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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Letter by SICCFM secretary to the editor of The Hindu

The Hindu recently published an Opinion hailing the outcome of the WTO conference at Bali, echoing the words of other corporate sponsored mainstream media. The article can be found here.

We wonder what P. Sainath, their acclaimed rural affairs editor, would comment on this viewpoint, as it is glaringly evident that the WTO Bali Package is only going to benefit the rich trading corporations while snatching away the livelihoods of scores of poor farmers across the developing world. S. Kannaiyan, the dynamic secretary of the SICCFM has written a letter to The Hindu editor, in response to their editorial article. Here is Kannaiyan's letter. We hope The Hindu acknowledges its responsibility towards educating the classes and the masses by publishing Kannaiyan's letter.

Letter to the editor, The Hindu

Editor in Chief,
The Hindu.

Dear Sir,

It was disappointing to see The Hindu editorial dated 13th,
December,2013 , “A good start in Bali” celebrating the results of the
anti people Bali Package adopted at the 9th ministerial of the WTO in
Bali recently.

The Hindu editorial is misleading because it tries to portray both the
signing of the Bali package and India's giving in to US demands to
accept the terrible interim Peace Clause as victories. This is not a
victory at all but a great loss for humanity, because the deal stops
any future affirmative action by governments to carry out food
security programs or farmers' subsidies. The US on the other hand, will
continue to legally pay massive farm and food stamp subsidies.

India had been opposing the Peace Clause until the very end, defending
not just Indian farmers and the hungry, but taking a firm stand for
the 4.2 billion poor peoples of the entire world. India's Food
Security Act and the PDS system are a good model for all other
developing countries to follow. It is unfortunate that India finally
gave in to US demands to accept a very restrictive Peace Clause
and one that applies only to current legislation, preventing any
future food security programmes for all developing countries. Now it is
completely dependent on further negotiations what type of a permanent
solution will be found and if current subsidies or food security
programmes can even exist at the present scale. Lastly, developing
countries will have to accept their guilt in violating WTO rules
before they can even apply the peace clause. No country's government
should have to beg the WTO or any other institution to support its
citizens right to food because that is the right thing to do.
*South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements (SICCFM)*,
Panakahally ( Village and post ),
Thalavady (Via),
Sathyamangalam Taluk,
Erode District,
Tamil Nadu,
Pin code: 638 461.
*Mobile: +91 9444989543*
Skype: S.Kannaiyan

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The pictures say it all... sadly the WTO saw only the profit of a few MNCs

Here are some telling messages that small farmers from across the world wanted you to know. It is infinitely sad that our Ministers and the Corporate world traded away the livelihoods of our farmers.

All pictures courtesy Benny Kuruvilla.

Korean farmers denouncing the WTO

The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha at Bali

Farmers plead with their Ministers to EndWTO

Food is our birthright!

Corporate power ruins poor farmers

USA seems to be the chief enemy of the poor and farmers

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The WTO pushes through bad deal in the final hours; Developed countries and their TNCs are the big winners

Please find below the Press Release that has been endorsed by all the farmers, peasants and civil society organizations campaigning in Bali.

The 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) pushed through a Bali Package in the final hours, extending the Conference to December 7, but at the cost of the developing countries, the poor and the hungry.

Facilitating Trade for TNCs

Hailed as a victory by the WTO for unlocking the deadlocked negotiations, the Bali Package delivers a legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation that is costly to developing countries and ensures easier access and profits for Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Trade Facilitation, or the easing of customs procedures and borders, clearly benefits only the big TNCs that already control exports and imports. As the 2013 World Trade Report data shows, “80% of US exports are handled by 1% of large exporters, 85% of European exports are in the hands of 10% of big exporters and 81% of exports are concentrated in the top 5 largest exporting firms in developing countries.”

Added to this, is the hypocrisy that this Trade Facilitation deal will open borders in all Member countries except Cuba, as it does not effectively cancel the 60-year long US blockade against the Cuba. The reference to the non-discrimination principle of Article V of the GATT 1994 remains pure rhetoric as it is stated in the Declaration and not in the text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Peace Clause that jeopardizes the Right to Food

In exchange for the costly, legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation, developing countries received nothing.

