed, they increase pesticide use, and they throw farmers off the land. Transnational biotech companies are trying to patent the planet's bodiversity, which shows that their main interest is to make enormous profits, and not to guarantee food security or food sovereignty. The industrial food system that these companies promote is also one of the main drivers of climate change. Confronted with the rejection of GMOs by many consumers and producers, the industry is now inventing new and possibly dangerous breeding techniques to genetically modify plants, without calling them GMOs. In doing so, they are trying to avoid current GMO regulations and trick consumers and farmers. 
The agroecology activities were much closer to the way that FAO should act, the Statement points out, "as a centre for knowledge exchange, without a hidden agenda on behalf of a few." Why does FAO now limit itself again to corporate biotechnology and deny the existence of peasant technologies? FAO should support the peasant technologies, that offer the most innovative, open source, and the effective pathway to ending hunger and malnutrition. It is time to stop pushing a narrow corporate agenda, says Civil Society. "The vast majority of the world's farmers are peasants, and it is peasants who feed the world. We need peasant-based technologies, not corporate biotechnologies." 
"It is high time that FAO puts an end to biopiracy and to its support for genetically modified crops, which only serve to allow a handful of transnational companies to patent and to grab all the existing biodiversity," said La Via Campesina leader Guy Kastler. "On the contrary, FAO should support farmers' organisations and researchers engaged in collaborative plant breeding in the service of food sovereignty and peasant agroecology”.
The statement and the list of signatories can be downloaded here:
Media contacts in Rome:
Guy Kastler and other Via Campesina leaders
Phone numbers: + 39 329 665 53 44 and +39 331 188 64 35

FAO Symposium on Biotechnology: How the UN FAO is being strong-armed by the private seed industry

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Symposium on Agricultural Biotechnologies was held at the FAO headquarters in Rome between 15th and 17th Feb 2016. This particular symposium was conducted in the aftermath of the celebrated success of the Agroecology symposium organized by FAO in 2014. That the agribusiness industry was disconcerted by the euphoria surrounding agroecology and hence strong-arming the FAO to organize a similar event on agricultural biotechnology is no secret. Hence there was a strong undercurrent that the FAO was losing its proclaimed ‘neutral’ position in agriculture.

The conference took off on a note of FAO considering ‘every possible alternative’ to end world hunger and malnutrition, given population growth and climate change. The Director General José Graziano da Silvarepeatedly stressed that agricultural biotechnology was not limited to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) alone. Though this is true, GMOs dominate the global agri-biotech industry, and are extremely controversial, to say the least. Almost every speaker who spoke afterward stressed the same point so much so that even an unbiased delegate became suspicious of the speaker’s ulterior intentions.

The plenary session consisted of the following Keynote addresses:
1. The state of knowledge in biotechnology, by Louise Fresco, President, Executive Board of Wageningen UR, Wageningen, The Netherlands
2. Towards ending the misplaced global debate on biotechnology, by GebisaEjeta, Distinguished Professor, Purdue University, West Lafayette, United States of America
3. Biotechnologies in action in Brazil, by Maurício Lopes, President, EmpresaBrasileira de PesquisaAgropecuária, Brasília, Brazil
4. Breakthroughs in resource productivity, by Gunter Pauli, Founder, Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives Network, Japan

Out of the 4 speakers, 3 were pro biotech (read GMO) and only the last one, Gunter Pauli, spoke about creating systems and processes that used natural synergies and much more productive than agri-biotech. The same pattern was repeated over the entire conference, with civil society getting only one speaker slot out of more than 80 invited speakers. Of course this was expected as FAO intended it to portray the latest advances in agri-biotech. But what was not expected was the blatant advertising that the industry indulged in. From CropLife International to DuPont Pioneer, Borlaug Institute to IFPRI, they were all there to proclaim that the notorious agri-biotech industry is the only solution to end world hunger and help agriculture adapt to climate change. (Climate change is now the latest excuse these entities are giving to continue selling their extremely climate non-resilient technologies.)

