Tag Archives: Norman Borlaug

India’s Green Revolution of Control (revised 2015)

By Jamie Rutherford

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

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

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

What he and many like him know is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permaculture_Zones.svg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motive is hidden in plain sight.

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

His Story:

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

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

Wallace traveled around Mexico meeting with farmers and officials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Productivity

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

How do we measure Primary Productivity?

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

What is wrong in the existing system?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One bad idea picks up more bad ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shift to dependence:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fertilizer – produced by Monsanto

Pesticide – produced by Monsanto

GM Seed – produced by Monsanto

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

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

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

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

Dr. Shiva says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian farmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monsanto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

By Jamie Rutherford

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

food posts

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

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

Norman Borlaug on Penn and Teller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The video continues to drive this point home:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TABLE: Examples of other nutritionally enhanced crops in the         pipeline2

Trait

Companies/Institutions involved

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

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

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

The Coming Boom in Agriculture

by Bill Conerly

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

(What is driving the change in these diets?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hunger” is not designed to be solved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information please check out this link:

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

Act Naturally!

Giving Away the Family Silver

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

Giving Away the Family Silver

By Najma Sadeque 26 OCTOBER 2009

Photo: AFP

A Pakistani woman harvests wheat. Photo: AFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to know more about India’s agricultural situation visit our blog at http://www.actnaturallyblog.wordpress.com. You can also go to our brand new website at http://www.actnaturally.org to find out more about our programs. Will you Act Naturally with us?
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Farmer Suicides: Why?

By Lua Cheia

Farmer Suicides: Why?

India is home to 1.25 billion people 722% of which live in villages. As much as 60% of the work force works in agriculture in some capacity. Over the last two decades however, more and more people have been seeking non-agricultural work in cities, and urban townships. Mass migration from rural to urban areas has increased rapidly since 1991. An estimated 70-73 million people have migrated away from rural India because of a myriad of problems, such as lack of education, jobs, farming support, and opportunity and a lack of infrastructure for things like clean water and health care.

 In 1991 an exchange rate crisis caused by fiscal and balance of payment deficits, pushed India near bankruptcy. As part of a bailout deal with India, the International Monetary Fund directed India to sell 67 tons of gold to the IMF, which was transferred to London as collateral. Also, India had to devalue the rupee and restructure economically to make the country more open to foreign trade. Since independence from the British in 1947, India had operated a state-controlled economy called the License Raj system. As part of the deal with the IMF, India got rid of the License Raj system and liberalized the economy.

A key player in the economic restructuring was Indian Prime Minister Manmohan. Singh. He moved India from a socialist economy into a capitalist one. He opened international trade and investment, initiated privatization of certain public sector companies, enacted inflation control measures, broke up state monopolies, and removed obstacles standing in the way of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). At this time, India entered into an era of globalization.

 Trade liberalization, and globalization has forced India to compete with more developed countries, when only a percentage of her people were of the mind or education level to do so. There is no doubt however that economic reforms have brought with it many opportunities and chances for education, greater access to health care and public utilities, and an international competitor and contributor to many technological fields, among other things. Act Naturally acknowledges that there have been positive changes. Our work however, focuses on those who have been left behind as India heralds a new age of prosperity.

 Not everyone in the world, and certainly not in India’s rural expanse, participated in the machine of money exchange and consumerism to the scale that would make India attractive to foreign investment. At the time of these vast economic changes some villages still bartered wheat for haircuts and shoe repair, saved seeds, and used cow manure to grow their crops. Over the next two decades, generations of people; their values, culture, customs, means of producing food, relationship to land, and way of relating to wants and needs would have a new system, one that required money at its core to be successful, overlaid on top of their day to day challenges.

 “With an influx of new money, products, and advertising these “poor people,” became overnight poster children for modernization by the developers. They all were  potential markets. Tantalizing ads selling everything from new cellphones, to Coke, to diapers, to Himalayan shampoo, sparked conversation, then desire for a disposable world of stuff that has/had no real relevance to  their practical day to day reality but never the less, with enough exposure, had tantalizing appeal . It was as if these new products could do something that nothing else had done – improve their social standing. The older generation was skeptical, but the younger generation craved it immediately.

The self definition through things fetish was engineered long ago by advertising agencies, and has had immense success in  America. India patterns its success off of western business models. It’s a carrot on a stick that the farmer is chasing right off of his field.” — Kamla Vishvas

 The promise of money in more urban areas to carve out a better life, has become the mantra that moves the young and old away from their family plots and often into cramped urban conditions. But that is not the only reason. The introduction of chemical agriculture since India’s Green Revolution began in 1966, has created more input costs to the farmer and these prices too have risen. The lack of government support for farming, because of an uneven focus on the IT, Biotech and Pharmaceutical industry, has left many farmers to the agendas of agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Carghil and ADM all American made.

