Tag Archives: bt cotton

India’s Green Revolution of Control (revised 2015)

By Jamie Rutherford

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

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

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

What he and many like him know is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motive is hidden in plain sight.

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

His Story:

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

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

Wallace traveled around Mexico meeting with farmers and officials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Productivity

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

How do we measure Primary Productivity?

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

What is wrong in the existing system?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One bad idea picks up more bad ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shift to dependence:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fertilizer – produced by Monsanto

Pesticide – produced by Monsanto

GM Seed – produced by Monsanto

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

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

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

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

Dr. Shiva says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian farmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two new films about GM in India, Lakshmi devi dasi

 May 2012 by

video: Bitter Seeds Trailer


1.”Bitter Seeds: The Plight of India’s Farmers”
2.”Bitter Seeds” at the San Francisco Film Festival
3.Telling suppressed stories: “Cotton For My Shroud”NOTE: You can see the trailer for “Bitter Seeds” here
For films available in full online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.“Bitter Seeds” at the San Francisco Film Festival

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

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

3.Telling suppressed stories
The Hindu, April 18 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NPR covers the Green Revolution, “Green Revolution’ Trapping India’s Farmers In Debt” Part 2

Listen to NRP radio coverage here:


‘Green Revolution’ Trapping India’s Farmers In Debt

As the world’s population surges, the international community faces a pressing problem: How will it feed everybody?

Until recently, people thought India had an answer.

Farmers in the state of Punjab abandoned traditional farming methods in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the national program called the “Green Revolution,” backed by advisers from the U.S. and other countries.

Indian farmers started growing crops the American way — with chemicals, high-yield seeds and irrigation.

Since then, India has gone from importing grain like a beggar, to often exporting it.

But studies show the Green Revolution is heading for collapse.

A Thirst For Water

On a recent morning, a drilling rig is pounding away in the middle of a wheat field near the village of Chotia Khurd. The sound, part jackhammer and part pile driver, is becoming increasingly common in the farm fields of northern India’s Punjab region.

The farmer, Sandeep Singh, is supervising and looking unhappy as the rig hammers away, driving deeper and deeper under his field in search of water.

When India’s government launched the Green Revolution more than 40 years ago, it pressured farmers to grow only high-yield wheat, rice and cotton instead of their traditional mix of crops.

The new miracle seeds could produce far bigger yields than farmers had ever seen, but they came with a catch: The thirsty crops needed much more water than natural rainfall could provide, so farmers had to dig wells and irrigate with groundwater.

The system worked well for years, but government studies show that farmers have pumped so much groundwater to irrigate their crops that the water table is dropping dramatically, as much as 3 feet every year.

So farmers like Sandeep keep hiring the drilling company to come back to their fields, to bore the wells ever deeper — on this day, to more than 200 feet.

Farmers In Debt

The groundwater problem has touched off an economic chain reaction. As the farmers dig deeper to find groundwater, they have to install ever more powerful and more expensive pumps to send it gushing up to their fields.

Sandeep says his new pump costs more than $4,000. He and most other farmers have to borrow that kind of cash, but they are already so deep in debt that conventional banks often turn them away.

So Sandeep and his neighbors have turned to “unofficial” lenders — local businessmen who charge at least double the banks’ interest rate. The district agriculture director, Palwinder Singh, says farmers can end up paying a whopping 24 percent.

Another side effect of the groundwater crisis is evident at the edge of the fields — thin straggly rows of wheat and a whitish powder scattered across the soil.

The white substance is salt residue. Drilling deep wells to find fresh water often taps brackish underground pools, and the salty water poisons the crops.

“The salt causes root injuries,” Palwinder says. “The root cannot take the nutrients from the soil.”

Destroying The Soil

In the village of Chotia Khurd, farmers agree that the Green Revolution used to work miracles for many of them. But now, it’s like financial quicksand.

Studies show that their intensive farming methods, which government policies subsidize, are destroying the soil. The high-yield crops gobble up nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, iron and manganese, making the soil anemic.

The farmers say they must use three times as much fertilizer as they used to, to produce the same amount of crops — yet another drain on their finances.

