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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: