Monday, December 11, 2017

Indian Farmers attending World Trade Organization Ministerial in Buenos Aires warn government to take agriculture out of WTO



PRESS RELEASE

11 Dec 2017,  Buenos Aires: Indian farmers attending the World Trade Organization’s 11thMinisterial Conference from 10 to 13 December in Buenos Aires are demanding the Indian government and its delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister, Suresh Prabhu, to defend India’s food security and the livelihoods of millions of poor consumers and farmers. They warn Prabhu to not give in to rich country demands of ending India’s public food stockholding program and farmer subsidies which they deem as trade distorting.

India’s National Food Security Program currently covers up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population [1] and provides targeted subsidies to the poorest Indian’s especially women and children. At the same time, in order to maintain adequate food stocks for the program, the government supports Indian farmers by procuring certain grains from them at fixed and subsidized prices called Minimum Support Prices (MSP)[2].

While the MSP is quite low and doesn’t even cover the cost of production by farmers, developed countries still demand even these low and life-supporting subsidies to be removed. On the other hand farmers in developed countries continue to receive enormous subsidies. In India, the move towards dismantling the food security program has already begun, subsidized ration shops in some Union Territories have been closed [3].

At the WTO’s Bali ministerial in 2013 countries had decided on a peace clause until a permanent solution was found, whereby action would not be taken against countries breaching subsidy limits for their public stockholding programs[4]. Now rich countries are imposing all kinds of conditions upon the permanent solution which would make it difficult for developing counties to fulfil and maintain their food distribution programs [5].

Yudhvir Singh of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements (ICCFM) and representing farmers from across India said, “India must not entertain any new issues like e-commerce or conditions or compromises on any allied issues until the permanent solution is resolved.” Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said, “Indian farmers are committing suicide because of poor incomes, now they want to cut even this very low support that is keeping us farmers and the hungry from dying.”

S Kannaiyan, convener of the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements(SICCFM) said, “Rich countries wrote the  Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO to favour themselves. Agribusiness corporations in rich countries receive huge subsidies which distort international prices. They want to dump their agriculture products in our countries and want us farmers to go out of business and depend on them for food. Agriculture must be taken out of the WTO.”

Another farmer from the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha(KRRS), Gopal Papegowda said, “The Government should expand our Public Distribution Program to include pulses, oilseeds, millets, and vegetables which will benefit our farmers and poor consumers instead of dismantling it.”
Sellamuthu, of the Tamizagha Vyavasayagal Sangham(TVS) said “We have travelled far to fight for our basic right to an honest dignified livelihood. The Indian government cannot let us down this time. Giving in to the demands of the corporate controlled WTO will mean the sure death of the Indian farming community which is already reeling under severe agrarian distress.”

The farmers represent some of the largest farmers’ networks in India have been accredited to attend the WTO Ministerial Conference as Civil Society representatives of the international peasants’ movement, La Via Campesina [6].

Contact information for interviews: -

Yudhvir Singh, ICCFM: -+91-9868146405; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com (English, Hindi)
Rakesh Tikait, BKU -+91-9219666799; Email: bku.tikait@gmail.com (Hindi)
Gopal Papegowda, KRRS: +91-9900198894 (Kannada)
Sellamutthu, TVS :+91-9443855667 (Tamil )
S Kannaiyan, SICCFM : +91-9444989543; Email: sukannaiyan69@gmail.com (English, Tamil)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Young farmer growing miracle paddy crop in Tumkur, Karnataka



The paddy is almost 6 feet high!
Mahesh, a 35 year old youth farmer is practitioner of Zero Budget Natural Farming on his two acre plot. He is also a youth member of the farmer movement KRRS and dons its symbolic green shawl.  Mahesh went to a Zero Budget Natural Farming training camp two years ago and happened to meet Prasanna Murthy, one of the conveners  and trainers of ZBNF movement. Mahesh was inspired after the training session and started to do some experiments on his paddy field two years ago.