A farmer named Suba Singh has seen the good and bad effects of the Green Revolution.

Clad in a bright blue turban and his face furrowed like a field, he opens a squeaky wooden gate to his compound. He points to a small building made of mud and straw, with faded green doors.

“That’s where my family used to live,” he says.

During the profitable years of the Green Revolution, he saw that everyone else in the village was building brick houses.

“So I took out a loan,” he says, “and built a brick house for my family, too.”

He turned the old mud house into his cattle shed. But now he is in debt.

A study by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology calls it a “vicious cycle of debt.”

Suba and the other farmers say they’ve had to borrow money to buy just about everything that makes them look prosperous — their brick homes, tractors, cattle, even their plastic chairs.

The farmers have also built their Green Revolution farms and lifestyle on another unstable source of money: Family members have moved overseas to find jobs, because they couldn’t make a living farming, and now they send part of their income back to Chotia Khurd to support their relatives.

“It’s like a disease that is catching on in the world,” says Suba, “building a life that is like a house of cards.”

A System About To Collapse?

Some leading officials in the farming industry wonder when this house of cards might collapse.

“The state and farmers are now faced with a crisis,” warns a report by the Punjab State Farmers Commission.

India’s population is growing faster than any country on Earth, and domestic food production is vital.

But the commission’s director, G.S. Kalkat, says Punjab’s farmers are committing ecological and economic “suicide.”

If he is correct, suicide is coming through national policies that reward farmers for the very practices that destroy the environment and trap them in debt.

Kalkat says only one thing can save Punjab: India has to launch a brand new Green Revolution. But he says this one has to be sustainable.

The problem is, nobody has yet perfected a farming system that produces high yields, makes a good living for farm families, protects and enhances the environment — and still produces good, affordable food.

An excerpt from: Organic Farming in India: Relevance, Problems and Constraints


Summary from the Report submitted by DR. S. NARAYANAN from the Department of Economic Analysis and Research National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mumbai 2005

2.2 Need for Organic Farming in India
The need for organic farming in India arises from the unsustaina-bility of agriculture production and the damage caused to ecology through the conventional farming practices.The present system of agriculture which we call ‘conventional’ and practiced the world over evolved in the western nations as a product of their socio-economic environment which promoted an over riding quest for accumulation of wealth. This method of farming adopted by other countries is inherently self destructive and unsustainable.

The modern farming is highly perfected by the Americans who dispossessed the natives of their farms right from the early period of the new settlers in US (Wadia, 1996). The large farms appropriated by the immigrants required machines to do the large scale cultural operations. These machines needed large amount of fossil fuels besides forcing the farmers to raise the same crops again and again, in order to utilize these machines to their optimum capacities. The result was the reduction of bio-diversity and labour. The high cost of the machines necessitated high profits, which in turn put pressure to raise productivity. Then, only those crops with high productivity were cultivated which needed increased quantities of fertilizers and pesticides. Increasing use of pesticides resulted in the damage to environment and increased resistance of insects to them. Pesticides harmed useful organisms in the soil.


The monoculture of high yielding seeds required external inputs of chemical fertilizers. The fertilizers also destroy soil organisms. They damage the rhizobia that fix nitrogen and other micro organisms that make phosphates available to plants (Wadia, 1996). The long term effect was reduction of crop yields. The damaged soil was easily eroded by wind and water. The eroding soil needed use of continuously increasing quantities of fertilizers, much of which was washed/leached into surface and underground water sources.

The Indian agriculture switched over to the conventional system of production on the advent of the green revolution in the 1970s. The change was in the national interest which suffered set backs because of the country’s over dependence on the foreign food sources. The national determination was so intense that all the attention was focused on the increase in agriculture production.

The agriculture and allied sectors in India provide employment to 65 per cent of the workers and accounts for 30 per cent of the national income. The growth of population and the increase in income will lead to a rise in demand for foodgrains as also for the agricultural raw materials for industry in the future. The area under cultivation, obviously, cannot be increased and the present 140 million hectares will have to meet the future increases in such demands. There is a strong reason for even a decline in the cultivated area because of the urbanization and industrialization, which in turn will exert much pressure on the existing, cropped area.

