Tag Archives: pesticides

Protect and develop India’s traditional knowledge, genetic resources, seeds and medicines

As the latest news of the applications to plant GM mustard in India is published, Winin Pereira’s writings were scanned for his views on the subject of genetically modified crops. Far more attention was given to genetic screening of embryos and research into genetic manipulation of human beings.

As an ethically motivated scientist, he would certainly have denounced this money/profit-centred exhortation – tempered by a sop to bee lovers – issued by Bhagirath Choudhary, Founder Director at South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), New Delhi Area, India. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/allow-high-yielding-gm-mustard-now-bhagirath-choudhary?trk=mp-reader-card 

The following extracts from his writings have an indirect bearing on the subject.

  • The traditional agricultural systems, not dependent on these factors, survived for millennia till they were displaced by this transitory “modernisation”. A change in the climate and the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer could cause major reductions in food production, since the extremely narrow genetic base from which high-yielding varieties are derived could result in widespread crop losses.
  • The high susceptibility of the new varieties to pest attacks is another factor contributing to insecurity. At the same time, the creativity which produced the tens of thousands of different traditional crop varieties adapted to numerous ecological niches is being destroyed by TNC producers of special seeds.
  • While the West claims that the available land and other resources will be inadequate to provide food for rising populations, it encourages the use of food in a most inefficient manner: many grains directly edible by humans are now being redirected to cattle, pigs and poultry to obtain expensive milk, meat and eggs.
  • India at present grows sufficient food to provide all its people with adequate basic nourishment, yet about one third of the population living below the poverty line do not get sufficient to eat.
  • The godowns are overflowing, but the people cannot afford to buy the stored food. The grain merely goes to maintain a population of rats and other pests, including the population of synthetic pesticide manufacturers.

Correct and full information, for instance, about food products, their real nutritional value in relation to their cost, the nature of the additives used, genetic modifications, if any), about pesticides (their health and environmental effects), about medicines (side-effects, alternatives) and so on, has to be wrung out of the system, instead of being given as a matter of right. But if people were fully informed, the sales of most such products would certainly drop drastically.

The ancestral rights of the indigenous peoples to control over their lands and other resources are being viciously destroyed for Western hamburgers, toilet paper and paperbacks. The exercise of such rights often involves the commercialising of these activities and the co-option of indigenous peoples into the mainstream.

The Western predators need to be reminded about the rights of the indigenes. They have the right to special measures to control, develop and protect their sciences, technologies and cultural manifestations, including human and other genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs and visual and performing arts.

Next: relevant to the fourth bullet point, a summary of ‘A Risky Solution for the Wrong Problem: Why GMOs won’t Feed the Hungry of the World’ – William G. Moseley,  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gere.12259/full: Copyright © 2017 by the American Geographical Society of New York. First published: 3 July 2017Full publication historyDOI: 10.1111/gere.12259  View/save citation

Long-term exposure to OP insecticides puts farmers at high risk of diabetes

Richard Bruce, who has suffered severely for many years following exposure to pesticides in the course of his work, sends news of research by a team from Madurai Kamaraj University, published in Genome Biology and is generously accessible to all readers. The paper may be accessed here.

Megha Prakash, in an article in ‘Down to Earth’, highlights the case of a 12-year-old boy reported from Mysuru, Karnataka. In 2011 the boy had eaten tomatoes from a field without washing them only a few hours earlier. Krishnan Swaminathan, an endocrinologist and president of the Coimbatore-based Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital, says that it was due to this impact of the chemical on the body’s insulin function that he first thought there could be a link between OP exposure and diabetes.

Researchers from Madurai Kamaraj University draw blood samples of village residents to test for diabetes (ARUL / MADURAI KAMARAJ UNIVERSITY)  

The observations in this and other cases mentioned in the article formed the premise of a study, conducted by a team from the Madurai Kamaraj University, to investigate the high prevalence of diabetes being reported from rural areas. Previous studies had shown a high prevalence of diabetes in rural Tamil Nadu, but this is the first one to link pesticide exposure to the disease.

