Manufacturing Consent – India’s Block to an Organic Future

By Jamie Rutherford
John Maynard Keynes cautioned that we live our lives under the illusion of freedom, but likely to be slaves to some defunct economist. Even that description understates the problem. The world may be caged by a defect of the entire economic profession, namely the idea that we can asses value in banknotes, or that we can understand our relationship to the material world using an abstract metric rather than a biological one. The extraordinary advances made by Western societies will , in the end, be subservient to the land and what it can provide and teach.

Admittedly, this started off as a Facebook rant serving the dual purpose of allowing me to write out my ideas for Act Naturally’s documentary project synopsis. I had quoted Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest, and edited it for status update size:

“To calculate the geometrical quickening of our footprint on the planet, consider that the population is 1,000 x greater today than it was 7000 years ago. People use 100 to 100,000 x more resources and energy than their ancestors did. The earth today withstands at least 100,000 x the impact than did in 5000 b.c.e… We have the same impact in 5 minutes than our ancestors had in a year. It is not merely a question of overdrawing our natural capital account; it is also a matter of destroying the currency.”

I like to coin the phenomena he’s talking about as Industrial Catabolism. The worldwide mantra for business is “growth” stated in so many mindless ways as we need to grow the economy”, or “economic growth”, “unprecedented growth” etc. But this concept unchecked is self-defeating on a finite planet. Nothing in life grows and grows in a linear fashion without some kind of recycling. A tumor that grows beyond carrying capacity destroys its host. Nature shows us, there are limits, which is not a popular concept among those in speculative industries.

I found it interesting to read the Wikipedia definition of economic growth. It is “defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of its members.”

To satisfy the wants of its members is the key phrase. This is actually quite an empowering definition to read considering unchecked growth in the economy is a driving factor for ecological and social devastation. It means that it is not inevitable, and that we- as in you, me, and everyone, casts our votes with our participation in the system. Wants are tenable, not fixed, and not absolute. Wants can change to slow down the industrial catabolism if we can take personal responsibility over what we want. But we have to know what to take responsibility for, and advertising and public relations campaigns, “experts” and daily editorializing and gossiping, has made this task very confusing.

TRANSMITTERS

Alot of energy is spent to manufacture, manipulate, and engineer these wants for us. Wants are like chains on our freedom, chains on our planet and polarizing chains to each other. A long time ago, before we were born, the fabric of our enslavement was promoted by those who understood that wants were manipulable. Consider master public relations propagandist Edward Bernays. If you’ve never heard of him you should watch the Century of the Self.

In his book History as a Weapon (1928) he writes, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Again, alot of energy is spent to socially engineer these wants for us.

Can any who reads this prove this man wrong through your own experience? From my experience, habits and even beliefs have their root in an unconscious ignorance that so few explore.  We crave and avoid the pleasurable and painful and to my surprise what we find pleasurable and painful emotionally is seeded in the subconscious.  Once we think about our pleasures an pains long enough, they embed in our bodies – even in the patterns of neural connections in our brain. 

Liberation from the control of the senses requires discipline. Yoga, or some internalized practice, where one begins to investigate “who/what” operates the body/mind/sense complex is a way to distance oneself from this manipulation.

We must take personal responsibility for our perceptions which bind us to systems of control that are hiding in the minds shadows. These subconscious desires and fears as Bernays would put them, are easily preyed upon through advertising; the shape and color of a logo, the language spin of an article, the fast flickering visuals of the television.

Then, we repeat this blather to others, in idle chit-chat, in our educational institutions, gossip and self righteous proselytizing; repeating and amplifying the failed narratives which become teachings for the next generation.

Let’s consider something. People in “developed and developing” countries, which actually means, countries who promote consumerism as the driving social value, commonly have a television in their home or business. In the United States, television has been commercially available since the 1920s! As Wikipedia states, “a television set has become commonplace in homes, businesses and institutions, particularly as a vehicle for advertising, a source of entertainment, and news.”

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'” — George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 3

Advertising funds the programs you watch, the radio you listen to and the articles you read. Search algorithms serve you customized content based on previous searches. And those search terms where inspired by group dynamics influenced by subconscious programming.  Surely, neither you nor me has an original though in our head.

It’s all unsubstantiated information, served in such vasts and confusing amounts that you couldn’t possibly prove or disprove the constant onslaught of contradiction.

THE METHOD OF TRANSMISSION

In Journal of Cognitive Liberties, Vol.2. Issue No.2 Pages 59-66, Wes More, describes in his article Opiate for the Masses,

“When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left to the right hemisphere. In fact, experiments conducted by researcher Herbert Krugman showed that while viewers are watching television, the right hemisphere is twice as active as the left, a neurological anomaly.1 The crossover from left to right releases a surge of the body’s natural opiates: endorphins, which include beta-endorphins and enkephalins. Endorphins are structurally identical to opium and its derivatives (morphine, codeine, heroin, etc.). Activities that release endorphins (also called opioid peptides) are usually habit-forming (we rarely call them addictive). These include cracking knuckles, strenuous exercise, and orgasm. External opiates act on the same receptor sites (opioid receptors) as endorphins, so there is little difference between the two………..

First of all, when you’re watching television the higher brain regions (like the midbrain and the neo-cortex) are shut down, and most activity shifts to the lower brain regions (like the limbic system). The neurological processes that take place in these regions cannot accurately be called “cognitive.” The lower or reptile brain simply stands poised to react to the environment using deeply embedded “fight or flight” response programs. Moreover, these lower brain regions cannot distinguish reality from fabricated images (a job performed by the neo-cortex), so they react to television content as though it were real, releasing appropriate hormones and so on. Studies have proven that, in the long run, too much activity in the lower brain leads to atrophy in the higher brain regions………….

It is interesting to note that the lower/reptile/limbic brain correlates to the bio-survival circuit of the Leary/Wilson 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness. This is our primal circuit, the base “presence” that we normally associate with consciousness. This is the circuit where we receive our first neurological imprint (the oral imprint), which conditions us to advance toward anything warm, pleasurable and/or protective in the environment. The bio-survival circuit is our most infantile, our most primal way of dealing with reality…………..

Levels of brain activity are measured by an electroencenograph (EEG) machine. While watching television, the brain appears to slow to a halt, registering low alpha wave readings on the EEG. This is caused by the radiant light produced by cathode ray technology within the television set. Even if you’re reading text on a television screen the brain registers low levels of activity. Once again, regardless of the content being presented, television essentially turns off your nervous system.

In other words, we are activated on a subconsious and emotional level, generally beyond the control of our neo cortex that judges real from unreal all the while being bathed in pleasure/reward habit forming endorphins that keep us peering at the images.

Psychophysiologist Thomas Mulholland found that after just 30 seconds of watching television the brain begins to produce alpha waves, which indicates torpid (almost comatose) rates of activity. Alpha brain waves are associated with unfocused, overly receptive states of consciousness. A high frequency alpha waves does not occur normally when the eyes are open. In fact, Mulholland’s research implies that watching television is neurologically analogous to staring at a blank wall.

I should note that the goal of hypnotists is to induce slow brain wave states. Alpha waves are present during the “light hypnotic” state used by hypno-therapists for suggestion therapy.

When Mulholland’s research was published it greatly impacted the television industry, at least in the marketing and advertising sector. Understanding that viewers automatically enter a trance state while watching television which made them more susceptible to suggestion, advertisers began designing commercials that produce unconscious emotional states or moods within the viewer. The aim of commercials is not to appeal to the rational or conscious mind (which usually dismisses advertisements) but rather to implant moods that the consumer will associate with the product when it is encountered in real life.  What do we sell to those moods? Food, pharmaceuticals, and things.  Self-definition through things and the infantile obsessions of the marketplace could be our ruin. 

When we see product displays at a store, for instance, those positive emotions are triggered. Endorsements from beloved athletes and other celebrities evoke the same associations. If you’ve ever doubted the power of television advertising, bear this in mind: commercials work better if you’re not paying attention to them! Don’t think of the pink elephant. Whatever your do. Don’t imagine the pink elephant. See how quickly this works? 

Edward Bernays was in the business of “manufacturing consent”. He was highly successful because he understood a few things about the human condition; in general humans trust organized systems of information (media), they are conditioned to submit their consciousness to authority and hierarchal structures, they are social creatures, and are emotionally manipulatable. In this regard, the age old debate whether human nature is good or bad, doesn’t matter. Human nature is malleable and the more unaware an individual is of his/her own thoughts and desires , the more manipulatable he/she is.

Being unaware is profitable and being profitable in a expansion paradigm is exploits something from a distance. Here, we do the work of the man for the man through the power of an unquestioned purchase where seldom see the consequences in the rain forest, in a village far far away, or with a family we will never meet.

Belief systems and politically motivated narratives all  have an origination agenda, and are maintained through social engineering and replication of values and assumptions.

THE STORY BEGINS

For example, in the 19th century the United States, people and politicians had a mainstream attitude of expansionism and nationalism. This belief was labeled “Manifest Destiny”.  Manifest Destiny was an accepted “general notion” rather than an official policy. This allowed America to expand its borders, adding Oregon, California, and Texas, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, through military and diplomatic maneuvers aimed at continental expansion.

Historian, William E. Weeks has noted that three key themes were usually touched upon by advocates of Manifest Destiny, 1. virtue of the American people and their institutions. The belief that the American way is superior. 2. The mission to spread these institutions thereby redeeming and making the world in the image of the U.S; and 3. a mandate from God to do this work. In other words, the killing and relocation of the native population is justified because the American way was mandated by God to reform those perceived as needing an image upgrade.

The voting public, military men, housewives, etc. upheld these values in their social interactions, from the pulpit, in the street and through laws that were passed. The inhabitants of America, there long before the  Manifest Destiny or Columbus infact, suffered a ruthless genocide and uprooting because of the “power of ideas” – the power of a social narrative and the inability for the common mind to resist consensus programming. What followed was forcible resettling of Native Americans as the citizenry of the United States forged westward.

