Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Coalition writes to PM on how conditional approval to GM mustard is unfeasible

Recommendation of a regulatory body for environmental release or commercial cultivation of GM mustard in India on certain conditions Lack of accountability and feasibility related to implementation

Meet India’s female ‘seed guardians’ pioneering organic farming

Andhra Pradesh, Feb 18: The ‘seed guardians’ of Odisha are pioneering new ways of sharing and storing seeds to reap a more sustainable future.

In a volatile cotton market, the mixed cropping practice that Bhimdanga’s farmers follow ensures individual food security, even if their cotton crop fails. Farmers grow cotton alongside food crops such as pumpkin, ridge gourd, lentils, and millets. Some are for their own consumption, and the rest is sold in the market. Ramprasad Sana, an entomologist and the technical head at Chetna Organic, said that the seedbanks have given 600 families food security.



Kuttanad agriculture to get heritage status

Staff Reporter

ALAPPUZHA, June 11, 2013

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) formally declared the Kuttanad below sea-level farming system as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) at the International Forum on GIAHS held at Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan from May 29 to June 1.

Sources said agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan attended the conference, though an earlier decision was to send a delegation to the Forum. The government is expected to declare the heritage status soon


Green Heroes: Odisha’s conservation master

Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times June 04, 2013

In 1988, as a post-graduate student of sociology in Sambalpur University, Ranjan Panda visited some villages in western parts of Odisha. To his dismay, he discovered that the once agriculturally prosperous villages had turned parched and drought prone.

It was a turning point for Panda, who decided to study the traditional water conservation methods that were dying gradually.

Panda formed a voluntary group, Manav Adhikar Seva Samiti (Mass) along with few fellow students and local youth to revive traditional wisdom on water by mobilising local communities.


Centre, A.P. wrangle over Seed Bill

Hyderabad, May 29: K. V. Kurmanath

The Centre has asked Andhra Pradesh to abandon its plans to come out with a separate Seed Bill.

The Bill proposes to regulate retail prices of the seed and the royalty component in the case of transgenic seeds. It also empowers the State to withdraw permission for genetic technology if it poses danger to public security.

The Union Government has written a letter to the State Agriculture Ministry, saying the Bill would be redundant as it (the Centre) is coming out with a similar Bill at the national level.




Push supplier states to curb chemical use

Jayashree Nandi, TNN May 30, 2013, 02.05AM IST

NEW DELHI: If Delhi government has to make sure that residents don’t eat pesticide-laced food, it will have to push neighboring states to reduce their pesticide usage. Most of Delhi’s fruits and vegetables come from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Agricultural experts say that while High Court-appointed panel’s recommendations on monitoring pesticide residue levels are welcome, much more needs to be done.



LVC opens its 6th Global Conference and 20 year anniversary with the Womens’ Assembly

Published on Thursday, 06 June 2013

(Jakarta, 6th June of 2013) La Via Campesina (LVC), the international peasants’ movement, will inaugurate its 6th Global conferencia and celebrate the 20th anniversary of its struggle with the Women’s Assembly starting at 8:00 AM on the 6th and 7th June at the Padepokan Pencak Silat Indonesia, Taman Mini, Jakarta .



Change in lifestyle leading to more malnutrition in India

Change in lifestyle leading to more malnutrition in India

Bharat Dogra, May 30, 2013, DHNS

India faces a peculiar situation of some of the world’s biggest nutrition programmes co-existing with some of the worst statistics of malnutrition in the world. This is due to the poor implementation of ICDS and mid-day meal programme in a large part of the country.

Learn home gardening the sustainable way

Atiqa Hazellah – George Town

Going Organic: The Consumers Association of Penang has come out with a booklet to teach people on how best to grow their food.

Serious gardeners may take pride in knowing a lot about plants. However, pertinent knowledge such as the right kind of soil mixture, or how to make organic compost as a natural fertiliser is sometimes little known among those with green thumbs.

In an effort to educate the public about the healthy hobby of gardening, the Consumers association of Penang (CAP) recently launched its booklet called, Home Nutrition Garden.

Its president, S.M. Mohamed Idris, said the 39-page publication provides information on how to prepare compost, earthworm breeding vermin-composting and home gardening.

This booklet is filled with information on the sustainable, chemical-free way of farming.

“Through this book, people can learn the natural, organic way of farming to yield vegetables that are definitely safer for consumption.” He said after launching the book recently.

Mohamed Idris said CAP had been championing organic farming and sustainable living for the past six years.

“We want to reach out to home-makers and the public to teach them that kitchen waste such as egg shells, potato peels and fruit skins can be put to good use as the raw material for composting. “ he said.

He encouraged the public to start discovering the wonders of organic farming.

The vegetables sold in the market according to Mohamed Idris, often contain high pesticle residues that can damage one’s health.

“We encourage everyone to move away from capital-intensive and chemical-based method to low-cost, non –chemical and sustainable agriculture,” he said.

He added through home gardening aside from cutting the cost of grocery bills and eating healthy, the public learns to recycle and reduce their waste, minimize negative environmental impact and enjoy their own garden.

“By growing one’s vegetable, it inspires and educate others on an organic lifestyle and its benefits,” he said.

Priced at RM2.50, the booklets are available in four languages – Bahasa Melayu, English, Mandarin and Tamil.

They are available at the CAP office at 10 Jatan Masjid Negeri.