Megha Prakash writes: “The researchers surveyed 3,080 people from seven villages in Thirupparan-kundram block of Madurai district. Participants were above the age of 35 years. Almost 55% of them were from the farming community and were, hence, more likely to be exposed to OPs. Based on the blood test results, it was found that the prevalence of diabetes among the farming community was three times higher (18.3 per cent) than that in the non-farming community (6.2 per cent), despite the low level of typical risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol and physical inactivity”.

Source of graphic: International Diabetes Federation, Ministry of Home Affairs, research papers

To read more about the action of this pesticide on the human body – and on mice – click here.

After countries started regulating or banning DDT in the 1970s due to its effects on the environment, OP insecticides came to account for 40% of the global pesticide market.

Ganesan Velmurugan, the lead researcher filed a Right to Information request against some of the state’s agricultural universities which listed these banned pesticides on their websites and even recommended their use.

But the response to his queries was not satisfactory. Kalpana Ramasamy, assistant professor at Agriculture College and Research Institute of the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University told Down To Earth that though agriculture universities are now recommending green-labelled pesticides (a green label means “slightly toxic”) to farmers, a complete ban will not be successful until an alternative to OP pesticides is found.

Prakash continues: “In India, pesticide use is regulated by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). As of October 20, 2015, the CIBRC has completely banned two OP pesticides and regulated the use of four others. Of the four are methyl parathion, which is banned for use on fruits and vegetables, and monocrotophos, which is banned for use on vegetables”.

The study’s authors insist on the importance of spreading awareness about the effects of OP insecticides, especially in an agrarian country like India. “One must educate farmers about measures such as washing and soaking vegetables before use and wearing appropriate gear before spraying the pesticide. If awareness is not created now, in the next 10 years, the burden of this problem will be immense,” says Swaminathan.

But has effective protective clothing at last been designed? In one of many allegations,  sheep dip insecticide was alleged to contain chemicals which attacked the rubber in gloves making them porous. The effect was to render the protective clothing useless. Current advertisements say these suits only ‘reduce’ risk

Our informant Richard Bruce comments; “Of course OPs have been known to change blood sugar levels for a very long time but this confirms the diabetes link. Diabetes is rising in the general population in Britain because we are all exposed to these poisons in our food and environment.

Four comments on India’s Green Revolution as the focus shifts to Africa


Anne sent a link to an angry article by Simone Adler bringing news that the Gates Foundation is funding green revolution initiatives in Africa together with governments linked to ‘the old hub of capitalism’, the US, the UK and the Netherlands. The Foundation is coordinating this in partnership with around 80 African seed companies. Anne’s comment: “When will people realise that making billions off sweatshops in the computer sector doesn’t mean one knows how to solving poverty…”. One extract:

In Uganda and other east African countries where the banana is a staple food, the Gates Foundation has invested millions of dollars into a genetically engineered banana project. Their idea is to enable Ugandans and other east Africans to access vitamin A by commercially growing a banana genetically engineered to produce beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, as if a diverse diet won’t give Africans this vitamin. Ugandans grow around 27 varieties or more of bananas. So this super banana project is a Trojan horse; it’s very similar to the golden rice they’ve been trying to commercialize since the mid-80s, which has gone nowhere after a huge expenditure of money.

Winin Pereira3India’s Winin Pereira trained as a nuclear physicist, but after realising the industry’s damaging potential left to form an agricultural development organisation with four colleagues. He saw supplying hybrid seeds, and other agricultural inputs, as a strategy whereby TNCs gain control of agricultural production, adding “This happened in the case of the green revolution”.

He listed several undesirable practices including:

  • the use of good agricultural land for cash crops which are not required for basic necessities
  • the use of hybrid and high yielding varieties of vegetables and cereals which are bred solely for their appearance, or packaging qualities, rather than for their food value;
  • the promotion of exotic vegetables which are less nutritious that local ones;
  • the production of high-cost vegetables which only the rich can buy;
  • the destruction of common property resources from which many people obtained and still need to obtain, free, clean food.

