India’s Green Revolution of Control (revised 2015)

By Jamie Rutherford

Imagine, one day you are walking and you see a single Dandelion in a grassy field and wonder, “How did it get there?” One scenario is that the wind scattered it’s seed. Then, moisture activated endogenous enzymes to start respiration and ATP growth production and when the first little sprout uncoiled itself to the sun, chances are, this wasn’t noticed by you, or anyone. This marvel happens a trillion by a trillion times a day, silently, (humbly) without notice. Though modern life has disassociated many of us from such inquiries into nature, we rely on its success no less now than before.

For a farmer in the Nirmar region of Madhya Pradesh India, planting cotton year after year, these inconspicuous moments begin a process of tending, hard work, survival and hope. Rajesh and his family farm lies 2 km east of the Narmada river in the Narmada Belt. Here the soil is rich black cotton soil called reguar. His father and his father before him, had success with cotton in this semi arid region. Before the onset of the kharif monsoon, they plant and then harvest their bolls in October. But, things are starting to change.

Farmers like Rajesh, recognize a delicate balance of all the elements, and recognize an ebb and flow of uncertainty from year to year. They don’t perform a chart analysis of each year or understand agribusiness. They just plant, perhaps pray and have to accept what comes. Rajesh and his family learned by doing. He did not waste time on theories and he does not know how to market his product.

What he and many like him know is this:

The earth takes some back for itself. Sometimes the mole gets the potato and the aphid the leaf. There are things that are uncertain. In the past and still in many present cases, farmers lives were and are scaled to fit the conditions around them. Scale is an important concept in balance. If the teeter totter has more weight on one side than the other, the heavier side sinks.

Advertising often trumps common sense and tradition. If a farmer who scrapes by barely from the sale of his crops wants to use an expensive new miracle seed, he can take out a loan secured by the farm. Now his overall fiscal health depends on an unpredictable future – good yields. Suddenly the added weight on the scale, such as the seed loan coupled with a bad season in sales, drops the teeter totter and much more yield is required to balance it. Sadly for Rajesh, like many of India’s farmers, the piranyhas of industry were setting out bait ready to sale the the fish their water.

In post modern urban life everything is outsourced; Want food? Go to a restaurant. Feel sick? Go to a doctor. Trouble walking? Glide on moving floor panels and Segways. Then afterwards walk on a treadmill at the gym. Compare this lifestyle to Rajesh and his family in Madhya Pradesh and you will see that in their case, many things negotiate with other things directly for survival.

Rajesh’s wife feeds the family cow and milks the cow. The cows dung is collected for fuel and fertilizer. The cows urine is used to make special fermented compost tea to feed soil organisms that will help grow the cotton. The cows milk is heated, the cream separated and collected and eventually made into ghee and paneer. The bull is used to plow the field. The bull eats fodder collected by the Rajesh’s teenage girls. His wife, sister, nephew, brother and father harvest the wheat. His wife and sister pound freshly harvested wheat to separate the grain from the chaff. The chaff goes to the goats. The grain is ground into a soft flour to make paranthas. The family eats dal and paranthas and work at the harvest with Rajesh. The littlest ones are left behind with Rajesh’s wife who watches them and pounds laundry made of cotton against smooth stones at the river. Everyone and everything has a role that is directly linked to the others survival. Everyone and everything is in a relational order, being once an eater to one day becoming the eaten.

I do understand that nostalgic thinking or thinking we can or should all return to a subsistence interdependent life like that illustrated above is not currently possible and not even wanted. Most people have left the frost and the forest without the will, desire, or ability to return now. The problem is not the choice to willingly leave that life. It is that those who want to continue or return to the practicalities of such a life style are blocked by a dependency/inequality cycle that is not easily untangled. Or worse, they are driven from ancestral lands into cities to be cheap labor.

The promises of trade agreements and agribusiness to give equal market access to farmers like Rajesh and pay them fairly has not materialized. The opposite is happening and millions are being displacement from their means of production through debt entrapment, land grabs and environmental destruction. At the very least farmers should be given time and education to make wise choices to acclimate to the ask of a global market economy. Instead, there is a global modernity/progress public relations skew that promotes entrapping technologies and methods against farming knowledge, food sovereignty and more agrarian and subsistence life styles. Rajesh and others like him are often pointed to as the reason for an industry created “scarcity” story that says he and other “third world” farmers simply can’t feed their people without the help of savior technologies like GE seeds (Genetically Engineered).

Rajesh can’t scientifically test the organic processes that make up soil ecology. I’m doubtful he knows the periodic table of the elements. He’s not aware of all the genetic scientists in St. Louis busily following Monsanto’s mission. What he does know is that when certain plants show signs of sickness, he must burn them fast. His father showed him this.

There are countless things not directly observable. For example, sick plants send infrared beacons that attract feeding insects. It is then the insect’s role to dispose of these plants and recycle them back to the earth. If a farmer has many any sick plants, a giant infrared target beacons to insects far and wide- come here! Plants with weakened immunity are quickly found.

It’s hard to trick insects. You may make a plant resistant to one pest through genetic modification but eventually the infrared signalling will draw in more and more of other pests like the white fly. The biotech industry knows this. It is part of the business model. Let me explain.

We have in our environment today many things that were there before we were born – gifts that more often than not we seldom take the time to notice or appreciate. One of these gifts is top soil which can take up to 500 years to form naturally. The delicate balance of erosion, composting, micoorganisms such as bacterial, algae, anthropods, fungi and their complex habitats all interact in mutually beneficial relationships. These relationships are hard to tease out. For years farmers trusted that nature knew how to generate nature, even when it wasn’t convenient. For example, seasonal floods would bring rich minerals to the soil in Rajesh’s valley and though the floods required pre-planning and a shift in living arrangements, the bounty of working with this free seasonal resource paid off in rich soil and big plants.

Adaptive intelligence is visible all around us. Just like it has taken an accumulation of learning from birth to present day to know what we know, all of nature undergoes the same process. The cotton plants seed has such intelligence. Through successive generations of natural selection it has developed changes in its physical morphology to enable it to survive shifts in environmental conditions, on a micro and macro scale. However the cotton plant evolves according to its time table, not mans.

We cannot know the totality of its intelligence is just by observing DNA, nor do we know subtle environmental shifts that shaped the seed. There are no weather records in this area of Madhya Pradesh, just human observation. The seed has a present day response to a late monsoon. Yes, the plant might grow slowly the first year but then successive generations may grow strong in dryer or late monsoon conditions.

Agribusiness demands results on a human time line partially because modern human psychology sees itself as separate from the environment. This is a paradoxical luxury. On the one hand, our capacity to see ourselves separate from the environment and assign values disassociated from consequences is a product of more brain activity. We think abstractly. On the other hand, this thinking is like a dog chasing its tail. We create environmental problems that we then have to use our brains to solve. This takes alot more input and energy than working with nature.

A deeper more interdependent relationship with the environment forces us to proliferate within natural boundaries where populations cannot exceed the carrying capacity of a given area of resources. If we design our activities around working with nature something interesting begins to happen – we have more of what we were afraid of losing – time, connection, vitality.

Take for instance the method of designing gardens and homesteads called permaculture zones. As the rungs go farther to the outside, there is less activity, travel, and inputs to maintain food production. This works with the length and requirements of the growing cycles of plants. This model also ensures that everything that dies or gives waste is used by something else to help it grow. Seeds are saved and used in the next planting. Waste and resources are managed as part of a long term vision.

Permaculture_Zones.svg

These are sustainable practices that attempt to replace resources that were used in the production of something in order to maximize the longevity of those resources. By contrast, in product development, there is a concept called “planned obsolescence.” This is an approximate end of life date created somewhere in the design or manufacturing process of a certain product.

“A policy of producing consumer goods that rapidly become obsolete and so require replacing, achieved by frequent changes in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and the use of nondurable materials.”

It ensures that a car for example, won’t run trouble-free for 10 years, or that a AA battery has to be replaced in your TV remote. In this case, you have to buy new parts, have regular service, and change the batteries. At each node, more money is exchanged for goods and services. Over successive generations of consumers exposed to this model, they come to accept that things have to be replaced. Therefore the possibility that technology exists that could replace inferior products that wear out, with ones that won’t, is sealed from their imaginations. The consumers demand less because they don’t know they can demand more.

Genetically engineered crops are not designed to succeed long term. They don’t have to be. The company makes the profit, and then solutions are sold for the impending environmental disasters that proceed their technology. Things that last rarely go into mass production, because, it is..not…profitable. At present, few industries including the agricultural “industry”, deviate from this model.

In agriculture however, the disposable product, food, has one problem. Farmers have been producing it without the help of technology for thousands of years. Seed saving, use of bio-wastes for fertilizing crops, planting in accordance with rainfall patterns, etc. all worked within the bounty and boundaries of environmental forces. So in order to introduce planned obsolescence into traditional farming, certain aspects of farming had to be separated from its supply of free renewable resources, to make sales. To do this, the farmer needed to become dependent on external goods and services.

How is this done? First soil fertility was destroyed with a wave of chemicals leftover from the stockpiles used for biological warfare in Vietnam. Plants then became weak, less nutritious, and susceptible to pests. The same weak plants were then grouped together in large mono crops away from diverse insect and weed buffers such as marigolds or nitrogen fixing legumes, and the plants struggled more. Of course sick plants send out signals to insects that say “recycle me”. Insects attacked. With less competition certain weeds proliferated and evolved to grow despite the chemicals. Boardrooms cheered. GE seeds with insecticide were patented and sold. Monarch butterflies started to die. Other seeds were sold. Super weeds began to grow. New releases of GE seeds came out. And the process continues.

Unlike the 20th century where the human psyche was manipulated by advertising to “want” things for abstract reasons and reasons with false value, the 21st century stands to have our needs completely privatized – water, food, air. All of our needs are supplied by nature and have been since its creation. Privatization of resources, climate manipulation, and genetic modification is Man as his own entitled God and science as his method of justification. We simply don’t know what we don’t know, but playing with technologies that assume we do, spells disaster.

Rajesh is worried. He sits looking at his field which is spotted with bronze colored wilting plants. Six years ago he heard news about the boll worm being a problem and destroying crops on the other side of the river. A poster plastered on the wall of a tea stall showed a picture of a nearby farmer having obtained, “20 quintals of yield per acre of BT Cotton!” Rajesh asked the other farmers what they thought, and by then, all of them were simply repeating poster bylines. Now he’s in trouble. He spent nearly all his family savings to buy miracle seeds that costs 300% more than those typically sold in town, not to mention he usually saved his seed from season to season.

For three years his crops yielded higher than average with BT Cotton. The last two years however, some plants have died of root rot. Others had a strong vegetative growth and are flowering but then the leaves dry, wilt and turn bronze. This year the white flies are attacking. The plants are sick. Rajesh did not understand that BT Cotton seeds were not like other seeds. A seed looks like a seed. He knows nothing about genetic engineering. The technology nor the consequences are understood by the common farmer in India. And this is something Mayhco, Monsanto’s Indian subsidiary, depends on. BT Cotton requires three foreign genes to be inserted through genetic engineering: The Cry1AC gene which encodes for an insecticidal protein which is derived from Bacillus Thuringiensis, and two other genes are inserted by force into the cotton genome. This is done in a lab.

“The conscious choice of a few genes for mobilization and widespread replication substitutes human judgement for natural selection. From a theological viewpoint it is questionable that the agribusiness scientific staff have the collective wisdom to determine what constitutes the good when it comes to desirable genes. The fact that their choice could be self-sustaining (e.g., if the gene escaped into the wild) is cause for further concern. Initially, this and other adverse impacts potentially resulting from mass scale transgenic operations are likely to be invisible.” (Marc Lappe and Britt Baily, Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food [Monroe, Me.:Common Courage, 1998], 114 )

Rajesh neighbor’s crop is ok. He used native seeds for the last four years. His plants are smaller and his yield has been slightly below standard. In between his bobs of cotton tops are thick rows of bright marigolds. They are there to trap the boll worms before it harm the cotton plant. Rajesh decides to use the marigolds in the future. Later, Rajesh reads that other farmers are having a similar problems throughout Madhya Pradesh. Despite the realities on the ground, Mahyco’s managing director is quoted saying, “Using our seeds cut the pesticide use in half…..if there are any failures do to the farmers not using proper refugia standards and cross pollination between BT and Non-BT varieties…”

When Rajesh took out his savings to buy the seeds he did not research the company he was buying seeds from. He doesn’t have a computer. Many bribes exchanged hands before Rajesh saw the advertising. Had he known the history of Monsanto, he would have been understandably cautious if not appalled that his government would allow its farmers to be undermined by an American company. In fact the government has shifted blame to the farmers whenever large crop failures occur saying that they are using pesticides improperly.

To understand how and why the government of India would allow Mahyco, a subsidiary of Monsanto, to operate in India, we must look into India’s past, starting with the famines that laid waste to the nation shortly after partition, then study the Green Revolution, and then the slow erosion of land rights through The Land acquisition Act, and the co-opting of farmers seed rights through Indian Seed Patent Act and Seed Bill of 2004.

This is the subject of other articles on this blog. You can research the legislation through the links on the sidebar entitled Acts and Legislation. This subject will be covered more in depth in subsequent posts. However, there is a need to go over the basic world history and political beginnings of what has been called the “Green Revolution,” in order to put Rajeshs’ situation into context.

“A funny thing happens when corporations assist in shaping the farming policy of a nation, the policy benefits the corporation and not the farmers. Afterall, the corporation must grow in order to make a profit for its shareholders and not those who grow the food to feed its shareholders.” – Kamla Vishvas

The following is a timeline and explanation of the forces at work behind selling of solutions for the expected failures in Big Ag’s sales pitch: (I apologize ahead of time for the next section. It is being edited and is a work in progress. There is a lot to unpack.)

Introduction:


In 1961 India was teetering near the edge of mass famine. In the United States the Kennedy Administration approved the use of chemicals, those we now know included dioxin, to destroy vegetation in Vietnam. The chief producers of this chemical was Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

Around this same time, in Mexico a high yielding wheat variety was growing with the aid of mechanized agriculture technologies and fertilizers. This wheat was part of a political maneuver to control the worlds foods supply under the auspices of “feeding the poor of the world,” and it’s success was about to change the future of India’s food sovereignty to present day. In order to disconnect national sovereighnty largely based on a nations ability to feed and clothe its own people without third party intervention, artificial scarcity was sold en mass.