For more information call 04-829 9511 or email at

Source New Straits Times, Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Ahmedabad sees 55% growth in demand for organic food: Assocham

AHMEDABAD: The demand for organic products has grown by 55% in Ahmedabad in the last five years, said a survey by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).
The survey on ‘Rising demand of Organic products in Metropolitan cities’ is based on 1,500 lead retailers selling non-organic and organic products in major cities of India. About 1,000 retailers cited that health and environment grounds are the main reasons for purchasing organic products by customer.
According to the survey, patterns of monthly spending give a good picture of consumer behaviour. For instance, Mumbai spends the most at 65% on organic products followed by Delhi-NCR at 61%, Bangalore at 58%, Ahmedabad at 55%, Hyderabad at 52%, Chandigarh at 51% and Indore at 50%.
There has been a major shift in for organic products, especially fruit and vegetables in the metropolitan cities as about 62% of metropolitans buy organic, an increase of 95% in the last five years, survey reveals.
The majority of the respondents said that they are more concerned about the health of their children and willing to spend more to ensure they get better and safer food, adding that organic products are 30% to 40% more expensive than usual food.
“Currently, most of the organic farmers in India are still in the transition phase and hence their costs are still high. As these farmers continue with organic farming, the production costs are expected to reduce, making India as one of the most important producers of organic food,” said D S Rawat, secretary general, Assocham.
About 74% respondents said that they would eat more organic food if it were available in convenient locations while 85% said that they would eat more if it were less expensive.
: The demand for organic products has grown by 55% in Ahmedabad in the last five years, said a survey by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).
The survey on ‘Rising demand of Organic products in Metropolitan cities’ is based on 1,500 lead retailers selling non-organic and organic products in major cities of India. About 1,000 retailers cited that health and environment grounds are the main reasons for purchasing organic products by customer.
According to the survey, patterns of monthly spending give a good picture of consumer behaviour. For instance, Mumbai spends the most at 65% on organic products followed by Delhi-NCR at 61%, Bangalore at 58%, Ahmedabad at 55%, Hyderabad at 52%, Chandigarh at 51% and Indore at 50%.
There has been a major shift in for organic products, especially fruit and vegetables in the metropolitan cities as about 62% of metropolitans buy organic, an increase of 95% in the last five years, survey reveals.
The majority of the respondents said that they are more concerned about the health of their children and willing to spend more to ensure they get better and safer food, adding that organic products are 30% to 40% more expensive than usual food.
“Currently, most of the organic farmers in India are still in the transition phase and hence their costs are still high. As these farmers continue with organic farming, the production costs are expected to reduce, making India as one of the most important producers of organic food, said D S Rawat, secretary general, Assocham.
About 74% respondents said that they would eat more organic food if it were available in convenient locations while 85% said that they would eat more if it were less expensive.


Affluent Indians develop taste for organic food

Nearly two-thirds of Indian households in the high income group have reported a substantial increase in consumption of organic food products in the past five years, reveals a new survey released here on Thursday.
There has been a major shift in consumer preferences for organic foods with purchases notching a hike of 95 per cent in the past five years, the survey by Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (Assocham) said.
The nationwide survey, ‘Rising Demand of Organic Products in Metropolitan Cities’, covered around 1,500 lead retailers selling organic and non-organic products.
The spending patterns indicated a threefold jump, or 95 per cent in the past five years. The survey was carried out across the country, including Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Patna, Chandigarh, Indore, Kochi and Dehradun.
The highest spending pattern on organic foods was reported from Mumbai (65 per cent), Delhi-NCR (61), Bangalore (58), Ahmedabad (55), Hyderabad (52), Chandigarh (51) and Indore (50).
“Organic farming was one of the fastest growing industries last year, thanks to higher disposable incomes, rising health consciousness levels which have hiked the demand for organic foods,” said Assocham secretary general D.S. Rawat.
Despite organic foods being 30-40 per cent more expensive than traditional foods, parents were more concerned about their children’s health and a safe diet, the survey revealed.
The organic food options were led by vegetables (68 per cent), fruits (52), fruit juices and pulses (51), foodgrains (50) and milk (45), besides packaged foods, tea and beverages.
Organic farming is still in a transition phase in India resulting in high costs, Rawat said. But as farmers continue with it, the costs are expected to reduce, making India one of the most important producers of organic foods.
In the wake of the bad publicity and alarms over poor diet, junk food and rising obesity levels, the boom in organic food sector provides welcome relief to the country’s food industry, Rawat pointed out.
The central government is also promoting organic crops, fruits and vegetables through various schemes like National Horticulture Mission, Horticulture Mission for North East & Himalayan States, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and various schemes of the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.



Breaking new ground


Three organic farmers from Kerala share their success story with MetroPlus. They are showcasing their products at the organic rice mela that begins in the city today

Organic farming is gaining ground in Kerala. A burgeoning market for organic produce has helped farmers to reap the benefits of organic cultivation. As more people root for organic produce, be it rice or vegetables, organisations such as Thanal are encouraging the trend by collecting organic products from farmers and marketing them. The organic rice fair, which begins today, is one such venture.

For Rajesh Krishnan, a native of the capital city, “being a farmer is the best way to reach out to society”. Rajesh, a Greenpeace activist in Bangalore, owns five acre of land in Wayanad. “ It was after working with Greenpeace that I developed a passion for farming.”

He cultivates rice varieties such as Mullankazhama, Gandakasala, Njavara, Thondi and Kurumutti. For a new farm enthusiast the biggest challenge is always finding land, especially with prices shooting up every day. “And once you identify the land and decide to do organic farming, unless and until you get proper guidance it is never going to be easy,” says Rajesh, who has the Mullankazhama and Thondi grains for sale.

