September 2000


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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 26 Sep 2000 23:30:59 -0400
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The following message from Vandana Shiva is of interest.

Subject: Fwd: Verdict of the Panch (Jury) in the Bija Panchayat - Seed
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 13:27:51 +0530
From: Vandana Shiva <[log in to unmask]>
To: "\"Florianne Koechlin\" <[log in to unmask]>"
    <[log in to unmask]>, "Françoise Mace" <[log in to unmask]>,
    "G. Vijayalaxmi" <[log in to unmask]>, <[log in to unmask]>,
    GeneWatch UK <[log in to unmask]>, "Geoff Lean" <[log in to unmask]>,
    George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>,
    "Gerald C. Nelson" <[log in to unmask]>,
    <[log in to unmask]>,
    "Heena Vithlani" <[log in to unmask]>,
    "Herb Barbolet, Executive Director" <[log in to unmask]>

25th September 2000
Dear friends,
    The two days Seed Event in Bangalore concluded on 25 September 2000 with
the Verdict of the Jury comprising of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer (Retd.
Judge, Supreme Court of India), Prof. Utsa Patnaik (Senior Professor of JNU,
New Delhi), Shri Prasanna ( Emminent Theater Personality), Shri Krishanbir
Choudhary ( a farmer leader), Shri G. Nammalwar (farmer), Ms. Sunanda , Shri
E. P. Menon. The verdict was read out by Mr. Kishan Bir Choudhury followed
by a very stimulating speech by Justice Krishna Iyer.
    Please find enclosed the Verdict of the Panch (Jury) and their
recommendations to protect the Seed sovereignty, food Security and rights of
the farmers.
    Tomorrow, the 26 September the Asian Seed Conference is going to begin
in Bangalore while all the farmers unions, who participated in the Seed
Tribunal, are holding a huge rally in the leadership of KRRS President Mr.
K. S. Putnaih who will lead the rally from Railways Station to Maleshwar
Ground in Bangalore against the monopolisation of seed and corporatisation
of agriculture.
With regards,
Afsar H. Jafri
Programme Coordinator

Verdict of Peoples' Jury at Bija Panchayat (Seed Tribunal) 24th - 25th
September 2000 Gandhi
                                      Bhawan, Bangalore

    For the two days we have listened carefully to testimonies and evidences
from farmers and experts, related to the crisis of the seed and the crisis
of farmer survival from different part of India and abroad. The accounts
given as evidence by the large number of relatives (widows, son, brother) of
farmers who killed themselves and given directly by the farmers who sold an
organ for money, all point to a common scenario. This in brief is cumulating
debt owing to high cost and substandard seed and other inputs pushed by
companies and their agents for their own profits. A number of big companies
which are connected to a part of transnational companies (TNCs) as well as
smaller companies are involved in the cases.
    The World Bank Seed Act of 1988 opening up the seed sector to the MNC
control and domination of Private Industries and simultaneously withdrawal
of Govt. sector has played a major role in pushing farmers into debt,
suicides and trade of body part. Low interest, agricultural credit system
have disappeared and farmers have been pushed to borrow at high interest
rates from the same agents who also push seed and chemicals. The MNCs have
taken over the control over India's seed supply without any responsibility
and liability. "Seed business has become a business of genocide forcing the
farmers to pay for the corporate profit with their very life." Governments
have totally failed to provide security and protection to vulnerable
    The farmers were persuaded to go in for growing more high risk, alleged
high yielding varieties of cotton, chillies etc. As institutional credit is
either not adequately available or there is a ceiling on it they took large
loans from private money lenders and input dealers, the former at 36 to 48
percent rates of interest, the latter against delivery contracts. It is
clear that there is big influx in the villages of fly-by-night operators
supplying substandard seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, who persuade the
farmers to buy their expensive inputs on credit. Even in the case of genuine
inputs the risk is borne entirely by the farmer while spurious inputs supply
itself guarantees failure and further enmeshes the farmer in debt. The
farmer tries to repay debt by selling land, selling even his body organ; but
when cumulated debt exceeds all hope of repayment he is driven to suicide.
An organized racket appears to have developed to exploit the farmers
distress to obtain organs for transplantation. Evidences were given mainly
by the affected farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab. The
crisis has developed to this point, owing to the complete deregulation of
the markets in credit and inputs and owing to the withdrawal of the state
from its responsibilities in the course of the last decade. The crisis will
affect larger areas of our agriculture unless immediate steps are taken to
halt the process described. Government has a responsibility to intervene
because it cannot shirk its duty of safeguarding the public interest.