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed by then president Andrew Jackson, to expand the Presidents power to conduct treaties, to exchange Native American land east of Mississippi river for lands west of the river. It took until 1924, when Native Americas were finally recognized by the U.S government as “citizens.”

Many Native cultures were matrilineal. This meant people occupied lands for use by the entire community, for growing food and hunting. The Manifest Destiny was inherently patriarchal, stemming from ideas of European patriarchy that used ideas of individual property rights, and ownership over nature. The flag of Manifest Destiny did not recognize native lands as “legal”, nor the stewardship of these lands by the inhabitants. The inhabitants were unquestionably externalities to the physical expression of ideas.

AND ONE STORY CREATES ANOTHER

Another politically motivated story, or what I like to call “engineered myth” is that India can’t feed her people without foreign intervention and philanthropy that purport the use of subsidized wheat and rice, GM seeds and chemicals. This myth takes hold in times of crisis such as during a drought or famine, as it relies on the fear of starvation and death to work the minds of the public. This myth has three parts,:

1. Those promoting the myth do so because they stand to profit from the GM seeds and chemicals. In other words, market access is guaranteed if the general population plays along with the story- thus ensuring the idea will not be met with resistance. Politicians are also rewarded by enforcing the myth through responsive legislation;

2. The second part is that the myth plays on emotion, particularly the primal fear of starvation rooted in cultural imprints of past famines, food shortages, etc.;

3. The third part is that the myth must be seeded, until it saturates the media, which saturates the commons, and replicates on its own. Once this occurs it is detached from its original creators. A meme, which represent a thoughtform or belief, acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices. Memes self-replicate through various modes of transmission, from one person to the next, through gesture, writing. etc.

The second part of the myth, the primal fear of starvation is maintained by the first (laws and legislation) and second (advertising) parts. Brilliant.

Edward Bernays in History as a Weapon writes,

“The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.

Fortunately, the sincere and gifted politician is able, by the instrument of propaganda, to mold and form the will of the people. “

Mr. Bernays is talking about meme transmission.

PHIILANTHROCAPITALISM AND THE STORY TELLERS 

The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations entered the market of philanthropy in India, to lay the groundwork for an agricultural shift that would use chemical inputs, special seeds, and western agricultural techniques to improve food production, inspired still byManifest Destiny style nationalism. To do this they had to convince the country of India that it couldn’t feed it’s people, and thus needed assistance. In other words, to access the Indian market, there would have to be a reason why Indians would widely adopt American agricultural techniques. The perfect sales pitch was hunger and famine, starvation and drought. The assumption is that rural peasants aren’t smart enough to manage their problem, and the elite class must intervene. India, simply couldn’t feed her people without their help.

Fredrick Gates, a wealthy baptist minister, became Rockefeller’s key philanthropic and business adviser. 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 foundation operating as a tax free entity, would identify problems, (or create them), then provide the solution. When there was no problem, they would find one to solve. This is the beginning of  philanthrocapitalism.

The Rockefeller and Ford foundation come requisite with a mindset that the rich are the best qualified to determine what the poor needs, eats, lives and what kind of work they can do. Read on.

In 1902 John. D Rockefeller met with a group of southern educators to establish The General Education Board for educating other “races”, starting with “negros” but not limited only to them. To get a peak inside the motivation behind the boards outreach we have only to read a letter from one of its founders. In the Board’s Occasional Letter No. 1, Fredrick Gates  writes,

In our dreams, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions fade from our minds, and unhampered by traditions, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk!

We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into Philosophers or men of learning, or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply.”

There is a inherent belief encapsulated in his writings and that is, that the general public should yield to the agendas of those who “know better.” This is not all together different than the mindset of the Manifest Destiny.

In 1925 public relations specialist, Edward Bernays was hired to make Standard Oil, founder and tycon family the Rockefellers to improve their public image. Standard Oil was widely criticized as a monopoly, and polluter, though it made John D. Rockefeller the richest man in modern history. After Ida Tarbell’s muckraking book, The History of the Standard Oil Company, came out, Bernays stepped in to spin the Rockefeller “image”. Bernays was quoted as saying, “it is possible to regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies.”

He said these” new techniques of regmintation of minds, had to be used by the intelligent miniorities in order to make sure that the Slobs stay on the right course.”(From Chomsky’s “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream”: A talk at Z Media Institute, June 1997). The slobs he is referring to is the general public, me and you, because we are not smart enough, empowered enough or strong enough to rule ourselves. How does that make you feel?

As a side note, Bernays was not the main PR representative to the Rockefellers. A contemporary and competitor of Edward Bernays, was Ivy Lee. He was retained by John D. Rockefeller to manage the public image of his family and Standard Oil. Shortly before his death, the U.S. Congress had been investigating Lee’s work for the controversial IG Farben company in Nazi Germany.

The Ford Foundation focused originally on setting up educational television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Like the Rockefeller Foundation, public relations was a major part of their outreach to the American people, though that will be covered in a later article.

“In 1935, the Rockefeller Foundation set up an office in New Delhi to oversee all of its activities in India. This center was in operation for more than 30 years. It was the headquarters from which the foundation implemented its expanded activities in medicine, agriculture, and the humanities in the golden age of American involvement during the 1950s and 1960s.”

“During the golden age of the foundation’s work in India, roughly 1948 to 1973, it expanded its operations in India. By 1966, it had 15 of its personnel in India helping to oversee numerous proposals and grants in medicine, agriculture, the social sciences, and the humanities.” (Source: Lexin Nexis database: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. November, 1997 554 Annals 104.)………

“The first president of this new Ford Foundation, who eventually detached from the Ford Motor Company, was Paul Hoffman. He decided that India, one of the two Asian giants, and the non-Communist one, was to be a focus of serious investment by the Ford Foundation for the good of the future of India and the good of the free worldAssistance to India would demonstrate what free men with wealth and wisdom could do to help other men to follow them down the same or a similar path of development.”

“Although Hoffman’s vision cannot be explored here, he seemed to think that alleviating poverty in India would put Indians firmly in the Western camp and further democratic rights.” (Source: Lexin Nexis database: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. November, 1997 554 Annals 104.)

“Hoffman recruited an agricultural sociologist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Douglas Ensminger, to be the foundation’s representative in India. The latter visited India in 1951 and took up his job in 1952. He became, in time,the most powerful and longest-lasting representative of the foundation abroad. Not only did Ensminger develop a unique tie to the government of India through Nehru and other top officials, but he formed unusual ties to the trustees of the foundation in the United States that allowed him occasionally to go around administrators including the foundation’s presidents in New York, who were supposedly supervising him.”

“Ensminger, in his lengthy topical [*112] and repetitious memoir of his India days, described himself as a “change agent” loosed in a society tied up in tradition, static, going nowhere, but desperately needing changes. He was going to help to show them the way and he had considerable resources to utilize. n17″ (Source: Lexin Nexis database: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. November, 1997 554 Annals 104.)

“Ensminger and the Ford Foundation more generally stressed the importance of American technical assistance to so-called developing, or Third World, areas during the 1950s and 1960s. Technical assistance in practice meant that a substantial part of the grants was spent on bringing foreign experts to show the Indians the way. These were most often Americans but included a smattering of Europeans, Canadians, and others as well. Although elaborate orientation programs were worked out for these visiting foreigners who were to teach Indians about a variety of subjects….”(Source: Lexin Nexis database: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. November, 1997 554 Annals 104.)

“Technical assistance in practice meant that a substantial part of the grants was spent on bringing foreign experts to show the Indians the way.”

“However, this was the heyday of American overseas aid and institution building in the new nations of South Asia and confidence started high–both as to what the foreigners could give and how India and also Pakistan could progress rapidly.”

“In the period from 1951 to 1995, the Ford Foundation made about 2500 grants to India; it expended $ 128 million by one account and $ 275 million by another. In any case, the number of grants and diverse projects to which they have been applied is staggering. Much early attention was given to the community development area, a special interest of Nehru and one which appealed to Ensminger and the foundation as well. ….in the Ensminger period, technical aid to agriculture was stressed rather than holistic community development.”(Source: Lexin Nexis database: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. November, 1997 554 Annals 104.)

“Ensminger recruited F. Champion Ward from the University of Chicago to serve as educational specialist for the foundation in India. Inter alia, Ward hoped that [*113] by giving grants for general education to a number of Indian universities, he would help them to provide the kind of wide view that he thought students at America’s best universities were getting.” ‘ (Source: Lexin Nexis database: The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. November, 1997 554 Annals 104.)

It is important to understand that what was taught in the agricultural and medical universities in India during those times were technologies that had already existed in industrialized nations. Those technologies were largely based on oil based solutions – from synthetic fertilizers, to motorized pumps and tractors, to pesticides, because those technologies were introduced by a few select billionaire families, notably Standard Oil and its offshoots (Exxon, Mobil, Amaco, Chevron). I think one can assume without it being fallacious that when a oil tycoon and not a farmer creates the solution of how India will feed her people, that solution will include oil. Certainly history has prooved this to be true.

The energy for increasing production “did not come from an increase in incipient sunlight, nor did it result from introducing agriculture to new vistas of land. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation. ” Since fertilizers are largely what made the Green Revolution possible, they forever changed agricultural practices because the high yield varieties developed during this time cannot grow successfully without the help of fertilizers. “(About.com)

What was taught in the Rockefeller/Ford sponsored curriculum in India’s universities were new techniques in mono cropping, irrigation, use of pesticides, and synthetic nitrogen based fertilizer as well as using two high yielding crop varieties that worked well with industrial techniques.