He quoted G F Keating, Director of Agriculture, Bombay Presidency, who wrote in 1913:”The old self-sufficing agriculture by which each tract, each village and each holding supplied its own needs is now largely a thing of the past…. The French forced the African nations they controlled to replace the cultivation of traditional food crops by groundnut, which they required since they had no large local source of edible oil. This cultivation pattern persists today, requiring the continuous import of food, even in the absence of drought. Western agriculture is itself unsustainable”.

Pereira points out that the green revolution is dependent on the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides produced from mineral oil and natural gas, and 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.

Mark Tully wrote some time ago:

mark tully 2“There are dire warnings coming out of Punjab now because of the Green Revolution’s dependence on intensive use of chemicals and water . . .

“I have never been able to understand how a system designed for intensive mechanisation and vast farms can have any relevance to a peasant agricultural economy . . . it seems absurd to me to think of any global trading system which can bring these two together”.

Richard Douthwaite wrote: “Even the main achievement of the 1950-90 period, the 175% increase in agricultural production as a result of the Green Revolution, was hollow It was only the richer farmers who could afford the new types of seed and the fertilizer, pesticides and machinery to go with them, and many poorer farmers were displaced, exactly as happened in England during the Agricultural Revolution almost 200 years earlier. Moreover, the coarse grains consumed by the poorer people were less responsive to the new techniques, and their output fell. So did the production of pulses, on which most Indians rely for their protein intake: government figures show that the weight of pulses available per head almost halved between 1956 and 1987 dropping from 70.3 g per day to 36.2 g, a serious situation since dietitians recommend vegetarians (which most Indians are) to eat 80 g each day. And the surpluses of rice and wheat that seemed to appear after the record harvests in 1986 and 1989 were illusory, although the government had insufficient space in its famine-reserve warehouses to store all the grain the farmers wanted to sell. As Professor L. S. Venkataramanan of the Institute of Social and Economic Change in Bangalore commented to me, the excess only arose because the people who needed it could not afford to buy.

richard douthwaite2“On top of all this, the richer farmers who successfully adopted the new techniques are caught in a nasty pincer movement. One jaw is that they have to apply ever larger amounts of fertilizer to maintain yields, pump water from increasingly deep wells and spray more and more pesticide as insects’ resistance grows. The other jaw is that the prices of chemicals, tractors and of electricity for their irrigation pumps have risen remorselessly while the government has been trying to limit agricultural price rises, minimize wage pressures, moderate inflation and help the poor. As a result many farmers have fallen into debt . . .

“In an article in the Lokayan Bulletin in 1986, the environmentalist Vandana Shiva wrote ‘`Soil loss on fields without mulch [has been] found to be 232.6 tonnes per hectare per year while that on mulched fields was 8.2 tonnes’. The use of artificial fertilizers had meant that mulching had been largely abandoned, she claimed, while the use of heavy tractors in place of the plough oxen had caused soil compaction and further reduced the amount of rain the soil is able to absorb. As a result, the rate of soil erosion had greatly increased while less rain had been able to percolate through the soil and replenish the water table. Simultaneously, 10 million hectares of land had become waterlogged as a result of irrigation, and another 25 million hectares was affected by a growing salinity”.

devinder sharma 3Devinder Sharma summarises; “The 1st Green Revolution ushered in an industrial farming system which has led to the crisis that we are witnessing today. It destroyed soil fertility, added to malnutrition, mined groundwater, and played havoc with human health and environment . . . Farmers were misguided, and made to believe that putting more inputs would bring them more profits. They did it, and eventually have been pushed deeper and deeper into debt. . .

It doesn’t stop here. These economists, scientists and bureaucrats are now clamouring for free markets — commodity exchanges, future trading and food retail — as the way to turn farming economically viable.

