Friday, November 11, 2011

Report on 10 years of Bt Cotton usage in Tamilnadu released

A review of the usage of Bt Cotton in Tamilnadu was released during the Press Meet as part of the Roundtable on BRAI at the ICSA Centre in Chennai. The report was compiled by Ms. Kavitha Karugunti, Convenor of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), a national coalition of organic farmers and organic farming enthusiasts. Other who addressed the media included:
Dr. V. Suresh, National Secreatary, PUCL
Mr. Vellayan, President, Tamilnadu Traders Sangham
Mr. Vettavalam Manigandan, Farmer's Movement leader
Mr. R. Selvam, Convenor of the Organic Farmers federation of Tamilnadu and
Mr. Jayaraman, Federation of Consumers Organizations of Tamilnadu

Earlier as part of the meeting, Mr. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, from Thanal spoke of the field trials in Tamilnadu of GM Crops.
The key points of the report are:

  • Bt cotton expansion in Tamil Nadu did not increase in steady yield increases as claimed and hyped up. Tamil Nadu had high yields in cotton even in the years when it predominantly grew non-Bt varieties (not even hybrids).
  • Bt cotton cultivation in larger areas did not bring down the per-hectare or per quintal cost of cultivation as projected. The trends on this front have always been fluctuating and this continues.
  • Bt cotton cultivation and expansion to larger areas did not bring down the insecticide usage in cotton crop in Tamil Nadu. Further, Tamil Nadu had low average cost incurred on pesticides (indicative of lower use in volume too) even prior to Bt cotton introduction and the rationale for its approval is not clear in such a context. Spending on chemical fertilizers appears to be on an upward trend in cotton cultivation now.
  • There has been a large scale shift away from cotton varieties to sowing of Bt cotton hybrids raising many serious concerns around seed choices, seed prices and seed sovereignty, in addition to increasing chemicalisation of agriculture. This also raises valid questions on why Bt technology is seen as the cause for cotton yield increases, even by scientific institutions like the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; this is all the more perplexing in a context when pest incidence itself is reported low!
  • There have been major failures of Bt cotton crop over the years and the unpredictability of performance is apparent from this. However, farmers have not always obtained a redressal from such failures. There are serious questions around the lack of a liability regime which covers both penalties as well as compensation in addition to remediation where necessary.
(the report can be downloaded directly from the SFA site soon)

Leaders concur that BRAI has to go at the BRAI round table organized by SFA: 11/11/11. Chennai

Leaders from farmer organizations from all over the state, trading unions, lawyers, human rights activists, members of several political groups working in farming sector and concerned citizens have voiced their concern in the roundtable organized by Safe Food Alliance and Coalition for GM Free India in Chennai.

Photos from the Round table and Press Meet.

Press Release

Ask State Govt to raise its voice against the Bill and protect farmers’ interests – Seek disallowing of GM crop field trials in the state”

Chennai, November 11, 2011: Farmers’ leaders from all over Tamil Nadu, cutting across various affiliations, demanded that the Union Government should scrap the BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) Bill 2011, stating that it was a deeply flawed Bill. They asked the state government of Tamil Nadu to assert its constitutional authority over Agriculture, which this Bill seeks to violate. Farm activists wanted the state government and all TN Members of Parliament to raise objections against the BRAI Bill’s introduction in the winter session. They also urged the state government to ensure that no open-air field trials of GM crops are allowed in Tamil Nadu.

“The BRAI Bill is clearly against the interests of farmers and consumers and seeks to create a single-window fast-track clearance system for profit-hungry corporations. This is a Bill that is unconstitutional and undemocratic. It seeks to bypass the Right To Information Act in its intent to uphold the commercial interests of seed companies. The state government will not be allowed to have any say in the matter and this is clearly a violation of the federal polity enshrined in the Indian Constitution, wherein Agriculture is a State Subject”, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Speaking at the end of a Round Table on BRAI Bill, Vettavalam Manikandan of Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam said, “The state government in recent months has taken the progressive steps of repealing the TNSAC Act and withdrawing a budgetary provision to promote Bt cotton in the state. The CM has also reminded in the National Development Council meeting that Agriculture is after all a State subject. In the same spirit, we hope the CM will write to the Centre to stop this draconian Bill”, he said.