“Artificial scarcity describes the scarcity of items even though either the technology and production capacity exists to create an abundance, as well as the use of intellectual property laws to create scarcity where otherwise there would not be. The most common causes are monopoly pricing structures, such as those enabled by intellectual property rights or by high fixed costs in a particular marketplace. The inefficiency associated with artificial scarcity is formally known as a deadweight loss.” – Wikipedia

1961 was the beginning of the “Green Revolution” in India. The Green Revolution opened the doors for the market transition of war chemicals into agricultural chemicals, such as Round Up(Glyphosate) and then thirty years later, genetically engineered crops.

Prior to the 1960s, The U.S. had begun funding “re-education” campaigns for shifting India’s native seed varieties to those same varieties  being tested in Mexico under sponsorship of U.S. special interest groups.

The Rockefeller Foundation and five U.S. land grant universities provided monetary and infrastructural assistance to Indian agricultural universities and research institutions and suggested curricula appropriate to educating scholars and farmers to meet the challenge of introducing high yielding varieties of rice and wheat. Thus the donor country is and was responsible for the philosophical and value system transition of India’s traditional farming practices. To sale high yielding varieties of wheat, the foundation had to creatively play with the famine fears of the Indian people to get enough government officials to buy in to artificial scarcity.

Present Day, Monsanto, Carghil, ADM, and Dupont among others  are following the the  successes of the “reorientation” campaigns funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to launch new products.

Monsanto India’s website reads verbatim: “MIL collaborates with thousands of channel partners to ensure farmers access its superior quality products in thousands of villages across the country. The Company also partners with State Governments, State Agriculture University and other leading Agricultural Institutions on developmental and agronomic testing. Additionally, it works with rural youth in thousands of villages to ensure that the right expertise and knowledge reaches lacs of farmers through year  farmer awareness and education programs.”

Motive is hidden in plain sight.

There are more than 20,000 documented varieties of rice on the Indian subcontinent. There are about 3000 varieties of rice in Uttarakhand itself. There are countless varieties of desi wheat. The Green Revolution narrowed down these varieties to 8. The interdependent network, from microorganisms to beetles to birds, that thrived with the cultivation of 20,000 various rice varieties, in a few years entered into what activist and writer Rachel Carson, coined as “Silent Spring.” The tragic byproduct of the Green Revolution, was loss of biodiversity, because of either ignorance or malice of a few powerful organizations.

His Story:

“In 1940, the Manuel Avila Camacho administration took office in Mexico. United States Vice President Elect Henry Wallace had taken a road trip to Mexico to attend his inauguration. Manuel Avila Camacho’s

” immediate predecessor, Lazaro Cardenas, was a left-leaning populist who carried out a sweeping land reform that favored small farmers and the poor, and he also nationalized industries and expropriated foreign investors, including the Rockefellers’ Standard Oil company. The ruling classes and business elites in both countries anxiously hoped the new president would swing the ideological pendulum in the opposite direction.” (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/27/the-life-and-passion-of-henry-a-wallace/)

Wallace traveled around Mexico meeting with farmers and officials.

“In his view, it was not land reform and small scale family farming what Mexico’s peasantry needed in order to fight hunger and poverty, but the industrialization of agricultural production. “Wallace unabashedly saw gringo know-how as the salvation of Mexico’s rural poor”, according to journalist Bill Weinberg in his book Homage to Chiapas (Verso Books, 2000). “It was Henry A. Wallace, more than any other man, who opened Mexico to the agribusiness model.

In other words, Wallace’s views on Mexico’s agriculture and rural poverty were completely opposite to those of Cardenas’ and completely in sync with Avila-Camacho’s conservative politics.

Once installed as vice president in early 1941, Wallace met with Rockefeller Foundation president Raymond Fosdick. “If the Rockefeller Foundation would undertake to help the Mexican people increase the yield per acre of corn and beans”, he told Fosdick. “it would mean more to the future of Mexico than anything else that government or philanthropy could devise.” Thus the Mexican Agricultural Program (MAP) was born.

This program, a joint venture of the Rockefeller Foundation, the US government and the Mexican ministry of agriculture, introduced the Iowa model to the Mexican countryside: hybrid seeds, monocultures, agrochemical inputs, and mechanization. The changes – both technological and socia l- that this mode of farming effected on Mexico’s agriculture were truly revolutionary.” ” http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/27/the-life-and-passion-of-henry-a-wallace/

MAPS was staffed with both U.S. and Mexican scientists, focusing on soil development, maize and wheat production, and plant pathology.” (Wikipedia).

The Office of Special Studies in Mexico became an informal international research institution in 1959. In July 1944, Norman Borlaug flew to Mexico City to head a new forming program as a geneticist and plant pathologist.

“In 1964, he was made the director of the International Wheat Improvement Program at El Batán, Texcoco, on the eastern fringes of Mexico City, as part of the newly established Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo, or CIMMYT). Funding for this autonomous international research training institute developed from the Cooperative Wheat Research Production Program was undertaken jointly by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and the Mexican government.”

“NEW DELHI: Long before Mr Bush and Dr Rice came by to leapfrog US-India ties to a new level, it was Prof. Wheat who jump-started and nourished the relationship. Norman Borlaug, the genial scientist-pacifist who died of cancer in Dallas on Saturday, was as much India’s ‘annadaata’ as he was the Father of the Green Revolution. Around the time Dr Borlaug arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s, the specter of famine, shortages, and starvation hung over the sub-continent. India was importing huge quantities of food grains from the US – much of it dole – to feed its growing millions in a manner that was famously described as “ship-to-mouth” sustenance.

Norman Borlaug, a strapping, self-made, American from the farmland of Iowa, spent ten years in Mexico creating a wheat strain containing an unusual gene. This wheat was a shorter and had a compact stalk that could support a large top of grain without falling over from the weight. It quadrupled India’s wheat output.

“Norman Borlaug was invited to India by the adviser to the Indian minister of agriculture M. S. Swaminathan. Despite bureaucratic hurdles imposed by India’s grain monopolies, the Ford Foundation and Indian government collaborated to import wheat seed from CIMMYT. Punjab was selected by the Indian government to be the first site to try the new crops because of it s reliable water supply and a history of agricultural success. India began its own Green Revolution program of plant breeding, irrigation development, and financing of agrichemicals.” (Wikipedia)

A new variety of rice, labeled IR8 that produced more grain per plant when grown with irrigation and fertilizers was developed during this time, and is till in use in fields throughout Asia. Both this rice variety and the wheat “designed” during this time are considered a HYV, a high-yield-variety that is dependent on fertilizers.

During the Green Revolution, plants that had the largest seeds were selected to create the most production possible. After selectively breeding these plants, they evolved to all have the characteristic of larger seeds. These larger seeds then created more grain yield and a heavier above ground weight. This larger above ground weight then led to an increased photosynthate allocation. By maximizing the seed or food portion of the plant, it was able to use photosynthesis more efficiently because the energy produced during this process went directly to the food portion of the plant.” (About.com)

Increased food output using the same amount of inputs as before is generally seen as a major achievement. Producing dwarf wheat required more fertilizer and was implemented in mono cropping. The dwarf wheat is generally seen as a success as it increased wheat production in many nations, but in doing so, there was a caveat. It made them reliant upon more inputs, changed biodiversity, and put agribusiness and not the farmer in charge of feeding the nation. Though Borlaugs intent was good, a chain reaction was set off that led to greater acceptance of new foreign technologies (including genetically engineered crops) largely because of relationships and political agreements established with agribusiness during the Green Revolution.

You might remember that a few paragraphs above I mentioned that Punjab India was selected by the Indian government to test Borlaug’s wheat and rice varies because it had an ample water supply and agricultural success. Punjab also has a great concentration of farmers. ALL OF THAT HAS CHANGED. The byproduct of introducing monocrops of wheat and rice, which required more irrigation and chemical fertilizers and peptides is that within less than 15 years Punjab’s water table fell to dangerous levels. The situation is so drastic now that it is estimated without major changes to agriculture in that area, the ground water will disappear in 25 years.

“This trend of excessive groundwater drafting for agriculture has led to water tables dropping at an alarming rate; 79 percent of the groundwater assessment divisions (“blocks”) in the State are now considered ‘overexploited’ and ‘critical’ with extraction exceeding the supply. From 1982-87, the water table in Central Punjab was falling an average of 18 cm per year. That rate of decline accelerated to 42 cm per year from 1997-2002, and to a staggering 75 cm during 2002-06. Water tables are now falling over about 90 percent of the state, with Central Punjab most severely affected.

As part of the Green Revolution push for higher yields and more production of staple crops, both state and federal governments in India have for years heavily subsidized electricity to farmers for irrigation pumping. As a result, electricity consumption by farmers has also increased steadily over the years, as more and more energy is required to pump water from ever-deeper depths.

The potential effects of groundwater depletion include the drying up of wells, reduced stream flows, deteriorating water quality and sinking land as well as increased costs and lower profit margins for farmers. In Punjab, smaller farmers are the first to suffer; as production costs rise, many are forced to take on debts they cannot hope to repay. As a result, the once prosperous farmers of Punjab increasingly struggle.” (http://water.columbia.edu/research-themes/water-food-energy-nexus/water-agriculture-livelihood-security-in-india/punjab-india/)

To see the evidence via photos from NASA check out this link: Unlock the Secret of Vanishing Groundwater

To understand why increasing yield, and increasing inputs to support that yield has deeper implications for the long term success of a given crop its important to understand how productivity is measured. For one explanation I turn to the creators of NatuEco farming in village Bajwada, district Dewas, Madhya Pradesh India.

Primary Productivity

We define productivity of a farm (called ‘Visible Productivity’) as drymass/ per hectare which is a combined effect of ‘Primary Productivity’ and ‘Secondary Productivity’.’ Primary Productivity’ by definition is the productive efficiency of land without any external input while ‘Secondary Productivity’ is defined as the incremental productivity achieved over and above the primary because of external inputs like water(brought in from outside), fertilizers, pesticides, transportation etc. Secondary therefore is a multiplier of the primary.

How do we measure Primary Productivity?

‘Primary Productivity’ is measured in terms of output efficiency (dry mass/ per hectare/KL of water consumed) while ‘Visible Productivity’ is measured in terms of gross output.(dry mass/per hectare). Hence it is very much possible that while ‘Visible Productivity’ seems to be going up, the underlying ‘Primary Productivity’ is going down sharply.

What is wrong in the existing system?

So far all our efforts have been to increase the ‘Visible Productivity’ by enhancing the ‘Secondary Productivity’ which in itself is perfectly sensible thing to do. We have so far got phenomenal results indeed. In fact the so called ‘Green Revolution’ has been all about increasing our ‘Visible Productivity’ through enhancing ‘Secondary Productivity’. Example of Punjab is the most glaring case of what we are talking. The enhanced ‘Secondary Productivity’ has given us a false sense of pride that ‘Visible Productivity’ is up. However, the reality was that the ‘Primary Productivity’ had been steadily going down all these years and we were unaware because our focus was just measuring the ‘Visible Productivity’.

In the beginning the total ‘Visible Productivity’ can be easily increased by external inputs and all seems to be going good. However, over time an effort to increase ‘Secondary Productivity’ impairs our farm’s ‘Primary Productivity’ and we start seeing a decline in the ‘Visible Productivity’ even though external inputs are the same. (http://www.beyondorganicfarming.in/basic-principles.htm)

The chemical fertilizers commonly used for these types of varieties are called “NPK”, or Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. This mix of nutrients, focuses on energy and protein production necessary for cell growth. All plants take what they need, only when they need it. The leftovers of excess nutrients and additives from the fertilizers, create salt, arsenic, and nitrates all of which leech into the ground water. Consequently, the Punjab-Harayana area has high levels of contamination in lower and lower levels of groundwater.

Plants convert nitrogen to make proteins essential to new cell growth. An abundance of nitrogen, however, will make the plant weak and soft. Potassium, which is responsible for the manufacture and movement of sugars and starches, as well as cell division is locked out by high salinity is the soil which is a by-product of using chemical fertilizers.

Consider that plants are “accumulators”, and “hyperaccumulators”. The root system pulls nutrients from water into its stem, leaves, and flowers.  Some nutrients  are used to convert some things to other things, and no longer remain, but there are micronutrients that remain in the over all cellular “skeletal” structure and fluid of the plant. Plants, like the human body also require, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron and a few other trace minerals to be healthy.

In nature they receive these elements from soil that is built from decomposition of things that have these minerals inside of them. Nothing is wasted. If these minerals are not there, in the case of monocropped heavy chemically treated soils, not only will the plant be lacking in vital nutritional content containing minerals, it will also like vitality, ojas.  When groundwater is contaminated with heavy metals, by-products of the petrochemical and agrichemical industry, the contamination also ends up in the body of the vegetable.

It will therefore not only have less taste (rasa), but less nutrition, and be susceptible to infestation, thereby requiring pesticides to protect the weak plants. It is not only the weak plants that attract pests, but the lack of competition. By having this increased crop homogeneity there are less predators to fight off pests. Thus one giant field, stripped of its biodiverse checks and balances, is a dying beacon for pests, and pesticides are used where before none, or only those organic in nature, were used.

One bad idea picks up more bad ideas

Because of the Green Revolution, the infrastructure around farms changed. Irrigation channels now brought water into fields that traditionally relied only on monsoon rains. Then to avoid the complication of nutrients spilling into these monocropped fields from overflow of rivers during the monsoon season, large embankments were constructed! When a field that is normally dry and fallow is irrigated, there are several stages of evaporation before the water reaches the plant. Evaporation happens before the water reaches the trench. Evaporation happens as water flows and stands in the trench, especially in continuous heat. Trenches are generally not shaded. Only a small percentage of the water makes it to the plants. Then the water that does soak back into the ground is full of fertilizer wastes. Because of an increased demand for water, large dams were built. The reservoirs of the dams displaced village farmland, and in certain areas, the downriver side of the dam changed the entire survival pattern, subsistence lifestyles, and habitat of both people and animals.

The pairing of seed and fertilizer since the Green Revolution has shifted the agricultural practices in India dramatically from independent to dependent, as  new seeds and denatured soil requires fertilizers to grow crops, and the weakened plants require pesticides to protect them.

“The pseudo revolution affected the hills (in India) too and production declined. Although production increased in the plains with the coming of the Green Revolution, this increase was a flash in the pan, as result of magical hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers introduced. Chemical fertilizers squeezed the natural fertility of the Indian soils like a lemon, snatched the traditionally developed and saved seeds from the farmers, and also dealt the traditional knowledge system of Indian farmers a deathly blow.