- There is a very bad peace clause that violates the right to food and jeopardizes the right to food sovereignty as it places numerous restrictions on the ability of developing countries to give support to their small farmers and poor constituents.
- The peace clause only applies to existing public stockholding for food security programs that exceed the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or de minimis, as of the date of the decision, effectively meaning that only India can apply it and that no future food security programs of developing countries will be allowed.
- There is a promise of a permanent solution but subject to future negotiations during the next 4 years. What that permanent solution will be is an uncertainty.
- Most importantly, developing countries will have to accept their guilt in violating WTO rules before they can apply the peace clause

Finally, this peace clause is nonsense simply because no country should have to beg for the right to guarantee the right to food. Food and agriculture should never have been included in the WTO in the first place.

Old, Unfulfilled and Failed Promises

The issue of Export Subsidies remains a promise. It was already promised in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration that all export subsidies will be eliminated by 2013. Today, in the Bali Package, there is again only a rhetorical promise that "export competition remains a priority issue for the post-Bali work programme."

In Cotton, a long-standing demand of African countries, also a promise in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration that never got implemented. Today, in the Bali Package the promise is to have "dedicated discussions" post-Bali.

The Bali Package has a Least Developed Countries (LDC) Package but with nothing substantial or meaningful. The special and differential treatment and monitoring mechanism are old unfulfilled promises that remain a declaration today.

In summary, the Bali Package delivers a legally binding text on Trade Facilitation, a very bad peace clause on food security that jeopardizes our right to food sovereignty, empty declarations and promises on long-standing developing country demands on export subsidies, cotton and the LDC issues.     

We call for an End to the WTO; We demand Economic Justice

The WTO has once again shown that it is an organization for the developed countries and the TNCs, pushing free trade rules that only benefit the rich and concentrate even more wealth in the hands of a few. It has not and never will deliver development for the people.

The WTO is a failed and delegitimized institution that is desperately trying to revive itself with a Bali Package at the high cost of food sovereignty, livelihoods, jobs, and the future of the people.

We reiterate our call for an End to the WTO and the tyranny of the free trade regime. We redouble our efforts in fighting the system and pushing for the peoples’ alternatives. We will continue our struggle to achieve a world without the WTO and free trade agreements and in its place have an Economy for Life.

For more information contact:
Muhammed Ikhwan:,
 +62 819 32099596 (English, Bahasa)

Members of Gerak Lawan: (Gerakan Rakyat Lawan Neokolonialisme-Imperialisme)
Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) - Bina Desa - Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) - Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) - Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) - Indonesian Human Right Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) - Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Kekerasan (KONTRAS) - Climate Society Forum (CSF) - Koalisi Anti Utang (KAU) - Koalisi Rakyat untuk Keadilan Perikanan (KIARA) - Institut Hijau Indonesia (IHI) - Lingkar Madani untuk Indonesia (LIMA) - Jaringan Advokasi Tambang (JATAM) - Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI Jakarta) - Front Perjuangan Pemuda Indonesia (FPPI) - Lingkar Studi-Aksi untuk Demokrasi Indonesia (LS-ADI) - Serikat Nelayan Indonesia (SNI) - Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia (KNTI) - Serikat Buruh Indonesia (SBI) - Asosiasi Pendamping Perempuan Usaha Kecil (ASPPUK) - Perhimpunan Bantuan Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia Indonesia (PBHI) - Universitas Al-Azhar Indonesia (Dosen Hubungan Internasional) - Asosiasi Ekonomi-Politik Indonesia (AEPI) - Koalisi Rakyat untuk Hak Atas Air (KRuHA) - Aliansi Pemuda Pekerja Indonesia (APPI) - Migrant Care

Convenors of Social Movements for an Alternative Asia:
Alliance of Progressive Labor, Philippines, All Nepal's Peasants' Federation, Assembly of the Poor, Thailand, ATTAC Japan, Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, Bhartiya Kisan Union, India, Coalition Against Trafficking of Women (CATW-AP), Focus on the Global South, FTA Watch Thailand, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Indonesia for Global Justice, Indonesian Political Economy Association (AEPI), Koalisi Anti Utang (KAU), Indonesia, Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka, India, Kerela Coconut Farmers Association, Kerela, India, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), La Via Campesina, Migrant Forum in Asia, MONLAR, Sri Lanka, Northern Peasants Federation, Thailand, NOUMINREN, Japan, Peoples Coalition for the Right to Water, Indonesia (KRuHA), Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM), World March of Women-Philippines

EndWTO Allies
FairWatch Italy, ATTAC France, SENTRO-Philippines, Ecologistas en Accion, Spain, World Development Movement

Friday, December 6, 2013

Support our farmers or let them commit suicide. Remember martyr Lee Kyung-Hae

-Pannaga Prasad

Lee Kyung-Hae was a quiet kind boy born to wealthy parents in 1947 in united Korea. He graduated in agricultural science and decided to take up farming on the hilly slopes of South Korea where he now belonged, though his parents wanted him to take up a more glamorous job like the government service. Toiling day and night he built a 30 acre farm which boasted of colourful different varieties of fruits and vegetables, lush green paddy and many cows. His farm became a symbol of agricultural prosperity because the hilly slopes were no fertile river plain and it required great planning, knowledge and effort to grow diverse crops. So famous did his farm become, that agricultural students and scientists from across Korea regularly visited it to learn and understand the secrets behind his farming brilliance.