Science and technology have helped man to increase agricultural production from the natural resources like land. But the realization that this has been achieved at the cost of the nature and environment, which support the human life itself, is becoming clear. It has been fully evident that the present pattern of economic development, which ignores the ecology and environment, cannot sustain the achievement of man without substantial erosion of the factors that support the life system of all living things on the Earth. The evidence of the ill effects of development is well documented. As said earlier, we in India have to be concerned much more than any other nation of the world as agriculture is the source of livelihood of more than 6-7 million of our people and it is the foundation of the economic development of the country.

There were times when people lived close to nature with access to flora and fauna in healthier and cleaner surroundings. One has to look back at our present metropolitan cities or other large towns before the past fifty years as recorded in history/memmories of the present elder generation to see the striking differences in the surroundings in which the people lived there. Land, water and air, the most fundamental resources supporting the human life, have degraded into such an extent that they now constitute a threat to the livelihood of millions of people in the countiy.

Ecological and environmental effects have been highly publicised all over the world. Many times, these analysis have taken the shape of doomsday forecasts. Powerful interests in the developed western countries have also politicised these issues to take advantage of the poor nations of the world. Efforts to impose trade restrictions on the plea of environment protection are a direct result of these campaigns. But we have to recognize that the abysmal level to which we have degraded our resources ,requires immediate remedial measures without terming the demand for them as the ploys of the rich nations to exploit the poor.
Another turn of the events has been the blame game for ecological problems stated at the Earth Summit and other international conferences. The developed countries, it is true, are to a great extent instrumental to degrade the environment. However, the poorer countries of the world including India cannot delay or ignore the need for remedial measures, which are to be effectively implemented. We cannot gloss over the fact that we have also contributed to the degradation of ecology; look at the droughts and floods, disappearance of forests, high noise level and air pollution in the cities which are our own creations.

Organically cultivated soils are relatively better attuned to withstand water stress and nutrient loss. Their potential to counter soil degradation is high and several experiments in arid areas reveal that organic farming may help to combat desertification (Alam and Wani, 2003). It is reported that about 70 hectares of desert in Egypt could be converted into fertile soil supporting livestock through organic and biodynamic practices. India, which has some areas of semi-arid and arid nature, can benefit from the experiment.
The organic agriculture movement in India received inspiration and assistance from IFOAM which has about 600 organizational members from 120 countries. All India Federation of Organic Farming (AIFOF) is a member of IFOAM and consists of a number of NGOs, farmers’ organisations, promotional bodies and institutions.

The national productivity of many of the cereal crops, millets, oilseeds, pulses and horticultural crops continues to be one of the lowest in the world in spite of the green revolution. The fertilizer and pesticide consumption has increased manifold; but this trend has not been reflected in the crop productivity to that extent. The country’s farming sector has started showing indications of reversing the rising productivity as against the increasing trend of input use.
The unsustainability of Indian agriculture is caused by the modern farming methods which have badly affected/damaged production resources and the environment.

2.2.1 Affects of Modern Farming Technology
The role of agriculture in economic development in an agrarian country like India is a pre-dominant one. Agriculture provides food for more than 1 billion people and yields raw materials for agro-based industries. Agricultural exports earn foreign exchange. Modernization of Indian agriculture began during the mid-sixties which resulted in the green revolution making the country a foodgrain surplus nation from a deficit one depending on food imports. Modern agriculture is based on the use of high yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, irrigation water, pesticides, etc., and also on the adoption of multiple cropping systems with the extension of area under cultivation. But it also put severe pressure on natural resources like, land and water. However, given the continuous growth of modern technology along with the intensive use of natural resources, many of them of non renewable, it is felt that agriculture cannot be sustainable in future because of the adverse changes being caused to the environment and the ecosystem. The environmental non-degradable nature of the agricultural development and its ecological balance have been studied in relation to the modem Indian farming system by experts which shows exploitation of land and water for agriculture, and the excessive use of chemicals.

