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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Enter the devil : Bt- Brinjal

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on Wednesday approved the environmental release of Bt brinjal. Several studies on Bt crops in particular and GM crops in general show that there are many potential health hazards in foods bio-engineered in this manner. [Briefing Paper]

Dr Pushpa Bhargava, a renowned molecular biologist and founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)was instructed by the Supreme Court of India to look into the method of approval of GM crops into India, is asking. Dr Bhargava examined the current procedures adopted by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and was shocked to note that this Committee was approving applications based upon trials conducted by the seed companies. He has called for a moratorium on the entire approval process. [Source]

Kamalakar Duvvuru voices out following fact for wake up call.

Subsidies given by Developed Nations:

"Despite preaching the “benefits” of “free” trade in agriculture, US, EU, Japan and other industrialized countries continue to skew their farm subsidies so heavily in favor of their biggest agricultural producers. From 1995 to 2006 USDA provided $177 billion in subsidy to its farmers. Top 10% of the agricultural producers received 74% of the total amount. During this period US government provided nearly one billion dollar subsidy to just three American rice growers. Rice is staple food for nearly 3.7 billion Asians. Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz described the United States Farm Bill as “the perfect illustration of the Bush administration’s hypocrisy on trade liberalization.”

In 2004 EU paid its biggest 2,460 farmers on average $667,000 each, or $1.7 billion in total. In Germany, 14% of the biggest farm producers got 65% of all payments; in France, 29% of the biggest farm producers got 72% of all payments; in UK, 31% of the biggest farm producers got 84% of all payments; and in Italy, 1.6% of the biggest farm producers got 34% of all payments.

These figures make a mockery of claims that the US Farm Bill and EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are geared toward small farmers and rural development. This huge subsidy allows food cartel to sell rice, wheat and other staple foods at very low price to dominate global food market. This displaces local production of basic foodstuffs and farming livelihoods in developing countries. “These subsidies continue to promote over-production and dumping, hurting poor farmers in developing countries,” said Luis Morago, Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair spokesperson. He further said, “Europe’s common agricultural policy and the US Farm Bill continue to ignore small farmers at home and cripple poorer farmers abroad.”

Big MNC's playing dirty:

Monsanto owns the patent on Bt cotton. In 2005 approximately 1.26 million hectares, and in 2006 nearly 3.28 million hectares of land in India was under Bt cotton cultivation. Farmers who buy GM seeds enter into a licensing agreement with Monsanto for the use of that particular gene and the company prescribed fertilizer. They are forbidden from saving seeds for the next season. They must buy new seed from the company each season. This denies farmers’ right to save seed. The implications of this are huge for poor farmers. Saved seed is the one resource that the poor farmers depend upon to carry them through the year. Denial of this right will greatly impact them economically. For they have to pay more each season to buy new seed. Monsanto is now charging 1850 Indian rupees per 450 gram pack of Bt cotton seeds as compared to 38 Indian rupees charged in China for the same quantity. In India, the price for non-Bt cotton variety is at 450 to 500 Indian rupees. India has recently allowed field trials of GM varieties of rice, brinjal and groundnut.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs):

Introduction of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) has become an increasingly important source of competitive advantage and accumulation in the production and trade of agricultural goods. This has resulted in the increasing concentration of control over seeds and other resources in a few transnational companies. The IPR owners, usually transnational companies, can prevent others from producing or selling the seeds or plant varieties over which they own the rights. They can set prices or royalties on the seeds, and terms and conditions for use of the seeds and inputs. This not only denies the right of farmers to save seeds for the next season, but also forces them to depend on transnational companies for seeds and inputs. With raising prices of seeds and inputs, coupled with prevention of saving seeds, small scale farmers become vulnerable whether there is bumper crop, or failure or low yield. In times of bumper crop, they get lower price for their produce, and in times of failure or low yield they incur loss. But the farming costs keep rising.

Because of their sheer size and assurance of huge financial returns due to IPRs, transnational companies are increasingly engaged in agro-biotechnology research. As the goal of companies is profit, their research and production efforts tend to focus on only a few crops, thus weakening biodiversity and sustainability caused by expanding monoculture in food production. The consequences are terrible on “minor crops”, which are commercially not profitable for the companies.

With the trends towards strengthening IPR systems worldwide (and in India), there is an increasing ability of agribusiness companies privatizing genetic resources and agricultural knowledge. The tendency will be to focus on research on lucrative developing country markets, rather than developing country needs. Therefore, IPRs are not designed to respond to socio-economic concerns such as food security of developing countries, or to protect the livelihoods of landless and small scale farmers, but to promote the greed of agribusiness companies at the expense of landless and small scale famers in these countries. Thus, IPRs can impede progress towards sustainability, food security and distributive justice.

3 comments:

  1. Just in tym when I was looking for a comprehensive article on the subject....Though Monsanto are making a killing with their BT cotton.....this variety also created wealth of about $3 billion which mostly went to farmers over the past seven years.But still farmer welfare is seriously short on agenda and company is taking the bigger piece of pie..

    ReplyDelete
  2. The long term loss is more than short term gain in this issue. And can you be more clear on the issue how monsanto is doing farmer welfare ? And corporate farming care for profits, not the employement of 60% of Indian workforce. Abhishek thanks for the comment but this topic needs deep study by both of us...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Please watch the video:
    AGRICULTURE GOING TO SEED
    made by school going children of rural Andhra Pradesh.
    http://www.viddler.com/explore/CAMP/videos/24/

    ReplyDelete

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