“Mullankazhama’s yield is much less, so it costs more. It is an elite variety and is believed to have been used by the royals and is even called ‘Rajaannam’ (food of the kings). It is very aromatic and was originally used to make biriyani, before Gandakasala replaced it,” he says.

Venkitesh, who also cultivates rice in Wayanad, is bringing the Thondi variety to the sale. A maths teacher, Venkitesh’s family has been into organic farming for many years now. “I started helping my father, A.V.Nanju who is into farming. We cultivate Thondi, Gandakasala, Njavara and Chennellu varieties,” says Venkitesh. He vouches for the taste of these rice varieties, especially Thondi. “You can make excellent rice gruel and uppumaavu using the variety,” he says. Of late, he has started cultivating sesame as well.

Sreeja Arangottukara is an organic farmer who is a theatre activist as well. At Arangottukara, in Thrissur district, she cultivates rice, vegetables, cash crops and other items on nearly 25 acres of land along with members of the Padhasala Trust, which has two divisions, Krishi Padhasala and Kala Padhasala. While the latter is into agriculture, the former holds cultural activities and comes out with plays based on agriculture and nature.

At the organic fair, you get beaten rice (aval) from Sreeja’s farm.

“It was from my father, the late K.V. Neelakantan Namboothiri, that I inherited a liking for agriculture. From 2000 onwards, I have been active in organic farming along with my husband. I chose to do this once I understood the benefits of the organic produce,” says Sreeja, who has won awards from the Sangeetha Natak Akademi and Sahitya Akademi for her writings. She juggles her job with the Commercial Taxes department, farming, theatre activities and of course her family life.

The family cultivates 10 traditional paddy varieties and grows green gram (cherupayar) and black gram (uzhunnu) too. Products sourced from organic farmers from the city and from Chennai, Mysore, Pune and Bangalore are available at the fair.

Shop for vegetables, pulses, millets, different varieties of flour, juices, curry powders, sugar, jaggery and rock salt… The fair is at YMCA Hall. It ends on May 25. Time: 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.


Girijan ryots receive national award


The Sanjeevini Rural Development Society based at Araku in Visakha Agency received the Plant Genome Saviour Community Award along with a cash award of Rs. 10 lakh, from Union Minister of State for Agriculture Tariq Anwar at a function held in New Delhi on Wednesday, to mark the International Biodiversity Day.

Sanjeevini was chosen for this prestigious award, constituted by the Union Ministry’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA) for its contribution in conservation of local diversity, land races and farmers’ varieties in cereal, small millets, pulses and vegetable crops. Secretary of Sanjeevini P. Devullu along with other members of the team Sagari Venkata Narayana Murthy, a woman PTG farmer Pangi Sunkri, Korra Pandann and P. Ammaji received the award. The team was accompanied by Principal Scientist of Hyderabad Regional Station of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) B. Sarath Babu. NBPGR facilitated the documentation required towards fulfilling the requirements of application for the award by PPVFRA. NBPGR worked in close association with Sanjeevini for exploring the high altitude areas of Araku area for the collection of plant genetic diversity in that area.PPVFRA gave away 15 other individual recognitions to those who contributedtheir mite for the conservation of plant genetic diversity in India.

Mr. Devullu expressed his happiness that the Central Government has also recognised the work being done by Sanjeevani. It is a great encouragement for grass-root level workers.
Several years of hard work in preservation and conservation of seeds of different varieties of paddy, millets, etc. the Girijan farmers are cultivating for generations has borne fruit for Sanjeevani.

Sanjeevani along with Samata is organising an old seeds festival every year since 2004. “Some sections of Girijans farmers are going for hybrid varieties since they give more yield but there is rethinking among them and they are now looking for old varieties. They approach us and we provide information on the availability. Korralu (a millet) is now gaining popularity among farmers and around 80 farmers have resumed its cultivation in the area where Sanjeevani operates,” Mr. Devullu said.


National Honour for Seed Savers


724 farmers to get national award of Rs 10 lakh for reviving superior local crop varieties

In an event held in New Delhi on Wednesday, the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Processing Sharad Pawar handed the Plant Genome Saviour Community Award for the year 2011-12 to Seed Savers, a group of 724 farmers from 11 villages in Jawahar taluka, in Thane district.
The group will get a collective prize of Rs 10 lakh. Aided by two Pune-based NGOs, Baif Development Research Foundation (BDRF) and Maitri, these farmers have developed their own seed banks by preserving, reviving and producing traditional strains of rice and millet.
Their efforts have helped revive around 170 local varities of rice, 27 races of finger (raagi) millets, 10 races of proso (common) millets and various other wild vegetables. A lot of farmers had switched to hybrid seed varieties, making the local varieties nearly extinct.
Rajashree Joshi, programme co-ordinator of city-based NGO BDRF, said, “The climate is not conducive for such hybrid seeds, causing pest attacks and wilting. It also affects the crop yield.”

The native varieties have nutritional and medicinal value. “It makes the farmers self sufficient as they have their own seed banks consisting of the highest quality seeds, thus increasing the productivity,” said Sanjay Patil Program co-ordinator of Seed Saver’s group.
“Apart from various nutritive and medicinal values, these varieties of crops are also important in order to promote a vast bio-diversity,” said Joshi. Apart from the group award, two farmers from the group have also received individual awards for their contribution to this bio-diversity.