In the 1960s and 1970s, farmers were given free mini kits of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers by agriculture extension officials. Soon enough, many switched over to these and abandoned their old traditional seeds and organic manures. Chemical fertilizers did increase production initially. With government support and subsidy even the farmers of Uttarakhand took to these new ways. However, most farmers did not realize the hidden catch in the chemical farming in the beginning. Many sowed these hybrid seeds without manuring their fields, thinking that they would perform miracles year after year. But they were in for a rude shock when production plummeted immediately and their crops were attacked by diseases and pests.

How shrewed were the instigators of the Green Revolution! In the twinkling of an eye the farmers lost their traditional seeds which ensured biodiversity, to monocultures and big corporations. The farmer became dependent upon purchased inputs. It would be a hyperbole to call the Green Revolution a conspiracy which came in the guise of development. Today the Indian farmer is a slave to this revolution and to the multinational corporations that manufacture the hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers.” (Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India. Barahanaja Mixed Organic Farming in Uttarakhand. pg. 253)

So why how did generations of subsistence farmers fall into this trap? It is by  design.

The story starts long ago and centers around  re-orientation  programs sponsored by generous donations from powerful foundations. The following is an excerpt from Lua Cheia’s manuscript: Engineering Reliance: Out of the Garden into the Boardroom.

A man named  Rockefeller and a man named Carnegie were very good friends and the most powerful men in America around the turn of the 20th century. They set up a tax exempt foundation called the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Fund. These two organizations began pumping money into universities, insisting they do drug research.

Rockefeller and Carnegie together financed the famous Flexner Report of 1910 written by Abraham Flexner, hired by Rockefeller and Carnegie.  Flexner traveled all over the country and made a very scholarly analysis of how bad the level of medical education was in America. The medical schools at the time ranged in quality, and some were very bad. It was an emerging science with many opinions on how to emerge.  Many schools relied on a combination of medicines,  from traditional herbalists called ecclectists,  to those who capitalized on opiate and cocaine based remedies, to  regular medicine which used methods such as bloodletting.

“Eclectic Medicine appeared as an extension of early American herbal medicine traditions, such as “Thomsonian medicine” in the early 19th century, and Native American medicine. Regular medicine at the time made extensive use of purges with calomel and other mercury-based remedies, as well as extensive bloodletting and Eclectic medicine was a direct reaction to those practices as well as the need to professionalize the Thomsonian medicine innovations.

Therefore, “Eclectics” were doctors who practiced with a philosophy of “alignment with nature,” learning from and using concepts from other schools of medical thought. They opposed the techniques of bleeding, chemical purging and the use of mercury compounds common among the “conventional” doctors of that time. The majority of eclectic medicine was botanical remedies.”

By the 1850s, several “regular” American doctors, especially from the New York Academy of Medicine, had begun using herbal salvesand other preparations. By the 1880 and 90s however, those medical facilities that did not pass the criteria of Rockefeller and Carnegie’s Flexner report, lost accreditation.

Besides the “regulars” or allopaths, there were botanics, eclectics, and homeopaths, all of which were instructed at small medical schools. Statistics for the year 1900 show that, in the U.S., allopaths numbered about 70,000, Eclectic doctors numbered 10,000, Homeopaths numbered 8,500, and physio-medicalists (followers of the botanic Samuel Thomson) numbered 1,500. Somewhere between 20% and 25% of all Americans received treatment from doctors of one of these sectarian schools of medicine. One of the most significant results of the Flexner Report was to destroy accreditation of the institutions which taught non-allopathic medical philosophies.” (Wikipedia)

Many schools closed, and other were consolidated. Those who were allopatic were offered tax-free grants.  Millions and millions of dollars  thus went to those medical schools that were cooperative and that were willing to go along with the recommendations made by Rockefeller and Carnegie.  The money paid for new buildings and equipment, and those same schools are the in prominence in America today.

A co-conspirator named Fred Gates and Flexner, and  all those whom they appointed, became Board members and consultants for all of these schools.  They helped shape the curriculum, climate and goals from then to present day allopathic medicine.

Fred Gates changed Rockefellers mode of philanthropy. He helped him set up  well-funded foundations that were run by experts who decided what topics of reform were relevant and profitable, actualizing Rockefellers idea that for every dollar given away in philanthropy you ought to be able to make at least a hundred back. The foundations operating as tax free entities would identify problems, (or create them) such as in the case of the medical schools,  then provide the solution. When there was no problem, they would find one to solve.

So an oil industrialist, Rockefeller, Gates a business person and Baptist minister, Carnegie, a steel industrialist and Abraham Flexnor and author and educator who before writing the Flexner report had never stopped foot in a medical school, steered the American population away from looking to the natural world to solve their ailments  into drug dependent modern-day pharmaceutical profiteering. What qualified them to do this?

Profits cannot be strained from a unexploited people  who know how to  heal themselves. Just like there is a limit to profits when people and communities provide for their own food requirements. To change this situation, the above mentioned industrialists had to create a climate of dependence, and that now exists between India’s farmers and the same multinationals who created a false problem to be solved.

The shift to dependence:

“In an earlier generation, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations spent millions on putting Third World agronomists in training programs at American universities where they would become converts to the Green Revolution. They certainly understood that becoming converts for corporate farming was almost a guarantee for continued success in an academic world that was awash in money from the Monsantos of the world.

In an article titled “The United States Intervention in Third World Policies” that appeared in the April 1986 Social Scientist, Jagannath Pathy drew attention to the massive seduction of academics by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. This involved sending our “experts” overseas to help the benighted peasants as well as recruiting theirs for special training at places like Cornell and MIT. Indo-U.S. co-operation in agricultural research dates back to the efforts of the U.S. government to help India increase food production.

In 1953, F.W. Parker of the Technical Co-operative Mission arranged a number of studies determining the fertility status of soils. This laid the basis for the establishment of a chain of soil testing laboratories aided by USAID which subsequently paved the way for the introduction of chemical fertilizers in India.

In 1955, Rockefeller Foundation and five U.S. land grant universities assisted Indian agricultural universities and research institutions and suggested a curricula appropriate to reorienting scholars to meet the challenge of introducing HYVs of maize, sorghum and millets.

The U.S. gave $ 35 million for laboratory equipment and libraries. Every year 35 fellowships were instituted for training Indian students at U.S. institutions. Rockefellers provided $ 21.3 million up to 1973 and arranged for several visiting professors to visit India. It also provided travel grants for Indian government officials and university administrators to go to the U.S.

In 1982, Ralph W. Cummings, the Director of Rockefeller Foundation’s Indian agricultural research programme laid down guidelines for the establishment and development of agricultural universities. These guidelines focussed on higher agricultural productivity through diffusion of fertiliser responsive varieties.

The narrow genetic base of HYVs, disease and pest susceptibility of some of the parent varieties and the existence of vast monoculture soon exposed the crops to attacks by pests and diseases. As noted earlier, in the mid-1960s, USAID provided large loans to import much needed fertilisers. The U.S. and World Bank put pressure on the Indian government to encourage MNCs investment in local fertiliser production. Such a strategy could not have been pursued smoothly without the support of Indian agricultural scientists trained in the service of American interests (Abrol, 1983).

From 1952-72, the Ford Foundation spent $ 16 million providing generous grants to persons, institutions and government on a wide variety of nation building activities. It established and/or funded the Institute of Economic Growth, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, National Council of Applied Economic Research, Indian Statistical Institute and Institutes of Management at Calcutta and Ahmedabad. The Foundation trained about 50,000 extension workers. The National Institute of Community Development was established with the help of USAID and Michigan State University.

The whole pattern of education and research was thus modelled on the philosophy and value system of the donor country. U.S. experts provided advice on how to organise and develop science and technology, decided the priorities of research, recommended developmental models. Performance of major research and educational institutes like UGC. CSIR, ICAR, etc. is reviewed by experts from the U.S. and Western Europe. This delinking of science and technology from the concrete socio-political contexts has proved to be stultifying. ”

ttp://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/food-imperialism-norman-borlaug-and-the-green-revolution/

“Because farming methods that depend heavily on chemical fertilizers do not maintain the soil’s natural fertility and because pesticides generate resistant pests, farmers need ever more fertilizers and pesticides just to achieve the same results. At the same time, those who profit from the increased use of fertilizers and pesticides fear labor organizing and use their new wealth to buy tractors and other machines, even though they are not required by the new seeds.

This incremental shift leads to the industrialization of farming. Once on the path of industrial agriculture, farming costs more. It can be more profitable, of course, but only if the prices farmers get for their crops stay ahead of the costs of petrochemicals and machinery. Green Revolution proponents claim increases in net incomes from farms of all sizes once farmers adopt the more responsive seeds.

But recent studies also show another trend: outlays for fertilizers and pesticides may be going up faster than yields, suggesting that Green Revolution farmers are now facing what U.S. farmers have experienced for decades-a cost-price squeeze.

But if increased food production has been the principal thrust of the new strategy it has not been the only one. Closely tied to the effort to increase output has been the transformation of agrarian social and economic relations by integrating once isolated areas or farmers into the capitalist market system. This “modernization” of the countryside, which has been an important part of so-called nation-building throughout the postwar period, has been facilitated by the dependency of the new technology on manufactured inputs.

The peasant who adopts the new seeds must buy the necessary complementary inputs on the market. In order to buy these inputs he must sell part of his crop for cash. Thus the international team widens the proportion of peasant producers tied into the national (and sometimes international) market as it succeeds in pushing the new technology into the hands of subsistence farmers. Obviously in the case of commercial producers, adoption only reinforces existing ties to the market. (Harry Cleaver’s “The Contradictions of the Green Revolution“,)

These development experts, however, apparently feel that widening the market by pushing new inputs is not always enough. Along with their recent admiration for the “progressive” peasant who jumps at any opportunity to grow more, they have been making an effort to teach personal gain and consumerism. In his widely read handbook, Getting Agriculture Moving, ADC president Arthur T. Mosher insists on the theme of teaching peasants to want more for themselves, to abandon collective habits, and to get on with the “business” of farming. Mosher goes so far as to advocate extension educational programs for women and youth clubs to create more demand for store-bought goods. The “affection of husbands and fathers for their families” will make them responsive to these desires and drive them to work harder.

A new study by another elite group, Resources for the Future (RFF), done for the World Bank on agricultural development in the Mekong Basin, also recommends substantial efforts to change the rural social structure and personal attitudes of peasants in such a way that new capitalist institutions can function more efficiently. The RFF, like others before it, suggests massive doses of international capital and more Western social scientists to help bring about the necessary changes. These tactics of the ADC and RFF are more than efforts to bring development to rural areas. They are attempts to replace traditional social systems by capitalism, complete with all its business-based social relations.” (source: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/food-imperialism-norman-borlaug-and-the-green-revolution/)

The planned obsolescence of the Green Revolution has created a false crisis point just like before. In this global play, including all the prior actors, using the same script  that says   India is once again in trouble and cannot produce enough food to feed her people.  Now a new industry, the biotehcnology industry, has emerged with the solution to declining Visible Production.

Scores of young Indians are sent to schools to become doctors, and engineers, those of which are sent to schools with funding and assistance by the largest biotech and western pharmaceutical industry players in America. Sounds familiar? History repeats itself.

This time however, there is a third input for Indian farmers to buy: Patented-genetically modified seeds.

Fertilizer – produced by Monsanto

Pesticide – produced by Monsanto

GM Seed – produced by Monsanto

The May 27, 1998 The Wall Street Journal declared: “Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co. are betting the farm in bids to transform themselves into the Coke and Pepsi of genetically engineered crops. In the three years since the first transgenic seeds were introduced, crop biotechnology has grown from a young science to a hot business: About half of U.S. cotton fields, forty percent of soybean fields, and twenty percent of corn fields this year are genetically altered. Now, in a stunningly swift concentration of power, much of the design, harvest, and processing of genetically engineered crops is coming under these two companies.”

How do they position themselves for such rapid growth? They exert control over State Governments, Agriculture Universities and Institutions, and rural youth, farmers and villagers. They use the “problems” created and identified by tax extempt foundations, then step in as  the 21st century saviors from starvation. They use their influence, having ex board members in top political positions in the U.S. government, to change policy. (This is a whole separate other post). The Indian government readily colonizes itself under foreign interest who push their interests through bribes and investment.

To the informed and critical thinkers, the language of Monsanto’s intension in the country of India is not even hidden. This from their Indian website: “ MIL collaborates with thousands of channel partners to ensure farmers access its superior quality products in thousands of villages across the country. The Company also partners with State Governments, State Agriculture University and other leading Agricultural Institutions on developmental and agronomic testing. Additionally, it works with rural youth in thousands of villages to ensure that the right expertise and knowledge reaches lacs of farmers through year-round farmer awareness and education programs.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva is an activist, writer, seed saver  and founder of Navdanya in Dehradun India.  Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India. It has its 54 seed banks.

Dr. Shiva says,

“We are at this watershed of human evolution. We will either continue to walk on the path of resource waste, resource monopoly and therefore resource conflict and have no workable societies or we will make a transition to resource prudence, conservation, equity sharing and peace.

If we don’t change the path there is no survival for the human species. The root causes of the current food prices are two fold: The first is the model of industrial farming which pretends to produce more while in reality it produces less. And the reality is eclipsed by not seeing what a piece of land can produce in terms of biodiversity, nutrition, local food sustainability and focusing only on the commodity tradee….So yes we have more corn and soy in the world….but the more corn and soya in the world the more hunger.

It is not solving the food problem. We have more commodity but not more food. We have a farming system that leaves rural communities indebted. They are growing food by spending more money. And in the process not eating what they grow because they have to pay back the credit for the seeds and chemicals. Add to this, the globalization model, the free trade model which in effect has moved control over food and agriculture into the hands of 5 agribusiness giants. (Monsanto  being one of them.)

They (the agribusiness giants) have created a system where they buy cheap from farmers because they create a situation where they are the only buyers. When when they have the control, they speculate and play on commodity futures. Food has literally become part of the global economic casino..and that is why the prices of food are rising. (Look at the housing industry and how fast housing prices went up.)

The first Green Revolution didn’t solve food problems it created. It left impoverished farmers…it reduced our ability to produce proteins and pulses by promoting monocultures of rice and wheat and in India and corn in Mexico. The beans disappeared the pulses disappeared the nutrition disappeared out of the food system. The chemicals appeared but the nutrition disappeared.

The second Green Revolution is based on genetic engineering, which introduces two kinds of crops herbicide resistant crops which means more herbicide gets sprayed and BT toxin crops which means more BT toxin is now in the plants and food were are eating. “Cows grazing on bt is killing the cows. …

It s also wrong to claim that genetic engineering will solve the food crisis “introducing more toxin in the plant does not increase the yield of food, it increases yield of toxins. The technology itself is not capable of increasing yield at this point because yield is a multi genetic trait. Many genes have to interact together to increase the yield. And that is why only toxins are being moved around.

