This must be a huge embarrassment for India's ruling Congress Party, while its Agricultural minister hypes GM to the skies, its own All India Farmers' Council has called for a ban on GMOs "for all times to come."
And their opposition to the impact of the Draft Seed Bill on the right of farmers to save seeds has led Sonia Gandhi, to intervene in defence of farmers' rights.
1.Ruling Congress Party's farmers council wants permanent ban on GMOs/Sonia Gandhi denounces Draft Seed Bill
2.'Bollgard' Bt cotton disaster highlights need for stronger Indian Biosafety legislation
3.'GMO-free' clothing campaign in India
EXCERPTS: "The Centre [federal government] should bar the access of transgenic seeds and terminator technology in our agro-system for all times to come." - the 53rd All India Farmers' Council Meeting of the farmers' outfit of the ruling Congress party, Bharat Krishak Samaj (item 1)
"The bill is a clear trap to curb the traditional and indigenous rights of our peasantry to grow, breed, multiply, preserve and exchange seeds. The seed bill is wholly incongruous. Sinister as it is, it will demolish the time tested agrarian culture and the socio-economic fabric of the rural India that has for centuries worked faultlessly and sustained our small and marginal farmers, having even less than two acres of land. 83% farmers use their own farm-saved seeds. In one stroke, the National Seed Bill on enactment will reduce 36 crore farming families into pathetic non-entity and make them captive at the mercy of seed multinationals, aided and abetted by the unabashed and insensitive state machinery." - Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary, leader of the BKS (item 1)
1.Draft Seed Bill runs into rough weather, process may be delayed
ASHOK B SHARMA
Monday, April 11, 2005
NEW DELHI, APRIL 10: The Union agriculture ministry's attempt to rush the draft National Seed Bill may be delayed. Acting on a representation made by an apex farmers' organisation, the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, Sonia Gandhi, directed the ministry to reconsider certain clauses in the proposed draft that are likely to hamper the interests of farmers.
Incidentally, such an opposition comes from the farmers' outfit of the ruling Congress party, Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS). Though the BKS executive chairman, Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary had addressed the representation to Ms Gandhi as chairperson of the UPA coalition and president of the Congress party, she chose to act on this issue as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council to the government.
The BKS leader, in his letter to Ms Gandhi, had said: "The bill is a clear trap to curb the traditional and indigenous rights of our peasantry to grow, breed, multiply, preserve and exchange seeds. The seed bill is wholly incongruous. Sinister as it is, it will demolish the time tested agrarian culture and the socio-economic fabric of the rural India that has for centuries worked faultlessly and sustained our small and marginal farmers, having even less than two acres of land. 83% farmers use their own farm-saved seeds. In one stroke, the National Seed Bill on enactment will reduce 36 crore farming families into pathetic non-entity and make them captive at the mercy of seed multinationals, aided and abetted by the unabashed and insensitive state machinery."
The draft bill makes registration of seeds mandatory and in this context, Dr Chaudhary in his letter said: "The National Seed Bill treats farmers as traders. They will be hounded to run about for registration if they grow and exchange seeds."
The previous week's the 53rd All India Farmers' Council Meeting of BKS held in Hubli in Karnataka had authorised Dr Chaudhary to take up the issue with the Centre. The Hubli meeting, not only opposed the draft bill but also the introduction of transgenic seeds.
The resolution said : "Seed is the most vital factor in enhancing agricultural production. The National Seed Bill should not put any infringement on the indigenous and traditional rights of the farmers to grow, breed, multiply, exchange and store seeds and be prevented to carry on the age old and time-tested barter system for mutual benefits of the fellow farmers. Farmers should not be treated as traders in the proposed bill. The Centre should bar the access of transgenic seeds and terminator technology in our agro-system for all times to come."
The resolution also called for remunerative minimum support prices for crops and cautioned the Centre not to dismantle the state-sponsored procurement of grains, encouragement of organic farming and post-harvest management.
