India - Bt cotton / GM news roundup (18/7/2006)

1.Experts say ban import of GM food
2.GM crops: Court notice to Centre on ban plea
3.India: Future of Bt cotton
4.Delhi NGO flays PM on Vidarbha package
5.U.S. farmers say cotton subsidies hurting Africans (Indian farmers too!)

1.Experts poser on import of GE food
'Authentic alternatives already exist in this country'
The Hindu, July 12 2006

*Oppose proposed labelling order saying it is an effort to promote GE food
*Proposal to amend laws in the name of bio-safety termed anti-farmer
*Traditional farming methods natural, non-toxic'

HYDERABAD: South Against Genetic Engineering (SAGE), a 52-member group of food scientists, nutrition experts, agriculture scientists, farmer leaders and consumer activists, has questioned the need for allowing import of Genetically Engineered (GE) foods labelled or unlabelled.

In a declaration released here after a round table on "Should India be fed by GM (genetically modified) food?" organised by the group in Bangalore recently, they wondered about the necessity of such imports when the products could ensure neither food security nor nutritious food.

Opposing the proposed labelling order they said it was being pushed without any debate.

It was definitely an effort to promote GE and prop up the multinational corporations involved in GE.

The proposal to amend existing laws in the name of bio-safety was totally "anti- farmer, anti- people and anti-environment," they said.

"We are completely convinced of the advantages of our traditional foods over the articulated need for GE foods. The traditional cropping technology that is marked by bio-diverse farming systems contain all the human nutritional needs within it. These systems are natural, non-toxic and knowledge of their cultivation is located within the community," they said in the declaration.

Bio-diverse farming

P.V. Satheesh, convener of SAGE said food, nutrition and farm scientists emphasised at the meeting that the Government's focus should be on reclaiming and popularising less familiar, uncultivated and under-utilised foods, which were integral to bio-diverse farming.

On the other hand, farmer leaders made it clear that they did not want any kind of labelling.

"We totally reject GE food and technology since we all know that authentic alternatives already exist in this country including organic and traditional systems of food production."

2.GM crops: Court notice to Centre on ban plea
India becoming dumping ground: petitioner
The Hindu, July 15 2006

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre seeking a ban on introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in any form, whether by import or by manufacture in India till a regulatory framework is put in place.

A three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran issued the notice on a petition filed by Vandana Shiva seeking such a ban.

The petitioner submitted that while most countries were banning GM products India was being used as a dumping ground for multinational corporations. Vested interests and corporate houses such as Monsanto were encouraging the development of unhealthy and scientifically known to be dangerous GM Organisms disregarding the health, environment or future of the people.

3.India : Future of Bt cotton
July 17, 2006

In a seminar hosted, recently, by National Academy of Agricultural Sciences and National Commission on Farmers, shareholders discussed the future of cotton in the country under the theme 'What Should be India's Cotton Agenda', based on study conducted by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

CSE in a study on 'The Fabric of Cotton: Seeds, Farmers and Textiles', found that though American cotton varieties had higher productivity, its cultivation was not sustainable in India owing to lack of agro-climatic compatibility.

Study analyzed that the Indian cotton varieties gave the same level of yield for 30 years whereas American variety has led to frequent crop failures and brought in numerous diseases and even required at least three times more water and other inputs and the yield plummeted after three years.

When American varieties of cotton began to be cultivated in the country, the American bollworm, the notorious pest on the cotton crop had also found its way into Indian cotton fields.

Since machines to gin and spin Indian cotton were not readily available the long-staple American cotton varieties are popular in the country, the study said.

Bt cotton hybrids were introduced in the country to resist attacks by the American bollworm but the study noted that the Bt cotton hybrids were not suited in the rain fed areas of the country.

Study embarks as to why the Bt technology was not tried on Indian traditional varieties of cotton that were more suited to local climatic conditions.

It also stressed the need for lowering the production cost of cotton in global trade as highly subsidized American cotton can enter India in a big way.