Genetic engineering is based on a false reductionist science. Navdanya biodiverse small farms produce 5 times more than the monocultures. Seed has been a farmers resource. It has been a common property. They have been freely saved and exchanged.

When a company like Monsanto enters the seed supply system it does three things. It makes sure that all seeds of the farmer are destroyed either by giving incentives to farmer to give them the old seed or by basically making the farmer believe the new seeds will bring miracles. The second thing the company does when it enters any country or region is in face erode the public supply, and undermine public research. The third thing the company does is do aggressive advertising as if it is bombing a zone and if you go to “parts of India where farmers are committing suicide you watch the billboards you watch the an videos they use gods as seeds. I have seen (ads with the) god Hanuman bringing Monsanto seeds. Guru Nanak the founder of the Sikh religion selling Roundup. When a peasant in a simple society who has never had any sense of how these corporations function is brought a god around who his entire faith is organized, he tries first that faith to these new seeds and gets into the dependence without knowing its about the corporation (and their intent.

The model for economic life is for a bigger or bigger grab for diminishing resources. All conflicts are resource conflicts, but they just look different because we are so diverse…and it is so easy to cover up the basic issue with these cultural things.” Culture of Resistance PodCast  5/7/2010

Folk please excuse any spelling and grammar errors in this post.  I will revise. If you have any suggestions please contact me @ actnaturallyworldwide@gmail.com This is the end of  this post of the Green Revolution.  Next Post, Who EXACTLY is Monsanto?  I wanted to include an article from 2008 which speaks to the farmer suicides mentioned at the beginning of this post.

The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops

By Andrew Malone
Last updated at 12:48 AM on 3rd November 2008

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbours prepared their father’s body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home.

As flames consumed the corpse, Ganjanan, 12, and Kalpana, 14, faced a grim future. While Shankara Mandaukar had hoped his son and daughter would have a better life under India’s economic boom, they now face working as slave labour for a few pence a day. Landless and homeless, they will be the lowest of the low.

Indian farmer

Human tragedy: A farmer and child in India’s ‘suicide belt’

Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years’ earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.

There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on – they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless – as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.

Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home 100 miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end.

As neighbours gathered to pray outside the family home, Nirmala Mandaukar, 50, told how she rushed back from the fields to find her husband dead. ‘He was a loving and caring man,’ she said, weeping quietly.

‘But he couldn’t take any more. The mental anguish was too much. We have lost everything.’

Shankara’s crop had failed – twice. Of course, famine and pestilence are part of India’s ancient story.

But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Prince CharlesDistressed: Prince Charles has set up charity Bhumi Vardaan Foundation to address the plight of suicide farmers

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts – and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

The crisis, branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.

Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning ‘the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming… from the failure of many GM crop varieties’.

Ranged against the Prince are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.

The rest of the world, they insist, should embrace ‘the future’ and follow suit.

So who is telling the truth? To find out, I travelled to the ‘suicide belt’ in Maharashtra state.

What I found was deeply disturbing – and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.

For official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month.

Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide – a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.

It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.

Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’ that is the real reason for the horrific toll.

But, as I discovered during a four-day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.

Monsanto

Death seeds: A Greenpeace protester sprays milk-based paint on a Monsanto research soybean field near Atlantic, Iowa

In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands – only to kill themselves as well.

Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed – two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.

She left her ten-year-old son, Rashan, in the care of relatives. ‘He cries when he thinks of his mother,’ said the dead woman’s aunt, sitting listlessly in shade near the fields.

Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.

The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds.

But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were ‘magic seeds’ – with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.

Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.

The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations.

In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.

But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers’ lives have slid back into the dark ages.

Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years – up to 17 million acres – many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.

Far from being ‘magic seeds’, GM pest-proof ‘breeds’ of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.

With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.

Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.

But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That’s because GM seeds contain so- called ‘terminator technology’, meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.

Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children.

As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto.

‘We are ruined now,’ said the dead man’s 38-year-old wife. ‘We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.’

Villagers bundled him into a rickshaw and headed to hospital along rutted farm roads. ‘He cried out that he had taken the insecticide and he was sorry,’ she said, as her family and neighbours crowded into her home to pay their respects. ‘He was dead by the time they got to hospital.’

Asked if the dead man was a ‘drunkard’ or suffered from other ‘social problems’, as alleged by pro-GM officials, the quiet, dignified gathering erupted in anger. ‘No! No!’ one of the dead man’s brothers exclaimed. ‘Suresh was a good man. He sent his children to school and paid his taxes.

‘He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.’

Monsanto has admitted that soaring debt was a ‘factor in this tragedy’. But pointing out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years, a spokesman added that there are other reasons for the recent crisis, such as ‘untimely rain’ or drought, and pointed out that suicides have always been part of rural Indian life.

Officials also point to surveys saying the majority of Indian farmers want GM seeds  –  no doubt encouraged to do so by aggressive marketing tactics.

During the course of my inquiries in Maharastra, I encountered three ‘independent’ surveyors scouring villages for information about suicides. They insisted that GM seeds were only 50 per cent more expensive – and then later admitted the difference was 1,000 per cent.

(A Monsanto spokesman later insisted their seed is ‘only double’ the price of ‘official’ non-GM seed – but admitted that the difference can be vast if cheaper traditional seeds are sold by ‘unscrupulous’ merchants, who often also sell ‘fake’ GM seeds which are prone to disease.)

With rumours of imminent government compensation to stem the wave of deaths, many farmers said they were desperate for any form of assistance. ‘We just want to escape from our problems,’ one said. ‘We just want help to stop any more of us dying.’

Prince Charles is so distressed by the plight of the suicide farmers that he is setting up a charity, the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, to help those affected and promote organic Indian crops instead of GM.

India’s farmers are also starting to fight back. As well as taking GM seed distributors hostage and staging mass protests, one state government is taking legal action against Monsanto for the exorbitant costs of GM seeds.

This came too late for Shankara Mandauker, who was 80,000 rupees (about £1,000) in debt when he took his own life. ‘I told him that we can survive,’ his widow said, her children still by her side as darkness fell. ‘I told him we could find a way out. He just said it was better to die.’

But the debt does not die with her husband: unless she can find a way of paying it off, she will not be able to afford the children’s schooling. They will lose their land, joining the hordes seen begging in their thousands by the roadside throughout this vast, chaotic country.

Cruelly, it’s the young who are suffering most from the ‘GM Genocide’  –  the very generation supposed to be lifted out of a life of hardship and misery by these ‘magic seeds’.

Here in the suicide belt of India, the cost of the genetically modified future is murderously high.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1082559/The-GM-genocide-Thousands-Indian-farmers-committing-suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html#ixzz1LAU9IzvX


What Can You Do?

Anti-GMO activist Jamie Rutherford, also known by the nick name “Lua Cheia”, gives an impassioned plea for support for Act Naturally:

NASA Satellites Unlock Secret to Punjab's vanishing ground waters |  Sikh Siyasat News

http://sikhsiyasat.net/2015/07/21/nasa-satellites-unlock-secret-to-punjab-and-neighbouring-states-vanishing-water/

Washington: Beneath northern India’s irrigated fields of wheat, rice, and barley … beneath its densely populated cities of Jaiphur and New Delhi, the groundwater has been disappearing. Halfway around the world, hydrologists, including Matt Rodell of NASA, have been hunting for it.

Where is northern India’s underground water supply going? According to Rodell and colleagues, it is being pumped and consumed by human activities — principally to irrigate cropland — faster than the aquifers can be replenished by natural processes. They based their conclusions — published in the August 20 issue of Nature — on observations from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

“If measures are not taken to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a collapse of agricultural output and severe shortages of potable water,” said Rodell, who is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The map, showing groundwater withdrawals as a percentage of groundwater recharge, is based on state-level estimates of annual withdrawals and recharge reported by India's Ministry of Water Resources. The three states included in this study are labeled. Credit: NASA/Matt Rodell

The map, showing groundwater withdrawals as a percentage of groundwater recharge, is based on state-level estimates of annual withdrawals and recharge reported by India’s Ministry of Water Resources. The three states included in this study are labeled. Credit: NASA/Matt Rodell

Groundwater comes from the natural percolation of precipitation and other surface waters down through Earth’s soil and rock, accumulating in aquifers — cavities and layers of porous rock, gravel, sand, or clay. In some of these subterranean reservoirs, the water may be thousands to millions of years old; in others, water levels decline and rise again naturally each year.

Groundwater levels do not respond to changes in weather as rapidly as lakes, streams, and rivers do. So when groundwater is pumped for irrigation or other uses, recharge to the original levels can take months or years.

Changes in underground water masses affect gravity enough to provide a signal, such that changes in gravity can be translated into a measurement of an equivalent change in water.

“Water below the surface can hide from the naked eye, but not from GRACE,” said Rodell. The twin satellites of GRACE can sense tiny changes in Earth’s gravity field and associated mass distribution, including water masses stored above or below Earth’s surface. As the satellites orbit 300 miles above Earth’s surface, their positions change — relative to each other — in response to variations in the pull of gravity. The satellites fly roughly 137 miles apart, and microwave ranging systems measure every microscopic change in the distance between the two.

With previous research in the United States having proven the accuracy of GRACE in detecting groundwater, Rodell and colleagues Isabella Velicogna, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California-Irvine, and James Famiglietti, of UC-Irvine, were looking for a region where they could apply the new technique.

“Using GRACE satellite observations, we can observe and monitor water changes in critical areas of the world, from one month to the next, without leaving our desks,” said Velicogna. “These satellites provide a window to underground water storage changes.”

The northern Indian states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana have all of the ingredients for groundwater depletion: staggering population growth, rapid economic development and water-hungry farms, which account for about 95 percent of groundwater use in the region.

Data provided by India’s Ministry of Water Resources suggested groundwater use was exceeding natural replenishment, but the regional rate of depletion was unknown. Rodell and colleagues had their case study. The team analyzed six years of monthly GRACE gravity data for northern India to produce a time series of water storage changes beneath the region’s land surface.

They found that groundwater levels have been declining by an average of one meter every three years (one foot per year). More than 109 cubic km (26 cubic miles) of groundwater disappeared between 2002 and 2008 — double the capacity of India’s largest surface water reservoir, the Upper Wainganga, and triple that of Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the United States.

“We don’t know the absolute volume of water in the Northern Indian aquifers, but GRACE provides strong evidence that current rates of water extraction are not sustainable,” said Rodell. “The region has become dependent on irrigation to maximize agricultural productivity, so we could be looking at more than a water crisis.”

The loss is particularly alarming because it occurred when there were no unusual trends in rainfall. In fact, rainfall was slightly above normal for the period.

The researchers examined data and models of soil moisture, lake and reservoir storage, vegetation and glaciers in the nearby Himalayas, in order to confirm that the apparent groundwater trend was real. Nothing unusual showed up in the natural environment.

The only influence they couldn’t rule out was human.

“At its core, this dilemma is an age-old cycle of human need and activity — particularly the need for irrigation to produce food,” said Bridget Scanlon, a hydrologist at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas in Austin. “That cycle is now overwhelming fresh water reserves all over the world. Even one region’s water problem has implications beyond its borders.”

“For the first time, we can observe water use on land with no additional ground-based data collection,” Famiglietti said. “This is critical because in many developing countries, where hydrological data are both sparse and hard to access, space-based methods provide perhaps the only opportunity to assess changes in fresh water availability across large regions.”


Above write-up was originally published at nasa.gov. It is reproduced as above for the information of readers of the Sikh Siyasat News.


 

Cleaning Up the Food Supply

Tell Me Again How GMOs are Suppose to Feed the World? Questions to Penn & Teller BS

Tell Me Again How GMOs are Suppose to Feed the World?

By Jamie Rutherford

At the exact time I started writing this editorial, there were approximately 901,635,529 undernourished people and 1,573,555,033 overweight people in the world, (source: Stop The Hunger) Of those overweight, 5.2 Million were obese. What shocked me are the figures that followed:

food posts

Keep these numbers in mind as I deep dive into some pro-industrial farming propaganda.

I came across a Penn & Teller BS episode. In it, select unprofessional members of the anti-GMO camp were pitted against professional articulate scientists.  The reason the anti-GMO camp lost credibility wasn’t  because of the cause itself,  but because  the show was edited to highlight inarticulate, irrelevant and silly members  of the anti-GMO movement. They interviewed  woo woo people with good hearts but a stoney Californian “yeh-man”  attitude that seemed fit for surfing and trimming but not leading efforts against the well organized, billionaire funded biotech industry. Watch here:

Norman Borlaug on Penn and Teller

Why did Penn and Teller resort to selecting these people to represent those  concerned about GMOs  for something more credible? They  had to upsale the biotech industry by making the opposition look flimsy, “uneducated” and stupid.  This Penn & Teller BS show presents  the anti-GMO camp as using quack science to justify their concerns. They are demonized, because their opposition, is said to be blocking the altruistic intentions  of the biotech industry to eradicate world hunger.  PLEASE?! This is a smoke screen for a much larger issue.

Whoever controls the food supply, controls the people and reaps enormous profit at our (and their) expense because  you have to eat to live. Thus, you are a guaranteed customer. Plain. Simple. I’ll take on the smartest pro-GMO advocate any day with that simple, and sadly understated truth.  Hunger, is a profitable and political tool.

The irony of this Penn and Teller episode is that  Penn and Teller  are actors, illusionists, and magicians. They presented their opinions as fact and gave the illusion that they know what they are talking about, accusing those in the anti-GMO movement of not using science in their claims, meanwhile failing to mention their  non-scientific and pseudo-scientific background.

The show mocked the Organic Consumers Association, who state that they envision a 100% organic world. Then they requoted  Norman Borlaug saying that if we only used organic methods on existing farmlands, we couldn’t feed 2/3rds of the world population.  This argument however does not address urban sprawl, the long term effects of soil depletion, pesticide drift, BT run-off in nearby ponds and streams, the lack of nutrition in a diet made of corn and wheat and  carbs and starch, the true cost of subsidized food, and so on.

First,  there is no way to prove that we can’t feed the world with organics because we as a people, worldwide,  have not, brought together all the  biodynamic farmers, the organic farmers,  indigenous farmers, the urban food growers, hydroponic farmers, the small food movements, urban farming, aquaponics, and so on an so, forth from many nations, to open a dialog about how it can be done.  The dialogue has largely been controlled by agricultural associations, industrial seed and chemical manufacturers,  and agro-conglomerates like Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer Crop Science.