Chemical Contamination
Consumption of chemical fertilizers {N,P,K) has been increasing in India during the past thirty years at a rate of almost half a million tonnes on an average, a year. It was only 13.13 kg/ha in 1970-71, 31.83 kg/ha in 1980-81 and 74.81 kg/ha in 1995-96. It shot up to about 96 kg/ha during 1999-2000. Table 5 shows the consumption of fertilizers in India from 1970-71 to 2001-02.

Table 5 : Consumption of Chemical Fertilizers in India. Go to page 40.
Source : Indian Agriculture in Brief.

The present use of about 96 kg of fertilizers per ha in India appears to be modest compared to the advanced countries. Currently about 80 per cent of the fertilizer is consumed in only about 120 districts constituting less than 33 per cent of the gross cultivating area. Experts point out that the efficiency of fertilizer use in India is only 30-35 per cent as the balance 65-70 per cent reaches the under ground water. The intensity of their use in a few regions and a few crops are causes of serious concern to human health, soil, water, environment and thus to the sustainability of agriculture production in the country.

It is true that the increasing use of fertilizer at high rates has boosted agricultural production in the country. But it has also caused adverse impact on soil and water as well as environment. Several studies on the effects of high level of fertilizer application on soil health have confirmed the adverse impacts (Singh et. al., 1995).

Both drinking and irrigation water wells in large numbers have been found contaminated with nitrates, some of them are having even 45 mg per litre, well above the safe level.

Long term continuous use of high doses of chemical fertilizers badly affects the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil. A study at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore confirmed the deterioration of soil health because of the reduction in water holding capacity, soil pH, organic carbon content and the availability of trace elements such as zinc in case of ragi crop even with the application of normal doses of fertilizer in the long run (Hegde, et. al., 1995).

In the long run, increasing nitrogenous fertilizer use leads to the accumulation of nitrates in the soil. The application of sulphatic fertilizers leaves sulphates in the soil. Rainfall and excessive use of irrigation water cause these chemicals to change the alkaline or acidic nature of the soil. The nitrates go to the rivers, wells, lakes etc. And also leak into the drainage system which goes into the drinking water contaminating the environment. It also causes depletion of the ozone layer adding to the global warming. Use of nitrogen in the form of ammonium sulphate in the rice crop emanates ammonia polluting the atmosphere. The heavy metals present in the fertilizers and sewage sludge leach into ground water. Table 6 shows the content of some heavy metals in fertilizers and sludges.

Table 6 : Content of Heavy Metals in Fertilizers and Sludges Go to page 41.
Source : Deb and Joshi (1994).

The use of chemical pesticides began with the discovery of toxicological properties of DDT and HCH during the Second World War. Many chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides like aldrin, dieldrin, toxaphane, chlordane, endosulfan, etc. came into the market during the second half of the last century. Simultaneously, organophosphate and carbonate compounds were employed in agriculture. A new group of insecticides, such as premethrin, cypermethrin, fenalerate, etc. which were effective at low doses came into being in the 1970s.

The use of pesticides has helped in increasing agriculture production and also led to the development of resistance in pests, contamination of the environment and resurgence of many pests.

There are about 1000 agrochemicals in use in the world over. India accounts for about 3.7 per cent of the total world consumption. At present, our consumption is about 90,000 tonnes of plant protection chemicals. It comes to about 500 grams per ha compared to 10-12 kg/ha in Japan and 5 kg/ha in Europe. However, the use of pesticides in India is uneven like the fertilizers. While in cotton it is about 3 to 4 kg/ha, in pulses it comes to below 500 grams/ha (Kathpal and Beena Kumari, 1997). Pesticide application is also concentrated in some areas as in the case of fertilizers mentioned earlier.

Agricultural chemicals have become a major input in Indian agriculture with the increasing demand for food, feed and fibre. The pesticide consumption was about 2000 tonnes annually during the 1950s. India happens to be the second largest manufacturer of pesticides in Asia after Japan. It is also of interest to know that in spite of increased consumption of plant protection chemicals, the produce loss due to insects and pests increased by 5 times during the period from 1988 to 1995.