    The burden of high prices of the corporate seed combined with high
unreliability and unaccountability will further increase with G.E. seeds.
Patent and IPR's regime as system of monopoly control will further aggravate
the severe crisis the farmers are facing. The Trade Related Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS) regime of the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) will
therefore create conditions for a deepening of the economic crisis for the
farming community in India.
                              Seeds of Distress and Seeds of Suicide

· Unreliable Seeds Supply
    With the significant shrinking of public sector seed supply, there has
been a tremendous increase in the supply of unreliable seeds by
corporations. The evidences presented at the farmers testimonies in the Bija
Panchayat clearly indicates the above mentioned trend. D. Ramanaamma wife of
a victim farmer of Andhra Pradesh gave her evidence on the reasons for
suicide of her husband in March 2000 due to purchase and sowing of
unreliable seeds. This subsequently lead to crop failures which pushed her
husband to take this extreme step. G. Mahendra from Warangal district was
another testimony, who spoke of the untold miseries suffered by the farmers
due to the purchase of spurious cotton seeds provided by the corporate. This
resulted in the poor performance of crop and ultimately the crop was
destroyed by the insect attack.

· Increasing cost of chemicals and menace of spurious chemicals
    Over the years there has been tremendous increase in the application of
chemicals by the farmers which has lead an increase in the cost of
cultivation. In the quest to get higher yields, each farmers has started
more and more chemicals. Ravi Keshava Rao from Krishna district stated this
in his testimony in crops of Turmeric, Yam and Banana in his district.
Further, this has resulted in flooding of local markets with spurious
chemicals supplied by small unaccountable companies. This widespread
phenomenon has been reported in West Bengal by Alka Karar wherein, the sale
of expired and banned chemicals is a common occurrence.

· Low Income/ Low production
    The returns on yields are very discouraging to the farmers. There has
been a decline of around 30 to 40 % of income in crops like turmeric, yam
and other crops at Vanguru village in Krishna district as affirmed by Ravvi
Keshav Rao. Vemuri Satyanarayana too certifies the widening gap between the
increased investment in the agricultural inputs as compared to the output
achieved. A Sudhakar of Timmapeta informs that the yields of cotton
drastically reduced with the low production of just five quintals from three
acres of cultivated land. Cargill seed of Sorghum C-71 failed to perform in
Bellary district in the state of Karnataka.

· Increasing loans and high interest rate
    Surjeet Singh from Punjab, Bobba Venkat Reddy, Polli Reddy, P Krishna
Reddy from Guntur, A Timmapeta, S Vasudev Reddy from Warangal testified the
increase in accumulating loans by farmers. The interests charged by pawn
agencies in the Rentichintala Mandal is around 36 % adding to the financial
burden of the poor farmers.

· Increasing Debts and Sale of Body Parts
    The miserable financial conditions of the farmers have compelled them to
take the drastic steps in order to sustain their families and repay their
loans by selling their body parts in desperation for money. The testimony
presented by D. Ramanaamma, wife of victim farmer of Andhra Pradesh gave
evidence on the reasons for suicide of her husband in March 2000. They had
accumulated debt of more than Rs 2 lacs which they incurred towards the
leasing in of land and purchase of agricultural inputs. Farmers in
Rentichintala succumbed to selling their kidneys in desperation to repay the
mounting debts over the years to the humiliating money lenders who had made
their lives miserable.

· Suicide: The Last Resort
    The dismal debt scenario compelled the farmers in the states of Punjab,
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to take extreme steps
of committing suicides. The testimonials of D. Ramanaamma, G. Savitri amma,
Bhagavat amma , B Sudhakar Reddy, S
Vasudev Reddy are perfect evidences of above statement.

                      New Threats to Farmers Survival

· Genetically Engineered High Risks Seeds
    Farmers from the US, Canada and Europe including Will Allen and Jose
Bove gave evidence of how the yield of genetically modified crops is a myth.
GM crops are displaying a "yield drop." In the U.S. genetically modified
cotton crop also failed and farmers sued Monsanto. These crops also have
serious environmental and health ramifications. Evidence in this was
provided by Hope Shand of RAFI, USA and Ellen Hicky, PAN, also from US.
Genetically engineered Canalo has become a major noxious weed in Canada
invading fields, genetically contaminating and polluting non-genetically
modified seeds. Farmers have been forced to use more chemicals contrary to
the myth of reduced use of agrochemicals with genetically modified
technologies. The evidence we heard from the North indicates that the rush
to introduce these inadequately tested, high-risk, high cost, unproductive
genetically modified seeds by the government in India is totally
unjustified. Instead of paying compensation to farmers corporations like
Monsanto are suing farmers like Percy Schmeiser of Saskatchewan, Canada
whose Canola field was contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified
Canola for "intellectual theft" of the genetically engineered seeds. The
evidence of Percy Schmeiser shows that patent and Intellectual Property
Rights requires being forced through WTO/ Trips must inevitably turn farming
into a police state. The new Patent laws, Plant Varieties laws and
Biodiversity Act introduced in India therefore have serious consequences for
the Indian farmer already burdened with high cost corporate control seed