Farmers, students and civil society groups paying homage to Lee Kyung-Hae at the Bali WTO. (Photo: Benny Kuruvilla)

Lee Kyung-Hae travelled far and wide, educating farmers about traditional farming techniques which were also high yielding and preserved the environment. He was elected to a number of prominent agricultural societies and in 1989, Lee was awarded the “Farmer of the Year” by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. This is where things get more interesting. South Korea by this time was a major export oriented economy, manufacturing hi tech electronic goods and sending them to the industrialized economies, USA, Australia and the European countries. To maintain balance of trade, these countries wanted South Korea to import some of their products, and what was the West manufacturing cheaply? Food. Rice, wheat, maize, corn and dairy products. The West already had big companies like ConAgra, Cargill and Monsanto who by their sheer scale of operation and with cushioned with generous subsidies from their governments, could sell food products at rock bottom prices on the international market. Well, the rich countries always have their way. So South Korea opened its borders to cheap food imports and the big companies made their way into the average Korean kitchen. The Pandora’s Box of Free Trade had just been opened.

Remembering farmers' martyr, South Korean Lee Kyung-Hae. (Photo: Benny Kuruvilla)

The executives who ran these corporations were taught in their business schools that they had to exponentially increase sales, seek new markets, reduce costs and of course make more than 100% profit. The opportunities presented by developing countries, with their large populations, cheap labour and weak environmental regulations were almost too good to be true. And so the World Trade Organziation, being funded by these very companies arm-twisted poor countries to undertake liberalization of their economies.

Lee Kyung-Hae was deeply disturbed by this development. More than 60% of his countrymen were small farmers who could not compete with the flood of cheap foreign food. Let alone make a profit, the poor farmers could not even recover their cost of production. Their government’s bias towards foreign investment saw more big companies entering their markets, pushing the local farmers further into debt. Fertile agricultural land was being sold to factories to build ever more consumer products that the rich wanted. 4 lane and 6 lane highways, luxury apartments were being built. His village which once had a vibrant happy population was now being deserted as more families, now landless and deep in debt, migrated to the cities to work as drivers, watchmen and construction workers. Lee saw all this devastation unfolding before his very eyes and the blood in him boiled.

Paying homage to martyr Lee Kyung-Hae. (Photo: Benny Kuruvilla)

Lee held a number of hunger strikes, even lasting 26 days. In 1993, when there was no internet, he organized more than 15,000 small farmers from across the world to protest in Geneva, Switzerland, where the WTO’s meeting was being held. But the big companies used police force and threw them out and instead promised the local governments of more jobs and more money. The local governments, fooled by the carrot of development, allowed further foreign imports, which effectively murdered many more farmers.

The WTO’s next high level meeting was held in Cancun in Mexico in 2003. Lee Kyung-Hae led another large army of small farmers and peasants who were still fighting for their right to grow food. But their protest was ignored in totality by mainstream media. On September 10th 2003, when the protest reached the final barricade which separated the rich from the poor, he stood atop the barricade and plunged a knife into his heart and died. On the other side of the barricade, the big companies and governments continued to discuss new free trade deals.

WTO kills farmers. It really kills. Remember martyr Lee Kyung-Hae. (Photo: Benny Kuruvilla)

If it was Lee Kyung-Hae in Korea, it was Vittal Arabhavi in Karnataka who committed suicide over the low price of sugarcane, because we are now importing cheap sugar. India is a much bigger, poorer and hungrier country. We cannot trade away the lives of our farmers. Agriculture is not just their profession. It is their culture, their life. If a woman is raped every one hour in India, a farmer commits suicide every half an hour because of the cycle of debt caused by free trade. 

The WTO is all over the news now, except that the media talks only in favour of the big companies who sponsor them. Talk about the negative aspects. Share it on social media. If your company trades with other countries, make sure you are not sacrificing any livelihoods. We are Indians first and not corporate employees.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Farmers block Mangalore port in South India

Farmers from across South India gathered at the port city of Mangalore in Karnataka to protest against the WTO and Free Trade Agreements. More than 2000 farmers walked from Mangalore APMC till Mangalore Port, carrying placards and banners against the WTO's biased policies which favour only rich countries and big multinational companies, while robbing the livelihoods of small farmers and peasants.

