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Moving away from Green Revolution fertilisers and pesticides


The co-founder of CHS-Sachetan, Winin Pereira, would have been interested in the passage  recently written by American attorney Ellen Brown: 

“In the end, the Green Revolution engineered by Kissinger to control markets and ensure U.S. economic dominance may be our nemesis. In the U.S., only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. Most farmland is soaked in pesticides and herbicides.

“But the need for these toxic chemicals is a myth. In an October 2017 article in The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot cited studies showing that reducing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides actually increases production, because the pesticides harm or kill the pollinators on which crops depend. Rather than an international trade agreement that would enable giant transnational corporations to dictate to governments, he argues that we need a global treaty to regulate pesticides and require environmental impact assessments for farming”.

Pereira had long recognised that Western agriculture is unsustainable:

“It is often claimed that the green revolution, with its high yielding varieties (HYVs) is the main factor which has allowed an increase in food production, without which there would be extensive famines in the world. But this particular system of agriculture is dependent on the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides produced from mineral oil and natural gas, and on the use of fossil fuels for powering tractors, irrigation pumps and transport. Moreover, it has recently been discovered that the HYVs have a much reduced ability to store micronutrients like Vitamin A, iron, zinc and others. The loss of these essential nutrients to populations subsisting mainly on HYV cereals not only causes direct ill health but also has a major damaging impact on the immune system. While food production grew, an increasingly large number of people have suffered from extensive malnutrition and its consequences.” (Inhuman Rights, p89-90)

In the last post on this site, Devinder Sharma brought news of good farming practice in Andhra Pradesh, one of many instances – and in our archives I came across earlier news from Ramesh Menon, who wrote:

“Excessive amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers may be poisoning huge tracts in India, but there are small islands of sanity that are showing the way out of the poison spiral. One of them is Nasik district in Maharashtra. Over 600 farmers here have completely switched to organic farming. There is no looking back, and there are no regrets. Ask Abhilash Gorhe. He moved into farming after studying engineering at college. He used huge quantities of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. He was happy with his yields, and the good bank balance that went with it. But one day he asked himself what he was doing cultivating poison and then packaging it to ruin the health of the thousands who were consuming what he grew. That was it. He made a turnaround to organic farming using homegrown bio-pesticides and manure from the stables at the back of his house. If the manure fell short, he would buy it from suppliers in Mumbai. Initially his yields fell, but things are now picking up. The land he farms is rejuvenating to its natural health”.

Ellen reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned GMOs and has set out to make Russia the world’s leading supplier of organic food. She ends:

“While the U.S. struggles to maintain its hegemony by economic coercion and military force, Russia is winning the battle for the health of the people and the environment.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned GMOs and has set out to make Russia the world’s leading supplier of organic food. Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots.

dachas (2)

“In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments), predominantly organically. Dacha gardens produced more than 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, more than 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. (More information here.)

Russian author Vladimir Megre comments that Russian families demonstrate you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat.






Mumbai’s Tree Saviour

Mumbai’s Tree Saviour 1: neighbourhood trees

Mumbai’s Tree Saviour 2: opposing destruction in Greater Mumbai’s Garden of Eden

First published on the Antidote to Gloom blog.






People from these countries visited the site this week


India’s saviour – the sun?


The previous doom-laden post on this site reminded one reader of the title of a novel, ‘The Sun Is My Undoing’. The news in this post relates to  the harnessing of India’s solar resources for a clean energy future.

india goes solar goyal video

Speaking to NDTV in New York, India’s Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal referred to a World Trade Organization dispute settlement board which has ruled in favour of a US claim that India’s requirement that only Indian-made products be used for solar cells and modules were “inconsistent” with a range of international trade regulations. India has filed an appeal against the WTO decision.

In a videoed interview, which may be seen via the following link, the minister noted that no such action has been taken against the 16 states in the US with similar Domestic Content Requirements for their solar panels manufacturing, commenting “(It is) very unfortunate that they took this route rather than promoting renewable energy in developing countries”.