As the conference concluded, there was a call to bridge agricultural biotechnology with agroecology. Anybody who knows anything about agriculture knows this is not possible. Agricultural biotech promotes monoculture, industrial farming, sky-rocketing input costs, concentration of seeds in the hands of a few elite companies, widening of the IPR net and resulting in the farmer becoming a mere pawn in this racket. Agroecology on the other hand is based on mixed cropping, low input costs, family owned farms and seeds, and is dedicated to conserving the fertility of the soil, the natural environment and the sovereign rights of the farmer.  How can the twain meet? And why is FAO being forced to build this impossible and dangerous bridge?

If a bridge must be built, it is the one between farmers of different countries, suffering corporate and many times their Governments’ biased policies. Small farmers practicing Agro-ecology is the best bet we have to feed and cool the planet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

La Via Campesina in defense of Right to Food in CFS.

La Via Campesina in defense of Right to Food and public stock holding in CFS- FAO

Here is the text of  S.Kannaiyan who spoke on behalf of La via Campesina and civil society mechanism in defense of Right to Food and Public stock holding program of India in  the CFS plenary in FAO on 14th October, 2014.

Thank you madam chair and I take the floor representing 

La Via Campesina which is an active member in the civil society mechanism here.
Civil Society endorses the stance that India has taken here today on the public stock holding issue. We, as civil society believe in the principle of coherence of human rights, which is enshrined in the UDHR. Human Rights are indivisible and inter-dependent.
We cannot have a right to adequate food in practice only by ensuring minimalistic entitlements and by negating the principle of policy coherence.
The complete hypocrisy of the developed countries particularly the US and the EU needs to be throughly exposed. Whilst protecting the interests of their farmers and agri-business, they are using the blatantly unjust WTO rules to arm-twist India and other developing countries.
Public stock holding is vital to the food and nutrition security of any country. It is one of the principal weapons that we have against food price volatility. A guaranteed minimum floor price mechanism can potentially help small and marginal farmers, especially women farmers. Any trade measure that comes in the way of countries assisting the poorest and most marginalised people is unacceptable to us.
We condemn the unfair trade rules that have permitted the developed countries to put most of their subsidies in the Green box, while developing countries are being squeezed to cut their subsidies.
We believe that there should be a full discussion on the public stock holding issue in CFS 42. We believe that the CFS is THE legitimate forum for the discussion on public stock-holding and food security issues and not the WTO.
The principle of coherence of human rights over-rides any trade negotiation or agreement that comes in the way of food security of our constituent groups.
Thank you.