Increasing application of fertilizer also leads to increasing use of pesticides to control pests and diseases. The trend of increasing fertilizer use also compels the farmers to enhance the use of pesticides as well. For example, the use of fertilizers in increasing amounts leads to growth of weeds and in the process of weedicide use many plants growing nearby also get killed, which reduces the biodiversity. Meanwhile, the weeds also develop resistance to herbicides and the quest to formulate even powerful herbicides begins.Pesticide consumption in India from 1970-71 to 2000-01 is shown in Table 7.

Table 7 : Pesticide Consumption in India. Go to page 43.
Source : Indian Agriculture in Brief.

Consumption of pesticides increased from 24.32 thousand tonnes in 1970-71 to 75 thousand tonnes in 1990-91 and it slowed down during the subsequent period. Insects, pests and diseases like viral, bacterial and fungal affect the high yielding varieties of crops.

Almost all pesticides are toxic in nature and pollute the environment leading to grave damage to ecology and human life itself. This indiscriminate use leaves toxic residues in foodgrans, fodder, vegetables, meat, milk, milk products, etc. besides in soil and water (Dhaliwal and Singh, 1993).

High doses of pesticides severely affect the aquatic animals, fish and the wild life. Insects develop resistance to insecticides in crops like cotton and in turn force the farmers to the excessive use of them. Cases of pesticide poisoning and human and animal deaths are also reported. Pesticides irritate the skin and the respiratory system in the humans gets damaged.
It was found that all water bodies like, rivers, canals, lakes, tanks and ponds and also the costal water were contaminated with high amounts of DDT, HCH and other organochlorine pesticides. River water is seen as more contaminated than other water sources.

Contamination of drinking water with DDT and HCH is reported from different states. Since the concentrations of contaminants are higher than MRL (0.5 ppb) values fixed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the seriousness of the problem can be gauged.

Pesticides also contaminate animal feeds and fodder. Green fodder, paddy and wheat straw contain residues of DDT and HCH. Several studies have confirmed this trend (Kathpal, 1997).

Milk and milk products are also affected by the pesticide use. Both bovine and human milk showed high levels of pesticide contamination. The sources of contamination of bovine milk are traced to the fodder and feed concentrates and in case of the human milk, the consumption of contaminated food by the lactating mothers is reported to be the reason.

Infant formula/baby milk powders also showed DDT and HCH contamination level ranging from 94 to 100 per cent. Butter and ghee, the other animal products revealed high contamination levels in many parts of the country.
Cereals like wheat and rice were seen contaminated highly by pesticides like, DDT, HCH and malathion. The case of vegetable, vegetable oil, honey, fish etc. is also not different as they too have unacceptable high pesticide residue content levels.

The adverse effect of pesticide contamination on humans in India is understood from the study of dietary intake. Such studies, although a few in number, have confirmed high levels of pesticides (mainly, DDT and HCH) contamination which come to more than 3 to 5 times than the agriculturally developed countries.

The daily intake of pesticide per individual is estimated to be about 0.51 milli-grams which is above the accepted level. The Indian Institute of Horticulture Research has reported contamination of 50 per cent of the fruits and vegetables sold in the Bangalore market with the residues of DDT and HCH (Prakash, 2003).

Use of herbicides over a period results in the shift of the weed flora. The weeds of minor importance, often, become major weeds. Repeated application of weedicides helps the development of resistance in weed at alarming proportions.

 The remedy recommended is rotation of herbicides or the use of other herbicides. Any way, the end result is contamination of ground water and soils inflicting damage on environment.

The number of herbicides registered in India comes to about 28 in 1997-98 which was only 10 before 10 years. This is often compared to about 300 herbicides available in the North America. There are only 10 herbicides manufactured in the country and the herbicides consumption was about 6000 Tonnes during 1994-95. It is reported that the level of herbicide use in rice, wheat, and tea in India is almost the same that of the world at large. Sugarcane, soyabean, groundnut, coffee, cotton, onion and potato are the other crops, which find widespread application of herbicides in India.

The contamination of water, air and soil with toxic synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides leads to increasing deaths of many creatures, and to human illness and mortality.