Prior to the Green Revolution,  India was growing food and did feed her people, and when she didn’t it wasn’t the farming techniques that were at fault. India, including now Pakistan and Bangledesh, has had 90 famines in the last 2500 years. It is difficult to estimate the total number of deaths, a conservative estimate puts it near 60 million. I challenge my readers to find me an example where subsequent starvation wasn’t because of one of the following:

Government inaction, devaluation of farming, inadequate transportation of food, routing of food to specialized projects -such as to the military, export of food is not rerouted back into the country, lowered feasibility of migrate do to cultural tensions,  failure in Colonial leadership to respond quickly to food shortages, lack of reduction in the price of food, and finally, the loss of employment of agricultural labors and artisans.

Dying from malnutrition, happens regardless of natural catastrophe, even though the likelihood is expanded.  If we are foolish enough to believe, however that subsidized wheat and rice given to the poor will meet the nutritional challenges of a hard working life, we are fooling ourselves and not comprehending the actual intent of foreign aid programs in time of “need”.  The United States never gives away something for nothing.  (This too is another article I will attempt to write in the coming months)

 Before the Green Revolution India grew polycultures of native and sometimes hybridized seed, planting in relation to the monsoon. People and land were at the mercy of natural boundaries. Population could not grow beyond the capacity of the land and weather patterns to support food production. It was  common that India was subject to famine and flood just like she is today, and nowhere in the world, not even in the mighty west, can people stave off natural disasters.

India had adapted her agriculture to meet climactic challenges the best she could.  India has a wealth of  time honored techniques, the were not barcodable. Take for instance the commentary by Zero Budget Natural Farming. This was written by Subhash Palekar, a farmer who grew up using traditional methods, then was educated in an agricultural university to use chemicals and after observing their destruction, returned to traditional agriculture. He writes,

“Since thousands of years, our farmers were treating their seeds by local cow urine, cow dung and little soil from the bund of the farm or land of the farm. This was the traditional method and also a totally scientific method. But, after the arrival of Agricultural Universities, all good things in Agricultural sector were destroyed and all unnatural and so unscientific techniques were imposed on the farmers and indirectly on the urban consumers. Agricultural Universities propose you now all dangerous poisons for seed treatment. When you apply any poisonous fungicides or medicines to the seed, all useful effective (our friends) microorganisms are destroyed in the soil. When these poisonous chemicals treated seeds germinate and grow, these poisons are also sucked by the roots with the soil water solution and are deposited in the body organs of the plant i.e. vegetables, grains, fruits, tubers etc. When we eat these produce, these poisons are transmitted to our body and causes T. B., Diabetes, Cancer, Heart problems to the eater consumers. As well as, when farmers purchase these fungicides & medicines for seed treatment, a big exploitation of the farmers occurs.”

 It is true that after the Green Revolution, the production of wheat and rice soared. To credit the numeric rise to the miracle seeds and pesticides is to fail at the exercise of critical thinking. Poly means many. So simply put farmers were growing many things on one piece  of land or in cooperation with other farmers to meet their nutritional needs.  If you replace every varied crop they were growing with just one, the numbers of that one crop is going to rise. If you give that one thing a veritable “growth hormone booster” a synthetic fertilizer, it will yield higher results but for how long? Every short cut comes with a cost.

 The charts and graphs used for proof of the Green Revolutions success are smoke and mirrors to make us believe that somehow the Green Revolution was a miracle that fed the world. Meanwhile the charts and graphs, by their very nature, distance us from the socio-ecological impact of what was thought up by foundations started by an oil tycoon and automobile manufacturer…not a farmer.

What is interesting about the drift away from traditional agriculture is that it the profit, monetarily and nutritionally drifted into the pockets of the philanthropists. Take a look:

Oxen drawn plows /REPLACED WITH / Oil/gas powered tractors and machinery (ideology set up by Standard Oil/Ford Motor Company founders, profits guaranteed by Rockefeller/Ford global enterprises, industry offshoots)

Fertilizer from cows, preparations from cow urine/dung and other plants /REPLACED WITH/Nitrogen based synthetic fertilizer which are typically synthesized using fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal. Profits guaranteed by Rockefeller/Ford global enterprises, industry offshoots.)

Natural pesticides, using ferments of cow urine/dung/ and other plants, ash, safe pest levels maintained through companion planting and polyculture, and other biological solutions /REPLACED WITH/ Methyl iodide, glycosphosphate (Monsanto), endosulphan (originator Bayer Crop Science), organophosphate pesticides, Malathion (originated in America now manufactured in India Atrazine (Sygenta -GM Seeds, Monsanto competitor) Sandoz ( Ciba Geigy (chemicals, gm,) Sandoz, and Geigy now called Novaris (pharmaceutical) )Diazinon, Chloropyrifos, Chlordane, Lindane, Pemethrin, Cypermethrin. These are regulated by government control agencies, made of fossil fuels and higher chemisty and owned by pharmaceutical, biotech and agrobusiness giants. (list names a few only)

Seed Saving. Farmers saved seeds year by year, created their own farm level characteration of traits /REPLACED WITH/ Genetically modified and hybrid seeds patented as intellectual property and sold through Monsanto, Sygenta, Bayer, Dow, Dupont (see seed industry structure)

This structure moved the control of India’s food supply out of farmers hands and into corporate interest, nationally and abroad.

You might be scratching your head and thinking I thought you were talking about the Rockefeller and Ford Foundation and a socially engineered myth? True, and every story has its initial motivation, in this case, it’s a world view , much like the Manifest Destiny, that promotes the rich and powerful solving problems for the “underprivledged”. In other words, problems they attempt to solve are ultimately spun by foundations who lay the framework of the problems the Corporations must solve through their world view. 

Knowingly or unknowingly, they also create the problem, or an axillary problem from the solutions. In the meantime, foundations, corporations, and governments all share members, and missions. Because of the reach and power of a few, the “myth” permeates government and universities, then the general population follow in-step via massive public relations campaigns.

Take for instance this speach given by Gordon Conway, from the Rockefeller Foundation on June 24, 1999.

“The Rockefeller Foundation has funded over $100 million dollars of plant biotechnology research and trained over four hundred scientists from Asia, Africa and Latin America. While this may not sound like much by Monsanto standards, our grantees have made significant progress. At several locations in Asia there is now a critical mass of talent applying the new tools of biotechnology to rice improvement.”

…”Trying to ensure a future that includes the poor and excluded is not only a huge job, it is, you may say, not Monsanto’s job. Monsanto’s job is to provide a decent return to your shareholders by running a sustainable, innovative and responsible enterprise.”

The intention is so blatant it’s astounding.

This article is admittedly focused on the myth and story. Presenting the scientific evidence against or for genetically modified foods is another article. Outside of the lab result slinging, expert testimony, and political endorsements, is the broader issue – who profits from our basic necessity to eat? When  investigation turns up that it’s not the farmers but chemical companies with appalling environmental records, oil empires that have drug the world into war, and pharmaceutical companies whose profits increase when a population gets sicker and sicker, one has to question if the creator of such technology has our best interest in mind or is deluded by their own ideology. When we do consider the adoption of such technology on a global scale, as Monsanto advises, we must consider the implications. Long -term testing would seem like the only ethical solution, to appease both sides of the debate.  However, as we have seen through the manipulation of government, including the United States F.D.A, and India through the recent push for the BRAI bill,  the exact opposite is happening.  Technology with no long term broad spectrum world wide studies is being pushed on all of us, without labeling or conscious.

“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 )

“Why should the rich and famous decide how schools are going to be reformed, or what drugs will be supplied at prices affordable to the poor, or which civil society groups will get funding for their work?”

THE NEW FOUNDATION OF THE PUSH FOR A 2nd GREEN REVOLUTION – THE STORY REPEATS

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, is now partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation to launch a Green Revolution in sub-Saharan Africa to “revolutionize food production and reduce hunger and poverty and to enhance agricultural science.”

That sounds great, but who gets to participate. Let’s look at the foundation’s connections. The Gates Foundation has holdings in

  • Walmart (9.2 million shares)
  • McDonald’s (9.4 million shares)
  • ExxonMobil (6.3 million shares) : Exxon Mobil Corporation was formed in 1999 by the merger of two major oil companies, Exxon and Mobil. Both Exxon and Mobil were descendants of Standard Oil started by John D. Rockefeller which was established in 1870. Sound familiar?
  • Berkshire Hathaway (76.4 million Class B shares)
  • Monsanto (500,000 shares)

On the board of the foundation is also pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, banks and Dupont Pioneer Hybrid. The Rockefeller foundation has contributed $50 million. Critics, including myself think that the foundation has a preference to make grants which benefit who the foundation holds stocks with, such as Monsanto. As a side note, recently Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet both visited India to encourage the billionaires to invest in social programs, like the Gates Foundation. All of this is a matter of public record, available for any of my readers to find

Something less obvious is happening here. The word Corporation and Multinational is getting linked as culpable co-creators in the ecological and social devastation on the earth.   The Gates Foundation, can now hide behind its billions while making billions by using the powerful public relations spin and oxymoron of philanthrocapitalism. Meanwhile, all those attached to the Gates Foundation can declare to the public that they are supporting a good cause!

“The term was coined by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, the British authors of Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World, which identified an emerging trend towards blending charitable giving with market disciplines. The great benefactors of the past tended to operate through cumbersome, if well-meaning, foundations over which they retained relatively little control, beyond an insistence on having their names slapped upon municipal parks, museums and hospitals. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businesslatestnews/7932127/The-billionaire-boys-Beware-of-geeks-bearing-gifts.html)

But all that has changed:

“In other words, as a long critique in the American magazine Foreign Affairs puts it, the foundation gives with one hand and takes away with the other. In his book Small Change: Why Business Won’t Change the World, Michael Edwards, a former World Bank adviser, asks: “Why should the rich and famous decide how schools are going to be reformed, or what drugs will be supplied at prices affordable to the poor, or which civil society groups will get funding for their work?” In this sense, say opponents of the new philanthropy, the needy are being written out of their own story, with the world’s attention focused instead on the people doing the giving. “

(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businesslatestnews/7932127/The-billionaire-boys-Beware-of-geeks-bearing-gifts.html)

This is a question India needs to ask her self? “Why should the rich and famous decide how schools are going to be reformed, or what drugs will be supplied at prices affordable to the poor, or which civil society groups will get funding for their work?”

