Date:25/10/2010 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2010/10/25/stories/2010102560250300.htm
Karnataka - Bangalore
There is no alternative to organic farming: farmer
PROGRESSIVE:Kodihalli Chandrashekar (left), president, KRRS, Kultar Singh, progressive farmer from Punjab, Kavitha Kuruganti, convener, Kisan Swaraj Yatra, in Bangalore on Sunday.
Addressing farmers and civil society members at the Institute of Agricultural Technologists here on Sunday, he said that Punjab was at a point of no return. “The country should learn from Punjab's mistake. Today, multi-national companies are funding research in agriculture universities. There is no option but to go organic and green,” he said.
Mr. Singh was here as part of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra, a pan-Indian bus tour by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) for the cause of “Food, Farmers and Freedom”.
The yatra that began at Sabarmati Ashram on October 2 will reach Raj Ghat, New Delhi, on December 11.
Kavitha Kuruganti of Kheti Virasat Mission said that the yatra has received tremendous response from farmers across the State. “There was a near-unanimous understanding of the corporate stranglehold over farming which is making agriculture unviable and eroding our resources,” she said.
Later, she presented data compiled from official records of the past several years of Bt cotton cultivation in Karnataka. She pointed out that Bt cotton has not lived up to its claims or promises.
She said that organic farming was the only hope for the revival of agricultural sector in the country. “Organic farming can be self-reliant, environmentally-friendly and profitable. We have to bring back farmers to the sector. The people who should go out of the sector are Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister and multinational companies such as Monsanto,” she said.
Kodihalli Chandrashekar, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, said that the State Government should step up its efforts in promoting ecological farming and set an example for other States to follow. There should be greater efforts to conserve seed diversity, to build capabilities of farmer-breeders and to promote agro-diversity.
He said that Bt cotton was not a success, as was being claimed. “No new cotton variety has been developed by our agriculture universities over the past decade. The farmers have no option but to cultivate Bt cotton. Our scientists should hang their heads in shame for not being able to develop a new variety,” he said.
He said that MNCs were only interested in profiteering at the expense of farmers. “Earlier, farmers would exchange seeds among themselves. Today, seed business is done at an international level. One kg of tomato seeds is priced at Rs. 1 lakh, while one kg of brinjal seeds is Rs. 40,000,” he said.
He said that punishment envisaged under the Seed Bill should be made stringent and urged the State Government to take a more pro-active role in Central legislation so that farmers' interests are protected. Farmers from Orissa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and other States interacted with farmers here. The yatra has covered Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa. It will enter Tamil Nadu on Monday. The aim of the 71-day tour is to create awareness about ill-effects of biotechnology and promote ecological farming.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
FREE OUR FOOD, NO “FREE” TRADE
16th October 2010
New Delhi, India
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) observes 16th October every year as World Food Day. As per the FAO itself, hunger remains higher than before the food crises, making it ever more difficult to achieve the hunger-reduction targets of the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goal 1-- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The driving force behind this failure has been the corporatised agriculutre system where agribusiness has been striving to control the total extent of the food production chain – from technology, to trade, to retail distribution coupled with financial speculation. Alternative modes of agricultural production and distribution do exist and have shown the potential of food sufficiency and ecological harmony. Peoples' organisations all over the world have been struggling to promote these against a dysfunctional global agricultural system that cannot but lead to world food-less days. At a time when India is set to sign FTAs with a number of countries that are the domains of agribusiness we reiterate our call against the “free” global trading system and call attention to how it aggravates hunger and the food crisis.
“Free” trade is actually binding countries and impacting the freedoms ability of large numbers of small food growers to survive and provide much needed food. FAO’s projections for 2010 indicate that the number of undernourished people will decline in all developing regions, although with a different pace. The region with most undernourished people continues to be Asia and the Pacific. Ironically, it is also the region with the highest number of food producers. The State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) Report 2010 says that the majority of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries. 77% of India's population survive on less than Rs. 20 a day and early this week India has got the distinction of being ranked at 67 out of 84 countries in a new Global Hunger Index 2010. The IFPRI’s Global Hunger index ranks India in the company of a block of 25 countries, including sub-Saharan Africa, where the hunger level is ‘alarming’. Two-thirds live in just seven countries (Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan) and over 40% live in China and India alone. And this is also precisely the area where free trade policies are being pushed even more to wrench the world out of the financial crises that the very same system created in the first place.
Bilateral investment treaties (BITS) and free trade agreements (FTAs) seriously impact the lives of farmers, and consumers of food. They are increasingly being used to further liberalise farming sectors, in the hope of gaining access to new markets for agricultural exports. FTAs are being used to try to force open markets for agricultural products which have been exempted in previous trade negotiations like the WTO, and to also target non-tariff barriers like product standards which relate to food. The rules they impose are designed for and by large and powerful companies’ economic interests, and not for the majority of the world's food producrs -- small farmers, indigenous people, farm workers, traditional farmers or fisher folk. The rules are simply about how to control markets while reducing the very basic foundations of life like seed and food into commodities. Financial speculators also make a killing betting on food prices leading to artificially inflated prices and artificially created famine like situations. India is quite gung-ho about BITs and FTAs and today over 25 such agreements are under negotiations by the Government of India, and 6 are under implementation.
The UN Special Rapporteur, Right to Food, has already pointed to the impact of commodity speculation on food price volatility which played a decisive role in the food crises of 2008 – leading to food riots all over the world. We need agreement that food is first and trade later.
“India is increasingly becoming a food importing country. India has started importing pulses, sugar and edible oil. Policy makers think that free trade is a solution to feed hungry people. But importing food from one continent to another is not a solution when farmers can grow food locally. SICCFM believes in food sovereignty. Food grains should be grown locally and distributed locally. Free trade in agriculture is a disaster for humanity.” said S Kannaiyan of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements.
Small food producers have been feeding the world for centuries and various studies demonstrate that smaller farms produce far more per acre/hectare than larger ones. In the context of the climate change, small farm agriculture provides a way forward. The expansion of the industrial food system is the leading cause of climate change. Through its reliance on fossil fuels, massive exports, market concentration, erosion of soils and expansion of plantations, it generates 44-57% of the total global green house gas (GHG) emissions. This industrial food system is also completely incapable of assuring people's food and livelihood needs. Yet trade rules are only furthering the agro industrial model. This is coming at a huge cost to both our peoples and the planet.
On 16 October, the World Committee on food security, dubbed as the premier forum to discuss global hunger completed a 6-day long intergovernmental meeting along with civil society to discuss the global governance of World Food Security at FAO in Rome. Peoples' organisations have demanded “real solutions” for the worldwide permanent food crisis, as well as concrete measures to tackle the problems of speculation with food commodities and land-grabbing. They demand that small farmers voices must be heard and that processes pushed by the corporate drive for benefit should not be given legitimacy. Their demands must be heeded if we are really serious about combatting hunger worldwide.
Issued in solidarity with all those fighting against free trade agreements and for food sovereignty:
- Kerala Coconut Farmers Association
- Tamil Nadu State Farmers Association
- South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
- La Via Campesina South Asia
- Focus on the Global South
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