 As reported in PRAXIS: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security,  in an article entitled, “The Paradox of Indias Bread Basket: Farmer Suicides in Punjab” written  by Mallika Kaur;

 “During the Green Revolution, production was improved with the use of modified seeds that increased yield only when combined with expensive chemical fertilizers and irrigation. Unable to afford sufficient amounts of these expensive inputs, small farmers found their holdings becoming progressively less profitable. Meanwhile, grain prices remained comparatively low even as input costs increased. Now, three decades later, the small and marginal farmers of Punjab, in trying to pursue environmentally and economically unsustainable agrarian practices, are accumulating high debt while lacking alternative sources of income. As a result, farmers, their unions, concerned NGOs, and several academics conclude that agriculture has become a losing proposition in Indian Punjab, the farming heartland of South Asia for generations.”

Farmers go into more and more debt year after year since signing initial contracts for “crop packages” – genetically modified seeds like BT-Cotton, that require companion herbicide for best results. These expensive seeds require the farmer to buy them year after year as it is a breach of contract with Monsanto to save seed. Every year he must take out a loan from someone or somewhere. Most rural farmers do not have official documentation of their land. This means credit and collateral is questionable, so they choose to deal with private money lenders even though private money lending is officially illegal. When a farmer can no longer pay their debt, two common scenarios play out. 1. They commit suicide or; 2.  Their  family land is seized by debt collectors.

These pressures, coupled with land grabs by foreign interests made possible by the SEZ or Special Economic Zones Act passed in 2005, and the Land Acquisition Act, has meant that more and more agricultural lands are abandoned, sold to foreign interests for nonagricultural purposes, seized by private money lenders cashing in on their debts, and/or turned fallow do to exhaustion of the ecosystem with chemicals.

It is not coincidence that the issue of farmer suicides was brought to the attention of the government in the early 90s just as India was liberalizing trade, by a journalist who focused on rural reporting named P. Sainath. Palagummi Sainath was the rural Affairs editor of the Hindu at that time. Although the numbers have a margin of error do to difficulties with official reporting, it is estimated by the NCRB that over 200, 000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 15 years. The NCRB is the National Crime Records Bureau, part of the Ministry of Home Affairs,  is responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data in India. Some reporters say the number is as high as one suicide every half hour!

Summary of Causes

There are many causes for the stress in the farming community that leads some farmers take their own lives. They are dominantly related to public policy and economic strategy. Act Naturally has identified 22!:

  • Lack of support from a government that is focused more on India’s  technological future
  • Legal tender system forced through majority rule on communities that bartered
  • No advice from the government on how to conduct agricultural operations or adjust to changes in climate
  • Income from farming is not enough to meet the minimum needs of the family
  • Widening gap “price scissors” between industrial and agricultural prices
  • World Trade Organization and developed nations’ subsidies that make India’s products uncompetitive in world markets thus lowering demand and price. This is particularly true in the case of cotton farmers in Vidarbha whose cotton competes against subsidized U.S. cotton
  • Corruption at every level of government siphons off certain relief monies before they reach the intended
  • Absence of adequate social support infrastructure at the level of village. No counselors. Issue is taboo.
  • Rising prices of dowry causing huge hardships on family. The price of everything in the open economy is more, and the husbands families are demanding more as they seen grander lives advertised
  • Relief packages organized by the central government did not take in account farmer’s demands, or those of civil society organizations, local government bodies or panchayats as reported by an audit of the state done by Green Earth Social Development Consulting.
  • The same open market policy followed by India which has been a boon to foreign investors coming into the IT industry and benefiting Indian IT Engineers is causing an ever widening price gap between the food the farmers must eat to survive and the price the farmers get for their food in the market.
  • Rising cost of cultivation
  • Lowering water tables and lack of irrigation facilities. Expensive bore wells are now needed in some states. Poorer farmers can’t afford, and their lands are  bought out by larger more successful farms.
  • Reduction in agricultural subsidies
  • Environmental pollution
  • A push for cash cropping and mono cropping means a total loss of income when crop fails
  • Pressure to use genetically modified  seeds that are not acclimated to the fluxes in India’s climate. Pests are adapting.
  • Subdivision of land through successive generations of sons in certain areas make the size of land too small to grow enough food to sell
  • Compensation for acquired lands are often mismanaged by farmers who have not had experience or education on money management. Money is spent quickly. After it’s gone there is no land to produce a livelihood
  • Compensation for lands acquired under the Land Acquisition Act and SEZ are often under the fair market price
  • Threat of violence to farmer and family from illegal debt collectors

 In the next blog article, I’ll introduce the solutions. There are many ways  in which NGOs, non-profits, farming educators,  local governments, cooperatives, unions, members of independent media, activists, volunteers and philanthropists  can come together, bypassing culturally tolerated systems of corruption, to direct efforts that fortify the stability of India’s farmers. These are outlined  in the next issue.

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

Listen to NRP radio coverage here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102944731

‘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.

NPR covers the Green Revolution, “India’s Farming ‘Revolution’ Heading For Collapse” Part 1

Listen to the NRP radio coverage here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102893816&ps=rs

India’s Farming ‘Revolution’ Heading For Collapse

by Daniel Zwerdling

Farmers in the village of Chotia Khurd in northern India don’t realize it, but they symbolize a growing problem that could become a global crisis.