How much foreign involvement, nepotism, corruption and farmer cleansing will the Indian population take before it revolts against the silly myth of the market place?

THE STORY BEGINS TO UNRAVEL

A critical eye will easily find that the bylines of successes presented in ad campaigns, official company reports, and the nightly news, are contradictory. The  World Health Organization, (WHO) which is by no means a neutral or anti-globalization organization states that in India:

“At the other end of the malnutrition scale, obesity is one of today’s most blatantly visible – yet most neglected – public health problems. Paradoxically coexisting with undernutrition, an escalating global epidemic of overweight and obesity – “globesity” – is taking over many parts of the world”

But wait wasn’t the wheat and rice of the Green Revolution a success?

The WHO shows a chart that says that 37% of India’s lower middle class suffer from nutritional, communicable, and perinatal deaths, and the likelihood of cancer is 6%. Systolic blood pressure and glucose is also rising. They go on to say that,

“Over the last few decades, traditional societies in many developing countries have experienced rapid and unplanned urbanization, which has led to lifestyles characterized by unhealthy nutrition, reduced physical activity and tobacco consumption.1 These unhealthy lifestyles are associated with common modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia and obesity.2

So the World Health Organization admits that in India,  urbanization – which is the forcing of  peasants and farmers off their land due to market forces, such as debt and unemployment, is causing health problems. But urbanization is caused by trade liberalization, and a devaluing of the agricultural sector. Urbanization has happened because high agricultural input costs for pesticides, fertilizers, tractors, patented seeds, etc. have creating spiraling indebtedness and land has been reprocessed -water tables have lowered, or water is unavailable -once fertile land is now ruined – soaked in chemicals and stripped of life and finally billboards blasting the youth with images of urban sexy-sleek living is luring able bodies from the fields. And, why would they want to stay? The government has cut back subsidies and support to the agriculture sector, and international competition has lowered the price the farmer can get for their food to demeaning levels.

Ultimately, this means there is a problem with the glowing promises of the foundations who state they are solving the  problem of an imagined future of starvation, but in truth the solution is creating more problems, so the corporations still have to solve the problem. There appears to be an endless supply of future profit!  Yet, to a lay person, their also appears to be crack in the facade!

The World Health Organization continues:

“It is expected that by 2020 in developing countries, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) will account for 69% of all deaths, with cardiovascular diseases in the lead.3 The prevalence of diabetes mellitus will almost double in the next 25 years and at least 75% of those affected will be in developing countries. The burden of disease will be worse in these countries, as the majority of sufferers are expected to be relatively young, of lower socioeconomic status and to suffer from severe disease of premature onset.4

OBSERVATION REVEALS A STORY IS A STORY

If one observes the last 45 years since the Green Revolution began, and drops the ideology taught through the media, and through biotechnology and agricultural university curriculum, one can piece together the truth of what has happened.  Observe and remember.

In the book Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken’s explains the differences between observation and ideology. He explains it in the context of a new movement that has sprung up in response to what its observed. This movement includes millions of N.G.Os and non-profits springing up around the globe to combat the ravages of globalization, human rights atrocities, environmental destruction etc.  Included in this movement is the organic, sustainable, non-gmo, natural farming groups.

“One of the differences between the bottom-up movement now erupting around the world and established ideologies is that the movement develops its ideas based on observation, where as ideologies act on the basis of belief or theory, the same distinction that separated evolution from creationism.”

“The movement doesn’t attempt to disprove capitalism, globalization or religion fundamentalism, but tries to make sense of what it discovers in forest, favalas, farms rivers, and cities. Are ideologues in the movement? To be sure, but fundamentally the movement is from the part of humanity which has assumed the task of protecting and saving itself. If we accept that the metaphor of an organism can be applied to humankind, we can image in a collective movement that would protect repair and restore that organisms capacity to endure when threatened. If so, that capacity to respond would function like an immune system, which operates independently of an individual persons intent.”

“Specifically the shared activity of hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations can be seen as humanities immune response to toxins like political corruption, economic disease and ecological degradation.”

Try some observation yourself.  Ask yourself   the following: Am I healthier now than I was ten years ago? Is any member of my family on prescriptions or overweight? How many people do I know who have cancer or have died from a heart attack? Is there more environmental pollution? Are there more homeless in the cities? Am I fulfilled with the work that I do? Is my water safe to drink? Does my food have chemicals? preservatives? What are the brands of food I eat? Where does my food come from? Does anyone I know smoke? Is someone in my family addicted to drugs or alcohol?   Are there more birds? Is there more trash in the streets?

As mentioned before, the selling of a social myth, on a wide-scale is possible through the advent of the television. Television does not make for watchful observers! Why does pharmaceutical companies advertise on television when its your doctor who can decide your access to such medicine? Simple, it’s auto suggesting a disease, that you might think you have. Repeat the story long enough and you will manifest it.  Are you depressed? having trouble sleeping? Stressed out? Television repeats ideologies, with no room for us to insert our experience or opinion. The felt sense of immediate experience, our experience – our direct observation, is the only way to really know, is it true? If we operated from this informing our choices, how would the world look?

Dr. Vinod Verma,  who has written eighteen books on Ayurveda, Yoga and is a neurobiologist from Paris University. She  has also worked in a pharmaceutical company in Germany.  She writes regarding the western influence of Indian agriculture,

“Until about fifteen yeas after the independence of India, the above-described wisdom (cyclical crops, natural pesticides, planting with astrological cycles) was part of the school curriculum. However the policy makers of independent India ignored the indigenous wisdom and followed the West blindly. Many centuries of foreign rule was enough to make the English speaking Indian elite slavish in their mentality.  However, the Indian farmer was very wise and it is well known that the farmers always kept a piece of land for themselves where they did not use urea or chemical pesticides.  They used the traditional Indian methods to grow food for themselves. Not that they knew the destructive effects of the chemicals they were cajoled into using, it was simple a question of taste and flavor for them.”

“Gradually, we lost the great tradition of our natural way of farming an took to the unnatural and harsh ways from the West. Of course it was the vested interest of the West to find a market for their products in our big and highly populated country. we cannot blame the est but our own foolishness to ignore our indigenous wisdom, which is now sought after by the whole world. Humanity as a whole has realized that destroying nature means destroying life on our globe.”

Activist, and an analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide, Helena Norberg Hodge describes the changes she witnessed in Ladkhi people in India from 1970 to present day. Ladakh is a present day example of  what happens when you push -industrial consumerism on top of natural conservation. A similar situation plays out in all native, indigenous, pantheistic, subsistence, first peoples nations globally.

“When I first arrived in Leh, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, cows were the most likely cause of congestion and the air was crystal clear. Within five minutes’ walk in any direction from the town centre were barley fields, dotted with large farmhouses. For the next twenty years I watched Leh turn into an urban sprawl. The streets became choked with traffic, and the air tasted of diesel fumes. ‘Housing colonies’ of soulless, cement boxes spread into the dusty desert. The once pristine streams became polluted, the water undrinkable. For the first time, there were homeless people. The increased economic pressures led to unemployment and competition. Within a few years, friction between different communities appeared. All of these things had not existed for the previous 500 years.”

If we are willing to apply the ideology that India can’t feed her people without the help of GMO and chemical agriculture, perhaps to be objective we should also  look at the consequences of what has happened since the implementation of that ideology. On a state by state macro level, these changes range from lowering yeilds after the initial peak, fallow lands, polluted water ways, loss of biodiversity, displacement of the small farm from the center of the community, loss of holistic nutrition, escalating debt, privatization of resources and the list continues.  If we rely on observation, we have only to look at examples like Ladakh to see that India has been able to feed her people.

The changes in Ladakh pre 1970s to now gives us an excellent example of how the problem of feeding India is not actually an issue of adopting new technologies, rather, it is an example of the negative side effects of industrial development in relationship to agricultural self-sufficiency and a political failure to respond to the negatives. Who gets the profit and who is exploited? In the case of Leh, self-sufficiency was replaced with Tata transports carrying branded and packaged foods, Coca Cola and cigarettes, denatured wheat, and a slew of consumerables, soon to be followed by tourists.

One can argue that Ladakh has a very sparse population in relationship to Mumbai, so therefore another system will have to be put in place to meet this challenge. As it is true that 21,000 people per square kilometer such as the case in Mumbai presents extreme challenges, the principles remain the same.  If urbanization is failing, encouraging the agricultural sector on the outsides to be vibrant, self-sustaining, environmentally friendly and productive for the long term makes more sense than increasing the urban population, displacing the farmers, and ignoring the fact that the population is going to grow.  Urban gardening initiatives, roof top gardening, school and kitchen gardens, natueco methods, seed saving, community supported agriculture, city planning that includes arable land for farming at its center,  hydroponics, public community gardens instead of another high rise for foreign investors, the introduction of microlivestock, verticle gardening, and the list goes on and on are all apossiblity if the blockage created by the story of how India can’t feed her people without chemicals and gmo, is removed.

The story  and those believing it,  is the only thing keeping the patriarchial Manifest Destiny domination paradigm in power. We, you and me, are the ones we’ve been waiting for. There is more power in our choices than you could ever imagine. There is more intelligence in a seed, and more energy  in the free gift of the sun than ever can be replicated in a laboratory. All that is nature, was given to us for FREE, as a natural right. Believing otherwise makes nature and ourselves exploitable.