Vellaiyan of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam said that the BRAI Bill is against the bottomline for regulatory regime recommended by a Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology which had mooted the idea of an independent regulator in the first instance! The bottomline was stated to be “the safety of the environment, the well being of farming families, the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems, the health and nutrition security of consumers, safeguarding of home and external trade and the biosecurity of the nation. We need a biosafety protection statute and not BRAI”, he asserted.

“We would like the government to make the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University accountable to it and the farming communities in the state; very often, the TNAU is seen to be acting in the interests of profiteering corporations in the way they promote GM technology and take up numerous trials, despite enormous scientific evidence proving the dangers of transgenic technology. We know that in the case of the ABSP II project for the development of Bt brinjal varieties, several legal provisions have been violated and the National Biodiversity Authority has decided to proceed against the violators; an investigation is needed into TNAU’s partnerships with various corporations too”, said Sheelu Francis of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective.

Dr V Suresh, National Secretary of PUCL said that the BRAI Bill is against our Constitution. It is a part of the twenty first century global effort to colonise Indian agriculture by making food as a primary weapon and hand over our agriculture and food systems to profiteering corporations, thereby affecting our food sovereignty and food self sufficiency carefully built over sixty years of independent India.

“Tamil Nadu’s farmers have pioneered organic farming in the entire country; however, this organic farming movement in the state is being jeopardized now, because the state government is yet to take a firm stand against GMOs in general and BRAI Bill in particular, and given that GM technology is diametrically opposite in its approach and results, to organic farming! We urge the state government to come up with an organic farming policy for the state and stop the onslaught of GM on our farmers here, since we have safer and sustainable technologies to offer. We urge the government to not give any permission for open air field trials in the state, given that the GM technology is a living, imprecise, irreversible and unpredictable technology”, said Selvam Ramaswamy of Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation. He cited the example of several other states that have said NO to field trials.

Sharing the findings of a report she compiled on “A Decade of Bt cotton in Tamil Nadu” on the occasion, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture” pointed out that official records point out that yields of cotton have been fluctuating in the state despite major expansion of Bt cotton in the cotton cultivation in Tamil Nadu, that insecticide usage has not come down as predicted, that cost on pesticides was quite low to begin with, bringing to question the very rationale for the introduction of Bt technology in the state, that cost of cultivation has no declining trends to exhibit etc. “While this is not based on any primary study, the report is based on official figures;  this data hopefully will guide the state government in not being misled by the massive publicity that the biotech industry generates by spending its resources and hopefully, the Chief Minister will see the real picture for what it is”, she said.

The Round Table brought out a declaration rejecting the BRAI Bill 2011 in toto. Further, a Joint Action Forum was created consisting of eight prominent people’s leaders. Many other prominent persons like Duraimanickam of CPI-affiliated farmers’ union, Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance, Thooran Nambi, Ramasubramanian of Samanvaya, Jayaraman of FEDCOT, Dr Tirunarayanan from Centre from Traditional Medicine & Research, Padam Narayanan, Sundar of SJM, KM Ramasamy, non-political Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam, Eswaran of MDMK, N K Palaniswamy, ex-MLA, Kannaiyan S of SICCFM etc. joined the Round Table here in Chennai.

For more information, contact:

Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance: 09444166779,

Selvam, TN Organic Farmers’ Federation: 09443663562,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Round Table on BRAI, 11th Nov 2011 - Chennai

The Government of India's Ministry of Science & Technology is proposing to introduce the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2011 in the winter session of the Parliament. In this context, a Round Table of farmers', traders, consumer and other civil society organisations has been organised on November 11th 2011, at ICSA, # 107, Pantheon Road, Egmore by Safe Food Alliance, Tamil Nadu and Coalition for a GM-Free India, a national level network of various farmer groups, activists, civil society members, scientists, doctors etc across India.  

Representatives of farmers' unions, traders' associations, consumer groups, organic farming networks from all over Tamil Nadu along with Kavitha Kuruganti - Covenor, Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (ASHA) and Sridhar Radhakrishnan - Convenor, Coalition for GM Free India, will address the media in this connection at 2.30 pm at the venue (ICSA). A report on "One Decade of Bt Cotton in Tamil Nadu" will be released on the occasion.