The Kisan Coordination Committee (KCC) - 'kisan' means 'farmer' - is one of a cluster of 'farmer unions' in India that, in close coordination with the biotech industry and a network of pro-corporate lobbyists, have worked to promote GM crops. Others include Shetkari Sanghatna (SS), Farmers for Freedom (FFF) and the Federation of Farmers Association (FFA).
In 1999 a KCC delegation lobbied for GM crops in 5 European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland), at the invitation of EuropaBio and in coordination with biotech giant Novartis and PR firm Burson Marsteller. A spokesperson for KCC was quoted condemning Christian Aid's critical report on GM crops as, 'anti-technology propaganda' and 'pseudo-scientific rhetoric from NGO activists who think that they know what is good for Indian farmers'.
In March 2002 representatives of KCC and Shetkari Sanghatna appeared at a press briefing in New Delhi, arranged by the far right Liberty Institute, to lobby for GM Cotton under the slogan, 'Let no more lives end - dismal & dreary. Give us the freedom to earn more by growing more!' They warned that if India's regulatory body (the GEAC) failed to approve the commercialisation of Monsanto's GM (Bt) cotton 'farmers all over the country, under the banner of Kisan Coordination Committee (KCC), will launch a civil disobedience movement and begin sowing of Bt Cotton seeds.'
A year earlier they, along with Chengal Reddy of Federation of Farmers Association, attended a 'public dialogue' on GM cotton approval held by the GEAC, at which they sat with Monsanto's MD.
In September 2002 KCC urged leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, to 'respect their freedom' to grow GM crops. Representatives of KCC and the Federation of Farmers Association also joined a pro-biotech march there organised by the far right Sustainable Development Network, and at which TJ Buthelezi and representatives AfricaBio were present.
The founder of KCC and Shetkari Sanghatana, Sharad Joshi, is also the leader of a grouping called Farmers for Freedom. Joshi describes himself as a 'Peasant Leader'. His organisations are presented as representing the typical Indian peasant farmer.
A press release from EuropaBio, for instance, describes Shetkari Sanghatna as 'the mainstream farmers' movement in India.' According to the press release, 'The umbrella organisation of farmers unions, led by Shetkari Sanghatna and representing several million farmers from 14 Indian states, is the KCC or Kisan Coordination Committee.'
But in reality Kisan Coordination Committee comprises the remnants of farmer unions which have lost control over their constituencies . The membership of Shetkari Sanghatna, as Kavaljit Singh of the New Delhi-based Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) explains, has dropped from around 80,000 in the 1980s to an estimated 5,000 by the late 90s. This is a miniscule number for a country of almost 1 billion in which agriculture provides the most common source of employment. New Delhi-based Food and Trade Policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, told us in 2002, 'Sharad Joshi is now almost alone in his Shetkari Sanghtana, with the dominant group breaking away and opposing the WTO and GM foods.'
Not only is Shetkari Sanghatna numerically unrepresentative but far from being an 'All-India' movement, as EuropaBio suggests, it is largely confined to the state of Maharashtra. And like the Federation of Farmers Association in Andhra Pradesh, it now typically represents large local landowners growing cash crops, rather than India's numerous subsistence farmers.
KCC, Kavaljit Singh explains, is 'a very small group,' a 'paper tiger' coalition of small organisations. KCC was established by SS leader Sharad Joshi when his organisation started losing support in Maharashtra. Indian trade and policy analyst Devinder Sharma says the formation of KCC was 'primarily to avoid any political embarrassment' over this loss of support. It 'basically consists of Sharad Joshi of the Maharashtra Shetkari Sanghtana and Bhupinder Singh Mann of Bharti Kisan Union (Mann) of Punjab, and some other breakaway groups. So is the case of Mann, whose group has shrunk in size and represents the big farmers of Punjab. Even there, they are no longer in the reckoning.'
All the groups with which Joshi is connected claim to be 'non-political' but, in fact, have an ultra-libertarian stance. They emphasise not just freedom of access to markets, but freedom from state regulation and from any state economic intervention. In recent years, the freedom to use GM crops without any restriction has been added to the list.
EuropaBio also claims KCC is 'non-political' but Sharad Joshi is the founder of a political party, the Swatantra Bharat Party, which promotes the same ideology of 'minimal government' and places its manifesto on the Shetkari Sanghatna website . According to Corporate Observatory Europe, the 'marginal position of these groups and their ideology was revealed when Joshi ran for the Indian parliament in the mid-90s and received o