If   a community is confused and lacking a far reaching vision,  look to success stories like Auroville, Kodaikanal farm in Tamil Nadu, the Khet Virasat Mission in Fardikot,  Navdanya,  Timbuktu Organics,  Shri S.A. Dabholkar,  the Biogas plant at Srirangapatna in Karnataka, and thousands more.  The answers to can India feed her people are there, and repeatable.

“John Maynard Keynes cautioned that we live our lives under the illusion of freedom, but likely to be slaves to some defunct economist. Even that description understates the problem. The world may be caged by a defect of the entire economic profession, namely the idea that we can asses value in banknotes, or that we can understand our relationship to the material world using an abstract metric rather than a biological one. The extraordinary advances made by Western societies will , in the end, be subservient to the land and what it can provide and teach. There are no economies of scale; there is only natures economy. We cannot turn back the clock, or return to any prior state on the planet, but we will never know ourselves until we know where we are on this land. There is no reason that we cannot build an exquisitely designed economy that matches biology in its diversity and integrates complexity rather than extinguishing it. In accomplishing this, there is much to be gained from those who have not forgotten the land. ” (Paul Hawken,  Blessed Unrest pg. 100)

None of these changes can occur under the amensia of the present myth. A new story must be told, one that includes a future, – a future free of any style of Manifest Destiny, where a priveldged few rule an overpowering mass of people

Indian rural reporter P. Sainath wrote,

“Every freedom fighter of repute doubled as a journalist, informing the public. Speaking for myself, I will not cede this high ground; it is extremely important that mainstream journalism include the true stories of India.”

Inshallah,
Act Naturally
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Deccan Herald: Compromising Agriculture GM crops by backdoor

By Basudev Acharya
Apart from issues related to seed monopoly and rural livelihood, there are serious biosafety concerns the world over.
Across the world, there is huge controversy around the introduction of genetically modified/engineered (GM/GE) crops. On one hand there are a few biotech crop developers and scientists recommending the use of GM technology as solution for food security and on other there are concerns about its impact on human health, environment and socioeconomy.

Added to that is the unpredictability and irreversibility of genetic engineering and the uncontrollability of GM crops once let out in the environment. One of the major concerns about GM crops is that they only serve the purpose of multinational seed giants. All GM technologies come along with Intellectual Property Rights and patent tags of multinational seed companies which would ensure their monopolies as has happened in the case of Bt cotton, the only GM crop commercially cultivated in India.

While there were 619 varieties of Bt cotton approved for release until Aug 2009 in the country, 514 of them are owned by Monsanto, the US multinational seed giant, which also holds a global monopoly in the total seed sales of Bt cotton.

One has already seen how Monsanto has armtwisted the state governments in India to increase the cotton seed prices this season. Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop to have reached commercialisation stage in our country, also had a Cry 1Ac gene owned by Monsanto and licenced to Mahyco for developing Bt Brinjal. There is a threat of GM crops becoming the tool for control of the seed and thereby the agriculture sector by multinational seed corporations.

Apart from issues related to seed monopoly and rural livelihood, there are serious biosafety concerns being debated world over. Different studies have consistently indicated the possible ill-effects of GMs on health and environment. There is a clear need for an independent report on various effects of GM crops, including long term studies and chronic toxicity studies. Biosafety concerns must be addressed before any open air release of GM crops including field trials.

It is in this context that one should look at the growing debate on GM crops in India. The crisis in Indian agriculture needs no further statement, but to attribute it to just technology lag and promote technofixes, like GM crops, as the only solution to it is not only myopic but also criminal and this is precisely what the Indian government seems to be doing.

The debate in India on GE crops started with Bt cotton, the only commercially approved GE crop in the country (March, 2002) and had become loud and visible around the approval of Bt Brinjal.

During public consultations organised by the Union ministry of environment and forests last year on Bt Brinjal, there were concerns raised by farmers, civil society, and health and environment experts against GM crops and also against the existing regulatory system in the country, the government then rolled back the approval validating these concerns.

Field trials 
While Bt Brinjal is under moratorium, numerous GM crops are being released in to the open fields in the name of field trials, which could lead to contamination of our regular crop varieties by these GM crops whose biosafety is yet to be ascertained. Efforts are also on by GM crop developers like Monsanto to push herbicide tolerant corn and cotton in India. Field trials of these crops have been happening and are expected to come up for commercialisation soon.

Recommendations submitted by the Swaminathan Task Force on Agri-Biotechnology, whose report was accepted by the government in 2004, clearly stated that India should  adopt  such technologies as genetic engineering only where alternatives do not exist. It also categorically rejected technologies that would be detrimental to agriculture labour like the herbicide tolerant crops.

To top it all the government is proposing a new regulatory system for GM crops called the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) which is supposed to be tabled in the monsoon session. From what one has seen of the media leaked versions of its drafts, BRAI is going to lower the bar for approvals of GM crops. The problems with the proposed bill starts with the grave conflict of interest where the regulator is proposed to be located in the ministry of science and technology which also has the mandate  to promote GM crops in the country.

The last version seen in the media paints the picture of a centralised technocratic body with pretty much no role for the elected representatives of the people of this country. It did not have longterm biosafety assessments and also maintains the current system of letting the GM crop developer do the biosafety assessment.

It also proposed to circumvent the Right to Information Act, 2005, and went even to the extent of proposing imprisonment and fines for those opposing GM crops without scientific evidence. Thus the BRAI that government plans to put in place, at its onset looks like a non transparent, unquestionable authority.

Given that the existing regulatory system is defunct, what needs to be immediately done is stopping the release of any GM crop in to our environment be it for commercialisation or for research. We should not fail to ask fundamental questions like whether there is a need for this technology and whether safer and sustainable alternatives exist for a proposed product.

This is what the existing and proposed regulatory systems for GM crops fail to do in India and the fact is that for any GM crop that is being developed in any part of the word right now, there exists ecological alternatives which are economically and socially sustainable.

(The writer is the chairman of parliament’s standing committee on agriculture)

Giving Away the Family Silver

“It was the sheer scale of the proposed land lease that shocked Pakistanis to attention. One million acres of Pakistani land were offered to any takers. It was immediately snapped up. The government promptly offered another six million acres.”

Giving Away the Family Silver

By Najma Sadeque 26 OCTOBER 2009

Photo: AFP

A Pakistani woman harvests wheat. Photo: AFP

It was the sheer scale of the proposed land lease that shocked Pakistanis to attention. One million acres of Pakistani land were offered to any takers. It was immediately snapped up. The government promptly offered another six million acres.

All this did not happen overnight as the government would have us believe. As it turns out, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani has been fishing: he had made the offer to the Saudis on a visit in June last year, seeking $6 billion in financial and oil aid in return for hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land.

The constant economic jugglery by successive governments has left us with little to repay our burgeoning debt, except perhaps land. But this information was neither shared with the Pakistani public nor discussed in parliament. It seems politicians in Pakistan believe they have carte blanche to take decisions without consulting their constituencies just because they have been elected.

At a 2008 roadshow for Pakistan’s agricultural and dairy sectors in the Gulf region, the vice-chairman and co-founder of the UAE-based Emirates Investment Group, Raza Jafar, openly stated that they had spent some two years researching the agricultural and dairy industries, and exploring the opportunities available. “We have come to the conclusion that agriculture was to represent one of our next major forays in investment.” The government is expecting a Saudi delegation to arrive any day now.

It was the Musharraf government that opened the doors to corporate farming with offers of minimum blocs of 1,000 acres – with no upper ceiling – and decade-long tax holidays. But except for Monsanto, the US-based chemical multinational that now poses as a seed company, entering the country eight years ago to serve agriculture with chemical-dependent genetically modified seeds, there were no takers in the post 9/11 years.

The present government has improved on the Musharraf offer to include 99-year leases and unrestricted repatriation of all profits and produce, and a 100,000-strong security force at a cost of $2 billion to protect these investments (see “Luring Investors”). The media in the Gulf has reported that the Emirates Investment Group and Abraaj Capital of Dubai, among other state and private investors, have already obtained 324,000 hectares (800,621 acres) of Pakistani farmland. Over the past year, Arab investors have been busy acquiring land.

Since the 1970s, the Saudis have been trying to become self-sufficient in wheat – they consume 2.6 million tonnes of wheat a year. But despite the most effective technologies, there is only so much a country can do, especially when water is in such short supply. Nearly 85% of Saudi Arabia’s water was sunk into cereal and dairy farming. But farming proved to be a no-growth area, and finally, Saudi Arabia gave up and started looking for water elsewhere – with the land to go with it.

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Exporting our future: Will the produce from Pakistan’s fields go abroad? Photo: AFP

The truth is, as a World Water Forum report reveals, underground water beneath the Arab countries is depleting rapidly. That includes the Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Saudi Arabia is probably the worst hit of all, as its water resources are expected to dry up within the next 50 years. Incidentally, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE are expected to reach a combined population of 39 million by next year, according to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The Gulf states have their own food security issues. They import 60-80% of their food, including most of their staples. But 60-80% of their populations are foreign workers – workers they can’t do without and who have to be fed too. According to the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development, their food bill jumped from $8 billion in 2003 to $20 billion in 2007. How long could they keep up with these sky-rocketing bills?

The solution seemed to be to grow their food in other countries and ship it directly home from farms owned by them, making it cheaper than imports. This way they would save millions by bypassing world markets. It would bring their food import bill down by 20-25% and also help lower the prices for consumers since they would be bringing their entire production home without sharing any with the host countries.

In fact, Qatar is about to outsource its food production to the Punjab. This will lead to the displacement of as many as 25,000 villages. How does the present government plan to address this issue? Or even the issue of providing enough water for agriculture for foreign investors. Can a water-scarce, hunger-stricken Pakistan afford this? Water – which neither the government nor the investors are talking about, but which is the real reason the Arabs are coming here – will have to be diverted from our farmers, invariably the poorest, who will then be forced to abandon their dried-up, dying lands and join the migrant hordes in our already slum-ringed cities.