Farmers from South India protest march from Mangalore APMC to Mangalore port

Their chief demand was to stop the import of duty-free Toor Dal (yellow lentils) and palm oil which are widely grown in South India. But due to the cheap imports, Indian farmers cannot sell their produce at even their cost of production, and thus starts the whole vicious cycle of debt and poverty. Since India, with its large population is a big market for any multinational company, they enter our shops and our local farmers are left standing outside with their produce.

The WTO's 9th Minesterial currently underway at Bali will further allow companies to dump cheap food in our markets. Hence members from a number of farmers' movements in South India, led by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene marched from the main farmers' market in Mangalore to the port which is the entry point of cheap imports. The other groups that took part in the protest were Adivasi Gotra Maha Sabha Kerala, Shethkari Association Maharashtra, Kerala Coconut Growers Association, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association and the Andhra Pradesh Farmers’ Associations.

The farmers' leaders then presented a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India through AC Dr. Prashanth, making clear that their lives were at stake because of the free trade policies being pushed by the rich countries. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Worldwide media coverage of the protest by farmers and civil society groups against the WTO

The World Trade Organization's 9th Minesterial currently underway at Bali, Indonesia has attracted enormous attention, not just because it is a WTO event but also because of the widespread opposition by farmers across the world.

The WTO, being controlled by the biggest multinational companies, is forcing developing and least developed countries to open their markets to allow dumping of cheap goods. They also want agricultural subsidies to be reduced in these countries. Cheap imports will eat into the local markets, ensuring farmers are forced to sell their produce at rock bottom prices; reduction in subsidies will make their cost of production sky-rocket, pushing them down the spiral of debt. These issues and more are being highlighted in the ongoing protest at Bali.

Below are some of the media coverage it has received across the world.




South Korea 





Around the web 


The Indian group's letter to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma at the WTO 9th Minesterial at Bali

Date: 04 December 2013
To, Shri Anand Sharma
Honorable Minister for Commerce,
Government of India

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned, represent several trade unions, farmers’ organizations, mass organisations and NGOs from India. All of us are fully in support of the Government of India’s stated position to not trade away national food security. We welcome the decision of the Indian Cabinet on 28th November 2013 to reject any peace clause that does not guarantee a permanent solution.  The peace clause has also been widely opposed by the Chairs of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce and Agriculture, several political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties, and mass organisations. There is wide consensus in India about its harmfulness for the food security of our country.

We demand food sovereignty now. Governments must be able to take measures that ensure food sovereignty for their people and any subsidy under such policies must be exempted from AMS, especially for developing countries.

In terms of the current Peace Clause that has been superimposed on us, the Peace Clause in relation to the G-33 proposal is not acceptable, as it will put us into a situation that is worse than the present one.

We would strongly appeal to you to withstand any pressure to weaken India’s position on defending and upholding national food security as a sovereign right. The safeguarding and promotion of the country’s food security, rural employment and livelihoods are non-negotiable. Food security cannot be ensured without supporting agricultural production by small and marginal farmers.

Our country need not be defensive about protecting the right to food and fighting hunger. We would also assert that aggressively upholding the rights of our citizens is not tantamount to collapsing the ministerial talks. On the contrary, such pressure tactics must be exposed as a conspiracy to keep people hungry and poor. We underline that the Doha Round is not collapsing because of developing countries such as India but because the developed countries, especially the US and the EU, have not changed their positions and are continuing with agricultural policies, including subsidies that are harmful for other countries’ producers globally. This is the issue that governments around the world should be talking about.

We would like to reiterate that we are with you and would closely monitor the negotiations during the ministerial meeting to ensure that the interests of the poor and hungry are not compromised in any way.

Action Aid India
Bhartiya Kisan Union
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj
Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh
Focus on the Global South India
Great Mission Group Consultancy
Karnataka Rajya Ryots Sangh
Public Services International
Right to Food Campaign
Shram Seva Nyas
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements
Swadeshi JagranManch
Third World Network, India

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Breaking News from the WTO 9th Minesterial at Bali: Defending the Poor and Hungry is Non-Negotiable!

On the occasion of the Ninth Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Bali, Indonesia, several farmers’ organisations, trade unions, mass organisations and peoples’ campaigns resolved to support the Indian Government’s position to not trade away national food security.