Sunil Kamadi and Mavanji Pawar have received awards in the Plant Genome Saviour Farmer’s category. Sunil Kamadi has developed Ashwini variety of paddy, which he selected from his produce and successfully sowed, while Mavanji Pawar was given recognition for conserving 41 native paddy varieties and 10 different types of millets and vegetable crops.
Pawar and Kamadi were presented with respective mementoes and certificates. Kamadi mentioned that the Ashwini variety gets him high-yield from limited seeds. “The rice that I have grown tastes much better than other.
These saplings stand better even if water comes with high force from the adjoining hills. These crops grow even in low rainfall,” said Kamadi, who chose to name the variety after his daughter, instead of his taluka Jawahar.
“The types of paddy that I grow the most are Halvi and Nimgarvi. I also grow 15 different types of varai (white millet), nachni (finger millet) and a rice variety called dangi,” said Mavanji Pawar. He further informed that dangi is extremely nutritious for lactating mothers as it improves the quality of milk.

Davaji Gavanda, who grows Halwi rice, nachni and varai and is among the awarded 724, said “The Halwi variety is extremely useful in fighting malnourishment. It also heals fractures, if applied on the injured area in apaste form,” he said. Congratulating the farmers on this remarkable feat, Ramkrishna Muley, former director of agriculture, Government of Maharashtra said, “Every farmer should have their own seed bank of local varieties.

They have better nutritional value and greater agriculture productivity.” Plant Genome Saviour Community Recognition was set up in 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act.


Fair aims to promote organic food


A four-day organic mela began on the Akkana Balaga premises here on Saturday.

The exhibition-cum-sale aims to popularise organically cultivated food crops and provide an opportunity for customers to buy organic produce directly from producers.

On display are foodgrains such as rice and millets, their value-added products, fruits and vegetables, and medicines. Padmarekha, Navara and red rice are among the local rice varieties available, while rare varieties of indigenous paddy and ragi are on display.

The mela has been organised by Sahaja Samruddha and the Deshpande Foundation. Members of Malenadu Paddy Growers’ Association and Desi Krushikara Balaga are among the organic farmers taking part.


Inaugurating the mela, the former Mayor and physician Pandurang Patil noted the health and nutrition value of organic produce. Such vegetables and foodgrains may not look attractive or be of a large size, especially when compared to those cultivated using chemical fertilizer, but they were more nutritious and tastier, he said.

He stressed the importance of following an indigenous diet for one’s health and promoting traditional food.

Dr. Patil promised to help open an organic food stall on the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation premises.


Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime and Traffic) Shrinath Joshi released ‘Namma Anna’ brand of ‘desi’ rice.

Sahaja Samruddha director G. Krishnaprasad, Desi Krushikara Balaga president Channabasappa Kombali and Savayava Krishikara Balaga president Veerannagouda Patil were among those present.

The mela is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Farmers’ suicide rates soar above the rest


Suicide rates among Indian farmers were a chilling 47 per cent higher than they were for the rest of the population in 2011.

In some of the States worst hit by the agrarian crisis, they were well over 100 per cent higher.

The new Census 2011 data reveal a shrinking farmer population. And it is on this reduced base that the farm suicides now occur.

Apply the new Census totals to the suicide data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the results are grim. Sample: A farmer in Andhra Pradesh is three times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else in the country, excluding farmers.

And twice as likely to do so when compared to non-farmers in his own State. The odds are not much better in Maharashtra, which remained the worst State for such suicides across a decade.

“The picture remains dismal,” says Prof. K. Nagaraj, an economist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. Prof. Nagaraj’s 2008 study on farm suicides in India remains the most important one on the subject. “The intensity of farm suicides shows no real decline,” he says. “Nor do the numbers show a major fall. They remain concentrated in the farming heartlands of five key States. The crisis there continues. And the adjusted farmers’ suicide rate for 2011 is in fact slightly higher than it was in 2001.” And that’s after heavy data fudging at the State level.

Five States account for two-thirds of all farm suicides in the country, as NCRB data show.

These are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The share of these ‘Big 5’ in total farm suicides was higher in 2011 than it was in 2001. At the same time, the new Census data show that four of these States have far fewer farmers than they did a decade ago. Only Maharashtra reports an increase in their numbers.

Nationwide, the farmers’ suicide rate (FSR) was 16.3 per 100,000 farmers in 2011. That’s a lot higher than 11.1, which is the rate for the rest of the population. And slightly higher than the FSR of 15.8 in 2001.

In Maharashtra, for instance, the rate is 29.1 suicides per 100,000 farmers (‘Main cultivators’). Which is over 160 per cent higher than that for all Indians excluding farmers.

Such gaps exist in other States, too. In as many as 16 of 22 major States, the farm suicide rate was higher than the rate among the rest of the population (RRP) in 2011.

The data for 2011 are badly skewed, with States like Chhattisgarh declaring ‘zero’ farm suicides that year. The same State reported an increase in total suicides that same year. But claimed that not one of these was a farmer. What happens if we take the average number of farm suicides reported by the State in three years before 2011? Then Chhattisgarh’s FSR is more than 350 per cent higher than the rate among the rest of the country’s population.

In 1995, the ‘Big 5’ accounted for over half of all farm suicides in India. In 2011, they logged over two-thirds of them. Given this concentration, even the dismal all-India figures tend to make things seem less terrible than they are.