Karuturi still going down

Tax Justice Network ▪ Forum Syd Kenya ▪ GRAIN ▪ Anywaa Survival Organisation ▪ South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements | 09 October 2014 | Other publications
Tax Justice Network ▪ Forum Syd Kenya ▪ GRAIN ▪ Anywaa Survival Organisation ▪ South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Media release
9 October 2014
For immediate release
Karuturi still going down
Dutch branch goes bankrupt, farm in Ethiopia sold off
Karuturi Global Ltd, the Indian multinational that made its name in the global cut flower industry and recently acquired more than 300,000 ha in Ethiopia to produce food for foreign markets, is continuing its painful and massive decline. On 30 September 2014, its flower trading subsidiary in the Netherlands was declared bankrupt, while a Dutch industry source reports that one of its farms in Ethiopia has been sold to a company in Dubai.
Four years ago, CEO Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi boasted, "Personally, I believe that in five years or in ten years time I would like to be seen and compared with peers such as Cargill or the Archer Daniels of the world or the Bunges of the world, who are all well known, well reputed agricultural companies."1
Now, with much of Karuturi's overseas operations shut down, seized by creditors or sold off, these ambitious plans appear all but dead.
Initial woes
Karuturi produced roses in India, Kenya and Ethiopia and was planning to expand its nascent food production operations from Ethiopia to numerous other African states.2 But the company struggled to get its expansive farm operations in Ethiopia's Gambella region off the ground and its flower businesses got into trouble. The company's stock price plummeted from a high of 38.15 rupees in October 2010 to 5.00 rupees at the beginning of 2012 to around 1.30 rupees where it sits today.
Meanwhile, the company was on the hook for millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and debts. In 2012, the Kenya Revenue Authority determined that Karuturi, which had once been producing close to a million roses a year at its Naivasha farm for an eager European market, failed to pay US$20 million worth of taxes due to transfer mispricing.3
In 2013, the company was taken to court in Kenya for failure to pay its creditors.4 Unpaid workers went on strike, the Karuturi Hospital suffered power cuts, and free schooling for the flower farmworkers' children at Karuturi School came to an end. The community around the farm in Naivasha continues to bear the economic and social costs of the Indian company's troubles.5
In early 2014, the Kenyan courts finally determined that Karuturi Ltd was bankrupt and put the flower farm in receivership, despite protests from Karuturi.
Latest news
We have just learned that Karuturi's Dutch affiliate, Karuturi BV, has now been declared bankrupt by the court of Haarlem.6
The Dutch unit was responsible for receiving the flower shipments flown in daily from Karuturi's farms in Ethiopia and Kenya, and trading them through Flora-Holland. The flower shipments apparently stopped in May of this year.7 Karuturi BV left a debt of EUR 230,000, of which EUR 130,000 are taxes owed to the Dutch government.8
We have also learned that Karuturi sold its Ethiopian Meadows Plc flower farm to a company in Dubai. Another of its Ethiopian flower farmers, Surya Blossoms Plc, was almost sold in June but remains in Karuturi's hands for now.
In the midst of this turmoil, Karuturi has taken the unusual step of postponing its 2014 Annual General Meeting until December, claiming to the Indian authorities that it cannot produce its annual accounts because the receivers running the farm in Kenya have withheld necessary financial information.9 In late September 2014, Karuturi also made its three most recent annual financial reports and various legal statements pertaining to its legal, tax and labour disputes in Kenya unavailable from its website. Normally, listed public companies like Karuturi are obliged to fully disclose their finances.
Clearly concerned about its image, Karuturi also filed a defamation case against an Indian journalist who wrote a report for Inter Press Service about the company, demanding US$16.4 million in compensation. This move has been strongly denounced by the International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union as “harassment”.10
Where do things stand?
Now that Karuturi has seemingly lost control of its operations in Kenya, the Netherlands and Ethiopia, there is not much left for the company to hold onto, except some small operations in India – and a whole lot of debt. What went wrong? It's hard to tell. But the change has been spectacular. In Kenya, the flower farm they took over went from peak productivity to financial haemorrhage in a matter of years. In Ethiopia, the hugely controversial land deals, presented as a way for Karuturi “to make a significant contribution to alleviate the global and African food crisis," didn't feed anyone. In Europe, the firm was once responsible for about 1 out of 10 roses that consumers took home. All of this has gone south.
Staye tuned as perhaps a final chapter in the decline of this once significant company plays itself out.
For more information
Ms Mukami Kowino, Forum Syd Kenya, Nairobi
Mr Devlin Kuyek, GRAIN, Montreal
Mr Nyikaw Ochalla, Anywaa Survival Organisation, London
Dr Attiya Waris, Law School, University of Nairobi

Karuturi Global on Ethiopian plans”, NDTV, 7 June 2010
2 See GRAIN, “Karuturi's corporate structure and finances (2013)”. This graph shows our understanding of the Karuturi group structure before the most recent events, but the details have now, of course, changed.
3 This was an initial audit for fiscal years 2006-7 and 2008-9. The KRA was going to examine Karuturi's books for the following years as well. However, in December 2013, Karuturi suddenly announced that it was granted a reprieve and would only have to pay US$4 million in back taxes. See Karuturi Global Ltd, “Kenyan Tax Claim”, official statement dated 11 December 2013 and posted at (now unavailable), also reported on by Raghuvir Badrinath in "Karuturi Global wins reprieve in Kenyan tax claim", Business Standard, 12 December 2013
4 See Tax Justice Network, Forum Syd Kenya, GRAIN, Anywaa Survival Organisation and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, “Karuturi going down? A summary of recent developments as of 13 February 2014
5 See Macharia Mwangi, “Karuturi financial storm leaves many jobless”, Business Daily, 10 September 2014
6 “Karuturi BV is bankrupt”,, 2 October 2014
7 Ward Warmerdam and Jan Willem van Gelder (Profundo), “Dutch subsidiaries of Karuturi Global: A research note prepared for GRAIN”, July 2014
8 “Karuturi Aalsmeer left behind a € 230,000 debt”, Vakblad voor de Bloemisterij, 8 October 2014
9 See Raghuvir Badrinath, “Karuturi fails to comply with SEBI”, Business Standard, 17 September 2014