2019 ہفتہ وار زرعی خبریں

جون 13 تا 19 جون، 2019

زراعت

بلوچستان کو متاثر کرنے کے بعد ٹڈی دل نے سندھ کے ضلع خیرپور کے مختلف حصوں کا رخ کرلیا ہے۔ وزارت قومی غذائی تحفظ و تحقیق کے محکمہ تحفظ نباتات (ڈپارٹمنٹ آف پلانٹ پروٹیکشن) نے متاثرہ دونوں صوبوں میں کارروائی کا آغاز کردیا ہے۔ تاہم کسان حکومتی اقدامات سے مطمئن نہیں ہیں۔ خیرپور کے متاثرہ علاقوں میں ٹھری میر واہ، بیر وارو اور کھبر وارو شامل ہیں جبکہ بلوچستان میں گوادر، لسبیلہ،، چاغی اور کیچھ اضلاع کے کم از کم 25 مقامات بری طرح متاثر ہوئے ہیں۔ وزارت کا کہنا ہے کہ اس نے تمام متاثرہ علاقوں کام شروع کردیا ہے۔ محکمہ نباتات کے ڈائریکٹر (ٹیکنیکل) محمد طارق خان کے مطابق اب تک بلوچستان میں 5,020 ہیکٹر کا علاقہ کامیابی سے ٹڈیوں سے پاک کیا جاچکا ہے۔
(ڈان، 13 جون، صفحہ14)

زرعی شعبہ کی صوبوں کو منتقلی کے بعد پہلی بار مالی سال 2019-20 کے لیے صوبوں کی جانب سے زرعی شعبہ کے لیے مجموعی طور پر 50 بلین روپے مختص کیے جانے کا امکان ہے۔ وفاقی وزیر قومی غذائی تحفظ و تحقیق صاحبزادہ محبوب سلطان نے پریس کانفرنس کرتے ہوئے کہا ہے کہ زرعی شعبے کی منتقلی کے بعد صوبے اس پر توجہ نہیں دے رہے اور زرعی شعبے کا بجٹ کم ہوکر 60 فیصد رہ گیا ہے۔ زراعت صوبائی معاملہ ہونے کے باوجود وفاقی حکومت صوبوں کو اس مد میں 12 بلین روپے فراہم کرے گی۔
(ڈان، 14 جون، صفحہ10)

وزیر اعلی سندھ سید مراد علی شاہ نے سندھ اسمبلی میں بجٹ پیش کرتے ہوئے کہا ہے کہ قومی سطح پر چاول کی پیداوار میں سندھ کا حصہ 36 فیصد، گنے کی پیداوار میں 29 فیصد، کپاس کی پیداوار میں 34 فیصد اور گندم کی پیداوار میں 15 فیصد ہے۔ حکومت سندھ کی جانب سے مالی سال 2019-20 کے لئے زرعی شعبہ میں 8.4 بلین روپے مختص کرنے کی تجویز دی گئی ہے جس میں 4.7 بلین روپے غیرملکی مدد بھی شامل ہے۔ محکمہ زراعت نے مالی سال 2018-19 میں 893.4 ملین روپے کے اخراجات کئے ہیں جبکہ اسے 1.74 بلین روپے کی رقم جاری کی گئی تھی۔ حکومت سندھ 1,850 واٹر کورسوں کو پکا کرنے کی منصوبہ بندی کررہی ہے۔ اس کے علاوہ 400 تھریشر، 400 روٹیویٹرز، 400 زیرو ٹائلج، 500 خود کار لوڈر، 20,000 توانائی سے چلنے والے اسپرے اور 500 ٹریکٹر ٹرالیوں پر کسانوں کو زرتلافی دینے کی تجویز دی گئی ہے۔
(دی ایکسپریس ٹریبیون، 15 جون، صفحہ20)

پنجاب حکومت نے مالی سال 2019-20 کے بجٹ میں 19 جاری اور 27 نئے منصوبوں کے لیے زرعی شعبہ میں 15,500 ملین روپے مختص کرنے کی تجویز دی ہے۔ بجٹ دستاویز کے مطابق حکومت خوراک کی پیداوار، اس کے معیار، مقدار اور غذائیت میں اضافہ کرنا چاہتی ہے۔ اس کے علاوہ موسمی تبدیلی سے مطابقت اور سرمایہ کاری میں اضافے کے ذریعے ایگری ویلیو چین میں نجی شعبہ کی شراکت کو ممکن بنانا چاہتی ہے۔ تمام مقررہ اہداف واٹر کورسوں کو بہتر بناکر، 10,000 ایکڑ پر جدید آبپاشی نظام کی تنصیب، 2,500 ایکڑ پر زیتون کی کاشت جیسے اقدامات کے زریعے حاصل کیے جائیں گے۔
(بزنس ریکارڈ، 15 جون، صفحہ15)

وفاقی وزیر قومی غذائی تحفظ و تحقیق نے ٹڈی دل سے متاثرہ علاقوں کا دورہ کیا اور دعوی کیا ہے کہ حکومت ٹڈی دل سے نمٹنے کے لئے ہر ممکن اقدامات کررہی ہے۔ اخبار سے بات کرتے ہوئے خیرپور کے کسانوں نے اپنے تحفظات کا اظہار کیا ہے۔ کسانوں کا کہنا تھا کہ 30 سے 40 ہزار ہیکٹر رقبے پر کپاس کی فصل متاثر ہونے کا اندیشہ ہے۔ فوری طور پر مؤثر اقدامات نہیں کئے گئے تو کپاس کی فصل سے کچھ کلومیٹر کے فاصلہ پر موجود لاکھوں کی تعداد میں ٹڈی دل کپاس کی فصل پر حملہ کرسکتا ہے۔ ایوان زراعت سندھ، خیرپور کے صدر نثار خاصخیلی کا کہنا ہے کہ کپاس کی فصل کا علاقہ ٹڈی دل کے متاثرہ علاقے سے صرف سات کلو میٹر کے فاصلہ پر ہے۔
(ڈان، 17 جون، صفحہ1)