2.'Bollgard' Bt cotton disaster highlights need for Indian Biosafety to look to European Union example for strong legislation
Navdanya Trust, Saturday 2nd April 2005
Indian and European Biosafety experts agree that urgent action is needed to improve India's Biosafety laws in order to protect farmers, consumers and the environment from the risks of GMOs. Following a two-day Dialogue hosted by Navdanya Trust and funded by the EU-India Small Projects Facility, Biosafety experts identified several areas where Indian legislation was clearly failing farmers, and could be improved by looking at laws established in Europe.
"The regulatory system failed to protect farmers from the widespread disaster of Monsantos Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh," says Dr G.V. Ramanjanevulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh. "The systems are not transparent and data is not shared with the public. Reports from independent surveys show failure and that the government accepted this in two of the three years. Cases of tampering of data have also been observed. There is no accountability on the company for the failure. During approval the GEAC is not giving an ear to farmer and public concerns."
Two Bt cotton farmers from AP and MP told of the extent of the Bt cotton disaster, where seeds sold as "Mahyco Bollgard", cost twice as much as conventional seeds, produced half the yields and required more pesticides and irrigation. This in spite of being grown on the best land and without intercropped plants.
Dr Vandana Shiva of the Navdanya Trust says "Instead of fleshing out the rules on Biosafety, what is being done by the government and Monsanto is the undermining of the regulations. We urgently need to look at ways to improve our regulatory system, and we have much to learn from the EU example."
Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe, says "Under European law GM foods, GM animal feed and GM seeds have to be labelled as "genetically modified" whenever they are commercialised. In India, a good Biosafety regime could include similar labelling provisions so that consumers and farmers can avoid GM products. On top of that, a liability regime is urgently needed, in order to ensure that the biotech companies pay compensation to farmers who have suffered financial losses as a result of the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Such liability regime could also apply whenever there is damage to the environment as a result of the release of GM crops."
Eric Gall of Greenpeace European Unit says "Indian farmers should also be aware that there is widespread rejection of GM foods amongst consumers and food companies in Europe, and that because foods must be labelled as GM, they will find no market in Europe. Our new Greenpeace report "No market for GM labelled food in Europe" shows clearly that growing GM foods is a very risky strategy for Indian farmers."
Contacts: Navdanya Trust (011-2656-2489); Greenpeace India (098-454-37-337), Friends of the Earth: (+31-6-290 05 908), Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (040-2701-4302)
3.Greens seek 'GMO-free' clothing
TIMES OF INDIA, 11 April 2005
NEW DELHI: If green activists are to be believed, the next few months could see the start of a "GMO-free clothing" campaign, roping in not just Indian designers but also international names such as Nike and Esprit.
GMO stands for genetically-modified organism. The aim is to hit supporters of transgenic cotton, more usually termed Bt cotton, where it hurts most - their pockets. The only genetically-modified (GM) crop which can legally be grown in India is Bt cotton, infused with a bacterial gene which is supposed to make it resistant to the dreaded pest bollworm. Activists opposed to it saying they want to "build a big Bt cotton boycott campaign which includes designers".
Vandana Shiva of the NGO Navdanya, backed by environment organisations Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, says she has sent "feelers" to some big firms, including fashion houses in England and those working on khadi in India, to see if they might be willing to reject transgenic cotton.
Many seem "ready to go on board" and the campaign, she hopes, would be ready for take-off on August 9, the day they first launched a campaign asking Monsanto to quit India.
Monsanto's Bt technology is now being used in India. Activists like Shiva say it has proved disastrous for the farmer, halving his yield while doubling or trebling his costs. Monsanto says this is bunkum, the yields are good and farmers have made profits. Shiva and civil society groups from the EU met recently and agreed on the need to exchange experiences and work on improving India's biosafety laws to protect farmers, consumers and the environment.
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