Ten States show a higher farm suicide rate in 2011 than in 2001. That includes the major farming zones of Punjab and Haryana. The average farm suicide rate in the ‘Big 5’ is slightly up, despite a decline in Karnataka. And also a fall in Maharashtra. The latter has the worst record of any State. At least 53,818 farmers’ suicides since 1995. So how come it shows a lower FSR now?

Well, because Census 2011 tells us the State has added 1.2 million farmers (‘main cultivators’) since 2001. That’s against a nationwide decline of 7.7 million in the same years. So Maharashtra’s farm suicide rate shows a fall. Yet, its farm suicide numbers have not gone down by much. And a farmer in this State is two-and-a-half times more likely to kill himself than anyone else in the country, other than farmers.

Karnataka, in 2011, saw a lot less of farm suicides than it did a decade ago. And so, despite having fewer farmers than it did in 2001, the State shows a lower FSR. Yet, even the ‘lower’ farm suicide rates in both Maharashtra and Karnataka are way above the rate for the rest of the country.

These figures are obtained by applying the new farm population totals of Census 2011 to farm suicide numbers of the NCRB. The Census records cultivators. The police count suicides. In listing suicides, the State governments and police tend to count only those with a title to land as farmers.

“Large numbers of farm suicides still occur,” says Prof. Nagaraj. “Only that seems not to be recognised, officially and politically. Is the ‘conspiracy of silence’ back in action?” A disturbing trend has gained ground with Chhattisgarh’s declaration of ‘zero’ farm suicides. (That’s despite having had 4,700 in 36 months before the ‘zero’ declaration). Puducherry has followed suit. Others will doubtless do the same. Punjab and Haryana have in several years claimed ‘zero’ women farmers’ suicides. (Though media and study reports in the same years suggest otherwise). This trend must at some point fatally corrupt the data.

At least 270,940 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1995, NCRB records show. This occurred at an annual average of 14,462 in six years, from 1995 to 2000. And at a yearly average of 16,743 in 11 years between 2001 and 2011. That is around 46 farmers’ suicides each day, on average. Or nearly one every half-hour since 2001.


Court ruling over privileged access for business in EU-India free trade talks

Judgement to be delivered in Luxembourg

The EU’s General Court has announced a date for the judgement in Corporate Europe Observatory’s legal action, suing the European Commission for withholding information related to the EU’s free trade talks with India. The Commission is accused of discriminating in favour of corporate lobby groups and of violating the EU’s transparency rules. The judgement will be delivered in Luxembourg on 7 June 2013.

The lawsuit (T-93/11) concerns 17 documents related to the ongoing EU-India free trade negotiations. The Commission shared all of these documents in full with corporate lobby groups such as BusinessEurope. But Corporate Europe Observatory only received censored versions, with allegedly sensitive information about priorities, tactics and strategies in the negotiations deleted.

In an oral hearing in Luxembourg in January 2013, the Commission defended its practice, arguing that it was “fully justified” to censor the documents as their public disclosure would undermine the EU’s relations with India and in particular the ongoing negotiations for an EU-India free trade agreement (FTA).

But how can documents that the Commission has already shared with the business community at large suddenly become confidential and a threat to the EU’s international relations when a public interest group asks for their disclosure? This is the core question raised by the lawsuit.

What is at stake

The judgement comes as the EU and India are trying to sort out final differences in the FTA negotiations in technical level talks between the two sides in Brussels this week.

The negotiations, which started in 2007, have been shrouded in secrecy, with no text or position as yet disclosed to the public. Yet, there are major concerns prompted by the scant information that has emerged that the EU-India FTA will in fact fuel poverty, inequality and environmental destruction. And that the EU Commission and the Indian government have effectively handed the negotiating agenda over to big business (watch the video Trade Invaders).

Resistance has been particularly strong in India where the main opposition parties, industry bodies, street traders, farmers’ organisations and patient groups have voiced concerns over the proposed agreement for some time now.

What is at stake in the lawsuit is whether the Commission can continue its habit of granting big business privileged access to its trade policy-making process by sharing information that is withheld from the public. This practice not only hampers well-informed and meaningful public participation in EU trade policy-making, it also leads to a trade policy that, while catering for big business needs, is harmful to people and the environment in the EU and the world.


Delhi HC for pesticide check on vegetables, fruits


The Delhi high court on Wednesday ordered surprise checks of wholesale and retail markets in the Capital to ensure that vegetable and fruits on sale do not have pesticide residue beyond permissible limits.

The court was acting on survey reports filed by consumer rights NGOs which said that vegetables and fruits finding its way to Capital’s markets are a toxic cocktail capable of pesticides including those banned causing cancer, heart disease and infertility and posing a risk to nervous system and liver.

The banned pesticides included chlordane, a rat poison that affects the nervous system and endrin, an insecticide that causes headache. A bench headed by chief justice D Murugesan directed a panel formed by the Union agriculture ministry to pick samples and get them tested in labs and recommend prosecution of errant traders so that they shall not be allowed to contaminate their produce with chemicals and endanger people’s health for profit.

They are to file an inspection report in the court on May 29.

Under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, a trader selling contaminated produce can be jailed upto six years and fined up to Rs. 5,000.

“The amount of pesticides in fruits and vegetables in India and especially sold in Delhi markets was as much as 750 times the European standards”, NGO Consumer Voice told the court.

“The court panel had in May 2011 visited markets in Kotla, Mayur Vihar, Sarojini Nagar, INA, Defence Colony, Vasant Vihar and Lodhi Estate. We found that pesticides, toxic colours and hormones are being used by farmers and traders to speed up growth, ripen and improve colour,” said lawyer Meera Bhatia, member of the court-appointed panel.