At first he didn’t succeed with a local rice variety called “deva mallige”, “my mistake was that the distance was too close between the crops. But, the next year I put a distance of almost one foot between seedlings. The yield growth has been phenomenal.”  Mahesh has been growing the local 'rajmudi' variety. The cost of cultivation is almost 15000 Rs less per acre compared to chemical farming and everything he earned has been a profit . As he has just two acres of land he could do all the labor work himself or by taking help from his own family members. As there are no external inputs in Zero Budget farming, Mahesh's expenses were very low. 

Mahesh is now an inspiration to many other young farmers in the district and at least four other KRRS youth farmers are now shifting to zero budget farming in the area with support from Mahesh.

Mahesh has never met or seen Palekar, the main teacher of the ZBNF movement in person. “This is interesting,” says Chukki Nanjundasway of Amrita Bhoomi farmer training school and a woman farmer leader from KRRS. “In our experience Palekar has a great influence on the farmers. But there are many who shift to ZBNF without attending Palekar’s talks also. They read books on ZBNF, exchange with other local farmers, meet the other trainers, and they become major experts through their own experiments. Mahesh is a living example of farmer innovation and I am proud to see a young farmer like him succeed.”

Chukki Nanjundaswamy and friends visit Mahesh and get
 lost in the tall rice
Mahesh himself does not have any problems with marketing and has found many loyal local consumers who buy his local rice varieties. “I don’t need to sell to any particular organic market. I think there is a problem with credibility there, many times fake certifications are given by paying bribe, and sometime farmers sell for a higher premium and the quality can be questionable.” Mahesh says that he prefers to have direct relationships with the local consumers in his own village and they are welcome to visit his farm anytime.


Recently the Karnataka agriculture department organization a Field Day in Mahesh’s farm. “They really appreciated his work. Mahesh’s paddy is amazing- its almost 6 feet high and one can disappear in it. I have never seen paddy like this in my life,”said Chukki Nanjundaswamy.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Women march for Land, food and water at Lahore

Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee demands Land for tenants

Lahore: Press Release 
25th October 2017

On the call of Asian Peoples Movement on Debts and Development, scores of peasant women demonstrated today at Shimla Pehari Lahore to demand land, food and water rights at all level for men and women. The demonstration was organised jointly by Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee and Tameer-e-Nou Women Workers Organisation. The demonstrators demanded land rights for tenants of Pakistan including women.  Okara peasants have been victimised and jailed just for demanding land rights at Military Farms. Over 100 women were jailed during the last two years for demanding the land they have been cultivating over 100 years. The demonstrators also demanded clean drinking water system for all villages in Pakistan and right to food sovereignty.
Women demonstrators at Shimla Pehari

Farooq Tariq, general secretary Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, said that tackling problems underlying the food crisis demands that producers and consumers, including those in the global north, recognize that the causes of opposing crises of malnutrition and obesity are one in the same: an undemocratic, corporate-controlled food system. He said that small farmers and rural social movements around the globe are still struggling to transform food and agriculture 10 years after the world food crisis sparked widespread famine, hunger, and a wave of social unrest. He said that over 80 percent of farmers and peasants in Pakistan are deprived of clean water in the villages. There is a lack of proper sanitation system and infrastructure in most villages.   Farooq Tariq also said that from the global North to South, the right to food cannot be fully realized under the current industrial model of food production and distribution rather by radical transformations of the dominant socio-political and economic systems and social movement mobilizations.

Speaking on the occasion, Riffet Maqsood said that there is an ever increasing monopolization of control over the seeds and agricultural resources into corporate hands. These big agricultural companies are gravely threatening human rights, biodiversity and food sovereignty. She said that hunger and food insecurity are the results of concerted policy decisions that continue to prioritize trade liberalization, market-oriented solutions, corporate consolidation, and large-scale land grabs at the expense of Right to Food.   Riffet Maqsood said that following a decline in undernourishment for more than a decade, world hunger has been on the rise in recent years, with the estimated numbers of undernourished people increasing from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Meanwhile, adult obesity has been rising at an accelerated rate in every region of the world, the FAO reports, bringing increased risks of health problems such as diabetes.   Demonstrators dispersed peacefully after an hour.