There is inborn bias that relies on technology and methods of increasing the yield of one type of crop, verses  bio-diverse, low-input, farmer-owned solutions. That bias has to be recognized and set aside,  before we can get an accurate assessment on what production levels really can be. Not to mention, consumers have to be informed beyond the commercial and packaging.

Working with nature, natural grow boundaries, and a long-term vision of growth –  that includes composting and regeneration, stalls the profits of of those who gain the most from selling seeds, pesticides and technology – and investors do not like that.

What do you think? Do you disagree that when a  company sells a technology that profits  in the agricultural industry,  that it will be in favor of that same technology being  needed.  Of course. That is sound business sense.To sale the technology, they will use marketing and  product placement. In this case however, they are promoting a pro-industry myth that the only way to feed the world is through its products. It is the only argument they have.

Farmers for centuries have proved otherwise, using  cow dung and patience, good planning and a varied foods, with varied nutrition. However, it is easier to control land, socially engineer populations and ensure a net increase year by year, if the decision making power is displaced locally and the farmers are just sowers and sprayers of whatever they buy. Is there someone in a board room consciously saying, let’s destroy farming culture worldwide? Who knows. My personal opinion is that what we see now is a byproduct of where the focus has turned. When food and it’s production, is part of the market place alongside auto manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, it begins to follow the same rules.  The number one rule for return on investment is that there must be continuous growth.  How do you do that with crops? Similar to selling automobiles you have to create new models year by year. Hence, seeds are now, branded with special enhancements, and bought not saved.

It’s perfectly fine to market and control the things we don’t need to survive, – cars, widgets, dolls – but water and food? Do you really want to base your nutritional needs on advertising or the will of a hand full of companies? That is what is happening.

It’s false to say that our current methods of agriculture – monocropping, factory farming, chemical fertilizers and GMOs is eradicating hunger.  What it has done is shift the native diets of struggling nations to U.S. Aid,  mono cultures of wheat and rice, and  agribusiness control of agriculture; shifting  the power from the local farmers to boardrooms in wealthy nations.  Remember how I started this post?

At the exact time I started writing this editorial, there were approximately 901,635,529 undernourished people and 1,573,555,033 overweight people in the world. (source: Stop The Hunger) Of those overweight 5.2 Million were obese.  So there are a billion overweight people and 9 million hungry. Don’t you  think its possible to even things out a bit by changing the way resources are distributed before we decide to play genetic roulette?

Just as our culture is saturated in oil, to the point where all political and social decisions come from it as a center piece of society, so too is our agriculture so saturated with multiple layers of agribusiness interest profiting from the food production –  from chemical companies to suppliers, that political and social decisions are made from this dependency. This does not however reflect the truth of the overall situation only the situation as is held in a dangerous paradigm of chemical dependency.

No position, however dominant or prevalent in society, is immune from dissension and uprising against it, and it is good to keep these things in mind when we are told there is only “one way out but our way.”  Remember the Jim Jones mass suicide/murders? Those who fled into the Jungles in Guyana had the only chance of survival when the laced Kool-Aid was passed out. As the saying goes, all that is needed for evil to prosper is that good men do nothing.

Given that current production systems leave nearly one billion people undernourished, the onus should be on the agribusiness industry to prove its model, not the other way around.

(source: By Barry Estabrook | The Atlantic from Organic Food Can Feed the World

In response to a question about whether we can really feed the world without industrialized ag (ah yes, a perennial), (Michael)Pollan pointed out that we’re not feeding the world with it now. (Grist.org article). Michael Pollan is a journalist, activist, foodie and green thumb who wrote In Defense of Food.

The Penn and Teller video  starts by quoting that 25, 000 people die of starvation everyday, while showing you a wide shot of some wide butts. Did anyone notice that the World Health Organization  reports that obesity related deaths outnumber starvation deaths?

Then “Penn” goes on to requote a saying straight from a Monsanto PR class,

“GE crops produce more and thrive in some of the harshest climates on earth.”

Though GE crops have had some success in growing in harsh climates, I would point out that  NATURE does it for free, with much more success,  and without millions in investment capital or patents. If nature can do it more efficiently, why pay money for a substandard product?

The Penn and Teller piece then scathingly cuts down Green Peace and admonishes their concerns as unscientific, saying that:

“These Green Peace dudes want us to believe that GE crops will harm other crops and harm any person and animals that eat those foods.”

True, dude, but it’s not just Green Peace that say that GE crops will harm people and animals.  Consider this, in 2000  a letter entitled, “An Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)” was drafted and signed by 848 scientist in 84 countries. This letter was presented to the World Trade Organization Conference in Seattle (November 30 – Dec. 2, 1999); UN Biosafety Protocol Meeting in Montreal (24 – 28, Jan. 2000); UN Commission on Sustainable Development Conference on Sustainable Agriculture in New York (April 24-May 5, 2000); UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference in Nairobi (May 16-24, 2000);and United States Congress (29 June, 2000) to name a few. The letter is in favor of banning GMO crops, and patent on life-forms. This however, is just one letter, with a handful (848) scientists representing the world from 2000. Since then, a quick search of peer-reviewed international journals, websites, and new GMO organizations will reveal that even more scientists are concerend, now than ever before.

Richard Strohman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, in Berkeley wrote a Crisis Position paper and had it published in Safe Food News in 2000. It sums up the concerns in the following few paragraphs.

“When you insert a single gene into a plant or an animal, the technology will work. You will be able to move that gene from organism A to organism B. You will be able to know that the transfer was successful. You will be able to know that the gene is being expressed, and even that the function of the gene is being expressed. So you’ll get the desired characteristic. But you will also get other effects that you couldn’t have predicted from your original assumptions. You will have also produced changes in the cell or the organism as a whole that are unpredictable. And that’s what the science is having to deal with.”

“The reason why Monsanto can claim scientific soundness is that they are only answering the technical question, ‘Can I move this gene and this characteristic from A to B?’ They are not asking the questions that the current understanding of cell biology demands. You can ask the technical question and get the answer you are looking for. You can take a gene from A and put it into B. We know that. But that’s the only question we can answer with certainty. We now realize that there are a whole host of other questions.”

“Genes exist in networks, interactive networks which have a logic of their own. The technology point of view does not deal with these networks. It simply addresses genes in isolation. But genes do not exist in isolation. And the fact that the industry folks don’t deal with these networks is what makes their science incomplete and dangerous. If you send these new genetic structures out into the world, into hundreds of thousands of acres, you’re going into the world with a premature application of a scientific principle.”

“We’re in a crisis position where we know the weakness of the genetic concept, but we don’t know how to incorporate it into a new, more complete understanding. Monsanto knows this. DuPont knows this. Novartis knows this. They all know what I know. But they don’t want to look at it because it’s too complicated and it’s going to cost too much to figure out. The number of questions, the number of possibilities for what happens to a cell, to the whole organism when you insert a foreign gene, are almost incalculable. And the time it would take to assess the infinite possibilities that arise is beyond the capabilities of computers. But that’s what you get when you’re dealing with living systems.”

http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Strohman-Safe-Food.htm

The Penn and Teller show, calls the opposition,  “extremists”, “dangerous”, and even “racist.” Are the 848 scientists in opposition to GMO foods, cited above, really extremists? How can this show make such a claim stating it as fact? Penns argument for this “extremist”  and “racist” label is that most people who are hungry are brown, and people who are white shouldn’t block technologies that could feed them.

One way of inarticulately arguing is by using ad hominem. Ad hominem is a fallacy where a persons character is attacked or they are defamed by name calling, in an attempt to discredit their argument. The problem is that, it isn’t truthful and doesn’t support or explain the basic premise of the argument. Here Penn and Tellers argument is that by blocking the implementation of new technology that could feed people, those objecting are ultimately curbing efforts to feed starving people. Name calling the other side discredits the concerns of the anti-GMO camp. Those trying to block the technology, are arguing that the technology will have long term consequences that can backfire creating more malnutrition and an environmental disaster.

The video continues to drive this point home:

“(Activists)  refuse to acknowledge that GMO crops can save the lives of millions of starving people.. its pretty easy to protest when you’re not hungry”

This ignores the global outcry against GMOs and wrongly places the opposition in affluent nations. The National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay sent an open letter on May 14 2010, to Monsanto rebuking Monsanto’s presence in Haiti, quote, “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds…, and on what is left of our environment in Haiti.” Haiti is outspoken against Monsanto, saying that it will destroy local agriculture and the economy. They are not affluent by any means.

Last week I read an article echoing these sentiments  in an article published in February of this year by Slate.com. They were espousing the glories of GE Golden Rice, a rice with higher levels of Vitamin A a modern miracle to solve malnutrition” meanwhile ragging on those who attempt to block it.Heard that before?

As a counter point, I turned to the research from an international non-profit focused specifically on grain. They illuminate why so many activist, including myself are against GMO grain being  another savior for starving people.  GRAIN  points out that,

“Malnutrition is said to be high in rice-eating populations.  But these nutritional problems are not caused directly by the consumption  of rice. They reflect an overall impact of multiple causative factors  similar to those of other developing countries where rice is not a major staple8. Various deficiencies including zinc, vitamin C and D, folate, riboflavin, selenium and calcium occur in the         context of poverty, environmental degradation, lack of public health systems         and sanitation, lack of proper education and social disparity. Poverty and a lack of purchasing power is identified as a major cause of malnutrition9. These underlying issues that can never be addressed by golden rice.”

“The Green Revolution with its inherent bias towards monocultures of staple crops has led to unbalanced patterns of food production in many places. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stated, variety is the key and should be the norm rather than the exception in farming systems. According to Dr. Samson Tsou of the Asian Vegetable Research  and Development Center (AVRDC), countries with vegetable consumption of  more than 200 grams of vegetables per day do not have vitamin A deficiency as a major problem10. Although animal sources are expensive, inexpensive plant food sources are widely available. It  only takes two tablespoonfuls of yellow sweet potatoes, half a cup of  dark green leafy vegetables or two-thirds of a medium-sized mango in a  day to meet the vitamin A requirement of a pre-school child11. This way, not only is the vitamin A requirement  being addressed, but a whole range of other micronutrients as well.”

“With what has been shown so far, 300 grams of golden   rice can only provide at most 20% of an adult’s daily vitamin  A requirement (see graph). A child would have a lower requirement of 450   Âµg retinol as against 500-600 µg retinol for adults12.

Note: 300g of rice a day is way too much for a child unless obesity and diabetes is to be a solution for a lack of vitamin A. vitamin A is available in celery, tomatoes, apricots, lettuce spinach, and more vegetables, grown in these areas.. The variety of vitamin A rich plants available to grow is astonishing. So why supply vitamin A in rice only? Because this is the new model to sale.

In the Philippines,   pre-school children consume less than 150 grams of rice a day. In principle  then golden rice will only supply a little over 10% of the daily vitamin   A needed by pre-school children. And children are the target population   in this case.”

“Whether the beta-carotene contained in golden rice will  be bioavailable is yet another question. Dietary fat is needed for it to be absorbed by the body. Unfortunately dietary fat is also limited  in rice-eating countries and in fact is being looked at as one possible    “hidden” causes of vitamin A deficiency itself13. There are also important interactions between   different nutrients and minerals, which further warrants variety in food   intake. Zinc deficiency, for example, may lead to an impairment of vitamin   A metabolism. Disease control and hygiene, food selection and preparation  will significantly influence absorption and utilisation of vitamin A (and  iron). Furthermore, there has been debate over the bioconversion of beta-carotene from green leafy vegetables into vitamin A. Some reports claim that the   conversion rate is less than one-quarter of what has been assumed up to now. Should this be the case, the amount of vitamin A made available from  golden rice would be almost negligible.”

If one stands back and takes a look at the history, displacement, cultural changes, and nutritional sabatoge of the Green Revolution, you see some distinct trends

 1. Power is transferred  from the small farmer  and community to  consolidated  large farms and agri-business interests.

2. There is a reduction in the variety of foods grown and available,  and with this reduction,  new health issue immerge. Fields once planted with multiple things, now are planted with one thing generally grain and those other foods have to be purchased or grown in an aside garden etc.

3. There is an increased use of  chemicals to achieve unnatural results, which boost output temporarily before a farmer  requires more industrial mediation (amounting to more input costs) to get the same result, and that process has a ceiling. When the ceiling is met, output begins to decline but expenses continue to rise.. Meanwhile the local water supplies are ruined with pesticides and heavy metal contamination. (but who cares because there are bottle water companies to profit from this right?)

And now a forth trend.  Now that the diet has been shifted to a higher percentage of rice and wheat because of cost, subsidies, skewed interest, and the like  the next market is to create patented variants of those two things, into obscurity. For example, there is a huge number of patents being filed on rice varieties now. Here are just a few:

TABLE: Examples of other nutritionally enhanced crops in the         pipeline2

Trait

Companies/Institutions involved

Increased levels of beta-carotene in oil-seed rape Monsanto
Increased bioavailable     iron in rice Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich)
Improving nutritive value of Andean potatoes by manipulating potato’s own genes to                 block natural but bitter compounds called glycoalkaloids USDA Agricultural Research  Service (ARS); International Potato Center (La Molina, Peru)
High iron corn with less    phytic acid, or phytate, than most common varieties (phytic acid   is thought to reduce the body’s ability to use certain nutrients  like iron) USDA ARS
Low glutenin rice Orynova (Japan Tobacco)
Lactoferrin-producing   rice Japan Agricultural Cooperatives
Ferritin-rich lettuce Central Research Institute                 of Electric Power Industry (Japan)

These four points lend themselves to a mantra:  Displace. Reduce. Regurgitate.

Think  my position here is impossible? Consider a Forbes magazine article below.  BTW, Forbes is  pro-Industry pro-growth magazine which is definitely not anti-Monsanto.

The Coming Boom in Agriculture

by Bill Conerly

“A coming boom in agriculture? I think so. The old way of looking at food supply and demand is giving way to a new emphasis on the changing diets of hundreds of millions of people. Those changes will substantially increase demand for grains, putting upward pressure on prices.”   ………..

(What is driving the change in these diets?)

“Weather and pests cause booms and busts in agricultural production, along with a long-run trend toward greater productivity by farmers. All the action was in food supply, not food demand.”

Things are different today. Bugs and weather still affect production, but the biggest story is the growth of demand for meat by formerly-poor people around the world. Let’s begin with the grain demand of different diets. An ounce of meat takes about ten times as much grain as an ounce of grain eaten directly. Those animals have to be fed, after all. The exact ratio depends on the type of grain, the type of meat, the location of production, but the number is fairly huge in its impact.