They gathered on a recent morning in a stone-paved courtyard — a circle of Sikhs with brightly colored turbans and big, bushy beards — to explain why the famed “bread basket” of India is heading toward collapse.

Their comparatively small region, Punjab, grows far more wheat and rice for India than any other region. But now these farmers are running out of groundwater.

They have to buy three times as much fertilizer as they did 30 years ago to grow the same amount of crops. They blitz their crops with pesticides, but insects have become so resistant that they still often destroy large portions of crops.

The state’s agriculture “has become unsustainable and nonprofitable,” according to a recent report by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology. Some experts say the decline could happen rapidly, over the next decade or so.

One of the best-known names in India’s farming industry puts it in even starker terms. If farmers in Punjab don’t dramatically change the way they grow India’s food, says G.S. Kalkat, chairman of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, they could trigger a modern Dust Bowl. That American disaster in the 1930s laid waste to millions of acres of farmland and forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes.

The story of Chotia Khurd is a cautionary tale: Political leaders and scientists can’t necessarily transplant a technology from one country and culture to a vastly different one and expect it to flourish without serious side effects.

The ‘Green Revolution’

The story begins in the 1960s, when parents in America’s well-fed suburbs would admonish ungrateful children to “think about the starving people in India.” Occasional news reports told wrenching stories about Indians subsisting on grass and leaves. The country survived on imports, like a beggar.

The public concern prompted a loose coalition of scientists, government officials and philanthropists — spurred and funded, in part, by the Rockefeller Foundation —to launch a “Green Revolution.”

In the context of the times, “green” did not refer to what it means today — organic, pesticide-free farming methods. To the contrary, India’s farmers were persuaded to abandon their traditional methods and grow crops the modern, American way.

For example, the advisers told farmers to stop growing old-fashioned grains, beans and vegetables and switch to new, high-yield varieties of wheat, rice and cotton. Farmers began using chemical fertilizers instead of cow dung. They plowed with tractors instead of bulls.

The “Green Revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s meant that if farmers embraced chemicals and high-yield seeds, their fields would turn lush green with crops. (An official at the U.S. State Department, William Gaud, apparently coined the term in 1968.)

During the Cold War, the term also implied that if countries like India could stamp out hunger, the population would be less likely to foment a violent revolution and go communist.

A Temporary Fix

In India, ground zero for the Green Revolution was the state of Punjab, which borders Pakistan and the foothills of the Himalayas. And the system seemed to work miracles — for a while.

The United States sent money and technical support, including advisers from one of America’s most prestigious agriculture universities. India’s government showered Punjab with low-cost chemicals and seeds — and they paid the farmers, in effect, to use them by guaranteeing minimum prices for Green Revolution crops.

It helped India transform itself from a nation that depends on imports and food aid to a budding superpower that often exports grains.

Villages like Chotia Khurd were harvesting three to four times as much grain per acre as they did before.

Many of the farmers and the local government were flush with money. They paved their dirt roads. The farmers replaced their mud houses with bricks and cement. They bought American tractors for a small fortune.

Just about everybody in Chotia Khurd bought cell phones, with a wide variety of ring tones — so it’s hard to chat with a farmer without getting interrupted by electronic versions of Sikh chants or theme songs from Bollywood hits.

But government reports and farmers themselves say that era is over — and today, the Green Revolution system of farming is heading toward collapse.

‘Farmers Are Committing A Kind Of Suicide’

To show why, the district director of the Punjab Agriculture Department, Palwinder Singh, leads the way up a narrow dirt road into wheat fields that encircle the village.

On the surface, they look robust. The countryside is electric green in every direction.

But Singh points to a large contraption rising above the crop, like a steel praying mantis. The machine is blanketing the countryside with a percussive, deafening roar.

“That’s part of our most serious problem,” he says. It’s a drilling rig. A young farmer in a purple turban, Sandeep Singh, is standing next to the rig, looking unhappy. (The two men are not related — according to tradition, all Sikh men share the last name “Singh,” which means “lion.”)

When farmers switched from growing a variety of traditional crops to high-yield wheat and rice, they also had to make other changes. There wasn’t enough rainwater to grow thirsty “miracle” seeds, so farmers had to start irrigating with groundwater. They hired drilling companies to dig wells, and they started pumping groundwater onto the fields.

But Sandeep says he has been forced to hire the drilling company again, because the groundwater under his fields has been sinking as much as 3 feet every year.

Government surveys confirm it. In fact, his family and other farmers have had to deepen their wells every few years — from 10 feet to 20 feet to 40 feet, and now to more than 200 feet — because the precious water table keeps dropping below their reach.

Nobody was surprised when environmental activists started warning years ago that the Green Revolution was heading toward disaster. But they were astonished as government officials started to agree.

“Farmers are committing a kind of suicide,” warns Kalkat, the director of the Punjab State Farmers Commission. “It’s like a suicide, en masse.”

Kalkat offers an unsettling prediction in a nation whose population is growing faster than any other on Earth: If farmers don’t drastically revamp the system of farming, the heartland of India’s agriculture could be barren in 10 to 15 years.

Part 2 is posted next.