“We have a laboratory near Delhi Vidhan Sabha where samples from each wholesale fruit and vegetable market are checked every day,” said Rajinder Sharma, chairman, Agricultural Produce Market Committee. “In case chemical residues are found in any sample, action is taken as per the norms,” he said.

Fruit and vegetable traders of the Capital, however, feel that it is difficult to check and maintain complete absence of pesticides or chemicals in products.



PUNJAB to promote organic farming


Chandigarh, May14, 2013: The Punjab government has formulated an extensive training programme for the farmers aimed at encouraging them to adopt the latest techniques in crop cultivation and also promote organic farming in the state.

Disclosing this here today, a spokesman of the government said that the government would impart training to the farmers in the government run Farmers Training Centers including PAU Ludhiana and Khalsa College, Amritsar. About three lac farmers are being imparted training every year during Rabi and Kharif seasons and also by holding specialised training course in agriculture and other allied subjects. 6016 training camps/programmes were organised to disseminate latest farm technology amongst farmers under various schemes like Training, National Food security Mission, Extension Reforms etc.

Adding further, he said that besides this the state government would lay more emphasis on the organic farming especially in the Malwa belt where due to the excessive use of pesticides together with water contamination has caused tremendous damage to human beings. Focused awareness campaign would be generated among the farmers to change their mindset guiding and helping them in the proper implementation of organic farming techniques. Organic fertilizer and organic pesticide would be arranged for healthy cultivation, he said. To Increase agro-bio diversity through mix-cropping, conserving water resources and increasing genetic diversity would be introduced.


New hybrid maize seed developed for Gujarat

A new hybrid seed variety of maize has been developed, which has a potential to more than double the crop production in tribal belts of the state has been developed, according to an official at Anand Agriculture University (AAU).

The new variety — Gujarat Anand Yellow Hybrid Maize-I (GAYHM)– is suitable for sowings during kharif season under rain fed conditions in North and central Gujarat – a maize growing beltin the state covering tribal areas.

The variety is rich in Lysine (an essential amino acid) and is touted to be a source of rich protein diet for the tribals, who are its major consumers.

“In a first, a hybrid of yellow colour variety maize has been released, which gives 13 per cent higher yield as compared to High Quality Protein Maize-I (HQPM), a hybrid developed at Hissar in Haryana and recommended for Gujarat,” AAU Director Research K B Katheria said.

“The average production of maize with pre-dominantly used varieties is around 1,439 kg per hectare, whereas the new hybrid variety GAYHM-I has the potential of up to 4,000 kg per hectare yield,” he said.

The new hybrid seed variety of maize has been approved by the state level research council, official sources said.

Gujarat Maize(GM)-II is a predominantly used seed variety in the state, besides HQPM-I.

“As compared to GM-II, the new hybrid has potential to give 24 per cent higher yield. GAYHM-I is an early maturing variety, say between 80-85 days, compared to any other usual variety which takes 100-120 days,” Katheria said.

“Lysine, an essential amino acid required for human body, is available up to 2.85 per cent in protein of this maize, which is higher compared to other variety,” he said, adding that it is a good source of protein for the tribals.

A cash crop in Gujarat, maize is largely grown by farmers in tribal dominant districts like Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Panchmahal, Dahod, amongst others.

It is also cultivated in districts like Mehsana, Kheda, Anand, Vadodara and Patan.

The average acreage under maize in Gujarat is pegged at around 4.23 lakh hectares, while annual production of the crop is estimated to be around 6 lakh tonnes, sources said.

“The yellow grain variety of maize is widely used as poultry feed too as its colour is linked to beta-carotene, which potentially can improve directly the yoke quality of the egg,” Katheria said.

The new variety was developed by AAU’s research station at Godhra. Last year, the agri varsity had released Gujarat Anand White Hybrid Maize-II, to enhance productivity.

“But, compared to white, yellow colour maize is more popular in Gujarat as it has wider application,” he said.

“It will first have to pass a few more requisite clearances… It can be made available to the farmers only by next year,” Katheria added.



Alarming pesticide residue levels detected in vegetables, fruits


The pesticide residue levels in cardamom and curry leaves sold in the state are found to be at an alarming rate. Presence of pesticides that are banned in the state was also found in a study conducted by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), Vellayani.

Tests on the samples collected from various markets in the state showed that the pesticide levels in these spices cross the maximum residue levels(MRL), the permissible amount of pesticide residues in food materials.

Five to six types of pesticide residues were found in four out of the six cardamom samples tested. The intoxicated cardamoms are found to be coming mainly from Puducherry. A number of pesticides that are banned in Kerala is still used by farmers in other states. This is the reason behind the increased amount of pesticide residue levels in vegetables and spices coming from other states.

“In the analysis, pesticide residues were found in vegetables including bitter gourd, green chilli, capsicum and cucumber and fruits mainly grapes and apples in minor amounts. Alarming levels of pesticide residues were found in a sample of China apple collected from the Palakkad market,”  said Nazeema Beevi of College of Agriculture, Vellayani.

The study was conducted as part of the regular monitoring programme by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, to find pesticide residues in vegetables, fruits, cereals and spices. Ten varieties of vegetables, six types of fruits, five varieties each of rice and wheat and six varieties of spices were tested under the programme.