If I have a good year, with lots of companies calling me for help with their business plans, I don’t consume more calories. I might spend more on filet mignon and less on hamburger. But I’m not the guy who’s moving the market. Go to India, China, Indonesia. There are many millions of people moving from poverty into the middle class, or what is the middle class in their context. With higher incomes they are spending more on food. In some cases they are adding calories, but in many cases they are shifting from grains and vegetables to add chicken, pork and beef to their diets.

Let’s say that a family on a path from poverty to middle class has increased it’s  income by five percent (inflation-adjusted). They would typically increase food spending by about four percent. A large portion of that four percent gain would go for more meat. And meat has that 10-to-1 ratio of grain demands. Our newly middle class family may be spending only four percent more on food, but it could have triggered a 40 percent increase in demand for grains.

We all know that the world is getting richer, but the numbers are pretty dramatic. One estimate shows the middle class around the world increased by 700 million people from 2000 through 2006. That’s huge. The global recession obviously reversed the trend temporarily, but further global growth will push middle class numbers up by another billion or so people.  That’s a lot more meat to be consumed and an incredibly larger demand for grain.

Unless you believe that the emerging countries are going to turn around and head back to the stone age, you have to believe that demand for grain will rise disproportionately. But what about supply?

Agricultural supply improvement has been the dominant trend for centuries. The green revolution in the 1950s and ‘60s is a big part of the story, but the dismantling of communal farming is also hugely important.

When Deng Xiaoping allowed Chinese communal farmers to divvy up their land into family plots, incomes quadrupled in less than a generation. That more than anything else set up China for rapid economic development. How much farther can productivity increase? In the Western world, productivity will increase as seeds and fertilizers and farming methods improve. That’s a slow process when the farm is already at the cutting edge of productivity. It’s much easier to boost output when your current methods are antiquated. So the real question is how much yields can grow in the emerging countries.

Already China’s output per hectare (the metric unit of area measurement) is higher than the United States’s output. That may be partly due to climate and soil, but cheap labor plays a major role. When labor is cheap, each weed can be pulled by hand. As labor gets more expensive, farming methods will become a little less productive on a per-hectare basis (though far more productive on a per-person basis). Rising labor costs are already challenging manufacturers in China. Challenges for farmers will be next.

In short, I doubt that global agricultural production will keep pace with the demand that will occur at current price levels. So prices will rise.  Not every single year, but on average over the next couple of decades, look for higher and higher grain prices.

“Livestock, in contrast to crop farming, is a business about margins. Selling prices will rise, as will the cost of buying grain to feed the animals. On average, livestock will be an OK business, but it will not benefit as dramatically as grain production.”

“Does anyone else see this coming? Certainly they do, though perhaps not in full detail. The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank says that farmland values in their area have risen by 25 percent in the past year. Other areas of the country are showing similar gains.”

Hunger, is not a result of a lack of technology. Hunger is the result of a twist of priorities. It has nothing to do with anti or pro GMO activists, or  a lack of money, food or resources. THAT IS A MYTH.   As the previous Forbes analysis outlined, a shift to a meat diet in rising middle classes all over the world is creating the need for grain, which in turn is raising the price of grain. More grain goes to feed cattle now than people! Do you really think the Green Revolution was about growing wheat and rice to feed brown people or the cow for the middle class plate? You decide.

Perhaps the most disturbing requote from that article is “but the dismantling of communal farming is also hugely important” (to growth in the agricultural industy.  I think to myself,  why would people give up their way of living for the glittery temptations of Babylon? When one sales their farmland that was feeding their family for a finite amount, one now has to buy food, from that point onward. One has to rent from that point onward. Was the scooter? The lipstick? The tight shorts, and cheap sweets really worth it? In walks a new kind of poverty,  poverty by design.  This story plays out all over the world and the story plays out according to plan. Divide and conquer. Dismantle communal plots for familial plots, then dismantle those by selling a brave new glittery (and urban)  world to their children, by soaking them in TV wants, and Coca Cola (addicting them forever to refined sugar), and “you’ve got em”  and their land.

“Hunger” is not designed to be solved

  1. According to the airforce website, a B2 bomber costs 1.25 Billion dollars.
  2. 1.3 tons of food is wasted annually, from all parts of the food chain, which makes up about one third of the global food supply.

I’ve written many articles on this blog describing the sinister nature in which the “machine of progress” tramples and displaces millions from their land and will ask my readers to watch P.Sainath’s Nero’s Guest or read some other articles on this post to get the information. But the real question, since the assumption is that these great technologies are helping save people from starvation, is how well is this panacea of farming technology actually helping those “brown people,” anyway?

If you think simple solutions, such as a GM crop will suddenly and magically feed the world, consider the complexity of the world we live in today. According to NBC (not the most trusted news source),” 1.5 million children stand to starve in West Africa.” And “during its financial crisis Greece has received a hundred times more from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) than Niger during the last few years.”  It fails to mention in that article that small and big farmers started heading south to Niger to escape attacks from the  Boko Haram insurgency a band of Islamic extremists.  Then a flood came. A Big Flood.  What do you do in this situation? GE crops won’t solve these issues.  One  might be draught tolerant, but not tolerant to floods, and no crop is tolerant to insurgent attacks, burning down fields, and making farmers flee.  And to be fair, organic farming won’t solve these issues either.   However, it does take a layer of complexity out of the situation, and release farmers from having to pay back loans that they took out to buy their GE seeds when their harvest goes down to an act of violence or act of God.  Take a look at what IS happening, not what you are told should happen.

“According to writer Gautam Dheer (3), agriculture in Punjab (the ‘Green Revolution’s’ original poster boy) is facing an inevitable crisis, in terms of pesticide use causing cancer, falling crop yields and groundwater depletion. And now evidence is mounting that the Green Revolution’s second coming can’t provide genuine solutions to the problems it has created through its GMOs either.”

“A recent report in Business Standard (4) stated that Bt cotton yields have dropped to a five-year low. India approved Bt cotton in 2002 and within a few years yields increased dramatically. However, Glenn Davis Stone, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, has noted (5) that most of the rise in productivity had nothing at all to do with Bt cotton. It was down to other factors.”

“What’s more, since Bt has taken over, yields have been steadily worsening. According to the article, bollworms are developing resistance. Stone says when Bt cotton arrived in India, farmers were told all they had to do was plant the seeds and water them regularly. They were told that, as the genetically modified seeds are insect resistant, there was no need to use huge amounts of pesticides. The opposite is true.”

“Stone says that yields started dropping after 2007/8. After 2006/7, the number of Bt hybrid seeds being offered to farmers jumped from 62 to 131 to 274; by 2009/10 there were 522. Despite this, farmers’ yields are steadily dropping. And the way forward – more of the same. The failing technology can always be replaced with more technology that tries to offer a short-term fix. It’s all good for profits though. And this against a backdrop of reports of widespread collapsed Bt-cotton yields in Maharashtra at the end of last year (6).”

“Given the bogus claims about GMOs, the health concerns concerning GM foods and that 8,456 legitimate protestors (by late January) have been charged with sedition in Koodankulam, it begs the question just who is really benefiting from these two so-called ‘frontier’ technologies? With the US having sanctioned the opening up of India’s nuclear energy sector and, in return, its agribusiness and retail giants having actively shaped the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, India is proving to be a financially lucrative proposition for international retail, agribusiness and nuclear technology companies.”

“Everybody is entitled their opinions, but not to their own facts. Scientific evidence must prevail. That much is true. Such a pity then that democratic debate is sidelined for brute force in Koodankulam; such a pity too that certain major biotech companies have a track record of releasing fake ‘scientific’ data, bribery, environmental pollution, devising retaliatory lists, smear campaigns and misinformation.”

“Those who claim to be ‘scientific’ and democratic in their approach but who then go on to smear their opponents as being backward, unscientific or as waging a war on science may wish to put their own houses in order first.”

“Public trust in private corporations, science and policy makers has to be earned. The hijacking of governmental bodies for commercial gain alongside mendacity should have no place in policy making or in attempting to shape scientific discourse. Neither should they have any place in pushing some profit-driven notion of ‘progress’ onto the public. ” ( Source: Center for Research on Globalization, article ” Countering Hypocrisy: GMO Agribusiness and Nuclear Energy in India. by Colin Todhunter Global Research, April 29, 2013)

The Penn and Teller piece praises Norman Bourlog as a hero, and he is no doubt a man with great achievements. You don’t earn the Nobel Peace Prize by sitting on your bum. I truly believe his heart and intent was from a good place. He saw hunger as a production issue and created a high yielding dwarf variety of wheat thinking, as many did, that producing more wheat would solve hunger. Did it? Sadly, though the dwarf variety produced more, and proliferated wildly, it did so with decreased mineral content, in a monoculture.

One can do a quick experiment to find out some of why productivity increased. Draw one box, label it box 1 with five squares inside. One smaller  box  for potatoes, one for onions, one for carrots, one for wheat, one for lettuce and one  open with nothing planted. Now draw another box,  and label it box 2.  This whole box, box 2 is wheat.   If all you are growing is wheat, wheat production goes up doesn’t it – get it? That’s not to say that the dwarf variety of wheat didn’t produce more wheat per acre. Yes, it did. It just didn’t produce the brown people saving panacea that it was marketed to. Why? Because it wasn’t design to.

We still have hunger, and with it, we have many millions more who are overweight from malnutrition. If that seems like a oxymoron, but sadly it’s not. Weight, is not a sole indicator of how much nutrition you are getting, it is an indication that there is an imbalance in the body. Currently, developing and developed countries  have diets rich in too many simple carbohydrates, too much meat, and  much less exercise.  Just two generations ago, it was common for people to participate in their food production, exercising (building strength and immunity) while doing so.  There were also a wider variety of foods. Food was seasonable, thus, in the Appalachian region for example, ramps came in the spring, berries  and fruit in the summer and squashes late summer to fall just in time for storing mineral rich starches.  The sensible approach of  eating what was available kept waist lines slimmer.

With monocultures, you get booms in corn, wheat sugar and soy (all subsidized).  The food industry takes the big four, and formulates them into  all sorts of shapes, sizes and packages,  giving the consumer  the false sense that they have choice. But what choice? Most packaged food today is made of corn oil, corn syrup, soy, soy bean oil, wheat, and sugar. However, when people ate in season, and regionally their chances of gaining weight from one dominant food was much less.

“For the first time in human history, the number of overweight people rivals the number of underweight people, according to a forthcoming report from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based research organization. While the world’s underfed population has declined slightly since 1980 to 1.1 billion, the number of overweight people has surged to 1.1 billion.”

“Both the overweight and the underweight suffer from malnutrition, a deficiency or excess in a person’s intake of nutrients and other dietary elements needed for healthy living. “The hungry and the overweight share high levels of sickness and disability, shortened life expectancies, and lower levels of productivity-each of which is a drag on a country’s development,” said Gary Gardner, co-author with Brian Halweil of Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition.”

“The public health impact is enormous: more than half of the world’s disease burden-measured in “years of healthy life lost”-is attributable to hunger, overeating, and widespread vitamin and mineral deficiencies. “The century with the greatest potential to eliminate malnutrition instead saw it boosted to record levels,” said Gardner.”

“The number of hungry people remains high in a world of food surpluses. In the developing world, there are 150 million underweight children, nearly one in three. And in Africa, both the share and the absolute number of children who are underweight are on the rise.”

“Meanwhile, the population of overweight people has expanded rapidly in recent decades, more than offsetting the health gains from the modest decline in hunger. In the United States, 55 percent of adults are overweight by international standards. A whopping 23 percent of American adults are considered obese. And the trend is spreading to children as well, with one in five American kids now classified as overweight. Liposuction is now the leading form of cosmetic surgery in the United States, for example, at 400,000 operations per year.”

“Surprisingly, overweight and obesity are advancing rapidly in the developing world as well. “Often, nations have simply traded hunger for obesity, and diseases of poverty for diseases of excess,” said co-author Brian Halweil. Still struggling to eradicate infectious diseases, many developing nations’ health care systems could be impaired by growing caseloads of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.” Source: World Watch Institute, Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition. March 2000 Gary Gardner and Brian Halweil ISBN: 1-878071-52-1 68 pages)

Penn and Teller BS show, goes on to say that the reason people in developing countries can’t feed themselves isn’t because they don’t have soil and water and sun, its because they don’t have hybrid plants, and technology.

What do you think? Hybrid plants are not the same as  GMO plants. Hybrid plants work within intraspecies lines. One can mix one tomato plant with another to breed for favored traits. That is much different from splicing a piece of genetic code from a daffodil and bacteria into a soy plant. Nature has protective architecture in each species cell wall that keeps interspecies mingling from happening for all sorts of sensible reasons. Imagine a human mating with an elephant, and then trying to give birth to the offspring!

Every farmer on this planet can create a hybrid planet with some pollen and good timing. They do not require a molecular scientist to be successful.  This requires seed saving, and the ability for farmers  to not fear that their farm-made varieties will compete with the patent of Agribusinesses who have patented a similar variety.  So Penn, I’m sorry, you are just plain wrong,  people in developing countries do have hybrid plants and varieties fit to their bioregion.

One final point about dishing out technology (GMO technology)  to these “developing countries”. With GMOs there has been no long-term testing, in the form of feeding studies or other, to justify the release of a technology that can profoundly change the genetic make up of our food supply on the planet.  In my opinion, if GMO technology was truly about solving the ills of hunger long-term, instead of making profit in the short-term, the moral compass of the industry would have put the brakes on release for respect for the lives that aren’t hungry as well as those who are – your life my life and the life of the hungry on this planet.

Penn ends his rant by saying, “Unless you are starving, you need to shut the fuck up.” I laughed at this, it’s like the large well fed American actor is talking to himself.

For more information please check out this link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-holt-gimenez/world-hunger_b_1463429.html

Act Naturally!

Dirty white gold – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

Dirty white gold – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

Indian Farmers Trapped and Desperate By Graham Peebles

Originally published in January 27, 2013 by Countercurrents.org

Losing the will to live

London : India has the largest number of smallholder farmers in the World, 600 million by some estimates. From this army of workers one impoverished desperate man, or indeed woman, with a noose of debt around their neck takes his or her own life on average every thirty minutes, A statistic barely comprehensible, representing the tidal wave of suicides that has swept through the farming community in the last 15 years.

The agrarian crisis of which farmer suicides are a tragic consequence is a mega calamity, rooted in one fundamental cause,which P. Sainath (i) ,rural editor for The Hindu describes as ‘the drive towards corporate farming’, predicated by the “predatory commercialization of the countryside”, that is forcing “the biggest displacement in Indian history”. Shocking and destructive it should be seen as part of a greater whole of interconnected issues facing India . Sainath makes this clear, “don’t detach this crisis from the overall political, economic social direction of the country, he says.