Press release issued by Nasir Iqbal  0300 4487344

Indian farmers denounce UN Seed Treaty’s attempts to hand over people’s seed heritage to private companies

PRESS RELEASE-

26 Oct, New Delhi: More than 50 Indian Farmers’ groups from the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM) [1],  have expressed concern over the proceedings of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (ITPGRFA) [2] in a letter submitted to Mr. RK Singh, the treaty’s national focal point in India today [3].Farmers claim there was no national consultation process at India level and demands for an urgent meeting with the farmers community before the next round of negotiations.

The UN Treaty is up for discussion at the 7th Governing Body (GB) session scheduled between 30th October and 3rdNovember 2017 at Kigali, Rwanda.

As the Indian government prepares to present its position at this important conference, farmers’ groups are disappointed that the Government has not communicated it's statement with them or asked for any suggestions, despite the fact that the Treaty makes it mandatory for farmers to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

Under its aims to promote conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic material for food and agriculture, the Treaty established a Global Information System on Plant Genetic Resources by collecting seeds from across the world,to provide farmers, scientists and the private sector access to the same.Much of the exhaustive collection of the Treaty’s seed banks, the Multilateral System, is held by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which farmers say is a known lobby-group for the world’s largest agri-businesses and GMO companies.

"These seeds are a public heritage that farmers have developed over millennia.Apart from the bio-piracy threat posed by CGIAR, the Treaty is now considering digitalizing the genetic information of the seeds in these seed banks which will make it easier for private companies to patent native genetic information, which will mean a certain death of the Treaty" said Tanmay Joshi, of Nagpur Beejotsav Gat and Shetkari Sanghthan.

Though there is a clause that any commercial benefits arising out of the use of these materials should be shared with the countries where they have originated, there is no legally binding obligation. Indian farmers are thus made even more vulnerable in this era of rampant bio-piracy practiced by large agri-businesses.

Farmers groups are dissuading the Government from entering into any collaboration with the multilateral Global Information System or the DivSeek programme, both of which are aimed at dematerialising peasant seeds by converting it into data of their genetic information, until stronger provisions are made for safeguarding their rights over seeds and against intellectual property rights.

“We hope that our concerns are well heard and acted upon. Upholding the democratic principles that lie within our constitution, we expect and request our Government representatives to have prior discussions with us before presenting at international conferences. Our seed security is at stake”, said Yudhvir Singh, convener of the AICCFM.

India is a megadiverse nation of rich plant genetic heritage with thousands of varieties in each food crop species. Many of these native crops have proven traits against the effects of climate change like droughts, floods, submergence and salinity. Efforts should be taken to protect, preserve and promote their cultivation without any risks of private patent restrictions. The Kigali Conference will determine whether India’s food sovereignty and the natural rights of our food producers can be protected at the global level.

Contact Information for Interviews
1.      Yudhvir Singh– +91-9868146405; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com
2.      Tanmay Joshi– +91-8087502186; Email:  tanmay_sj@yahoo.com




Notes
[1] The Indian Coordaintion Committee of Farmers movements is a national alliance of mass based farmers movements formed in early 1990s and comprises of big farmers movements such as Bhartiya Kisan Union, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, The Tamilaga Vyavasayigal Sangam, Shetkari Sanghatna and Kerala Coconut Growers Association . Collectively they represent more than 300 million farmers nationally.
[2] The objectives of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture are the conservation and sustainable use of all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security. See: http://www.fao.org/plant-treaty/en/
[3] Mr. R.K. SINGH is the Indian focal point for the treaty -
Department of Agriculture and Cooperation
Joint Secretary (Seeds)
Krishi Bhavan
New Delhi - India
Phone Number: +91 1123389241
Fax Number: +91 1123387669
Email Address: 
jsseeds-agri@nic.in


Link to the Original Letter -http://lvcsouthasia.blogspot.in/2017/10/indian-peasants-write-to-goi-on-matters.html

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Indian peasants write to GOI on matters related to the International Seeds Treaty

All Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, IndiaTel:+91-9899435968 ; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com 

26/10/2017



To,

Mr R.K. SINGH
National Focal Point of India,
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture,
Department of Agriculture and Cooperation,
Joint Secretary (Seeds),
Krishi Bhavan,
New Delhi – India.