· Intellectual Property on Seeds and Monopolisation of Life
    Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer who attended the Bija Panchayat who
is one among the thousand farmers who has been sued by gene giant Monsanto
for stealing the company seeds which infact were introduced in his fields
through natural pollen transfer. The inherent right of the farmers to save
and exchange seeds is under threat. The proposed Plant Variety Protection
Act fails to protect the rights of the small and marginal farmers. The
Patents (Second) Amendment Act 1999 provides for patenting on life and
promotes biopiracy of our indigenous knowledge and resources. Similarly the
profound Biodiversity Act, 2000 too fails to fulfill the obligations under
the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to protect the rights of the
communities to use their biodiversity resources of the country and is a
replica of the Forest Act of 1927 of Colonial Era. The presence of the MNCs
and the biopirates has forced the government to change the Biodiversity Act
into a Biopiracy Act, and takes away the rights of our communities and
indigenous healers to use biological resources for their livelihood and

· Increasing Corporate Control and Declining Role of Government
    The clearances to the Bt cotton "Bollgard" of Monsanto for open field
trials by violating the Environment Protection Act and Rules sets a
dangerous trend of declining role of the Government to control the "Gene
Giants". The Ministry of Environment and Forests clearances large scale
trials of Bt Cotton in 2000-2001 and a simultaneous clearances for seed
production indicates clearly a dominating presence of biotech companies and
their interests in their decision making of the Government.
    The study undertaken by RFSTE on Bt. cotton trials prove the promises on
no requirement of pesticide application and high yield by the company
totally misleading.
                               Seeds of Hope

    Though despair but farmers are finding ways and means for fighting back
the corporatisation of agricul/ture. Already in Garhwal Himalayas in India
and the Andes in Latin America the people have declared GE free, IPR free
and chemical free zones.

1. The role of the multinationals in the seed production and distribution
should be balanced with liabilities and responsibilities.
2. The public seed sector which is being dismantled needs to be
reinvigorating through strengthening its research and development and
farmers participation.
3. Seeds being distributed should be tested by Agricultural Universities for
their agroclimatic suitability, germination characteristics and
vulnerability to pests and diseases.
4. It should be the responsibilities of the State to provide adequate checks
and balances to ensure healthy seeds and genuine agriculture inputs. Setting
up of the regulatory bodies at the state and district levels which will
permit only the supply of those inputs whose samples have been tested and
whose distributors have been licenced. There must be penal provisions for
supply of substandard inputs. Farmers seed supply should also be
strengthened through programmes such as in-situ Conservation and Community
Seed Banks.
5. The credit requirement for the under privileged farmers could be
established with the support of the organizations that have participated in
the Bija Panchayat by setting up a legal defense fund. This would be an
important step towards fighting with the farmers, the giant and reckless
6. Strict punishment should be awarded to persons who are involved in the
trade storage and distribution of spurious agri chemicals.
7. A moratorium should be imposed for a period of ten years on the
commercialization of the genetic engineering in food and farming in India.
8. Traditional rights of the farmers to freely conserve, develop, use,
share, exchange their seeds are fundamental rights which cannot be alienated
by any IPR law. We must develop our indigenous "sui generis" system to
protect farmers seed sovereignty.
9. The Protection of Plant varieties and Farmers Rights Act 1999, The
Patents (second) Amendment Act 1999 and Biological Diversity Act 2000 are
harming farmers rights that should be changed.
10. In order to defend the rights of the small farmers and for the food
security of people that should be a call for exclusion of seeds, life and
life forms from the TRIPs/ WTO.
11. There should be guarantee of minimum support price to the farmers for
thier agriculture produce.
12. In order to safeguard the interest of the farmers the representative of
the farmers should be adequately represented in the Commission on
Agriculture on Commodities and Prices.
13. It should be the endeavor of all the organisations, the state and the
central governments to support the farmers in achieving the self sufficiency
in food production.