It didn’t work in the US and the European Union. But look at the way it is being aggressively promoted in India. The beneficiaries of future trading and commodity exchange are not the farmers but speculators, the consultancy firms and rating agencies, and the business. And again, this is being done in the name of farmers.

Simone Adler ends: “I want you to reimagine Africa as a vibrant continent where farmers are in control of their seed systems, are proud of their knowledge systems, share seeds from generation to generation through the age-old practice of exchange where they are self-reliant on a huge diversity of seeds under their control, where women play an important role in production decisions, seed selection, and breeding — and where our local food economies find their roots”. 

READ MORE HERE: https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/category/green-revolution/




Some Indian states and central government moving to support organic agriculture

Devinder Sharma writes: “This is fabulous news. Perhaps the best we heard in recent times. The tiny, land-locked Himalayan State of Sikkim has become fully organic. All credit goes to Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling for making that possible”. He continues: “It took almost 12 years to realize that dream.

sikkim organic mission2 header

“When Pawan Kumar Chamling made a declaration in the State assembly way back in 2003 to go completely organic, I doubt if many experts and policy makers would have taken that seriously. But it was his firm resolve and commitment that gradually converted 75,000 hectares of cultivable farm land into certified organic. (Read more here).

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to formally announce this at a glittering ceremony followed by a sustainable agriculture conference at Gangtok on Monday, Jan 18.

“I am told the Prime Minister intends to announce a series of steps to promote organic agriculture in the country . . . This is a welcome initiative and needs to be extended to the entire Himalayan range.

“The Himalayas have a unique ecosystem. In such a salubrious environment, where people come to enjoy the beauty of nature, it is a rude shock to see farmers spraying chemical pesticides on standing crops. Travelling into the lower hills of Uttarakhand sometimes back I was aghast to find farmers spraying a heavy dose of chemicals on the tomato crop. I was told that more than a dozen pesticides sprays are conducted routinely on the tomato crop. In Himachal Pradesh, the scene is no different. Apple cultivation for instance is perhaps the worst when it comes to pesticides use and abuse. Besides contaminating the food chain, pesticides do get into the soil, the environment, and get washed down into streams.

“But over the years, the emergence of lifestyle diseases has slowly but steadily turned people towards organic foods. Incidentally, the growth in organic foods in India is amongst the highest in the world, almost exceeding 22% . . .

“If you think this is not possible, you need to rethink. In Andhra Pradesh, which has faced the brunt of intensive chemical farming practices over the years, the State Government has decided to train 1.5 lakh farmers in organic farming. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has already announced that the entire farming population will be trained in organic farming practices in the next three years. This is not a small target. The approach Andhra Pradesh has adopted is to train the best among the organic farmers as trainers. These trainers are then fanning out into different parts to teach the other farmers . . . 36 lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh (half of this area is now in the newly created Telengana) got converted to non-pesticides farming . . .

It has now been found that with the withdrawal of chemical pesticides, the insect attack has greatly reduced, the environment has become much clean as a result of which the health costs for the farming families has also fallen by about 40%. In essence, while the household food security has improved, farm incomes too have gone up.

“If non-pesticides management can be adopted by farmers in 36 lakh acres, I see no reason why such practices cannot be adopted by farmers in ten times more area — 360 lakh acres. All it needs is proper training, skill development, and of course adequate backing from the State Governments”.

sikkim organic crops

Sharma ends by asserting that what has been attained in Andhra Pradesh and the hilly State of Sikkim (above) is a model for the rest of the Himalayan States where biodiversity is under threat. Elsewhere it is reported that other states in the region are considering following the same path. He  stresses the importance of preserving and conserving what has survived the onslaught and hopes that Sikkim will emerge as “a trendsetter, a harbinger of sustainable agriculture, which is the only plausible way to achieve climate resilience”.

Read the whole article by Devinder Sharma in Ground Reality at http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/sikkim-becomes-organic-model-for-other.html