A far more cheering scenario

india goes solar header

Piyush Goyal also announced a new policy which will encourage further domestic manufacturing in India and reiterated full commitment to India becoming a leading solar equipment manufacturer in the near future and reiterated that the WTO ruling will not deter India’s support to domestic manufacturers.

india goes solar segolene royalHe and the French Environment Minister Segolene Royal (left) played a leading part in launching an International Solar Alliance after the signing ceremonies for the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The website of the Permanent Mission of India to the UN reports that India and France have launched programmes with $1 trillion potential to help developing countries harness fully their solar resources for a clean energy future to meet “probably the world’s largest challenge humanity has ever faced”. Ms Royal said: “I would like to emphasise the cooperation we have had with India, which is exceptional”.

The first two programmes, “Affordable finance at scale”; and “Scaling solar applications for agricultural use”, were launched at a meeting attended by representatives of over 25 countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Namibia, Uganda, Nigeria, Peru, Djibouti, Surinam, Zambia, Bolivia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Mali, India, USA and France. Many have at least 300 days of sunshine, and share common challenges and opportunities.

The Times of India adds that Goyal said the harnessing of solar energy went beyond providing clean energy and dealing with climate change and was also about energy security. He explained the benefits of solar-rich nations collaborating through the ISA, providing benefits of scale leading to reduction in prices; promotion of collaborative R&D and wider deployment of solar technologies.

A British scientist draws our attention to three reports about Bt cotton in India

She forwarded a message from Dr Michael Hansen giving a link to news that there have been whitefly outbreaks in the Bt cotton crop and that a resistant pink bollworm has been doing significant damage to cotton crop in states like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

This follows December reports in the Hindu of a ‘spot’ investigation into an 80% infestation of the Bt cotton crop in Raichur by an independent team of experts at a Bt cotton field affected by pink bollworm attack at Gonal village near Raichur district.

bt 2cotton pink bollworm

The report, in Livemint, an online business paper published by Hindustan Times Media, summarises: “Almost 90% of the country’s cotton cultivation area is under Bt cotton, which was introduced in 2002 but a report from New Delhi says that with bollworm developing resistance to Bt cotton crop, the government has decided to promote cultivation of indigenous varieties of the crop in a big way this year”.

The government-recommended local varieties yield less but require far fewer pesticides, cost less than GE varieties and can be replanted.

The decision to revive cultivation of indigenous varieties of cotton was taken in a meeting headed by agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. Senior officials of the agriculture ministry, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and seed industry companies were also present in the meeting.

A senior agriculture ministry official said: “The issue of pests like pink bollworm and whitefly developing resistance to Bt cotton crop was discussed at length with all stakeholders yesterday. To protect farmers, it was decided to popularise cultivation of desi varieties this year”. He pointed out that, though the productivity of native varieties is lower by 10-15% as compared to Bt cotton, expenditure on pesticides and sprays would be less and farmers can reuse the seeds for next sowing.

Before the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, at least 25% of the cotton cultivation area was under indigenous varieties and the ministry has now issued directives to states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to use only recommended native seeds for preventing pest attacks, sow the crop at the right time and keep watch on the movement of whitefly ensuring timely sprinkling of pesticides.

Kariyappa, a farmer from Turakanadoni village in Raichur taluk, has filed a private complaint with the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Raichur, against 15 Bt cotton seed companies, with regard to crop loss caused by pink-bollworm pest this year.

Three days ago, The Hindu named the companies which included arms of multinationals Bayer and Monsanto, reporting that the complainant said that Bt cotton crop was completely destroyed by pink-bollworm, contrary to the claims made by Bt cotton seed companies in pamphlets that came with the seed packets, clearly promising protection from this pest. The farmer said: “Taking advantage of illiteracy and poverty of farmers, the seed companies knowingly sold the seeds that were of no use and cheated them. The government should book criminal cases against the companies and initiate an inquiry.”

boheco 2 entrepreneurs

Many Indian newspapers, including the Hindu Businessline, are recording the inspiring story of young Indian entrepreneurs who have founded the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), which cites the example of Australia, Canada, Germany and several Eastern European countries, where varieties of fibre hemp are grown and used in many products, including a textile used by fashion houses like Calvin Klein and Versace.