Protest at the 9th WTO Minesterial, Bali, Indonesia
The group welcomes the decision of the Indian Cabinet on 28th November to reject any peace clause that does not guarantee a permanent solution.  The peace clause has been widely opposed by the Chairs of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce and Agriculture, several political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties, and mass organisations.

Kannaiyan (wearing the green cap), secretary of the SICCFM, at the WTO conference venue
 However, the group cautioned the Indian negotiating team headed by Commerce Minister Mr. Anand Sharma, not to bow to any pressure to weaken India’s position on defending and upholding national food security as a sovereign right. The group declared that the safeguarding and promotion of the country’s food security, rural employment and livelihoods are non-negotiable, and that food security cannot be ensured without supporting agricultural production by small and marginal farmers

Nandini Jayaram, women's coordinator of SICCFM, also defending the rights of farmers, at Bali

The group reminds the WTO members that no country needs to be on the defensive about protecting the right to food and fighting hunger in their countries.  And that aggressively upholding the rights of its citizens is not tantamount to collapsing the ministerial talks.  On the contrary, such pressure tactics must be exposed as a conspiracy to keep people hungry and poor.

It was decided that the group would closely monitor the negotiations during the ministerial meeting to ensure that the interests of the poor and hungry are not compromised in any way.

The following groups are currently in Bali, as the voices of millions of Indian farmers.

Action Aid India
Bhartiya Kisan Union
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj
Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh
Focus on the Global South India
Great Mission Group Consultancy
Public Services International
Right to Food Campaign
Shram Seva Nyas
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements
Swadeshi JagranManch
Third World Network India

Friday, November 29, 2013

News article published in Indian media against the WTO conference at Bali

Farmers to picket Mangalore port against WTO conference - The Hindu - Nov 29th 2013

Members of the South Indian Inter-State Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Organisations will stage a protest by picketing the harbour operated by New Mangalore Port Trust in Mangalore on December 3 against the 9th Ministerial conference of World Trade Organisation (WTO) that will be held in Bali in Indonesia, working president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) K.T. Gangadhar has said.

The policies of WTO are against the interests of the farmers and below poverty line families in India. A meeting of farmers’ organisations of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra was held in Bangalore on November 17 and 18 and it decided to stage protest against WTO Ministerial conference. More than 2,500 farmers will take part in the protest, Mr. Gangadhar told presspersons here on Thursday.

India has recently passed Food Security Bill which guarantees foodgrains at subsidised prices for the poor families. India also procures foodgrains under minimum support price (MSP) from the farmers when there is fall in the price of agricultural produce. The food grains procured at MSP are distributed among the poor families at subsidised prices through the food security programmes. The cap imposed by WTO on its member nations on offering food subsidies and extending MSPs are unscientific, he said.

When the agriculture subsidy in the member nation crosses the permissible limit, WTO can impose fine. Under the Food Security Bill, India will provide 5 kilo subsidised foodgrains for 67 per cent of its population. If the Act is fully implemented, the cap on food subsidy offered by WTO will be breached. Prior to the Bali conference, WTO is pressuring India to withdraw the Food Security Bill passed by the Parliament and thereby has insulted the sovereignty of the nation, he said.

As per the direction of WTO, India has lifted quantitative restrictions on import of agricultural produce due to which there was a sharp in the price of foodgrains grown by the farmers here. The import of sugar, silk, pulses and milk powder at cheap price that has harmed the interests of the farmers here should be stopped immediately, he said.

The farmers will also take out a protest march from the railway station in Mangalore city at 11 a.m. to the Mangalore port, he said. Functionaries of KRRS Yashwanth Rao and D.V. Veeresh, Umapathi were present in the press conference.

  • Ninth Ministerial Conference of WTO will be held in Indonesia from December 3 to 6.

  • ‘The policies of WTO are against the interests of the farmers and BPL families in India’

  • Thursday, November 28, 2013

    What every Indian should know about the World Trade Organization

    As the leaders of the world gear up for the 9th Minesterial of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at Bali, small farmers and peasants across the world await the outcome with heavy hearts. They are convinced that the horror unleashed by the WTO since its inception in 1995 was going to multiply manifold. The extreme apathy of the developed world towards the hunger and suffering of the developing and least developed countries (LDCs) has never been more evident. For the insatiable profit of a few giant multinational corporations (MNCs), the Global North is about to sacrifice the livelihood of every poor family in the South.