Samples of vegetables and fruits were collected from markets and shops in Kottayam, Palakkad and Ernakulam districts. Milk samples were gathered from Thiruvananthapuram district and cereals and spices from Kottayam district. These samples were tested in the nationally-accredited Pesticide Residue Research and Analytical Laboratory of the College of Agriculture, Vellayani.

The monthly monitoring programme is conducted in selected centres in every state as part of the All-India Network Project on Pesticide Residues. This years programme was started in May last. An annual report will be prepared by IARI on the basis of these studies.



Organic farming at TNAU to take off


Organic farming is all set to get the offical nod for the goverment through it’s new department in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).

“Following the number of negative reactions to the ‘green revolution’ programme and after witnessing the people’s positive response to organic farming, the TNAU has decided to start the ‘Sustainable Organic Agriculture Department’, focusing on organic farming practices. This new department is expected to function from this May,” said S Ramasamy, TNAU.

Ramasamy, who is a professor of Agronomy and Head of the proposed new department recently arrived at Chennai to participate in the project launch of ‘Sustain’, organised by Bayer Material Science, here on Tuesday. Speaking to City Express, he said, “The new department has been established with a view of taking organic farming both in low intensity crop fields and high intensity crop fields.”

He added, “Through the department, organic farming can be carried out in three forms. In the first, we maintain and extend the organic farming, in the second, we develop the potential of ‘default organic farming areas’ and in the third, we integrate agricultural practices in high intensity crop fields”.

He said that maintaining and extending organic farming exclusively will lead to an ‘organic certification’ of the products from the farms. “By this we can achieve ‘premium price’ for the product,” he said.

He stated that Tamil Nadu has 10 to 15 percent of ‘default organic farming areas’ where the soil has good nutrients naturally. “Regions like Ramnad district, Kolli Hills are able to cultivate one or two annual crops. Identifying such areas and developing the potential of organic farming there will increase the economy of the local farmers. Implementing integrated agriculture practices like following both organic and chemical used farming in the high intensity crop fields will enhance the yield and increase the economy of the farmers,” he added.

He further noted that, “Though Sikkim has very limited annual crops, it has been declared as the first organic state in the year 2003. But Tamil Nadu has numerous crops and if we practice organic farming in a systematic way we too are able to become an organic state”.

He also pointed out that the policy for organic agriculture of the state is being prepared by the concerned departments and it may be brought to public domain soon.



Farmers can now adopt organic farming sans risks

NAGPUR: Many marginal farmers may be wanting to experiment with organic farming but they fear losses as they do not have capability to lose even one season’s earnings. For such farmers Manohar Parchure, the promoter of organic and natural farming in the region, has come up with a scheme that would enable them to try out organic farming in a risk-free manner.

This is Parchure’s ‘No Premium Insurance Scheme’ which he hopes will help regain farmers’ confidence in agriculture and wean them away from methods that lead to economic distress and suicide. Under this, an eleigible farmer will have to cultivate one acre land with organic method while he undertakes conventional farming on remaining land. In case he suffers any losses on account of organic farming, Parchure and his associates will make them good.

“I am 100% sure that even during extreme conditions, organic farming is a better alternative then conventional farming using chemicals. In rain fed or dry land areas like Vidarbha, farmers can earn certain minimum profits provided they use rain water intelligently and save each drop,” he told TOI.

Parchure, along with a group of like-minded persons, will support at least 1000 farmers to begin with in entire state with this informal insurance scheme. For this, the farmers will not be required to pay any premium. Those who join the scheme will have to follow certain guidelines and maintain record of every paisa they spend on both organically and conventionally grown crops including details of money spent on fertilizers, pesticides, weeding and labour etc.

“Every farmer will be required to only cultivate one acre of his land organically while taking up conventional cultivation on remaining land. This is to prove to the farmer that the losses due to erratic rains and other factors would be less in the organically cultivated land. We are sure our method will conserve at least one lakh litres water per acre,” Parchure said.

Parchure could dare to come up with such a scheme only after himself experimenting through some progressive farmers. He is sure that compared to conventional farming, organic farming always has much less loss of crop in any conditions and he will not have to pay much compensation to farmers. “This is why we are not asking for any premium. We should actually demand a share if there are profits in organic crop cultivated under our guidance bu we are not doing that too,” he said.

Farmers will be required to follow water conservation procedures as well as specific cultivation method and practices on the experimental one acre. They will be made to take up trench and soak pit methods for conserving rain water and using natural wastes like tree leaves, solid and liquid jeevamrut and use of an equipment called Nindan Mukta Yantra for removing weeds. Multi-cropping is another compulsory addition.

Basic principle is that if a farmer earns Rs 30,000 on three acres of land, he should get at least Rs 10,000 on one acre organic land. If a farmer gets less than this, he will be compensated by Parchure and his supporters.


