|Cattle seek meeting with Indian ag minister / Devinder Sharma on farmer suicides (13/6/2006)|
1.Devinder Sharma on India's farmer suicide crisis
EXCERPTS: The tragedy is that those responsible for the crisis are being asked to provide the answer. (item 1)
the central government has asked the Andhra Pradesh to inquire into the deaths even though the state government does not have the expertise to study such a bio-safety disaster. (item 2)
This refers to the article, 'Vidharbha: slowing down the suicides' (June 12). The agrarian crisis, concentrated in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, is spreading throughout the country.
The tragedy is that those responsible for the crisis are being asked to provide the answer. Special teams are being sent to some States to understand the reasons and also make recommendations to rescue the farmers. These are being headed by people who were part of the system that created the crisis in the first place.
The solutions being proposed therefore will not stand the test of time. Looking at the global economic policies and the agribusiness model linked to genetic engineering and the food retail business that is being increasingly adopted in India, the entire effort seems to be to push farmers out of farming. This is exactly what happened in America, and is what is being witnessed in Europe.
Whatever the government might say, the fact remains that the biggest environmental displacement that India will be faced with is going to be in agriculture.
2.Greenpeace cattle seek Indian agriculture minister's attention
New Delhi: Dressed as cattle Greenpeace protestors tried to seek an audience on Tuesday with Indian agriculture minister Sharad Pawar over the mysterious deaths of livestock in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, allegedly due to consumption of genetically modified crops.
Though the minister's office refused Greenpeace an appointment on Tuesday, it did respond by saying that the minister will meet representatives from the organization on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
The activist organization was protesting against the death of nearly 1,600 cattle in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in April this year. An investigation by a non governmental organization (NGO), Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), says that the death of sheep was linked to prolonged consumption of Bt cotton stalks and leaves that were left in the fields after the cotton harvest.
Greenpeace is demanding that the agriculture ministry should order an investigation into the death of the sheep and withdraw all permissions for the commercial release of existing GE crops till the investigation is complete.
The protestors met animal husbandry secretary PMA Hakim, a senior official in the Indian government, who told Greenpeace that he has asked for investigations in the death of the cattle.
Greenpeace campaigner Rajesh Krishnan reacted: "Hakim has asked the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for an inquiry but the Indian government's response has all through been informal. Instead of conducting an inquiry itself, the central government has asked the Andhra Pradesh to inquire into the deaths even though the state government does not have the expertise to study such a bio-safety disaster."
The protestors were holding a banner on behalf of the dead animals that read: "Did GM crops kills us? Don't legalise GM foods." The protestors also carried signboards with dead sheep and cattle with the message Do not eat GM foods.
The Greenpeace memorandum read: "GE cotton was approved after the company and the government claimed that all safety tests had been done. Two months ago a report by the CSA documented a grave incident where around 1,600 sheep had died after grazing on GE cotton fields in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. The NGO makes a strong case for GE cotton being the cause of death."
The memorandum said: "While cause for the deaths of sheep remain unresolved we believe that GM crops must be viewed with caution and the health of the nation must be put before corporate profit We have come to know from the 67th meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval committee (GEAC) that brinjal with the same Bt gene whose safety is presently under question is now being considered for large scale field trials."
Krishnan said: "The impacts of GM technology on human health and biodiversity remain unpredictable, untested and irreversible even then the government is on the verge of approving large scale field trials of genetically modified brinjal. This will be the first GM food crop in India."
Krishnan added: "Clinical trials in the US have proven that GE corn killed cattle and people developed allergies. The company responsible for this had to pay $100 million compensation to the affected farmers. Unfortunately there is no consumer choice in the US. Once the crops reach the market there is no way a consumer can distinguish between GM and non-GM foods."
He added that clinical trials on rats in Australia have shown immunological and respiratory problems, apart from allergies in the animals.
Greenpeace has demanded that there should be an investigation on the mortality of sheep and the terms of reference should be made public. "The health impacts of GE crops should be assessed by doing an exhaustive long term health impact study. All field trial permissions for new GMOs be stopped including Bt brinjal and all permissions for commercial releases of existing GE crops should be withdrawn," said the memorandum.