The number of farmer suicides – the largest in human history is estimated to have reached 300,000+ and rising as we speak. Add to this the 400 a day who attempt suicide and fail, the 2,200 that daily quit farming and the one and a half million family members affected by suicides, plus the millions facing the very issues that are driving the tragedy, and the scale of the inferno begins to be clear. Shocking, as they are, these figures are an indication only ; women are one of eight groups who are generally excluded from official data because most do not have title to land. A woman is not classed as a farmer, she is a farmer’s wife, and her suicide is not included in the figures, nor are The Center For Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University’s (HRGJ) (ii) report on farmer suicides tells us, “family members of farmers who have committed suicide—who themselves take over farming land, and subsequently commit suicide because of debt”, and less surprisingly the Dalit and Adivasi (indigenous) people are also invisible to a government who ignores them in death as in life.

The major cause of this epidemic is indebtedness to banks and moneylenders, hiding behind the debt however is twenty years of market liberalization at the hands of the government that has withdrawn all agricultural support, failed to invest in irrigation, improve the availability of rural credit, or provide farmers with alternative seed purchasing options – other than GM shopping. HRGJ convey government statisticsstating: “that 241,679 farmers in India committed suicide between 1995 and 2009”, the majority are cash crop farmers, growing cotton being particularly hazardous work. Suicides have been highest in the states of Maharashtra , Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal , all high cotton producing areas.

Growing disadvantage

As a result of economic liberalization, designed and sold by the parents of globalization or market fundamentalism; the IMF and the World Bank, India has become integrated into the global market and what Sainath(iii) calls ‘McEconomics– it tastes the same everywhere’. The state has increasingly withdrawn from the public sector and become “ more interventionist on behalf of the corporate world and the super elite.” As state support for farmers was withdrawn India opened up to huge foreign corporations and their equally mega native partners.

The foreign multinationals were at a huge advantage because as HRGJ makes clear, “the price of their products was set artificially low as a result of agricultural subsidies in their home countries,” affecting the costs to Indian (and African) farmers, secondly and equally devastating, “the Indian government’s removal of quotas, duties, and tariffs on imports made it cheaper for these entrants to import their products into the country.” Whilst these policies implemented some twenty years ago have as HRGJ makes clear “helped usher in dramatic economic growththis growth has been unevenly distributed, largely benefiting the nation’s elite, while the majority continues to endure grinding poverty.” Sound familiar; political loyalty in corporate politics lying firmly with the corporations, the duty of politicians in market fundamentalism beingcontinual accelerated growth and maximum profit, no matter the human or environmental cost.

Genetically modified mayhem

With the invasion of multinational corporate man came his agricultural weapon of choice, GM modified cottonseed. The Monsanto Bt seed has flooded the Indian market, to the extent that in some Indian states it is now impossible to buy non-Bt seed, despite the unconvincing evidence to its efficacy. With no choice and convinced by blanket advertising and misleading demonstrations made in ideal conditions, 95% of farmers take loans and invest in GM Bt seeds that, the New York Times ( 16/10/12 ) (iv) report, “ can cost three to eight times the cost of conventional seeds”. In addition to authorized distributors a black market has thrived, that as shortages appear, can set “prices as high as 2,000 rupees ($38) per packet, leading to a profusion of bootlegged seeds illegally marketed as genetically modified products.”

Costs of seed, fertilizers and pesticides, all incidentally supplied by the same company, have increased year on year. One farmer relates in the NY Times how “the old pesticide used to cost us 200 rupees per litre…. Now I have to pay between 2,000 to 3,000 rupees. And I need to apply it more and more every year.” With low yields and low market rates as well as the collapse of government investment Indian farmers are increasingly dependent on loans resulting in a debt cycle that is inescapable.

As well as costing the earth the Bt cottonseed demands a great deal more water, a fact that is being hidden from Indian farmers unable to read the English instructions and water warnings on seed packaging – an accidental corporate oversight, no doubt. With poor irrigation, most farmers rely on rainfall to feed crops. When the monsoon rains fail, so does the crop, leaving the farmer with a massive debt to service and the prospect of further loans to continue farming the following year. The lifeblood of the Indian farmer is in danger of becoming even more scarce as the government goes ahead with the privatization of water (as we collectively shake our heads in disbelief) and irrigation pathways, sold no doubt into the hands of Indian corporations. One doubts there are farmer, Dalit or Adivasi cooperatives in the bidding – so much for participatory democracy.

Critics of GM seeds maintain, “the solution to increasing costs and spiralling debtis a shift toward organic and eco-friendly farming methods.” The NY Times reports, “and these are low technology, simple to use, not costly methods – you don’t have the high costs of pesticides or genetically modified seeds.” Monsanto unsurprisingly offer a different answer to this social tragedy: “Buy more BT seed,” they suggest,” with the hope of increasing yields. Unsurprisingly, they dodge any responsibility for farmer suicides, asserting that claims attributing debt to the impact of the thirsty, expensive Bt seed are spurious and “misinformed”. Corporate responsibility beginning and ending at the door marked profit.

A Legacy of debt

A suicidal farmer’s debt does not, alas, die with him: loans merely become the responsibility of the wife (or husband) of the victim, who in many cases repeat the final desperate act, some families have witnessed two or three suicides. Dowries add to the mountain of debt for families in poverty, and widows under the unbearable pressure of huge debt and the burden of finding a husband for their daughters, may in desperation take their own lives.

The cycle of debt has created a spiral of death and extended multiple suffering; Children whose Father or Mother commits suicide are forced to quit school or university and take up the reins of the farm. Sainath describes one young man, symptomatic of many thousands, “I see a child trying to be a man whose eyes tell you how scared he is, pitchforked into a position he is not ready for”. Entrapment the order of the day, keeping people in a position of permanent anxiety, depleted of energy and with no state support, completely at the mercy of market forces and unable to resist. In the 1960s and 70s, when agricultural reforms where tabled in India, Sainath relates there was a peasant revolt, “in the ‘1990s and 2000s there is mass suicide and despair,” outcomes causing less obstruction to the corporate political plan, of the commercialization of everything and everyone, everywhere.

In the face of what is suicide on epidemic proportions the Indian government is guilty of appalling neglect, moral and legal- they are signatories to all the key international human rights conventions and are obliged to respect, protect and observe the human rights of farmers and their families. Instead, and in keeping with corporate politics, a plethora of fundamental human rights are being ignored. HRGJ list the rights breached, as: “the right to life; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to work; the right to food; the right to water; the right to health; and the right to an effective remedy among other rights.” Instead of meeting its responsibilities the government has followed the bureaucratic line of least resistance and set up a series of committees to examine the crisis. It is the Indian way, according to Sainath: “You keep forming committees until somebody gives you the report you want. There have been 13 reports on farmer suicides, for example.” These are pointless distractions from a government that, whilst ignoring the human rights of the most vulnerable members of Indian society, subsidizes the wealthy and procrastinates as farmers in deep despair drink pesticide or rat poison to escape the interminable torture of debt.

The governments actions and inaction have fanned the flames of the crisis, sending a message of indifference loud and clear to farmers and rural communities, and of unity and shared interests to corporations eager to work to ‘commercialize the countryside’ with government backing and poste haste. Farmer suicides are a blood red stain of shame on the democratic pretentions of the Indian government that is duty bound and legally required to act on behalf of the men, women and children being marginalized in rural areas, many who have farmed the land for generations, and are now unable to compete against the machinery of economic fundamentalism that is crushing them totally.

Notes

(i) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q6m5NgrCJs

(ii) www.chrgj .org/publications/docs/every30min.pdf

(iii) P. Sainath: “Slumdogs vs. Millionaires: Rural Distress in the Age of Inequality” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1OlgDw5tQ4

(iv) http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/in-india-gm-crops-come-at-a-high-price/

Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust, www.thecreatetrust.org A UK registered charity (1115157). Running education and social development programmes, supporting fundamental Social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. Contact , E: graham@thecreatetrust.org

 

Two new films about GM in India, Lakshmi devi dasi

 May 2012 by

video: Bitter Seeds Trailer

GMWatch.org

1.”Bitter Seeds: The Plight of India’s Farmers”
2.”Bitter Seeds” at the San Francisco Film Festival
3.Telling suppressed stories: “Cotton For My Shroud”NOTE: You can see the trailer for “Bitter Seeds” here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QZtKB_KuASc
For films available in full online
http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-videosb/27-gm-in-india


1.”Bitter Seeds: The Plight of India’s Farmers”
by grtv
http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2012/04/bitter-seeds-plight-indias-farmers-trailer“Bitter Seeds” explores the future of how we grow things, weighing in on the worldwide debate over the changes created by industrial agriculture. Companies like the U.S.-based Monsanto claim that their genetically modified (GM) seeds offer the most effective solution to feeding the world’s growing population, but on the ground, many small-scale farmers are losing their land. Nowhere is the situation more desperate than in India, where an epidemic of farmer suicides has claimed over a quarter million lives. Every 30 minutes one farmer in India, deep in debt and unable to provide for his family, commits suicide.Following a U.S. complaint to the World Trade Organization, India had to open its doors to foreign seed companies. Within a few years, multinational corporations had taken over India’s seed market in a number of major crops. Now only GM seeds are available at the shops, requiring India’s farmers to pay an annual royalty. The GM seeds are much more expensive; they need additional fertilizers and insecticides and must be re-purchased every season. While large farms have prospered, the majority of farmers find it increasingly more difficult to make a living off their land.“Bitter Seeds” follows a season in a village at the epicenter of the crisis, from sowing to harvest. Like most of his neighbors, cotton-farmer Ram Krishna must borrow heavily in order to afford the mounting costs of modern farming. Required by a money-lender to put up his land as collateral, he gambles on everything he has.

When his crop is attacked by pests, Ram Krishna must do whatever he can to avoid losing the family land. Adding to his burden is another duty – his daughter has reached marrying age, and he must find the money for an expensive dowry. Ram Krishna has just become a candidate for joining the ranks of the farmers who commit suicide in despair.

Weaving in and out of Ram Krishna’s story is that of his neighbor’s daughter. Manjusha, a college student, is determined to become a journalist and tell the world about the farmers’ predicament. Her family opposes her plans, which go against village traditions. Manjusha’s ambition is also fueled by her personal history – her father was one of the suicide victims. When a newspaper reporter agrees to look at her writing, Manjusha takes on Ram Krishna’s plight as her first reporting project. Armed with a small camera from the production team, her video becomes part of the film.

The film follows the seeds salesmen from the remote village in the state of Maharashtra to their company’s headquarters. Interviews with seed industry executives (including Monsanto’s) and their critic, Vandana Shiva, flesh out the debate.

“Bitter Seeds” features compelling characters to tell a deeply moving story from the heart of the worldwide controversy about the future of farming.

“Films like this can change the world.” – Alice Waters

“A tragedy for our times, beautifully told, deeply disturbing.” – Michael Pollan

“Better than a Batman movie…with real villains making up their own lines.” — Peter Sellars


2.“Bitter Seeds” at the San Francisco Film Festival
http://www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision/2012/04/18/your-consideration-short-takes-sfiff-week-one

The gargantuan San Francisco Film Festival opens this week… SFIFF is still tops, and we’re here to guide you through it:

“Bitter Seeds” (Micha X. Peled, U.S., 2011) Just what we all needed: more incontrovertible evidence of the bald-faced evil of Monsanto. This documentary on destitute Indian cotton farmers follows an 18-year-old girl named Manjusha, a budding journalist who investigates the vast numbers of farmer suicides since the introduction (and market stranglehold) of “BT” cotton — which uses the corporation’s proprietary GMO technology — in the region of Vidarbha. Before BT took over in 2004, these cotton farmers relied on cheap heritage seed fertilized only by cow dung, but the largely illiterate population fell prey to Monsanto’s marketing blitz and false claims, purchasing biotech seed that resulted in pesticide reliance, failing crops, and spiraling debt. It’s a truly heartbreaking and infuriating story, but much of the action feels stagey and false. Should Indian formality be blamed? Considering the same fate befell Peled’s 2005 documentary China Blue, probably not. Still, eff Monsanto.
Sat/21, 3:45pm, FSC. Tues/24, 8:50pm, PFA. April 26, 6:15pm, Kabuki. (Devereaux)


3.Telling suppressed stories
SRAVASTI DATTA
The Hindu, April 18 2012
http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/article3328007.ece

Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl’s “Cotton For My Shroud” is an honest and heart-wrenching account of the hapless condition of Vidarbha’s farmers

The husband-wife duo Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl, armed with a camera and “an iron soul”, set forth to Vidarbha to film the stories of farmer families who had lost their sons, brothers and husbands to suicides due to mounting debts, to render visible the issues of the marginalised small farmer and bring back into focus the forgotten stories of Vidarbha’s farmer suicides. Their film “Cotton for my Shroud” was screened last week at Suchitra Film Society. “Since 1995, a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide, most of whom were cotton farmers from Vidarbha in Maharashtra,” inform the filmmakers.

The couple began filming “Cotton For My Shroud” in 2006 when Vidarbha had recorded the highest number of suicides. They were supported in their endeavour by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, an NGO actively involved in advocacy on farmers’ issues.

The suicide of a farmer wasn’t just another statistic for them, but a precious life lost due to faulty government paradigms. It took them almost five-and-a-half years to put the film together. “It was difficult to bury the ghosts and sweep the film under the carpet, as if nothing had ever goaded us to visit Vidarbha. We owed a lot to the people who had opened their hearts and hearths to two outsiders in their moment of grief. We could not betray their trust. As we previewed and digitised the footage, we re-lived the horror that had unfolded before our eyes in 2006,” write the former journalists in an email interview.

In “Cotton…”, the line “If one farmer kills himself, we can call it a suicide. But when a quarter of a million kill themselves, how can the government call it suicide? It is genocide,” reveals that justice delayed is no less a crime. “Torn between aggressive marketing of supposedly ‘better varieties’ of transgenic crops by the State and his traditional wisdom of low-cost and eco-friendly agriculture, the farmer is forced to buy BT cotton, which results in an unending cycle of debt.”

The couple hold the government, multinational corporations and even certain sections of the media responsible for the condition of the cotton farmers in Vidarbha. “The farmers felt betrayed by the government extension agencies that are supposed to guide the farmers, they feel violated by the multinational corporations that are poisoning their land with chemicals, and genetically modified cotton seeds that do not live up to the tall claims made by Monsanto. They have lost respect for the media too for they feel that most of the media has been bought over by powerful politicians and multinationals.”