Have farmers looked into the possibility of diversifying – cultivating the more robust textile hemp plant, as recommended by Hemp India?

Top searches in 2012

Kudankulam: care more for the lives of Indian citizens than the profits of Russian corporations;
Coca Cola in Mehndiganj, Varanasi

As Syngenta looks for deals – Peter Kindersley dispels the need for its products

The FT reports that climate change and the rising global population are putting pressure on farmers to improve productivity.

This in turn plays into the hands of companies such as Syngenta, which supplies insecticides, fungicides and genetically modified seeds.

A surge in prices for agricultural commodities (the S&P GSCI agriculture index is up 16 per cent this year) adds to the bull case.

Investors, starved of growth stories elsewhere recently, have been piling in, with Syngenta shares up 22 per cent since January. They now trade on 16 times forecast earnings.


Peter Kindersley: Feeding The World

With thanks to the sender.


‘GM is needed to feed the world’ is the claim commonly made by advocates of the technology, but it has nothing to show for these claims.

A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that 1 in 8 people still go to sleep hungry every day. So the theme this year was agricultural cooperatives as a key to feeding the world.

Study after study show that organic techniques can provide much more food per acre in developing countries than conventional chemical-based agriculture.

One report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that 114 projects, covering nearly two million African farmers, more than doubled their yields by introducing organic or near-organic practices.

It seems hard to believe. Indeed, Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, says the report gave him the biggest surprise of any that have crossed his desk.

Another study led by the University of Essex looked at similar projects in 57 developing countries, covering three per cent of the entire cultivated area in the Third World, and revealed an average increase of 79 per cent.

Research at the University of Michigan concluded that organic farming could increase yields on developing countries’ farms three-fold.

Even more important, as the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development points out, teaching how organic techniques work almost always boosts the incomes of small Third World farmers, because they no longer have to buy expensive chemical inputs.

This is vital, as three quarters of the world’s poorest people depend on small-scale agriculture to eke out a living. Those that have land often do not have enough, so have to buy food as well; half of the world’s undernourished people are smallholders and their families.

The landless are even worse off, and have to seek work as labourers. Again, a switch to organic agriculture can help, for it employs many more people, creating more than 170,000 jobs in 2007 in Mexico alone.

Lastly, the world’s biggest and most authoritative study by the World Bank, United Nations, World Health Organization, FAO,  GEF,  UNDP,  UNEP,  UNESCO (& 400 scientists) – the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development – IAASTD – backed organic agriculture as part of a “radical change” in the way the world grows its food. The report warned that continued reliance on simplistic technological fixes – including transgenic (GM) crops – is an approach unlikely to address persistent hunger and poverty. It clearly states that what the world’s poorest people need most is access to land and water, not expensive technologies they cannot pay for. GM wasn’t the answer.

Certainly, the present over-reliance on intensive agriculture has not succeeded in reducing the number of people going hungry last year it topped one billion for the first time.

The UN Deputy Secretary General said in 2012, over the last 20 years, food production has kept pace, so much so that, were it distributed adequately, there would be enough to feed every person on Earth.  Hunger is basically an issue of equity, not of shortage”.

None of this is to argue that all farming should go organic. An immediate drop in Western harvests would be catastrophic, and cause hundreds of millions more to go hungry because food prices would dramatically increase.

But a transition from what we have, which isn’t working, to more sustainable models is needed over time to get farmers off the current ‘treadmill’ (increased yields through oil based inputs leads to lower prices that lead to the need for more unsustainable inputs to stay in the same place and so on). Cheap food policies by rich world governments drive wrong behaviour at every turn.

Think about this? If we had more sheep and cattle on the land we would have better soils, more drought resistance, more natural nutrition for plants, animals and man, less need for so much grain – at least 40% goes to feed animals – less toxic chemical inputs that go with industrial practices – plus much better animal welfare!

All in all just plain old common sense….

Peter Kindersley

19th October 2012