Tag Archives: India

More profit and higher yields through organic farming in India

Increase your income and your yields with traditional farming methods? That’s what’s happening in India.

Nishika Patel blogged 11 May 2011 in The Guardian, Organic farming – India’s future perfect?

India’s struggling farmers are starting to profit from a budding interest in organic living. Not only are the incomes of organic farmers soaring – by 30% to 200%, according to organic experts – but their yields are rising as the pesticide-poisoned land is repaired through natural farming methods.
How did this happen?
Organic farming only took off in the country about seven years ago. Farmers are turning back to traditional farming methods for a number of reasons.

First, there’s a 10% to 20% premium

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GMO Regulatory Capture Produces Human Guinea Pigs

Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, writes today about Refined Foods are Bad, But These May Be Far Worse:
Government officials around the globe have been coerced, infiltrated, and paid off by the agricultural biotech giants.

In Indonesia, Monsanto gave bribes and questionable payments to at least 140 officials, attempting to get their genetically modified (GM) cotton approved.

[1] In India, one official tampered with the report on Bt cotton to increase the yield figures to favor Monsanto.

[2] In Mexico, a senior government official allegedly threatened a University of California professor, implying “We know where your children go to school,” trying to get him not to publish incriminating evidence that would delay GM approvals.

[3] While most industry manipulation and political collusion is more subtle, none was more significant than that found at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The result is humans as guinea pigs:
Since GM foods are not properly tested before they enter the market, consumers are the guinea pigs. But this doesn’t even qualify as an experiment. There are no controls and there’s no monitoring. Without post-marketing surveillance, the chances of tracing health problems to GM food are low. The incidence of a disease would have to increase dramatically before it was noticed, meaning that millions may have to get sick before a change is investigated. Tracking the impact of GM foods is even more difficult in North America, where the foods are not labeled. Regulators at Health Canada announced in 2002 that they would monitor Canadians for health problems from eating GM foods. A spokesperson said, “I think it’s just prudent and what the public expects, that we will keep a careful eye on the health of Canadians.” But according to CBC TV news, Health Canada “abandoned that research less than a year later saying it was ‘too difficult to put an effective surveillance system in place.'” The news anchor added, “So at this point, there is little research into the health effects of genetically modified food. So will we ever know for sure if it’s safe?”[30]
We might better start finding out.

There’s much more in the article, all copiously documented at least with citations, and often with links to the actual articles.


Suicide in India and How to Stop It

Vandana Shiva writes in Huffington Post about India:
200,000 farmers have ended their lives since 1997.
In just one Indian state:
1593 farmers committed suicide in Chattisgarh in 2007. Before 2000 no farmers suicides are reported in the state.
In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds, which need fertilizers and pesticides and cannot be saved.

Corporations prevent seed savings through patents and by engineering seeds with non-renewable traits. As a result, poor peasants have to buy new seeds for every planting season and what was traditionally a free resource, available by putting aside a small portion of the crop, becomes a commodity. This new expense increases poverty and leads to indebtness.

And that’s not all: Continue reading

Bt Brinjal Beaten Back

After nationwide protests against Bt Brinjal (eggplant), BBC reports that India does the right thing:
India has deferred the commercial cultivation of what would have been its first genetically modified (GM) vegetable crop due to safety concerns.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said more studies were needed to ensure genetically modified aubergines were safe for consumers and the environment.

I hope those opposed to Bt brinjal don’t think that’s the end of the story; it will be back. But at least for now they’ve won.

Hm, I wonder if their approach would work for something else, such as bioengineered eucalyptus in the U.S. southeast? There are parallels: lack of serious studies of health effects and lack of demonstration of containment. Can Americans do what Indians just did?

India Against Bt Eggplant

What does it take to turn a country against patented crops with adverse side-effects? In India, the eggplant may be the last straw. Day before yesterday saw Wide and vociferous protests against this genetically modified Bt brinjal:
From Gopal Ethiraj, Chennai
Chennai, 01 February (Asiantribune.com):

Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, on Sunday had to face angry protests of farmers in Hyderabad over a move to produce the genetically modified Bt brinjal in the country. Protests and demonstrations were also held in New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday and Sunday.

He had gone there as part of public consultations on Bt brinjal. Consultations are being held in Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh.

The Minister, however, said a final decision on the issue would be taken in 10 days after consultations with all concerned. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had last year given its nod for commercial release of Bt Brinjal and Ramesh had promised additional consultations with farmers’ groups, NGOs, scientists and other stakeholders before the release of Bt brinjal.

Demanding earlier that the government reverse its decision, farmers, scientists and NGOs staged angry demonstrations in Hyderabad and disrupted a public hearing organised by the ministry. The protestors did not allow the Minister to speak at the public consultation held at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) in Hyderabad.

The protestors drew on the strategy and the remembrance day of the man who drove the world’s largest empire out of India:

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Indian Cost of Pesticides and Fertilizers

Akash Kapur writes in the New York Times about something rotten in the state of India:
By the late ’80s, the chemicals had started taking a toll. Mr. Govindan’s land dried up. Yields declined. Mr. Govindan said the quality of his crops did, too. In the old days, he told me, if you cooked too much rice for dinner you could keep it overnight and eat it the next day for breakfast. Now, rice from the fields around Molasur turned rotten overnight.

Other things had changed: labor was more expensive, the price of fertilizers and seeds had increased, and the overall cost of living had outstripped the rise in crop prices.

How bad is it?
The scientist M.S. Swaminathan, often referred to as the father of India’s green revolution, has spoken of a “disaster” in Indian agriculture. The sociologist Dipankar Gupta has written of “hollowed” villages.

According to a recent report in The Hindu newspaper, almost 200,000 farmers committed suicide between 1997 and 2009 — a national tragedy (although it is rarely treated as such) brought on by rising debt and the resulting economic and existential despair.

So is the Indian government being realistic about the problem?
Mr. Govindan wondered about something else, too. Farming had always seemed a special profession to him, with a vital, even noble, role in feeding the nation. He wondered why the country didn’t see it that way anymore. Just the previous night, he had watched Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on television, assuring the nation that it wouldn’t face food shortages. Mr. Govindan felt something didn’t add up. He pointed to the barren fields; he said you couldn’t even grow peanuts on them anymore. “I don’t understand,” he said, “Where is all the food supposed to come from?”
Well, if India follows the U.S. model, the food will come from a tiny number of agrobusinesses that will end up owning most of the land.

Organic Farming Yields often Better Than with Agrochemicals

Catherine Brahic writes in New Scientist that Organic farming could feed the world:

Numerous studies have compared the yields of organic and conventional methods for individual crops and animal products (see 20-year study backs organic farming).

Now, a team of researchers has compiled research from 293 different comparisons into a single study to assess the overall efficiency of the two agricultural systems.

Ivette Perfecto of the University of Michigan in the US and her colleagues found that, in developed countries, organic systems on average produce 92% of the yield produced by conventional agriculture. In developing countries, however, organic systems produce 80% more than conventional farms.

So developing countries don’t need Monsanto to feed themselves after all. Quite the opposite: they can do much better with organic methods.

Perfecto points out that the materials needed for organic farming are more accessible to farmers in poor countries.

Those poor farmers may buy the same seeds as conventional farms use in rich countries, but they cannot afford the fertilisers and pesticides needed for intensive agriculture. However, “organic fertiliser doesn’t cost much – they can produce it on their own farms”, says Perfecto.

And if their crops fail, they can replant, because they can save seeds. And if they don’t all use the same seeds, there’s less chance their crops will all fail at once.

Getting certified as organic is another story.