Posts Tagged 'Farmer'

GM-Free Bihar Movement Cries Foul Over BRAI Bill

Bill introduced despite opposition within and outside Parliament

Patna, 24th April 2013: The GM-Free Bihar Movement today expressed deep anguish at the Central Government’s action of introducing the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2013 in Parliament despite serious reservations of parliamentarians, scientists, civil society groups and farmers.

“This Bill, dubbed as a ‘wrong bill by the wrong people for wrong reasons’ in its various versions has been extremely controversial due to provisions facilitating the biotechnology industry at the expense of public good,” GM-Free Bihar Movement Convener Mr. Pankaj Bhushan said in a press release here.

The Bill’s flawed approach to regulation in trying to create a single window clearing house for products of modern biotechnology, instead of an express mandate to protect and uphold bio-safety given the acknowledged risks of modern biotechnology, has been opposed time and again.

“As we have reiterated on numerous occasions, the Bill is steeped in conflict of interest as the Ministry promoting biotechnology is about to house the regulator; it undermines the federal polity of our nation by overriding the authority of state governments, even though Agriculture is a State Subject as per the Indian Constitution. It also attempts to circumvent the right to information and transparency laws and is focussed on creating a three member technocratic, undemocratic and centralised decision making body. As the Bt brinjal moratorium decision shows us, even a more broad-based regulatory body had gone wrong with its decision-making – why can’t the government learn lessons from the past and aspire for a progressive legislation in the interest of Indian citizens and environment, rather than promote corporate interests?” Bhushan said.

The problems with this technology particularly in our food and farming systems, where the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are released into the environment are widely known and documented. “The Bill introduced in Parliament on April 22, 2013 overlooks the ever-increasing evidence on the impacts of GMOs on human health, biodiversity and socioeconomic aspects and lacks any scientific independent, long term assessment to look at the safety as well as the very need of GMOs before their open release.”

Bhushan termed the bill anti-farmer and anti-consumer, saying, if passed, it will only result in people losing control over food choices and seed sovereignty. “The bill should be withdrawn,” he demanded.


The introduction of this Bill at this juncture is all the more shocking and unacceptable, given the following recommendation from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture which studied the subject in detail and presented its report to Parliament in August 2012:

The Government has been for some years now toying with the idea of a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority. The Committee feels that regulating biotechnology is too small a focus in the vast canvas of biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health, etc. and a multitude of other such related issues. They have, therefore, already recommended in a previous Chapter setting up of an all encompassing Bio-safety Authority through an Act of Parliament, which is extensively discussed and debated amongst all stakeholders, before acquiring shape of the law. Unless and until such an authority is in place, any further movement in regard to transgenics in agriculture crops will obviously be fraught with unknown consequences. (Section 8.120)

Analysing the lacunae of the existing regulation and studying the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India, the Standing Committee said the following:

“In such a situation what the Country needs is not a biotechnology regulatory legislation but an all encompassing umbrella legislation on biosafety which is focused on ensuring the biosafety, biodiversity, human and livestock health, environmental protection and which specifically describes the extent to which biotechnology, including modern biotechnology, fits in the scheme of things without compromising with the safety of any of the elements mentioned above”.

The GM-Free Bihar Movement strongly urges that Parliamentarians cutting across the political spectrum should respond to this retrograde and anti-people bill and prevent the control over our food and seed by a few biotechnology majors.  Discussing the Bill in a limited context of a Standing Committee on Science & Technology would not suffice, given the large potential impact of the issue at hand.

We demand that the government show its sensitivity to the broad based opposition by withdrawing the bill. We urge Parliamentarians to ask for circulation to elicit  response and understand the importance and need to set up a Joint  Committee in this current instance (ideally headed by the Chairperson of the Agriculture Standing Committee, given its deep links to farmers’ livelihoods, an issue pertaining to the largest number of Indians).