The end result is loss of biodiversity and natural harmony, increased expenditure to purify water, air, etc. The toxins in the food crops cannot be removed and the threat to human existence itself seems to be real.
The firms engaged in the manufacture and supply of agricultural inputs have a vested interest in keeping the input use increasing. Besides, they influence the government policy towards agriculture.

Salinity and Water logging
Water is one of the important inputs for the vigorous growth and high yields of crops. The modernisation of Indian agriculture has resulted in the increased use of irrigation water. The area under irrigation has grown substantially during the past three decades. Table 8 shows the gross irrigated area in the country. Please see the parent document for a complete showing of tables. 

The gross irrigated area of 38.18 million ha in 1970-71 increased to 49.73 million ha in 1980-81 and the next decade ending 1990-91 saw this further rising substantially to about 62.47 million ha. It increased to 72.78 million ha during 1997-98.

Heavy irrigation is necessary to get high production, as the new varieties cannot withstand water scarcity. This leads to salinity and water logging leaving the land uncultivable. Over exploitation of underground water is another effect. When water table falls, increasing energy will be required to lift water for irrigation.

Irrigation is necessary for the vigorous growth and high yields of crops in the modern method of cultivation. Many of the crops, particularly the rice and wheat high yielding varieties need more irrigation water than the traditional varieties. The area under irrigation in the country is only about 35 per cent and the remaining is still dependent on rains. So, there is a necessity to use irrigation water judiciously. Its excessive use results in severe ecological dangers like water logging of vast cultivated areas by seepages from canals. The loss of water through seepages and evaporation is estimated to be about 38 per cent. Flooding also results in run off and leaching losses of fertilizer nutrients, pesticides and soil particles. Excessive use of canal water makes the field vulnerable to soil erosion. The excessive irrigation in certain areas results in wastage as evident from the water logging of vast cultivated areas caused by the seepage from many virater sources.

Water logging is harmful to the soil. Seepage of canal water leads to salts present in the lowest layer of soil come up to the surface and the soil may turn alkaline or saline. Dams and multipurpose projects degrade the soil in the command area due to soil salinity and water logging. The chambel region in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the command area of the Bhakra Nangal, etc are the examples of water logging created by huge water irrigation projects.

Crops irrigated by sewage water have adverse effects on the health of the human population consuming the produce. The workers work on these farms also face health hazards.

Depletion of Energy Resources
Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc are manufactured using the non-renewable materials like the fossil fuels. The global demand for oil and natural gas is increasing and thus the price of the inputs to agriculture is bound to rise. India’s petroleum resources, which presently meet only about 30-35 per cent of the consumption demand, are under pressure. Increasing demand for chemicals and energy in agriculture sector will have affects on our energy sources.
The investments in agriculture have to be increased to meet the rising input costs and larger areas are brought under farming to earn profits. Large farms have to transport the produce to distant areas. Again, energy will be required for transportation, processing and packaging.

The rice-wheat cropping pattern and the cultivation of crops like sugarcane require high irrigation, which results in the depletion of water level. Singh and Singh (1996) found that the water level in the states of Punjab and Haryana had gone down by 0.3 to 1 m per annum during a period of 10 years due to the excessive use of water for paddy crop.

Input-Output Imbalance
A crop, in its growth process, incorporates a part of the soil fertility into the parts of the plant. The roots remain in the soil. The leaves and stems are fed to the cattle/burnt as fuel/directly returned to the soil. The consumed part by cattle and human also go back to the soil. The practice of commercial farming leads to continuous export of the soil fertility to outside the farming areas as the organic matter leaves the locality. The soil nutrients in the form of farm produces continue to be exported. The import of chemical fertilizers cannot compensate the loss of soil nutrients through exports. The soil becomes powdery and gets eroded by wind or rain. If the harvests are exported from the country, the loss is higher (Anon, 1996).


Expansion of Cultivated Area
Not only the intensive cultivation through the use of technological inputs, but also the extensive crop production through Increase in the area under cultivation has been an important aspect of modern agriculture seen in India. Increasingly areas under forests are brought under plough along with the marginal, sub-marginal and undulating land. The net sown area was 140 million ha in 1970-71 and stood at 142 million ha at the end of 1997-98.