    The governments of developing countries are being arm-twisted into agreeing to one-sided policies and agreements, fooled by the carrot of development being dangled yet again by the First world. It is now an indisputable fact that poverty and income inequality have only increased since neoliberalistic policies made their way into the Third World. Mainstream media being controlled by politicians and big corporations are determined to keep the public in the dark about the devious WTO policies which have killed more than 3 lakh farmers till date. Hence it is up to civil society and farmers’ groups to prevent the 9th Ministerial from sounding the death knell to small farmers and the economically weaker sections of society.

    The South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) is spearheading the fight against the WTO’s biased policies, in South India. They arranged a Round Table of all the farmers’ unions in South India and invited representatives from two important organizations, Focus on the Global South, a think-tank in New Delhi working to secure just and equitable policies for the South, and GRAIN, an international farmers’ movement fighting against the atrocities committed by large agribusinesses on small farmers and peasants.

    Kannaiyan, secretary of the SICCFM briefing the gathering

    Afsar Jafri, Senior Research Associate with Focus on the Global South threw light on a few crucial issues. The WTO’s importance had waned in the first decade of this century because there were nil benefits for developing countries. Since the economic crisis of 2008 which plunged the rich world into depression, their companies are looking towards emerging economies to maintain their exponential rates of growth. There is a new push for free trade agreements which will allow MNCs from a few rich economies to sell their government subsidized products cheaply in the international market. Developing countries and LDCs cannot afford to provide even a fraction of this subsidy to their farmers, leading to higher pricing and hence no buyers of their produce, pushing them into debt. Yet developed countries claim their subsidies are not trade-distorting, and instead want developing countries to reduce their already minimal subsidies and import tariffs, to facilitate dumping.

    Afsar Jafri explaining the grave consequences of the 9th Minesterial of the WTO

    Why should Indians be especially interested in the 9th Minesterial at Bali? Certain countries in the WTO, especially USA is threatening to sue India if we implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Under existing WTO rules which are inherently in favour of developed countries, India is allowed a de minimus subsidy of 10% of the total value of its food production. With the NFSA, India will cross this limit. In order to allow implementation of the NFSA, the WTO wants India to accede to two conditions: the first is Trade Facilitation i.e. modernization of all our ports to allow for the easy and hassle-free entry of foreign goods. This will cost a substantial sum for which India needs technical and monetary support; the developed countries refuse to give any. The second condition is the Peace Clause. Under this deceptively named clause, India will not be allowed to sue any country if their company violates Indian laws. This clearly negates India’s sovereignty and we must vehemently oppose both these conditions.

    The other option the WTO gives India to cut its agricultural subsidy is the reduction in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) given to our farmers. A few countries with vested corporate interests claim it will allow our farmers to sell their produce more cheaply in the international market. In reality, the MSP is in fact minimal and many times, does not even cover the cost of production. It is the minimum guarantee that a farmer can get for investing his life into his crop, withstanding the vagaries of the market and nature. Most importantly, this amount remains a miniscule fraction of the bounty showered by developed countries on their farmers who make up less than 5% of their population. If India agrees to this, it will have to construct a mass grave to accommodate the lakhs of farmers’ bodies which will make their way there. The WTO and its agribusiness giants will then pretend these farmers never existed on the face of this Earth. Indeed, for farmers in developing countries, WTO could stand for World Terror Organization.

    Farmers and student activists listen intently

    If the threats associated with implementing our NFSA are bad enough, the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) being discussed on a number of products will ensure the small farmer has nowhere to go but the mass grave. Kartini Samon, a senior activist from GRAIN enlightened the audience at the Round Table about the new FTA between the European Union and India which will allow free entry of European dairy products into India. It is well known that the EU generously subsidizes its dairy industry. With the new FTA, they will flood India with cheap milk and dairy products, cheaper than what our local milk cooperatives are offering.
    The EU’s big dairy companies will acquire land, set up their own farms to source their milk. This will affect more than 70 million families in India who practice dairy farming for their livelihoods. The 93,000 local cooperatives which collect milk from small dairy farmers and sell it to towns and cities will become bankrupt with no hope of a bail-out. The milk that we get from our local farmers is not only fresh but also environment friendly due to the very low transport related carbon emissions. With climate change induced cyclones and typhoons wrecking havoc in many parts of the world, these giant MNCs will only exacerbate the crisis.