Zero tillage cultivation, key to sustainability

21 March 2011

Planting without Ploughing: zero-till wheat takes root explains how innovative partnerships among researchers and farmers have enabled the adoption of zero-tillage cultivation on nearly two million hectares in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. The practice is increasing farmers’ incomes, fostering sustainable use of soil and water, and providing a platform for other resource-conserving practices.

Planting without ploughing: zero-till wheat takes root

The Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP), which spread from Pakistan across northern India, southern Nepal, and into Bangladesh, are the breadbasket of the Indian sub-continent and home to more than 300 million people. Farmers in the region typically grow two crops per year: monsoon-season flooded rice and winter season wheat. However, since the 1990s, productivity increases in the rice-wheat rotation have stagnated, owing to land degradation and late planting of wheat, in particular.

Typical farming practices involve up to eight tractor passes to restructure rice paddy soils before planting wheat. Not only is this costly in diesel and associated CO2 emissions, but the later the wheat is planted, the more likely the crop will suffer from pre-monsoon heat during grain filling, significantly reducing yields. To keep pace with the region’s exploding food demands and to adapt to water shortages and climate change, farmers need technologies that can help them improve yields while saving resources, cutting production costs and sustaining environmental quality.

Zero-tillage – the direct seeding of wheat into unploughed paddies following rice harvest – offers a more sustainable alternative: it involves a single tractor pass, thereby saving fuel, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and allowing the earlier planting of wheat. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) began to introduce this practice throughout the IGP in the 1980s, with efforts increasing with the involvement after 1994 of the Rice-Wheat Consortium (RWC). DFID has supported the work of RWC both directly, and through on-going core assistance to CIMMYT.

Rapid adoption of zero-tillage in the region, especially in India, began in the late-1990s. During 1997-2004, around 620,000 farmers adopted the system and zero-tillage wheat cultivation now covers an estimated 1.76 million of the 14 million hectares of rice-wheat cultivation. This uptake has led to important direct outcomes for farmers and the environment.

Many factors contributed to the successful spread of zero-tillage in the IGP. A key one was the collaborative development and local manufacture of affordable zero-tillage seed drills – which in one pass place wheat seed and fertiliser directly into unploughed land. The process of testing prototype seed drills on farmers’ land with farmer participation, developing drills suited to local conditions, and making them available to farmers at an affordable cost, were all vital steps. Seed drills were attractive both for farmers keen to reduce their own cultivation costs and hire themselves out for direct-seeding of neighbours’ fields, as well as for profit-minded local manufacturers. Crucial as well were the use of farmer participatory approaches and the involvement of farm implement manufacturers and input suppliers to promote and support zero-tillage against the opposition of tradition-minded farmers, researchers, and policymakers. Finally, the development and spread of this innovation owes much to the conviction and hard work of national research programme champions and extension agents, as well as the continuing high-quality training and support they received through the RWC and CIMMYT.

Apart from reducing cultivation costs, the zero-tillage method increases wheat harvests by 5-7 per cent, largely thanks to timely planting. As a result, in India, it is estimated that zero-tillage has increased incomes by US$97 per hectare, with households typically increasing their annual earnings by US$180-$340. The bulk of this is from reduced costs. Zero-tillage also has environmental benefits: reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, improving both fertility and water-holding capacity of the soils, reducing rates of soil erosion, and encouraging rice-wheat farmers to leave crop residues on the soil surface rather than burning them.

Furthermore, reduced tillage has provided a “platform” for introducing other resource-conserving practices such as: sowing on raised beds; surface seeding in riverain areas; smallholders in the eastern IGP using laser levelling to improve irrigation efficiency; cropping diversification (introducing, for example, pulses and vegetable crops); and supporting conversion to full conservation agriculture by replacing puddled rice cropping with aerobic rice cultivation. Such practices will be crucial for the region, given that by 2050 climate-change induced heat and water stress in irrigated areas may reduce wheat yields by 12 per cent and rice by 10 per cent, while the unsustainable extraction of water for agriculture continues to drain aquifers.

Source : DFID



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