Reduction in Genetic Diversity
The genetic base of crops is very important and a reduction of genetic diversity leads to the emergence of pests on a large scale. Farmers, in olden times, apart from’ using the crop rotation methods to maintain the soil fertility also relied on the genetic means to increase crop production. Relying exclusively on nation’s own reserves of fertility and immunology, the farming community by evolving trial and error methods discovered.Hhybrid varieties of crops by crossing the related strains. These crosses were from the same environment and no violence was used to separate them from nature by maintaining the ecological balance (Alvares, 1996).

The high yielding varieties of crops are the crosses from different environments and distantly related strains. For example, the high yielding rice variety got by the crossing between the dwarf and non-dwarf varieties has major genetic weaknesses. The dwarf gene is susceptible to pest and viral attacks and the seed cannot manifest its potential without chemical fertilizer. Thus, an artificial environment has to be created for the growth of the crop (Alvares, 1996).

Thus synthetic fertilizers supplant natural fertility, which results in larger population of pests. The new technology adopted then depends upon the replacement of the local/traditional varieties of seeds. But this results in the reduction of genetic diversity and increase in genetic erosion. These modern technologies are but the result of clever manipulations of nature’s genes.
Low Productivity
The productivity of cereals, millets, oilseeds, pulses and plantation crops is very low in comparison with those in other countries in the world. This is in spite of our success in improving the quality of seeds and adoption of efficient technology. The impact of green revolution is showing signs of weakness and production appears to have decreased even after an increase in the inputs used (Veeresh, 1999).

The production of foodgrains in the country increased very substantially during 1960 to 1980 to reach 160 million Tonnes from 60 million tonnes. But the decade ending 1990 and 2000 did not witness such increases and the attainment of the targeted production of 240 million tonnes to meet the demand of the population by 2010 seems to be difficult.T

he reasons attributed to the low productivity are the drastic reduction in soil nutrients in the areas where fertilizer is used intensively in which the organic matter is not supplemented (Veeresh, 1999).

2.2.2 Benefits of Organic Farming
Organic agricultural practices are based on a maximum harmonious relationship with nature aiming at the non-destruction of the environment. The developed nations of the world are concerned about the spreading contamination of poisonous chemicals in food, feed, fodder and fibre. Naturally, organic farming system is looked upon as one of the means to remedy these maladies there. However, the major problem in India is the poor productivity of our soils because of the low level content of the organic matter.

The efficiency of the organic inputs in the promotion of productivity depends on the organic contents of the soil. There were many resemblances of organic farming principles in the traditional agriculture of India. But the former gives a more open and verifiable scientific foundation than the latter.

Healthy Foods
A study conducted in USA on the nutritional values of both organic and conventional foods found that consumption of the former is healthier. Apples, pears, potatoes, corn, wheat and baby foods were analyzed to find out ‘bad’ elements such as aluminum, cadimum, lead and mercury and also ‘good’ elements like boron, calcium, iron, magnesium sellenium and zinc. The organic food, in general, had more than 20 per cent less of the bad elements and about 100 per cent more of the good elements.

Improvement in Soil Quality
Soil quality is the foundation on which organic farming is based. Efforts are directed to build and maintain the soil fertility through the farming practices. Multicropping, crop rotations, organic manures and pesticides, and minimum tillage are the methods employed for the purpose. Natural plant nutrients from green manures, farmyard manures, composts and plant residues build organic content in the soil. It is reported that soil under organic farming conditions had lower bulk density, higher water holding capacity, higher microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen and higher soil respiration activities compared to the conventional farms (Sharma, 2003). This indicates that sufficiently higher amounts of nutrients are made available to the crops due to enhanced microbial activity under organic farming. The effect of organic cultivation on soil fertility as reported at the farm of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur is given in Table 9. See the parent  document for all tables.