Sub: Concerns of Indian peasants on matters related to the International Seeds Treaty & the upcoming Governing Body session of the same.

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned, are the representatives of peasants and peasant organizations, coalitions and groups of concerned individuals. The 7th Governing Body (GB) session of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (ITPGRFA) is going to commence soon in Kigali, Rwanda. We have the following concerns regarding the state of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) and farmers’ rights over the same:

1. Effective participation of farmers in the decision-making processes.
Article 9.ii.(c) of the Treaty states that farmers’ right to participate in making decisions on matters related to conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA should be protected and promoted. Since the adoption of the Treaty in 2001, not once has there been any noticeable effort from your side, to consult us with matters regarding the treaty which has a direct impact on the conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA. We, therefore, are a bit concerned and completely unaware of the stand that the Indian government is going to take on some of the important matters of the Treaty that are going to be discussed and debated at the upcoming GB session of the ITPGRFA.
As there was no consultation process initiated by you to ask for our opinions, we pro-actively write this letter to you today and ask you to consider communicating with us in the future if Government of India (GoI) disagrees with any of our points in the spirit of inclusive and transparent democracy.



2. Extension of crops in the Multilateral System (MLS).
Item no 9 in the Provisional Agenda of the GB 7 is regarding the Proposal for an Amendment of the International Treaty, i.e., to extend the Annex I of the Treaty from current 64 crops to all PGRFA. The MLS of the ITPGRFA is recognized as an instrument for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol's obligations for prior consent to the access and benefit-sharing (ABS). However, on the contrary to the intentions displayed, the MLS has been technically designed to allow an unrestricted access to all PGRFA for the industry.
Therefore, we ask you not to extend the Annex I of the Treaty from current 64 crops until there are strong provisions made in the Treaty that ensure the following obligations of the Nagoya Protocol:
i) informed consent and benefit-sharing agreement with the country and/or community of origin for each access to a new PGRFA collected after 2013,
ii) the obligation of the Recipient of the Material to prove that the ABS obligations have been complied, when any new product is going to be commercialized.
Furthermore, we ask you to incorporate the just prior-consent clause to be applicable also to the contracting parties of the treaty when their government instruments collect the PGRFA from the communities and individuals within their national boundaries.

3. Collaborations with the Global Information System (GLIS) or the DivSeek programme till concrete safeguard of Farmers’ Rights.
Digital sequencing of all the accessions in the seed banks of the world without safeguarding farmers’ rights to be able to use seeds without any legal or biological restrictions sustainably without the risk of criminalization or contamination from new technologies of genetic engineering or any other that might be there or come-up in future would mean the death of treaty and peasants around the world would end up losing sovereignty over their seeds. The availability on the internet of PGRFA information in digital form, allows industries to have free access to the genetic information contained in the PGRFA. This means the danger of private players privatizing all existing seeds by patents on their native "genetic information" and thereby encroaching farmers’ rights.Indian office of The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is already collaborating officially with DivSeek which is already an issue of great concern to us in this era of blatant bio-piracy.

The Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Act, 2001 (PPVFRA) cannot be considered as an instrument to safeguard the rights of Indian farmers. The act in itself is a double-edged sword, or rather, the “Farmers’ Rights” suffix of the Act is a Trojan horse strategy to push a whole civilization into the regime of considering natural and community resources as a profit-making commodity over which one can gain exclusive rights of use. Even though, the PPVFRA through its Article 39(iv) ensures the right of farmers to use their seeds without restriction, it fails to see the contradiction in allowing restrictive practice of seed ownership (by introducing the concept of seed registration) and then talking about farmers’ rights to free use of seeds in the same Act.