CSE sources revealed that talks with all stakeholders would continue so as to reach appropriate conclusion about the cotton issue.

4.Delhi NGO flays PM on Vidarbha package
Financial Express, July 15, 2006

NEW DELHI, JULY 14: The Prime Minister’s Rs 3,750-crore package for Vidarbha farmers does not address the core causes of peasants’ suicides, an NGO working on this issue for over two decades stated.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Vandana Shiva managing trustee of Delhi-based organisation, Navdanya’s said that the agrarian crisis leading to farmers’ suicides was a result of debts.

The debts were a result of convergence of "rising costs on non-sustainable and inappropriate production systems, and falling prices of agricultural products due to unjust and unfair trade practices."

She said under the current practices, farmers depend upon purchase of hight cost hybrid seeds every season as they cannot save the same for re-use in the next season because of the very nature of the seeds. This added to their financial burden.

The extensive use of costly chemical pesticides and fertilisers degraded the fragile ecosystems, increasing the vulnerability of farming. Besides, the monocultures of cash crops further aggravate the risks in event of frequent crop failures, she said.

"Debt against debt is no solution. Farmer should be more self-reliant and less dependent of debt," she said.

Shiva suggested the need for encouraging cost-effective traditional organic farming to ensure better returns to farmers. She criticised the Rs 180 crore quality seeds replacement programme as "a bonanza for seed multinationals like Monsanto, bringing no relief to the distressed farmers. "Seed replacement is the language used by seed companies to prevent farmers from having and saving open pollinate seed varieties, making them dependent on purchase of costly seeds," she said.

She said the Prime Minister failed to acknowledge the failure of Bt cotton in the region, despite several such reports.

Shiva cautioned that crop diversification, as suggested by the Prime Minister should not mean replacing one monoculture by another. It should result in increasing integration of crops, trees, livestock and on-farm biodiversity. Water intensive crops should be avoided in water scarce regions.

5.VIDARBHA JANANDOLAN SAMITI on Reuters article on US cotton subsidies

TODAY AMERICAN FARMERS VISITING COTTON BELT OF AFRICA REPORTED THE FACT WE QUOTE-' Business U.S. farmers say cotton subsidies hurting Africans By Reuters Saturday July 15, 06:55 PM

By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - A delegation of U.S. cotton farmers visiting West Africa said Washington's multi-billion dollar subsidies to its cotton industry were worsening hardship in the world's poorest region.

During a trip to Mali, West Africa's largest cotton producer, the group of farmers from California, Illinois, Vermont and Kansas witnessed conditions in one of the world' poorest countries.

Cotton provides a livelihood for nearly a third of Mali's 10 million inhabitants. The majority of people in the arid, landlocked country survive on less than a dollar a day.

"Subventions are causing problems to farmers in Mali, we have realised on the ground. Now we have the right words to spread that message," farmer Jim French told a news conference organised by the UK-based charity Oxfam.

"More than words, we will take back faces."

French said that he would work with non-governmental organisations, producers groups and religious organisations to seek a fairer trade system.

The United States is the world's biggest exporter of cotton and its producers received about $4.2 billion in government subsidies during 2004-05. West Africa's cotton producers say this depresses world prices and ruins their economies.

Francois Traore, president of the cotton growers association in neighbouring Burkina Faso, noted that while there were only 25,000 cotton growers in the United States, there were between 15 and 20 million people in Africa dependent on the crop.

"We want the African farmer to be able to live from his work. The American farmer also lives from his work, but to the detriment of others," he said.

America's huge cotton subsidies have repeatedly been a stumbling block in world talks to cut trade-distorting farm tariffs, with the so-called C5 West African countries -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Senegal -- lobbying for a separate deal on cotton.

Malian trade unionist Soloba Mady Keita said local farmers only wanted respect for international trading rules.

"If there are no more subsidies in the market, then we will be able to play our hand because with our low production costs we are certain to sell cotton," he said.



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