A reader has drawn our attention to news that in India, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has asked the state government to ensure that Bt cotton companies pay compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed by corn earworm across the State. We will return to that subject after reminiscing about the organisation and its former leader.
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) is an Indian peasant farmers’ movement, created in 1980 to address the growing problems facing farmers caused by the globalisation of world trade. It was the first peoples’ movement in India to mobilise massive demonstrations against GATT, and under the leadership of the late Professor M. D. Nanjundaswamy (below) membership of the KRRS reached about 10 million farmers, over one sixth of Karnataka’s total population. The members are mostly small farmers (5-20 acres) and peasants, who find it difficult to compete with aggressive multinational corporations (MNCs).
Born in Mysore in Karnataka, India, Professor Swamy graduated in science and law, studied at the Hague Academy of International Law and in Constitutional Law at different universities in the then West Germany and France till 1964. He worked as Professor of Law in Mysore and Bangalore Universities till 1979, served as a member of the Karnataka State Parliament from 1989 to 1994 as an independent non-party member, and founded the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) in 1980. He took a strong position against agricultural and economic policies that threaten the livelihoods and survival of millions of India’s small farmers. He died in 2004.
Forward to December 2015 and the request of KRRS that the State government ensures that Bt cotton companies pay compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed by corn earworm across the State.
Addressing a media conference here on Tuesday, state president of the organisation Chamarasa Malipatil said that nearly half of the Bt cotton crop was destroyed due to the Helicoverpa pest:
“At the time of introducing Bt cotton in India a few years ago, there was a big propaganda that it was pest-resistant. Now, we find that the genetically modified organism, Bt cotton, is vulnerable to corn earworm.
“An overwhelming majority of cotton growers have cultivated Bt cotton this time. Over 50% of all brands cultivated Bt cotton have now been destroyed by the pest attack. The seed companies that sold Bt cotton seeds to farmers are liable to pay compensation and the government should ensure that they do.”
Chamarasa Malipatil added that vast tracts of Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh were also destroyed by the corn earworm and was reported to suspect that seed companies might have supplied substandard seeds to farmers in order to deal with growing cotton stock in the international market.
He alleged that neither the officials of the Department of Agriculture nor the agricultural scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, had paid any visits to the Bt cotton fields hit by the corn earworm.
On a more positive note, KRRS’ late president created the Amritha Bhoomi, Via Campesina’s Agroecology School, as a model of constructive work towards promoting food and seed sovereignty. To carry out his vision, Amritha Bhoomi is developing a seed bank, local medicinal plants reserve, agroecological model plots and different methods of agroecological farming.
From 4th December, the men and women of la Via Campesina from 30 countries and members of the Confédération Paysanne will be present in Paris to show that the form of agriculture that is the basis of their everyday life represents a valid means of counteracting adverse climate conditions.