“Cotton…” won the Rajat Kamal for the Best Investigative Film at the 59th National Film Awards. But the government-funded Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF), the couple inform, chose not to show it. They had even organised a special screening for parliamentarians at the Constitution Club, for which they had invited the parliamentary standing committees on agriculture and rural development.

“Only Basudev Acharya had attended the screening; the other MPs were too busy to watch it.” Nandan and Kavita faced many daunting challenges while filming “Cotton…”. “The shopkeepers and agents of Monsanto-Mahyco were hostile but could not do much to stop us. The police and the Guardian Minister of Yavatmaal district did their best to stop us from going to film the funeral of Dinesh Gugul at Village Mendoli. He was killed when the police opened fire at the farmers at the Cotton Mandi at Wani, on 6 December 2006. We argued with the police officers, but the seasoned, shrewd police-wallahs sent us to the Mandi where an angry mob of farmers charged at us and almost smashed our camera. We were asked to meet the Guardian Minister at the Circuit House. As soon as we entered the Circuit House, a curfew was clamped at Wani. We finally reached Mendoli, defying the curfew.”

The couple has contacted schools and colleges to screen the film and attempts are being made at translating “Cotton…” into other regional languages. “We are trying to raise some contributions for making the Marathi and Hindi versions of the film to take it to the villages where we filmed. There is a demand for Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Odiya versions as well.”

English Translation of P.Sainath’s “Farmer Suicides and the Way Forward”

P. Sainath in ‘Farmers Suicides and Way Forward’ held by Rytu Swarajya Vedhika and TV9 on 8th January, 2011 at Jubilee Hall, Hyderabad.

I congratulate the center for sustainable agriculture for taking up this initiative and I expect this from an organization like CSA but not from a media house. So , I particularly thank Tv9 for taking up this initiative. This programme will be held in jublee hall for the next 3 hours . But in these 3 hours nearly 6 farmers will commit suicide in India and one among them is from Andhra Pradesh. And also in these 3 hours nearly 60-90 farmers will attempt suicide. 12-15% of them are successful. In these 3 hours nearly 250 farmers quit agriculture forever. And that is our national figure. According to 1991 and 2001 census, every day 2000 farmers are quitting agriculture. ( all these figures are from NCRBA- national crime record bureau – the figures of union home ministry) the agrarian crisis aggravated but still all the state governments are in defensive and denial modethis is the first problem. Nearly 16 state governments had written to union agriculture ministry that there are no farmer suicides in their states. But the paradox is NCRB figures are a result of data collected from their police stations only. The data is collected from the individual police stations and then send to the DCRB(district crimes record bureau) and from there to state government. Andhra Pradesh government had reported 40 -45 farmers suicides during this year .The NCRB data is available only for the past 16years that is from 1995 to 2010 and it tells us that more than 31000 farmers have commited suicides only in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Maharashtra tops the list followed by Karnataka, then Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh. From this data we can see whether the trend in the suicides rates is increaing or decresing . If we look at the first 8 years data the from 1995 to 2002 the number of suicides were 12,716. From 2002 – 2010 the suicides are 18,403. The annual average has gone up by 400-500 deaths. Despite this the state government of A.P claims only 40 suicides in the year. This proves that the government is denying its own data which is also the case with other states. A.P at least claimed about 40 suicides but nearly 16 states reported that there were no farmer suicides at all , so in a way we should appreciate the A.P Government for reporting atleast 40 suicides. The total number of farmer suicides in India from 1995 onwards were more than 2,56,913. This is the data given by Chidambaram’s ministry. This data is not confidential or classified , you can check this data on the NCRB website. We were the ones who pressurised the Govt to publish the data. But this is not the complete data because many of them are not included such as : 1. women are not included as farmers since they don’t have land Patta( registration). ( the death of these women is counted under suicides but not under farmer suicides). This is the reason why women constitute only 10% of the total farmer suicides. You can check out these statistics in the district of Anantapur from A.P . 2. Tenant farmers are also excluded from farmer suicides as they don’t have any land pattas 3 Dalits and adivasis never had any pattas for their land so their deaths are also not counted under farmer suicides. Even after excluding all these people the number of farmer suicides comes down to 30,000 which is of serious concern for Andhra Pradesh. My appeal to all political parties is not to get in to a defensive mode because it is not about a political party but it is the issue of the farmers. But the governments must be held responsible; they must first start telling the truth. Going by their reports, if we calculate, in every 30 minutes a farmer commits suicide. But if you consider any other community like students, engineers and businessmen no other community has such alarming sucide deaths . Highest rate of suicides is in the farmer’s community. This is because farmers have a double burden. The farmer is under double burden because he is affected by price rise, commercialization of education, medical facilities and rising farm costs. Out of these 2,56,000 farmer suicides in the country, nearly 65% of them come from 5 states which are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The highest number of farmer suicides are from cotton farmers but we boast that we have increased the cotton production by bringing in hybrids like Bt. Cotton. If this is the case, then why are the farmers committing suicides? I would like to discuss about the Vidarbha relief package as I had covered the story and the Prime Minister came only after The Hindu reported extensively on this issue. ‘If you look at the first page of the CAG report, it says that despite the failure of relief packages, the farmer suicides have increased’. To tackle this problem, we have to first recognize the major issues. Firstly, public investment in agriculture has decreased and currently the situation is negative. In the last budget of Shri. Vishwanath Pratap Singh in 1989, 14.5% of GDP was allocated to agriculture. In 2005 it came down to 5.9% (which includes irrigation, fertilizer, subsidies etc.). Our economy is growing at 9 % but the investments in agriculture have come down. I want the policy makers to take a pledge to allocate a minimum amount to agriculture, say around 15 to 20 % of GDP and to ensure that it does not go below that benchmark. Second problem is collapse of credit. If you look at Government data that is National Sample Survey of India, from 1991 to 2001, the indebtedness of farmers have grown by two times. (26% of farm households in 1991 to 48.6% in 2001). In Andhra Pradesh, 82% of farm households are indebted which is highest in the country. I also want to add a point about loan wavier and I congratulate the Government on waiving off 70,000 crores of farm loans given to 40 million farmers. This happened only once in the past 30 years. But if you look at your budget, the revenue forgone by the Government due to corporate subsidies (waive off) is around 88,263 crores. Tax exemptions on custom duty on diamonds and gold are around 49,000 crore per year. Total exemption for corporates is around 5,00,000 crores. For the first time after 30 years, by waiving off 70,000 crores for farmers, the Government is trying to boast that they have given 70,000 crores when every year they are giving away 5,00,000 crores to the rich like Ambanis, Birlas and Tatas. I want to share a incident. One of the poor regions in Maharashtra called Maratwada was in the news. It almost made it into the Guniess World Book of records because on one day 100 business men in one hour bought 150 Mercedes cars. To boast about Aurangabad, they bought 150 Mercedes Cars which were worth 66 crores. Of the 66 crores, 46 crores were sanctioned by SBI Aurangabad at 7%interest p.a. But on the contrary if you look at a farmer buying a tractor, he has to pay a 14% interest on his loan in the same bank. If a poor woman from a SHG takes the same loan, the rate of interest is 30%. The poorer you are, the more interest you pay. This is our logic of inequality and discrimination in our country. Thirdly, market based pricing that was introduced during Chandra Babu Naidu’s time in AP, the standard for the seeds ……………….when I went to Guntur, AP farmers asked me whether I would buy a medicine from a pharmacy which is only 60% reliable. Then I told them that I would not buy it. They told me that this was the case in seeds. Only 80% of the seeds would germinate. This has now dropped to 60% thanks to corporates like Monsanto and Cargil. This means that if you pay for 10,000 packets of seeds, you are getting only 6,000 packets effectively. In 1991, local seeds in Vidarbha costed around 90Rs./ Kg. and hybrid costs around 300Rs./Kg. Bt. Seeds in 2005 costs more than 4,000Rs. The cost of cultivation has grown disastrously. If you look at Vidarbha region(highest suicides amongst cotton farmers), inputs for one acre of unirrigated cotton farm costs around 3,000 to 4,000 Rs in the year 2003-2004 and the cost for an irrigated farmer was 8,000 Rs. Currently, input cost for unirrigated land is around 15,000 to 18,000Rs. and irrigated costs around 40,000Rs. Also their incomes have come down. The fourth factor is by bringing in expensive technologies, the Government is trying to boast that production has increased. But if you look at the official data given by Institute of Cotton Research and other advisory boards, per hectare yield in 2010 is around 483 kg (Bt. Cotton). In 2004, without Bt. Normal hybrid yield was 463 kg. So what is the difference? The input cost has risen by 500% but the production has increased only by 20 kg. The fifth factor is that soil fertility is dying because of extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. There is a major crisis of decreasing yields in Punjab because of the soil fertility. Public Sector Agricultural Institutes are hijacked. They do not do the work of farmers anymore. But they do the work of the corporate world (eg. Monsanto), extensive research is carried out for seed and fertilizer companies. Look at the syndicate membership in the agricultural universities, there are no farmers and this is the case with all the states. There are many more things to discuss but due to time constraints, I would like to talk about the way forward. I met a couple of marginal farmers just two days back. They asked me a question. ‘Why do you people call us farmers? What is there in my hands that I am called a farmer? The market is not in my hands, the seeds are not in my hands as they are regulated by the corporates, fertilizers are not in my hands (In1991, DAP costed 180Rs, but now it costs more than 1000Rs.). Electricity is being privatized. In Maharashtra, management of dams has also been privatized. In Chattisgarh, 23 kms of a river has been privatized. What is there in our hands that we are called as farmers? Land is the only thing that we have but that is also being grabbed in the name of SEZ and Industrial parks. With what face do you call us farmers?’ They have asked me that question and I am asking you. I have covered this crisis for the last 13 years. I started my work from Anantapur, AP. Two things you should know is that maximum number of suicides are reported from cash crop farmers. Secondly even food crop farmers have started committing suicides and this frightens me. Majority of the cash crop farmers (ground nut, tea, coffee, sugarcane, vanilla, and cashew) but now even food crop farmers have started. I have been begging and would like to beg the leaders of India and AP. First commit yourself to agriculture and conduct a special session of the parliament on agrarian crisis. When parliament can have a full session on the Ambani brother’s dispute over the KG basin (the KG gas does not belong to Anil or Mukesh Ambani but belongs to the state of AP), why can’t we have a special session on agriculture crisis? Also conduct a special state assembly session to discuss this issue. Secondly declare agriculture as a public service like nursing, teaching, the people who produce the nation’s food are doing a public service. Minimum percentage of budget must be allocated for agriculture. Debt relief tribunal should be created. When the loans for farmers were waived off, two very wrong elements came up. Sharad Pawar said that to waive off the loan, the farmer must have less than 5 acres of land. But there was no distinction between unirrigated and irrigated farmer. Unirrigated farmer or rain fed farmer’s land holdings will be more because his productivity will be less. In the case of Vidarbha, the average land holding is 7 acres which means that 80% of the farmers were excluded from the loan waiver. But in his district, the average holding is less than 5acres. So 53% of the loan waiver benefitted 6 districts out of the 35 districts in Maharashtra. Only Kerala considered all factors including private money lending and a debt relief tribunal was created. National Farmers Commission report was tabled in the parliament in 2007 but even till today not even a single discussion was held on it. The report is untouched by the Union Agriculture Minister. It is a government report headed by an eminent scientist MS. Swaminathan. National Farmers Policy was also tabled in the parliament but no discussion was conducted till date. There should be a national debate on the present model of agriculture. In the present model, extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides has made our food poisonous. If we consider these 6-7 factors, a national debate on agrarian crisis can be initiated which will show us a direction for a better future. This is not a political crisis but a national crisis. It is a crisis of a class and a crisis of our conscience.

Source: http://agrariancrisis.in/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/120108-Sainath.pdf

From Ecologist: Monsanto, Bayer and Dow face trial for ‘systematic human rights abuses’

Monsanto, Bayer and Dow face trial for ‘systematic human rights abuses’

Matilda Lee

16th November, 2011

Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal accuses biotech giants Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and BASF of promoting dangerous pesticides including endosulfan, paraquat and neonicotinoids

The world’s major agrochemical companies, Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and BASF, will face a public tribunal in early December accused of systematic human rights violations.

They are accused of violating more than 20 instruments of international human rights law through promoting reliance on the sale and use of dangerous and unsafe pesticides including endosulfan, paraquat and neonicotinoids.

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT), an international opinion tribunal created in 1979, will hear expert testimony from scientists, medical doctors and lawyers to prove the charges. Victims who have been injured by these products – from farmers, farmworkers, mothers and consumers from around the world – will also testify to the causes and nature of their injuries.

The cases will be heard over a four-day trial in Bangalore, India beginning December 3. While the Tribunal has no legal weight, and cannot force sanctions on companies, it aims to expose and raise awareness of large-scale human rights violations.

Pesticides Action Network (PAN) International, a global network comprised of 600 organisations in 90 countries, has spent years collecting information to bring about the indictments and is seeking justice for more than 25 specific cases – such as Silvino Talavera, an 11-year-old from Paraguay who died days after breathing in a cloud ofMonsanto’s RoundUp herbicide sprayed by a crop duster. The trial will also hear evidence of the link between pesticide use and a decline in bees.

The corporations, known as the ‘Big 6’ control 74 per cent of the global pesticide market, as well as dominating the global seed market.

Bayer reject the allegations saying they are a ‘wholesale distortion of the role of pesticides in our society.’ Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow, after being contacted by the Ecologist, were unavailable for comment.

Pesticide poisonings

An estimated 355,000 people are believed to die each year from unintentional toxic chemical poisoning, according the World Health Organization, many of these from use or exposure to pesticides and other agrochemicals. Nick Mole from PAN UK said the trial would give a voice to the otherwise voiceless victims of pesticides.

‘The pesticide industry is massive and incredibly powerful. It is difficult to prove corporate manslaughter even when these products are killing hundreds of people a year,’ he said. ‘We’ve spoken to people who have been abused and we are allowing them to give voice to their individual stories. We will be presenting the outcome of the Tribunal to the corporations and will be inviting their response,’ he said.

It is hoped that the verdict, to be delivered on December 6, will lead to greater discussions at UN institutions on holding agrochemical corporations accountable for crimes relating to the impact of their products.

The PPT grew out of the work by Italian Senator Lelio Basso, and serves as a grassroots, ad hoc court to consider charges and to issue verdicts on complaints of human rights violations submitted by victims or their representative groups.

Since 1979, the PPT has held 35 sessions exposing various forms of human rights abuses in cases from the Bhopal disaster, Tibet sovereignty and the intervention of the US in Nicaragua.

Useful link:

Pesticide Action Network UK