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Water crisis: Already, rural, and even urban, Pakistanis face painful water shortages. Photo: AFP

The International Institute for Sustainable Development states that this is really a water grab, describing it as “the purchase or long-term lease of land in order to obtain the water rights that come with the land under domestic law or with the investment contract itself.” This explains why the government is being so secretive and not sharing the details with either the public or parliament (who may be forced to share it with the people).

Agriculture claims most of the world’s freshwater – about 70% of what’s available, is used for irrigation. But only between a third to a half of irrigation water reaches crops. The rest mostly leaks into the soil or runs off into water courses carrying agricultural pollutants with it. The worst affected areas are the Middle East (Israel imports all its potable water from Turkey), North Africa, northwest India, northeast China and Pakistan. This factor alone merits Pakistan being stricken off the land grab list.

In August 2008, the international environmental organisation World Wildlife Fund reported that the UK’s rising imports of cotton and rice from Pakistan was draining the aquifers of the fertile Indus Valley much faster than they can be replenished and that very soon, the land will become unproductive. It also expressed concern about the dangers of foreign control over farmlands of poor countries.

The UAE is reportedly about to sign an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Balochistan government for 150,000 hectares (370,657 acres) near Mirani Dam. Another foreign press report states that earlier the UAE had paid about $40 million for some 40,000 acres in the province – that comes to a thousand dollars per acre. But, if there is resistance, given the insurgency in the province, these land deals could run into trouble. Qatar Livestock is said to have sunk $1 billion into corporate farming in Pakistan. They are simultaneously reported to be negotiating with the Sindh government for leasing lands in Shikarpur, Larkana and Sukkur, and the Punjab government for leasing lands around Mianwali, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang and Faisalabad, in addition to the NWFP government in search of something suitable. Deals with Bahrain and Qatar are reportedly already in the bag for producing rice for them.

If all these land deals will be beneficial to Pakistan in the long run, why is the government refusing to divulge the details of what is the citizens’ common property?

A Pakistani official, who chose to remain anonymous, said that the investor as well as the Balochistan government will be jointly undertaking infrastructure development worth $20 million to introduce irrigation and improvements. But irrigation provides only short-term solutions and long-term, and often permanent, headaches. Due to inadequate drainage or canal lining, irrigated lands gradually become saline and infertile.

Reportedly, around 60-80% of the world’s irrigated lands may be affected. According to the Russian soil scientist V. Kovda, 20-25 million hectares have already been laid waste worldwide because of badly managed irrigation; 200,000 to 300,000 additional hectares out of a total worldwide irrigated area of about 200 million hectares are abandoned every year due to water logging and salinity.

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Cheap labour: Not only will Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, get land and water but they will also get access to lots of labour to work their fields. Photo: AFP

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that erosion causes a global loss of five to seven million hectares of productive land a year. Pakistan falls in this category. Georg Bergstrom, author of The Hungry Planet, stated that Pakistan was losing a hectare (two-and-a half acres) of good agricultural land every 20 minutes. Some two million hectares, or one-fifth of the cultivated area of the Indus plains, have been badly affected. As much as 40,000 additional hectares each year are falling victim to water logging and/or salinity, or have ceased to be productive altogether. Various other studies suggest that at least half the water used in agriculture is lost in transit, and sometimes over 60% is lost.

About a third of the world’s irrigated land, including that in Pakistan, is presently in danger. The worst effects of soil corrosion are visible in North America and Europe, where agriculture is heavily subsidised and chemical monoculture has been around longer and pursued to the optimum. A lesson needs to be learnt from the US where some 225 million acres of land is undergoing severe desertification. It would not be difficult for experts to guesstimate the level of soil corrosion within half a decade of intensive industrial farming in Pakistan.

The Indus irrigation system has negatively affected the hydrological balance of the Indus River basin and is rapidly deteriorating. It risks being consigned to failure if drastic action is not taken soon. It presently accounts for 90% of the agricultural output, but that may drop when foreign investors come in and expand the system further.

It is, therefore, difficult to understand how the Ministry of Investment got into an activity more akin to disinvestment. It is suicidal to divest the country of its natural capital. Whatever investment is poured into the lands will be for the exclusive benefit of the investor, not Pakistani citizens, or the generations that will follow.

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Modern farming: Will corporate farming ruin Pakistan’s agricultural land? Photo: wikimedia.org

The Green Revolution fizzled out in less than a decade. And it will not take a 49-year lease, let alone a 99-year one, for Pakistan’s fragile soils to be worked to death by the corrosive effects of chemical monoculture and genetically modified seed. In a decade or less, there is a grave danger that investors will have used intensive technologies to wrest out the maximum possible yields leaving the land so degraded, they will have to move out in search of new pastures.

Government spokesmen keep harping on the fact that the land is being leased, not sold. But the land will not be worth repossessing once it is exploited to the hilt. Further, it is easy enough for buyers/lessors to protect their investments with investor-protection provisions of international trade pacts and bilateral investment treaties, even to the extent of preventing cancellation of unfair land deals or stopping unsustainable or exploitative activities.

In fact, investors can even sue for imagined non-compliance of agreement, such as short supply of water, even if the host country is over-generous and depriving its own people.

The Saudi plan is to set up a series of 100,000-hectare (247,000-acre) farms in various countries to produce its crops of choice, such as wheat, corn, rice and soybeans, as well as fodder.

The Gulf states are a step ahead. Together they ostensibly manage $5 billion in assets across the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. Apparently, the Abu Dhabi Group, the single-largest foreign direct investor in Pakistan, the Emirates Investment Group and Abraaj Capital, a Dubai-based investment firm, have made known their interest in our agricultural sector and may be among those who have already clinched their deals.

Another argument the government keeps forwarding is that it is releasing marginal or unused land simply because it is not being operated by any landlord and does not appear in land records. Such land is part of the shaamlaat or community lands, which, although technically not owned by anyone, is by customary rights entrusted to the collective responsibility of local communities. These communities are responsible for justly sharing the produce and protecting it from overexploitation. Food and medicinal herb collection from wild plants still exists in many parts of South America, Africa and Asia, including parts of Pakistan. Land is also needed by herders or gypsies for grazing their animals.

Most importantly, lands that are sparsely populated because of water constraints are the very places where the hardiest wild species have evolved to withstand the harshest environmental conditions. These flora draw corporate gene-hunters to search them out so their survival traits can be transferred to other plants. These are then flaunted as the new ‘man-made’ species that are appropriated for sole global control and sale under intellectual property rights regimes.

Even if the Arab investors are not looking for fresh geneplasm and patents, the introduction of a few crops on vast monoculture plantations will wipe out, once and for all, the rare biodiversity that is left there, depriving our own farmers and scientists of genetic material.

What our ‘hands-off’ economists and urban experts have yet to absorb is that if monocultures take 100% hold, and there are no wild genes left to replenish weakened stock, agriculture will soon die and, along with it, people and other forms of life.

Jacques Diouf, director-general of FAO, has warned against creating a food neocolonialism, with richer countries obtaining supplies at the expense of poor farmers. For example, in Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest countries where people are starving, some 1.5 million acres have been leased out for a mere $3-10 per hectare per year. The average landholding size being five acres, over 300,000 families are displaced. Only about 20,000 people or so may get jobs in the highly mechanised farms.

That the Arab countries need to ensure their food security is understandable, but it does not have to be at the cost of countries like Pakistan that still need to set their own agricultural house in order to feed the starving in their own backyards.

Act Naturally sponsors documentary on farmer suicides, their causes, and solutions.

Act Naturally sponsors documentary on farmer suicides, their causes, and solutions..

Act Naturally sponsors documentary on farmer suicides, the causes and solutions.

Act Naturally (www.actnaturally.org) is a non-profit who promotes non-violent biodiverse agricultural practices to solve problems in health and food security. We partner with farmers and communities, activists, volunteers and other N.G.O’s to provide debt relief, organic education, and micro livestock, seedstock and bag garden donations. With our Khet Jyoti Fund, farmers who benefit from our debt relief program are put on a four year transition period toward full organic production where their risks are minimized through Act Naturally’s partnerships that provide for their inputs such as seeds, and any loss of income from the transition. We effectively severe farmers ties with corporate agribusiness predators like Monsanto once and for all, eliminating costly inputs and the need for future debts.

As part of our mission to increase public awareness worldwide about the benefits of organic agriculture and biodiverse farming practices, nutritional appropriation by agribusiness, and issues in national food security, we are raising money to create a 60 minute documentary about farmer suicides in India, their causes, and the civil resistance movements rising up in response. To date, it is estimated by the National Crime Records Bureau, part of the Ministry of Home Affairs in India, that over 200,000 farmers have committed suicide since trade liberalization in 1991.

The film will show our audience how globalization and corporate agriculture are exploiting India’s farmers and replacing farming, which was once at the center of India’s democracy, with modern consumer values and service reliance at the cost of food production. At the time of trade liberalization in 1991 aimed at making India a global competitor, few people in India’s rural expanse, participated in the machine of money exchange and consumerism to the scale that would make India attractive to foreign investment. At the time of these vast economic changes some villages still bartered wheat for haircuts,and saved seeds. Over the next two decades, generations of people; their values, culture, customs, means of producing food, relationship to land, and way of relating to wants and needs would have a new system, one that required money at its core to be successful, overlaid on top of their day to day challenges. The forcing of biotech/chem-tech and/market-based agriculture ontop of a traditional agrarian society, that was self reliant, threaded together spiritually, and lacking complex social desires, has created the mass migration of farmers to cities looking for menial labor jobs, and/or farmers committing suicide do to escalating debts.

