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Indo-US deal bad for farmers (29/11/2007)

1.Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture bad for farmers
2.Government of India jeopardizing farmers, consumers and traders

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1.Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture bad for farmers
Kavitha Kuruganti Down to Earth, November 29 2007
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/full6.asp?foldername=20071130&filename=croc&sid=1&page=2&sec_id=10

While the country is actively engaged in discussing the nuclear deal, there is little dialogue on another Indo-US deal, which is being quietly implemented. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (kia) in 2005. Singh had called the pact the 'harbinger of second green revolution'. In that case, it should have been debated widely and in depth, at least in the agriculture research establishment, but that did not happen.

Considering the deal will affect each one of us as producers and/or as consumers of food, the question that needs to be asked is how did its existing framework come about? Critics ask, with the socio-economic conditions of farming in the two countries being so different, what is there to learn from the US.

It is evident (through the five board meetings held so far) that US's commercial interests-represented on the k ia board by Monsanto, Wal-Mart and Archer Daniels Midland-are seeking to make changes in regulatory regimes that govern Indian farming in the fields of genetically modified organisms, contract farming, food retail sector etc.

The deal

The first phase of kia focuses on: recasting agricultural research and education; food processing, use of byproducts and biofuels; biotechnology, including transgenics; and water management.

The thrust in capacity-building in agricultural research and education is to shift Indian agricultural research to basic and strategic research from applied research. Such a shift could push scientists further into laboratories and away from farmers and link research only to commercial interests while ignoring socio-cultural and ecological concerns. There are several critiques available on mono-disciplinary, reductionist, top-down and undemocratic agricultural research models. The deal will only empower those.

The other theme is agro-processing-often described as a sunshine industry. While farmers are considering quitting agriculture given a chance, the industry sees a great opportunity in stepping in through this route. The technologies that will be taught to Indians will only benefit big players and not farmers anyway. In any case, farmers do not get much of the retail prices provided by consumers on many products. Even from a consumer's perspective, it is not clear if such processes make for safer consumption. Ecologically, the energy equation from such consumption is yet to be worked out.

The push for biofuel plantations has implications on land-use patterns, food production and food prices competing with fuel prices. In fact, the approach to biofuels taken by kia is in contrast with the one taken by the planning commission in its eleventh plan approach paper where it is recommended that there is a need to 'check bio-diesel planting'.

Why transgenic?

While marker-assisted selection is apparently a safer and more efficient breeding technology, it is not clear why the kia has chosen to engage itself with transgenic crops. There has been much controversy over transgenic crops in India. The Supreme Court of India is still looking at the biosafety regime and regulation of transgenics in the country. Bt Cotton has already shattered many myths about transgenic crops. Further research on transgenics is therefore perplexing and brings back questions on policy formulation. Is it an indication of u s stubbornness and a strategy for somehow bringing in g m food into the country?

What is also very important and left mostly untouched is clarity on the intellectual property rights (ipr) regime that will govern research and subsequent commercialization on transgenics. Experiences like that of ua s-D harwar (university) in Karnataka on Bt cotton show the public sector will lose out in deals on transgenics. Even biopiracy may acquiring legitimacy through kia.

Water management in this context only stresses techno-centric approaches, rather than socio-political ones. It is also clear that droughts and climate variability created through climate change cannot be addressed in a localized fashion, as an end-of-the-pipe solution. Prima facie, the deal is also violating many guidelines of the Biological Diversity Act governing collaborative research.

Overall, the deal raises serious concerns about its implications on Indian farmers. It is a sorry state of affairs that the government is not being held accountable by anyone on this deal.

Kavitha Kuruganti is with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad

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2.Government of India jeopardizing farmers, consumers and traders: Whither Regulation, ask CSA & Greenpeace India

New Delhi, November 28, 2007: Displaying a variety of food products which have been imported into India with soya, corn, canola and cottonseed ingredients from GM-producing countries, representatives of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) and Greenpeace India pointed out that there is total chaos and even absence of critical regulatory mechanisms in the country related to GM foods and crops.

'There is no evidence of any conditions related to imports of GM food/feed/LMOs being followed, as notified by the Ministry of Commerce in April 2006', pointed out Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. The Ministry of Commerce, through DGFT notification No. 2(RE-2006) / 2004-2009, dated 7th April 2006, clearly laid down that at the time of import all consignments containing products which have been subjected to Genetic Modification will carry a declaration stating that the product is Genetically Modified. Further, all rice consignments should declare themselves GM-Free (April 2007 notification).

Preliminary information shows that in addition to packaged food products, potentially dangerous seed quality material is also being imported of some crops like soyabean and corn with no real checks at the point of import.

Pointing out the serious threat posed to trade and farmers' livelihoods by open air trials of GM crops (including GM rice in 12 locations and Bt Okra and Bt Brinjal in atleast another 20 locations across the country this season), Mr Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India added that the GM rice contamination scandal in the USA has meant nearly US $1.3 billions of loss in one year to the farmers and traders there. 'GM crop trials have been at the root of most of these contamination scandals. Some of these contamination incidents happened inside research campuses and it is important to note this in the context of many trials happening inside ICAR institutions in India too which hold repositories of valuable germplasm too. Experience also shows that it is nearly impossible to control contamination after it occurs', he pointed out.

'It is clearly a case of regulation and its enforcement being nobody's baby, with the Government of India willing to risk the health and environment of its citizens in pursuit of its support to the biotech industry. None of the concerned Ministries Health, Environment & Forests, Commerce, Science & Technology and Agriculture seem to be coordinating with each other nor working out a comprehensive regulatory regime which address fundamental concerns around the technology', added Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

The Health Ministry is not moving fast enough on the Food Safety & Standards Authority to be set up which is supposed to look at the food safety aspects of GM foods/GMOs. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has proven itself to be incompetent as well as not above serious conflict of interest driving its decision-making. The Commerce Ministry does not seem to be implementing its own rules and guidelines related to (GM) imports. This Ministry is also not assessing the potential impact of GM crops on organic farming prospects in India and the positive potential it has for Indian farmers, consumers and traders. The Ministry of Science & Technology meanwhile has announced a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority in three months' time, while no details have been worked out nor public consultations held. This, despite the fact that a Supreme Court case is looking into the matter of GM technology, its ramifications and the ideal regulatory regimes. Meanwhile, GM food imports are coming in freely with consumers not aware of what they are consuming and field trials are happening in a business-as-usual attitude. All of this is clear evidence of the utter chaos related to GM crops and foods, the representatives of CSA and Greenpeace India pointed out

For more information, contact:

Mr Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace India at rkrishna@in.greenpeace.org (09845650032) Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com (09393001550) or Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu at gvramanjaneyulu@gmail.com (09391359702)

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