|Plea to declare Orissa GM-free / PM tours Bt cotton disaster area (30/6/2006)|
1.Plea to declare Orissa 'GM-free'
What happens when a company like Monsanto massively hypes expensive Bt cotton seeds to poor farmers operating in wretched conditions?
The Indian Prime Minister is currently conducting a two-day tour of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra where 600 farmers have killed themselves in the last year, the vast majority of them Bt cotton farmers.
This is not the first high profile tour of the cotton growing belt of Maharashtra. A year ago Monsanto brought in Bollywood style king Nana Patekar to hype its GM seeds as the solution to the problems of the area's often debt-ridden farmers.
Far from relieving the distress in the cotton belt, Bt cotton seriously aggravated the problems with what proved to be truly disastrous consequences. Local farmers' leader Kishor Tawari, who has repeatedly pointed out the negative impact of Monsanto's Bt cotton, has been banned from meeting the Prime Minister.
But the leader of the Congress party's farmers' union, Krishan Bir Chaudhary, makes a very similar point in one of the articles below: "Chaudhary said the distress in cotton belt was aggravated due to the failure of Bt cotton." (item 3)
1.Plea to declare Orissa 'GM-free'
BHUBANESWAR, June 29: Voluntary organisations, particularly Thread, have urged chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik to follow Uttaranchal's steps in declaring Orissa a "GM-free state".
In a letter to the chief minister, Mr G John, executive director of Thread, cautioned against the move to introduce Bt Brinjal (the first genetically modified food crop) in the Indian fields. Since brinjal [aubergine/eggplant]is a widely grown crop in Orissa, the introduction of Bt Brinjal will destroy the backbone of farmers, he said.
It will have an adverse impact on the health of a large section of the population, besides affecting livestock because people are used to feed livestock with leftovers and waste vegetables, including brinjal.
The disaster of growing Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra ought to be kept in mind, the NGO, which works on food security for tribals in Orissa, said.
Even if the genetically modified crops are free of health and environment hazards, the fact is that it will lead to dependency on foreign seed providers, "something which spells disaster".
Listing out certain demands, the NGO said since effects of the modified organism are unknown and potentially hazardous, the use of it should be restricted till these seeds are properly examined.
Bio-safety testing should include both medium and long-term effects on environment and health and needs to be carried out by independent and scientifically competent bodies.
2600 dead on eve of Prime Minister's visit
TODAY MOST AWAITED INDIAN PRIME MINISTER'S VIDARBHA TOUR STARTED AFTER SUICIDE TOLL HAS CROSSRED 600. ON THE EVE OF PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT TO VIDARBHA 9 FARMERS COMMITTED SUICIDES ON 29TH JUNE 2006...
PRIME MINISTER VISIT TO VIDARBHA - CKOLZARI VILLAGERS PROTEST THE BAN [on] VJAS LEADER KISHOR TIWARI KOLZAR
...MAHARASHTRA GOVT. REFUSED THE ENTRY PASS TO KISHOR TIWARI, VJAS LEADER, TO MEET [the Indian Prime Minister] ALONG WITH VILLAGERS, BUT VILLAGERS STRONGLY PROTESTED MAHARASHTRA GOVT. MOVE TO BAN FARMERS' LEADER ENTRY IN THE KOLZARI VILLAGE AT THE TIME OF PRIME MINISTER VISIT.
IN LATTER SUBMITTED TO D.S.P YAVATMAL HIMATRAO DESHBHATAR 200 VILLAGERS WARNED ADMINISTRATION THAT THEY ARE NOT INTERESTED TO MEET PRIME MINISTER IF KISHOR TIWARI IS NOT ALLOWED TO COME IN THE KOLZARI VILLAGE AT THE TIME OF PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT.
3.PM to announce mega relief package for Vidarbha region
NEW DELHI, JUNE 29: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his two-day tour of the Vidarbha region starting on Friday is expected to announce a massive relief package of about Rs 1,200 crore to the debt-ridden farmers.
The Prime Minister, accompanied by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, will gain first-hand information of the cotton-growing backward region of Maharashtra, where crop losses have forced more than 1,600 farmers to commit suicide since 2001. The six most-affected districts in Vidarbha are Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Buldana, Washim and Wardha.
Though Pawar and finance minister P Chidambaram on Thursday were said to have given final touches to the package, the Centre stayed tight-lipped on the contents.
However, sources indicated that the initial package would be in the range of Rs 1,200 crore, while similar relief package was also being worked out for other states including Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka.
Sources said there were some initial hiccups between the agriculture and finance ministries on the contents of the package, including the amount of allocation. However, the Prime Minister is said to have stepped in to streamline the package.
Besides, with the ongoing tussle between the NCP and the Congress, Pawar was said to be initially wary of the Congress taking credit for the package and therefore had reversed his decision on accompanying the PM.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister RR Patil has demanded a package of Rs 5,000-6,000 crore to check the suicides in the region.
Meanwhile, reacting to the package, leader of the Congress party's farmer outfit Bharat Krishak Samaj Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: "Such a package deal is no permanent solution to the problem. The government should go to the root causes for farmers distress and suicides. Farmers' suicides are largely due to capital-intensive farming and low return for the produces."
Chaudhary said the distress in cotton belt was aggravated due to the failure of Bt cotton.
The secretary-general of the CPI's farmers' outfit Atul Kumar Anjaan said: "The government is coming out with packages which do not have a permanent solution."