The film will show how what we see today can be traced to a profound shift in social values and self sufficiency worldwide. Here is where the metaphor of the buttery fly effect glues together everyone as a part of the problem and solution. We will show how the debt cycle began, what forces made it possible and why it continues. We will interview leading activists and farm movement leaders on the issue, and use a significant portion of the film to highlight positive movements, protests, yatras and action along with organic solutions.

Act Naturally founder and activist Lua Cheia has teamed up with notable professionals:

* Helkin Rene Diaz, an amazing cinematographer who shot “Jala” (see it here) (a documentary on India’s scared waters being polluted);

*Rohit Chawla, logistics and travel coordinator, translator and photographer http://www.cosurvivor.in and;

*Emily Roland, editor, post production coordinator from Portland Community Media
to create this documentary.

We are lining up an impressive interview list including Umendra Dutt from Kheti Virasat Mission, Vandana Shiva, eco-feminist, environmentalist, writer and founder of Navdanya, Kishor Tiwari and more, to help illuminate the details as to how India has gotten into her current agricultural crisis.

We will also embed with two families who have lost a member to suicide in the Vidarbha region, known as India’s suicide belt, to follow their day to day lives and present their hardship. We will use commentary from activists, and prominent farm sangha leaders, who work everyday at the edge. There is a concept in permaculture called edge. Edge is the boundary between two elements -between a field and a forest, between the water and land. At the edge we find the most creative innovations in nature, as she attempts to deal with the evolutionary pressures of two worlds in order to thrive. The camera will attempt highlight the color, innovation and variety of this edge, showing the juxtaposition of agrarian ancient India with modern India. It’s lens is focused on authenticity and purpose, survival and victory. We will follow the farm workers unions and movements and show the angle of brother and sisterhood created within these movements for support and survival.

Any donation you can make is the right amount. Act Naturally is funded 100% by donations and we need your support to make this documentary from the ground up! Everyone who donates will get a copy of the final DVD. Donations over $150 will also receive an Act Naturally t-shirt along with the DVD. Thank you for taking the time to visit our site, and for your compassionate caring interest. Please feel free to write us with any questions at media@actnaturally.org.

If you would like to know more about India’s agricultural situation visit our blog at http://www.actnaturallyblog.wordpress.com. You can also go to our brand new website at http://www.actnaturally.org to find out more about our programs. Will you Act Naturally with us?
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Decline of farmers’ movement Report from The Hindu, Business Line by HARISH DAMODARAN

Agrarian activism has lost its bite despite India’s farm sector being in crisis mode. With agriculture no longer viewed as a conduit for upward mobility, the nature of farmers’ demands has changed to seeking options outside of agriculture.

 On October 25, 1988, Rajpath in Lutyens’ Delhi was turned into a virtual Janpath, as half-a-million farmers from western Uttar Pradesh (UP) descended upon the Boat Club lawns in the ceremonial boulevard of the Republic of India. What followed was an unprecedented week-long siege. Never before had the country’s power elite been forced into this kind of arm’s length engagement — literally — with people filling the entire stretch from Vijay Chowk to India Gate, with their tractors, trolleys, carts, charpoys, hookahs and cooking angithis.

October 1988 marked the pinnacle of Mahendra Singh Tikait’s journey as a farmer leader, which began with a four-day dharna at the Karmukheri power station in January 1987, against the UP Government’s move to hike electricity tariffs by a third. A year later came the 24-day gherao of the Meerut Commissionerate (for an increase in sugarcane prices to Rs 35/quintal and waiver of six months’ power bills) and, then, the 110-day Rajabpur Satyagraha in March-June (over police firing on ryots during the Meerut agitation).

KISANS AND NETAS

The Boat Club Panchayat, in a sense, was the high noon for not just Tikait, but also for farmers’ movements in India. The 1980s saw a host of them emerge — from Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union to Sharad Joshi’s Shetkari Sanghatana and M.D. Nanjundaswamy’s Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

But over the subsequent decade, they had all fizzled out or become pale shadows of their past. Tikait was reduced to a political non-entity much before he passed away last Sunday. His son, Rakesh, fought the 2007 UP assembly elections from Khatauli with Congress support — only to finish a distant sixth.

The farmer leaders of recent years have not been half as successful in mobilising the constituents they claim to represent. Some — very often not serious farmers themselves — have found it expedient to even cultivate European aid agencies or, alternatively, agri-business MNCs. Not surprisingly, they have tended to espouse causes — either extreme aversion or uncritical support for GM and other new technologies — far removed from the farmers’ day-to-day concerns of erratic power, timely availability of fertiliser and credit, and marketability of produce. The result is that autonomous, grassroots farmers’ movements of the sort Tikait led in the 1980s have practically ceased to exist.

There is a certain irony to the above decline. The 1980s were a time when Indian agriculture wasn’t faring too badly. During 1980-81 to 1990-91, overall crop production grew annually by 3.2 per cent, as against the average 2.2 per cent for the early Green Revolution period from 1967-68 to 1980-81. Moreover, yields were on the rise: The national average for wheat almost doubled from 1.2 tonnes to 2.2 tonnes a hectare between the early 1970s to the late 1980s, while going up from 1.6 to 2.6 tonnes in paddy.

All these meant a peasantry that was “very sure of its future in agriculture”, as the Oxford scholar, Judith Heyer, discovered from a survey of farmers with open well-irrigated plots, or thottams, near Coimbatore in 1981-82. The prestige attached to farming was also noted by the sociologist, Ravinder Kaur, in a Punjab village study done around the same period: “The Jat might be employed as a school teacher or serve in the military, but he saw his primary role as that of an agriculturalist; his connection with land was what he held most dear.”

The optimism surrounding agriculture had, however, dried up by the turn of the century. Revisiting the same thottam farming families in 1996, Heyer encountered a community less confident and “investing in ways that would make it possible for their sons to move out of agriculture in future”. This was also confirmed by the National Sample Survey Organisation, which, in a special 2003 Situation Assessment study, reported that 40 per cent of Indian farmers, given a choice, would “take up some other career”.

FARMING NO FUN

The underlying cause of disenchantment was obviously yields. These had plateaued to 2.6-2.7 tonnes in wheat and 3-3.1 tonnes for paddy, alongside soaring cultivation costs, declining water tables and diminishing response to fertiliser application. During 1990-91 to 2000-01, total crop output growth fell to less than 2 per cent a year. While there has been some revival since 2005-06, it has not reversed the ‘crisis’ discourse that now dominates discussions on Indian agriculture.

But that still begs the question: Why has the present agricultural crisis not provided fertile ground for farmers’ movements? Correspondingly, what explains their success in the 1980s, when the outlook for farming was far from bleak? The answer is simple. Movements thrive when those participating have a stake in the cause they feel is worth fighting for. During the 1970s and 1980s, farmers, especially in the Green Revolution areas, saw their crop yields and disposable incomes go up significantly. Having experienced first-hand upward mobility through modern intensive agriculture, they developed a collective consciousness to defend these gains. Tikait’s diatribes against city-dwellers and urban-centric policymakers appealed to farmers, just the way a newly empowered, self-righteous Indian middle-class took a shine to Anna Hazare’s recent movement deriding all politicians as corrupt.

BEYOND THE FIELDS

The situation today is different, with agriculture no longer viewed as a conduit for upward mobility by most farmers. The nature of demands has, accordingly, changed to seeking options outside of agriculture.

Take the ongoing farmers’ stir in Greater Noida, where the basic issue is not about remunerative prices for crops, but for land acquired by the UP Government. Or the Jat protests that disrupted rail traffic across North India in March — which was, again, about reservations in Central Government jobs.

The non-farm character of these so-called farmers’ movements can be seen from the profile of their leaders. The Jat quota agitation’s spearhead, Yashpal Malik, is a realtor who has developed the Vasundhara Plaza in Ghaziabad. His counterpart at Greater Noida, Manveer Singh Tewatia, owns a unit that fabricates iron doors, grills and shutters. A far cry from Tikait — who, right till the end, kept track of the sugarcane in his 160-bigha (32 acres) field at Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar.

(blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

(This article was published on May 21, 2011)

Business Line : Columns / Harish Damodaran : Decline of farmers’ movement

Business Line : Columns / Harish Damodaran : Decline of farmers’ movement.

Counter Punch : India’s Farm Suicides: a 12-Year Saga

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Silent Coup

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Feb. 4. 2010
India’s Farm Suicides: a 12-Year Saga
By P. SAINATH

The loan waiver year of 2008 saw 16,196 farm suicides in the country, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Compared to 2007, that’s a fall of just 436. As economist Professor K. Nagaraj who has worked in depth on farm suicide data says, “the numbers leave little room for comfort and none at all for self-congratulation.” There were no major changes in the trend that set in from the late 1990s and worsened after 2002. The dismal truth is that very high numbers of farm suicides still occur within a fast decreasing farm population.

Between just the Census of 1991 and that of 2001, nearly 8 million cultivators quit farming. A year from now, the 2011 Census will tell us how many more quit in this decade. It is not likely to be less. It could even dwarf that 8 million figure as the exodus from farming probably intensified after 2001.

The State-wise farm suicide ratios — number of farmers committing suicide per 100,000 farmers — are still pegged on the outdated 2001 figures. So the 2011 Census, with more authentic counts of how many farmers there really are, might provide an unhappy update on what is going on.

The focus on farm suicides as a share of total suicides in India is misleading. That way, it’s “aha! the percentage is coming down,” which is grotesque. For one thing, the total number of suicides (all groups, not just farmers) is increasing — in a growing population. Farm suicides are rising within a declining farm population. Two, an all-India picture disguises regional intensity. The devastation lies in the Big 5 States (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh). These account for two-thirds of all farm suicides during 2003-08. Take just the Big 5 — their percentage of all farm suicides has gone up. Worse, even their percentage of total all-India suicides (all categories) has risen. Poor States like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are doing very badly for some years now.
In the period 1997-2002, farm suicides in the Big 5 States accounted for roughly one out of every 12 of all suicides in the country. In 2003-08, they accounted for nearly one out of every 10.