The safeguarding provisions under the PPVFRA will become irrelevant if there is a push for stronger IPR laws for seeds through different Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), like the current push for adoption of The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Therefore, we strongly suggest that the move to collaborate with the Global Information System (GLIS) or the DivSeek programme be opposed until stronger provisions ensuring farmers’ rights are incorporate, like exclusion of PGRFA from the purview of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) or inclusion of farmers’ rights over seeds as a fundamental right in the national constitution or similar provisions.
Also, the proposal in the DivSeek stakeholders report to the Treaty secretary that “the information gathered from access of PGRFA from the MLS not be bound by the obligations of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA)” be rejected.

4. The proposal to establish an ad hoc Working Group to guide and assist Contracting Parties in the implementation of Farmers Rights.
The Co-Chairs’ proposal from the Global Consultation on Farmers Rights held in Bali in September 2016 (Item 15 of the Provisional Agenda, doc IT/GB-7/17/Circ.1) includes the proposal to establish an ad hoc Working Group to guide and assist Contracting Parties in the implementation of Farmers Rights. We see this as a very positive proposal that will take us a step further in strengthening farmers’ rights. We welcome this proposal and ask you to support it.

5. The new draft SMTA and subscription system as the new system for ABS.
The question of SMTA and ABS arises only after the current system of working of the Treaty and the obligations it incorporate are consensually agreed upon. But that is not the case at present.
Therefore, any discussion regarding the MLS or its access or dematerializing the accessions or the sharing of benefits arising through the facilitated access should be details till stronger safeguards of farmers’ rights and afore-mentioned concerns regarding peasants’ participation in decision-making and conservation and protection of PGRFA for sustainable use are ensured.

6. Handing over plant genetic materials to CGIAR presents conflict of interest
Article 15.1states that“The Contracting Parties recognize the importance to this Treaty of the ex situ collections of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture held in trust by the International Agricultural Research Centre's (IARCs) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).”

Given the known close collaboration CGIAR has with the world's largest and most notorious agri-businesses, India should be wary of sharing any germplasm of crops, especially those traditional varieties that have traits like drought, flood, submergence and salinity tolerance. These varieties are highly sought after by these Transnational Corporations for their 'climate-smart' properties. The Treaty in its current form does not provide for any safeguards against privatization of our rich and diverse genetic heritage. We oppose any re-branding of these varieties and granting of IPRs on them which will prevent their access by farmers, especially smallholders.

We hope that our concerns mentioned above are well heard and acted upon. We demand for an urgent meeting with the farmers community before the next round of negotiations. We are open, rather insist on it, to have dialogues and discussions on the matters related to the Treaty and other matters regarding seeds from here on. In the end, for upholding the democratic principles that lie within our constitution, we expect you to stand for the opinion of the people you represent.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Yudhvir Singh, General Secretary, All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM)
K T Gangadhar, State President, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
Rakesh Tikait, National Spokesman, BharathKisan Union
ChamarasaMali Patil, Hon. President, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
KS Puttannaiah, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)and Member of Legislative Assembly,Karnataka
Vijay Jawandhia,ShetkariSangathana,, Maharashtra
ChukkiNanjundaswamy, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
Badagalapura Nagendra, Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS)
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU),  Punjab
Jagdish Singh, State President, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU), Madhya Pradesh
VidyadharOlkha, State President, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU), Rajasthan
Ratan Singh Mann, State President, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU), Haryana
Sukhdev Singh Gill, State President, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU), Himachal Pradesh
Satnam Singh Cheema, State President, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU), Uttrakhand
Dhan Singh Sherawat, BhartiyaKissan Union (BKU), Maharashtra
Gurman Singh, BhartiyaKissan Union, Haryana
K. Sella Mutthu, President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association
NallagounderTamil Nadu Farmers Association
S. Kannaiyan, Secretary, South India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (SICCFM)
Rajariga, President, Women Wing, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association
DevisonA.KKerala Coconut Farmers Association
P Raveendranath, Kerala Coconut Farmers Association