    Since the economic reforms in the early 90s, hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide because of the government’s exclusive preference for industrialization. The upcoming WTO Minesterial conference at Bali could kill many many more. Urban India needs to realize we cannot exist without our farmers who provide our most basic necessity – food. Patriotism goes beyond supporting India in a cricket match. If we do not come out of our cubicles to support our farmers, we will in effect become Resident Non-Indians. Since your voice carries more power than the farmer’s, please raise it against this impending genocide. You will not see these issues highlighted in mainstream media. Care searching on the internet and you will gather that genocide is what it is.

    Join the protest by SICCFM in Mangalore on 3rd Dec 2013 to protect your farmers and the food they grow for you.

    -Pannaga Prasad
    Media relations

    Friday, September 6, 2013

    GM crops are no solution to malnutrition!

    Groups in Asia support Filipino farmers' uprooting of Golden Rice

    August 29, 2013

    On August 8, 2013 more than 400 farmers, church people, students, academics and consumers uprooted a field trial of genetically modified (GM) rice that was nearly ready for harvest in Pili, Camarines Sur, Philippines. This courageous action undertaken by the Peasant Movement of Bicol and the Sikwal-GMO alliance was necessary to prevent the contamination of Asia's most important food crop by GMOs.

    Field trials of Golden Rice, one in Pili and three in other areas of the Philippines, are part of an agenda to push forward the acceptance of GMOs. Golden Rice is being developed by a 'public-private partnership' led by Syngenta, one of the world's largest pesticide and seed corporations and the owner of the patent rights involved, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). There is also a Golden Rice Network spread out in countries like India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

    The GM rice being field tested, known as Golden Rice, is modified with two genes, one from bacteria and one from maize, to produce beta carotene, a source of Vitamin A, in the rice grain. Proponents of Golden Rice say that it could significantly reduce vitamin A deficiency, which can cause severe illness, blindness, and even death. But beta carotene is found abundantly in many plants and fruits that are already cultivated in Asia, such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes, and there is no need to put farmers and consumers at risk by introducing GMOs when these other sources are available.

    This is not the first time that IRRI has tried to introduce a GM rice variety. The institute has been leading efforts to introduce GM rice in Asia for over a decade now. But, in each case, strong public resistance has blocked its efforts. At present, no country in Asia has approved any GM rice variety for human consumption or commercialisation.

    IRRI and the other promoters of Golden Rice hope that this variety, advertised as a solution to malnutrition, will break through public opposition to GMOs. In its public responses to the uprooting of the crop, IRRI has emphasised that the trials are part of a public project not a corporate one and has dismissed concerns about the risks involved, saying that the field trials are necessary to test the efficacy of the rice and its agricultural performance.

    But IRRI is hardly a public institution. Alongside from the funding it receives from governments, IRRI's work is funded by several private entities that are strongly in support of GMOs, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and transnational agribusiness corporations like Bayer, DuPont and Syngenta. IRRI, which orchestrated the “green revolution” of chemical rice farming in Asia, has moved increasingly into the private sphere in recent years, not only in terms of funding but also through direct partnerships with agribusiness corporations, such as with Golden Rice, and by seeking intellectual property rights (IPRs) over its research. Its new IPR policy expressly states that it may seek IPRs, such as plant breeders' rights and patents, on all of its "intellectual assets" (germ plasm included) and generate revenues from the "management" of these IPRs. IRRI's gene bank holds approximately 80% of the traditional rice varieties that have been collected from farmers' fields across the globe,

    The risks posed by field trials of Golden Rice may not mean much to IRRI, but they are enormous for farmers and consumers in the Philippines and throughout Asia. There is no way to ensure that a GMO field trial does not contaminate neighbouring fields. The recent case of an unapproved GM wheat found growing in a farmer's field in the US or the detection of unapproved GM traits in rice from China show how field trials lead to contamination and serious consequences for farmers, consumer and markets. In this case, IRRI, Syngenta and the other Golden Rice promoters are putting the region's most important cultural, food and agricultural crop at risk with 800 square meter open field tests of a variety not approved for human consumption and in an area home to many traditional varieties cultivated by local farmers.

    In this respect, we would like to voice our support for the action undertaken by the Peasant Movement of Bicol and Sikwal-GMO, an alliance of farmers, church people, students, academics and consumers based in Bicol who are struggling against GMOs and agrochemical transnational corporations, to uproot the Golden Rice field trials in Pili, Camarines Sur.

    We urge an immediate halt to the other three field trials and the further development of Golden Rice in the Philippines or elsewhere. No one is fooled by concerted efforts of IRRI, Syngenta and national agriculture research institutes to develop Golden Rice as a "poster child" for the GM industry and to get GM foods accepted under the guise of a humanitarian mission. Instead, we call on social movements, farmers’ organisations and people's networks across Asia to join us in supporting the rights of the farmers and communities, like those in Bicol, to assert food sovereignty and protect local biodiversity. Local communities have the legitimacy and the right to say no to GE crops like Golden Rice and defend their health, environment, territories and livelihoods.