The NCRB now has farm suicide data for 12 years. Actually, farm data appear in its records from 1995 onwards, but some States failed to report for the first two years. Hence 1997, from when all States are reporting their farm suicide data, is a more reliable base year. The NCRB has also made access much easier by placing all past years of “Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India” reports on its website.

The 12-year period allows us to compare farm suicide numbers for 1997-2002, with how they turned out in the next 6-year period of 2003-2008. All 12 years were pretty bad, but the latter six were decidedly worse.

Reading a ‘trend’ into a single year’s dip or rise is misleading. Better to look at 3-year or 6-year periods within 1997-2008. For instance, Maharashtra saw a decline in farm suicide numbers in 2005, but the very next year proved to be its worst ever. Since 2006, the State has been the focus of many initiatives. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Vidharbha that year brought the “Prime Minister’s Relief Package” of US$814,330 million for six crisis-ridden districts of the region. This came atop Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s US$13,246 million “CM’s relief package.” Then followed the nearly US$1954.3 million that was Maharashtra’s share of the US$15201 million Central loan waiver for farmers. To which the State government added US$1346 million for those farmers not covered by the waiver. The State added US$108.5 million for a one-time settlement (OTS) for poor farmers who had been excluded from the waiver altogether because they owned over five acres of land.

In all, the amounts committed to fighting the agrarian crisis in Maharashtra exceeded US$4.3 billion across 2006, 2007 and 2008. (And that’s not counting huge handouts to the sugar barons.) Yet, that proved to be the worst three-year period ever for any State at any time since the recording of farm data began. In 2006-08, Maharashtra saw 12, 493 farm suicides. That is nearly 600 more than the previous worst of 2002-2005 and 85 per cent higher than the 6,745 suicides recorded in the three-year period of 1997-1999. The same government was in power, incidentally, in the worst six years. Besides, these higher numbers are emerging within a shrinking farm population. By 2001, 42 per cent of Maharashtra’s population was already urban. Its farmer base has certainly not grown.

So was the loan waiver useless? The idea of a waiver was not a bad thing. And it was right to intervene. More that the specific actions were misguided and bungled. Yet it could also be argued that but for the relief the waiver brought to some farmers at least, the suicide numbers of 2008 could have been a lot worse. The waiver was a welcome step for farmers, but its architecture was flawed. It dealt only with bank credit and ignored moneylender debt. So only those farmers with access to institutional credit would benefit. Tenant farmers in Andhra Pradesh and poor farmers in Vidharbha and elsewhere get their loans mainly from moneylenders. So, in fact, farmers in Kerala, where everyone has a bank account, were more likely to gain. (Kerala was also the one State to address the issue of moneylender debt.)

The 2008 waiver also excluded those holding over five acres, making no distinction between irrigated and unirrigated land. This devastated many struggling farmers with eight or 10 acres of poor, dry land. On the other hand, West Bengal’s farmers, giant numbers of small holders below the 5-acre limit, stood to gain far more.

Every suicide has a multiplicity of causes. But when you have nearly 200,000 of them, it makes sense to seek broad common factors within that group. Within those reasons. As Dr. Nagaraj has repeatedly pointed out, the suicides appear concentrated in regions of high commercialization of agriculture and very high peasant debt. Cash crop farmers seemed far more vulnerable to suicide than those growing food crops. Yet the basic underlying causes of the crisis remained untouched. The predatory commercialization of the countryside; a massive decline in investment in agriculture; the withdrawal of bank credit at a time of soaring input prices; the crash in farm incomes combined with an explosion of cultivation costs; the shifting of millions from food crop to cash crop cultivation with all its risks; the corporate hijack of every major sector of agriculture including, and especially, seed; growing water stress and moves towards privatisation of that resource. The government was trying to beat the crisis — leaving in place all its causes — with a one-off waiver.

In late 2007, The Hindu carried (Nov. 12-15) the sorry result emerging from Dr. Nagaraj’s study of NCRB data: that nearly 150,000 peasants had ended their lives in despair between 1997 and 2005. Just days later, Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar confirmed those figures in Parliament (Rajya Sabha Starred Question No. 238, Nov. 30, 2007) citing the same NCRB data. It’s tragic that 27 months later, the paper had to run a headline saying that the number had climbed to nearly 200,000. The crisis is very much with us. Mocking its victims, heckling its critics. Cosmetic changes won’t make it go away.

P. Sainath is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, where this piece appears, and is the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories From India’s Poorest Districts. He can be reached at: psainath@vsnl.com.

Special Edition : Monstanto Quit India (August 9)

First Report:


A wake-up call: On the occasion of Quit India Day, hundreds of farmers, NGOs and social workers took out a procession demanding ‘Monsanto, Quit India!’ in Bhopal on Tuesday calling for ouster of the multinational seed and agro-chemical giant from the country and an end to all kind of trials on GM crops. – Photo: A. M. Faruqui

Ahmedabad remembers Quit India, in many ways
Published: Wednesday, Aug 10, 2011, 19:40 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA

Gujarat NGOs Bhartiya Kisan Sangh and Jatan Trust, Baroda, carried out a rally in Ahmedabad on Tuesday to make public aware of the ill effects of Monsanto seeds, chemicals used for pest control and how tribal farmers are allegedly becoming a vanishing tribe. They also held a press conference and sent a letter to chief minister Narendra Modi in this regard.

“Across 15 states of India, NGOs working for the welfare of farmers are demanding the government scrap various agreements that it has singed with Monsanto, Mahyco, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont and the like in the name of PPP (public private partnership),” Kapil Shah, founder of Jatan Trust, said. He alleged that state and central governments are actually facilitating the build-up of monopolistic markets for these corporations.

Events under the banner, ‘Monsanto, Quit India’ were carried out pan India. The objective of this campaign is to force the government to scrap its agreements with Monsanto and others in the name PPP. In their demands submitted to Modi, the NGOs have asked that seeds sold to farmers by the companies operating under the aegis of Monsanto should be taken back and their production should be stopped immediately.

They have further demanded that there should not be any GM crop trials and facilitation of bio-piracy of invaluable germ-plasm that belongs to farmers of this country in the name of collaborative research.The NGOs have also demanded that the government should make efforts to improve farmer’s research institutions, which for some reason, are unable to come up with new varieties of seeds that are friendly to farmers and soil.

Additionally, an agriculture policy safeguarding farmer’s land and water resources should be formed at the earliest possible, they said. They have appealed to the government to promote local-level solutions that Indian farmers have pioneered.

Second Report:
Quit India anniversary strikes many chords
Staff Reporter

From corruption to biopiracy, several issues come to the fore
Farmers gave a call, ‘Monsanto, Quit India’, in Bangalore on Tuesday. — PHOTO: Sampath Kumar G.P.
Several programmes were held across the city to mark the 69th anniversary of the Quit India Movement on Tuesday. Early in the day, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) organised an all-religion prayer meeting at the Mahatma Gandhi statue on M.G. Road here where students paid floral tributes.

Mayor Sharadamma, who participated along with Deputy Mayor S. Harish, Commissioner Siddaiah and Ruling Party Leader B.R. Nanjundappa, said that the BBMP had been organising programmes every year to mark the movement’s anniversary to create awareness among people about its significance. She said that the country won Independence when its citizens came together as one to support the movement.

Speaking at an event organised by Gandhi Bhavan, Karnataka Human Rights Commission Chairperson S.R. Nayak said that politicians and bureaucrats indicted in corruption cases should quit.

Pointing out that both the Union and State Governments are mired in scams, be it 2G or illegal mining, he said that “elected people who don’t follow the Constitution should leave their positions”.

‘Quit India, Monsanto!’

At another event, several farmers gathered and called for scrapping of any partnerships, deals and projects with Monsanto, the largest seeds corporation in the world. Around 300 farmers gathered and gave a call: “Monsanto, Quit India”.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) president Kodihalli Chandrasekhar said that State agencies such as the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, were facilitating biopiracy in the name of collaborative research.

The protesters demanded the scrapping of the development of BT brinjal varieties. They demanded that agencies going against the legal provisions of the Biological Diversity Act be penalised for such violations.

Against humanity

In a memorandum submitted to the State Government, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and the KRRS pointed out that the Government should be aware of Monsanto’s long history of crimes against humanity.

They claimed that Monsanto used several strategies, including deploying technology that reduces possibility of farmers re-using their seeds, legal frameworks that prevent farmers and researchers free and open access to seeds, and aggressive, monopolistic market manoeuvres that suppressed competition. The protesters were assured by senior officials that projects with Monsanto and other companies will be reviewed.

Third Report

Social bodies launch campaign against agri MNC

TNN Aug 9, 2011, 01.29am IST

NAGPUR: On the occasion on Quit India Day on Monday, NGOs and social activists launched a campaign called ‘Monsanto, Quit India.’ To be held simultaneously at various places across 15 states of the country, the aim of campaign is to raise the demand of turning away big multinational seed and agro-chemical companies from domestic markets.

The movement is heralded by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), an all-India network of about 400 organizations of farmers, agricultural workers, consumers, social activists and academics, ‘working to promote ecologically sustainable agriculture and secure livelihoods for farmers, and stop corporate domination of our agriculture and food system’. The organizations claim that the government seems to have an agreement with Monsanto, Mahyco, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont and other such companies.

They also wish that Monsanto be blacklisted. The corporation had recently hit the headlines because of alleged violations of some biosafety norms in its GM maize plot in Bijapur, Karnataka.

Resistance: Necessary and Deadly. Land Aquisition Protests in Uttar Pradesh, India