Increased Crop Productivity and Income
Field trials of organic cotton at Nagpur revealed that during the conversion period, cotton yield was low compared to the conventional (using fertilizer and pesticides) and integrated crop management (using 50 per cent each of organic and inorganic inputs). However, the yields of organic cotton started rising from third year. Cotton yields under organic, conventional and the mixed systems were 898, 623 and 710 kg/ha respectively at the end of the fourth year of the cultivation. The yield of soyabean under organic farming was also the highest compared to the other two systems (Annexure – 2).

The Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur conducted a study of economics of cotton cultivation in Yavatmal district of Maharashta. The cost of cultivation of cotton was lower in the organic farming than in the modern system (Annexure – 3). The low costs were due to the non-use of fertilizers and chemical insecticides. As a result of the low yields during the conversion period, the net income from the organic farm was lesser than the conventional farm. But the yield under organic method increased progressively equalling it to that of the conventional system by the sixth year (Annexure – 4). The input costs were low under organic farming and with a 20 per cent of premium prices of output, the net income increased progressively from fourth year under organic fanning. The appreciation of net income from organic cotton cultivation by the sixth year was 80 per cent over the conventional crop (Sharma, PD, 2003).

Results reported from 1050 field demonstration cum trials under the National Project on Development and Use of Biofertilizers in different parts of the country show* an increase of 4 per cent in yield in plantation crops, 7 per cent in fruit crops, 9 per cent in wheat and sugarcane, 10 per cent in millet and vegetable, 11 per cent in fibre, condiments and spice crops, 14 per cent in oilseeds and flowers and 15 per cent in tobacco (Bisoyi, et. al., 2003).

A study of 100 farmers in Himachal Pradesh during a period of 3 years found that the total cost of production of maize and wheat was lower under organic farming and the net income was 2 to 3 times higher. Both productivity and premium prices contributed to the increased profitability. Another study of 100 farmers of organic and conventional methods in five districts of Karnataka indicated that the cost of organic farming was lower by 80 per cent thanthat of the conventional one (Thakur, et. al., 2003). The cost benefit ratios mentioned for various crops table.  See page  52.

Low Incidence of Pests
The study of the effectiveness of organic cotton cultivation on pests at the farm of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur revealed that the mean monthly counts of eggs, larva and adults of American BoUworm were far lesser under organic farming than under the conventional method (Sharma, PD, 2003).

Bio-control methods like the neem based pesticides to Ti-ichoderma are available in the country. Indigenous technological products such as Panchagavya (five products of cow origin) which was experimented at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore found to control effectively wilt disease in tomato (Prakash, TN, 2003).

Employment Opportunities
According to many studies, organic farming requires more labour input than the conventional farming system. Thus, India which has a very large amount of labour unemployment and under employment will find organic farming an attraction. Moreover, the problem of periodical unemployment will also get mitigated because of the diversification of the crops with their different planting and harvesting schedules resulting in the requirement of a relatively high labour input.

Indirect Benefits
Several indirect benefits from organic farming are available to both the farmers and consumers. While the consumers get healthy foods with better palatability and taste and nutritive values, the farmers are indirectly benefited from healthy soils and farm production environment. Eco-tourism is increasingly becoming
popular and organic farms have turned into such favourite spots in countries like Italy. Protection of the ecosystem, flora, fauna and increased biodiversity and the resulting benefits to all human and living things are great advantages of organic farming which are yet to be properly accounted for.

The report continues. I will highlight sections throughout the year. If you are interested and would like to download (for research purposes -not commerical purposes) and/or link to the report, please see “Print and Download” in my blog menu bar.

The report continues  with:

  • Proposed objectives in organic farming in India
  • International Conference on “Indian Organic Products-Global Markets” at the end of 2002.
  • Production and Exports
  • Regulations, regulatory framework
  • Accreditation  and certification of Organics. 
  • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Coffee Board, Tea Board and the Spices Board.
  • Development and Commerce.
  • Inspections, Research and Training
  • A National Institute for Organic Farming  (setup 2003)
  • Problems and Constraints
  • Absence of an Appropriate Agriculture Policy
  • The cost of certification, Low Yields
  • Vested Interests. Chemical and fertilizer companies.
  •  Lack of Quality Standards for Biomanures
  • Improper Accounting Method
  • Political and Social Factors
  • Prospects
  • Successes