    Biothai: Witoon Lianchamroon,, +66894497330 (Thailand)
    GRAIN: Kartini Samon,, +6281314761305 (Indonesia)
    SICCFM: Kannaiyan Subramaniam,, +919444989543 (India)

    PAN AP: Sarojeni Rengam,, +604657027 (Malaysia)

    Friday, April 19, 2013

    Karuturi guilty of tax evasion

    Global flower industry giant found breaking the law in Kenya

    Nairobi, 19 April 2013

    The Kenyan government has found Karuturi Global Ltd, the world's biggest producer of cut roses, guilty of tax evasion. This is the first time an African government has brought a large multinational company to court for transfer mispricing through a fully public process. A broad alliance of civil society movements and organisations are celebrating the Kenyan government's resolve to stop such behaviour and to do so transparently.

    In late 2012, the Kenya Revenue Authority ruled that the Bangalore, India-based multinational used transfer mispricing to avoid paying the government of Kenya nearly US$11 million (EUR8 million) in corporate income tax, part of a larger set of tax disputes with government authorities that amount to a quarter of the firm's 2012 sales. On 4 April 2013, Karuturi appealed the ruling, bringing the proceedings into the public domain.

    "Companies like Karuturi are haemorrhaging Africa," says Dr Attiya Waris, a senior lecturer in tax law at the University of Nairobi and Vice-Chairperson of the Tax Justice Network. "Transfer mispricing is robbing Kenyan workers and citizens of access to good public education, health care, transport services and a clean environment, which our government can only provide through proper revenues."

    Tax evasion costing developing countries US$1 trillion per year

    Karuturi produces 580 million roses per year from its operations in Kenya, Ethiopia and India. (One out of nine roses bought in Europe comes from a Karuturi farm.) The flowers it produces in Kenya are shipped to Europe through a subsidiary in Dubai. By under declaring the value of the merchandise shipped to its warehouse in Dubai, the firm saves costs on its tax bill. This is illegal under Kenyan law.

    Waris and others estimate that capital flight due to tax evasion is costing developing countries around US$1 trillion per year.

    "Companies like Karuturi have to play fair," remarks Stephen Gichohi of Forum Syd whose partner Muungano wa wanavijiji recently discussed the issue with workers from Karuturi Flower Farms in Naivasha, Kenya. “Karuturi farm workers have a range of concerns about spraying equipment, health services, wages and housing and need their conditions improved as soon as possible.”

    Grabbing the land

    Karuturi is also expanding aggressively into large-scale agriculture, and has acquired long term rights to more than 300,000 hectares of fertile farmland in Ethiopia since 2009. The land was leased from the government, but intense conflict has emerged over the compensation, displacement and relocation of villagers and herders who lived on or grazed the lands.

    "We are extremely grateful that the Kenyan authorities have caught this land grabber right in its tracks," says Nyikaw Ochalla of the Anywaa Survival Organisation, a group defending the indigenous Anuak communities badly affected by Karuturi in Gambela, Ethiopia. "This company is criminal, on many counts," continues Ochalla.

    "Not only are they fiscal cheats, but Karuturi has been accused of human rights abuses, poor labour practices, threats to the environment and so on," points out Devlin Kuyek of GRAIN, one of the groups following the tax dispute. "Even the World Bank Group did not grant Karuturi the political risk insurance it requested for its Ethiopian operations."


    For background information, please see "A litany of trouble" outlining the broad set of complaints against Karuturi available at

    For interviews and further information, please contact:
    - Dr Attiya Waris, Law School, University of Nairobi,, +254771891571 (on the Kenyan tax dispute and the struggle for tax justice across Africa)
    - Mr Stephen Gichohi, Forum Syd, Nairobi,, +254725401366 (on the Karuturi farm workers situation & the campaign against transfer mispricing in Kenya)
    - Mr Devlin Kuyek, GRAIN, Montreal,, +15145717702 (on Karuturi & global land grabbing)
    - Mr Nyikaw Ochalla, Anywaa Survival Organisation, London,, +447939389796 (on Karuturi in Ethiopia and the indigenous peoples’ situation)
    - Mr S. Kannaiyan, South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, India,, +919444989543 (on Karuturi’s operations in India and Africa seen from the perspective of  Indian farmers)