Technology Package to be followed under scheme

Water conservation methods

I Soak Pits

* 50X50cmX4m soak pits (about 28-30) along border of one acre land

* Each pit can store 1000 litres water in season and they will be full at least 3-4 times in season

* They will allow water reach up to half to one metre depth and maintain enough moisture for rabi crop

II Micro-locking of rain water

Farmer to use a bullock driven instrument called dawra or kolpe for inter-cultivation of crop after August

This is to be used twice to control weeds between rows of crops

III Inputs

Farmer to become self sufficient in inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc. Since farmer here only uses seeds as input he cannot become self sufficient in one year. He should use improved seeds and no hybrids to ensure enough seeds for next year

IV Fertiliser

Soil has to be converted into living soil by using solid (2000kgs) and liquid Jeevamrut (1000 lit) in five equal doses

Solid jeevamrut is prepared in advance in summer months before onset of monsoon

Liquid jeevamrut is applied in first 40 days of growth of crop

IV Pesticides

To do away with pesticides, farmer should do mixed cropping with one principal crop and 1-2 secondary crops

Farmer should also grow 15-20 different crops along the border at small distances

This generates a variety of smells and confuses pests

Allow natural predators to take action

Create bird perches to catch insects

V Weedicides

Use Nindan Mukti Yantra and remove all weeds without harming crops

VI Other important factors

Increase distance between crop lines to allow adequate sunlight (5X5 ft)

Maintain accounts of all expenses on both types of crops

Farmer free to choose his own crop combination

Only 1000 farmers will be registered for the scheme this year



State to unveil comprehensive organic agriculture policy soon

CHENNAI, May 2, 2013

The State government will soon come out with a comprehensive organic agriculture policy, according to K. Ramasamy, Vice- Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU).

Addressing the launch of ‘SUSTAIN,’ a Public Private Partnership initiative to deploy innovative drying and storage technology to farmers, Dr. Ramasamy said here on Tuesday that various components of the policy, including the formation of a Department of Sustainable Organic Agriculture and establishment of a Directorate for Organic Agriculture, were under preparation and the policy was expected shortly.

On SUSTAIN, which envisages promoting sustainable agriculture and improvement of quality of life of farmers through solar drying and cold storage technologies, Dr. Ramasamy said the TNAU could assist in identifying suitable locations where the project could be rolled out across the State and in matching the right crop with the soil type.

According to Dr. Ramasamy, organic certification for products would help farmers’ collectives compete in the global markets and fetch much better prices, which in turn, would motivate them to achieve higher productivity. It was important that organic agriculture was not only environmentally sustainable but economically viable, he said.

SUSTAIN, a government-supported three-way partnership, will help farmers, over an 18-month period, install the equipment, transfer knowledge to empower participant farmers to train others and even establish market linkages. One of the farmer communities where the project is being introduced is in Theni, where banana cultivation is the mainstay. Around 100 farmers have been provided two solar dryers and three cold storage units free of cost on common farm land. Farmers are also trained to use the equipments and maintain them in proper working conditions.

The initiative involves DEG, a development finance institution in Germany, and two other organisations. The 3.21 lakh Euro (equivalent to Rs. 2.27 crore) funding for the project is shared by Bayer and DEG.

Isaac Emmanuel, Head-Business Development and Social Business Initiatives, Bayer Material Science (P) Ltd, one of the three partners in the initiative, said the project was being rolled out for the first time in India in Tamil Nadu.

Farmers’ collectives would be provided Solar Drying and Cold storage energy efficient farming technologies that would help generate new and value-added products.

Sreenivas Narayanan of ASSIST, an international NGO and the third partner, said the project was significant in the context of India losing almost 40 per cent or 59 million tonnes of all agriculture produce due to wastage and spoilage every year due to fragmented supply chain, inefficient harvesting facilities, lack of post harvest management solutions like proper cooling and drying facilities.

Keywords: Tamil Nadu governmentorganic agricultural policyTamil Nadu Agriculture UniversitySUSTAINstorage technologies


‘Conserving indigenous seed varieties need of the hour’

TNN Apr 29, 2013, 02.45AM IST

NAGPUR: Conserving and preserving the indigenous and traditional seed varieties and the overall biodiversity of the country is the need of the hour to counter the increased invasion of biotech and genetically modified crops, said speakers at a seed fair on Sunday.

Speakers at the three-day seed fair-cum seminar organized by a group of organizations working in organic and natural farming voiced their concern over agricultural issues and food security. These organizations included Samvad, Srujan, Gram Samasya Mukti Trust, Dry Land Farming Group, Aamhi Amchya Arogya Sathi and Nisargayan. They called for a direct relationship between the consumer and the farmer to not just bring quality and cheaper produce to consumers, but also seek a feedback on what the consumer wanted from the farmers.

The organizers felicitated veterans like Rambhau Mahajan, Raosaheb Dagadkar, Shobha Sharma, Dadaji Khobragade. Tarak Kate of Dharamitra, an NGO in Wardha, who was honoured with the ‘Beejbhushan’ award for his contribution in development of agriculture in region, raised questions over the seed sovereignty of the country.

Shantilal Kothari, president of the Academy of Nutrition Improvement hinted towards a connect between the lobby promoting GM crops and the government. Sanjay Patil from BAIF Development Research Foundation from Nandurbar said that once millets were considered food of tribals. But soon they will be the future food for all. Out of the 212 known millets grown in the word barring two, all are cultivated in India, he said.

Tejal V from GM Free Maharashtra strongly opposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAI) and demanded a biosafety protection legislation and not an autocratic authority as it would be like an appellate tribunal where no one can even approach court against the order of the authority.

Subhash Sharma, a renowned organic farmer from the region proposed the cause of saving the soil from pollution caused from pesticides, weedicides and fertilizers. He said that it was possible to do successful and profitable agriculture without bringing in any input in agriculture from outside the farm.

Vasant Futane from Samvad attacked the GM crops and explained the scientific effects of these crops. Ulhas Jajoo, Hemant Moharil, R Dhote also expressed their views.

The organizers also decided to bring out a directory of genuine organic and natural farming farmers with information of the food, vegetable, pulses or oil seeds crops grown by them. They concluded the programme claiming that India has enough high yielding straight varieties which can take care of food security of the country.