گندم
پاکستان فلور ملز ایسوسی ایشن، پنجاب نے وفاقی بجٹ 2019 پر تحفظات کا اظہار کرتے ہوئے کہا ہے کہ مجوزہ ٹیکسوں کی وجہ سے دیگر اشیاء سمیت آٹے کی قیمت میں بھی اضافہ ہوگا۔ حکومت نئے ٹیکس کاروں کو نظام میں شامل کرنے کے بجائے موجودہ ٹیکس کاروں پر بوجھ میں اضافہ کررہی ہے۔ جنوبی پنجاب میں گندم کی قیمت 1,420 روپے فی من سے تجاوز کرگئی ہے۔ حکومت کو فوری طور پر ملوں کے لئے گندم کی قیمت فروخت جاری کرنا چاہیے تاکہ ذخیرہ اندوز منڈی میں گندم لے کر آئیں۔
(بزنس ریکارڈر، 13 جون، صفحہ17) Continue reading

WHY WE MUST OPPOSE GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEEDS?

A Brief prepared by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek and Roots for Equity

Seed was born free. It has multiple functions: it is the reservoir of genetic resources, it is the basic unit for our food, it holds life in its core, essential for maintain human and all life on this planet.  Commodification of seed is commodification of life!

Following are some points elaborated to highlight why Sojhla for Social Change, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), Roots for Equity and other people’s and civil society organizations have been opposing in general the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Act (TRIPs) and specifically the Pakistan Seed (Amended) Act 2015, and the Plant Breeders Rights Act 2016.

Farmers Collective Rights over Seed and Patenting of Life Forms

Seed, a genetic resource is a gift of nature and belongs to no one person or corporation but is owned collectively. But there is no doubt, that it was farmers who over many millennia experimented, re-generated, sorted, propagated and saved seeds. It was the collective knowledge of farmers and rural communities that allowed hundred of varieties of grains, vegetables, fruits, and flowers to be domesticated for human civilization. Farmers saved seed from one generation to the next, a process that went on for millions of years. There were thousands of varieties that were developed by farmers, but even though we farmers came out with new varieties we respected and followed the rules of nature, and shared the genetic resources openly with all. We, who have our history based in the Indus Valley Civilization, were the first to domesticate seed and through our knowledge and experience pass the best of genetic resources to our generations. Therefore, we farmers believe that first seed is free; it is a carrier of life and being a living thing it cannot be shackled, it cannot be owned by individuals or companies. If at all, it is the collective property of farmers; we have been its custodians, its guardians. We have respected our position of custodians and hence shared it fully and openly with all those who wish to use it as food, as a source of health, as a source medicine and of life.

Risks to Biodiversity:

It needs to be pointed out that with the advent of Green Revolution in the 1960s, seed has been forced out of our care and custody and turned into a commodity. With corporate control over seeds, with promotion of hybrid varieties and now genetically modified seeds we have lost much of the indigenous varieties in just 50 years; genetic diversity which was saved through hundreds of millennia were lost in less than half a century!

If we allow genetically modified seeds to take over our food and agriculture this will further the process of destroying biodiversity. Hybrid varieties and genetically modified seeds are based on monoculture and uniformity; they belie the intricate interwoven complexity of all forms of biodiversity with each other. Seed has been turned into a machine whose worth is weighed by productivity. But seed’s function is not only productivity: its function is in promoting various forms of life, of which human intelligence has as yet not grasped enough to turn it into a only an addition, subtraction formula. Plant life is very complex, it’s a food chain as well as shelter for millions of other life forms from birds to reptiles, to insects and millions and millions of microorganisms.  Uniformity in plant life negates diversity of life, and is fast leading to various forms of ecological disasters.

It needs to be added, that high yielding varieties are at least not an irreversible biological change in the plant, and over time genetic material can be retrieved from these seeds. But GM seeds are formed through a biological process that is irreversible. The GM seed can carry out reproduction with natural seeds; this means vast, irreversible contamination of our genetic resources. Once GM seeds have spread in nature, it’s like having a child with genetic abnormalities – one cannot take away the defect and it will keep on producing itself, contaminating and polluting natural varieties in the environment.

Corporate Control over Food and Agriculture

Agro-chemical corporations and seed corporations have worked hard to create a legal policy framework based on which seed can be called their property. This is because seed has an amazing characteristic – even only a single seed can generate hundreds of replicas and hence it is impossible to create control over seed – this is only possible through a legal system that allows these mega-corporations to control and own life. With control over seed by profit-driven corporations, a nation loses the ability to control its food production. The corporations can choose the price at which a seed would be sold. They can easily refrain from marketing seeds in any particular country; in these times of conflict and war – seed control is only one more added dependency. Today farmers cannot decide what they would like to grow; they have to depend on what seed the corporations provide in the market and have little choice but to grow that. Please note that today, nearly all vegetables in Pakistan are grown from corporate controlled seeds and each one of them is heavily doused with toxic pesticides. This is the food that all citizens are forced to consume –rich or poor.

It is important to note that a majority of seed is now in the hands of only four big corporations: Bayer, BASF, ChemChina and Corteva; in a handful of years, these four corporations have monopolized the seed sector. These four seed corporations control 60% percent of seed sales, globally. Just ten years ago, in 2009 there were at least 100 seed companies. Only in the last 2-3 years, there have been huge mergers such as Bayer purchasing Monsanto to be the largest seed company today. In 2017, DuPont had merged with Dow to form the US Corporation DowDupont; this year the company has separated its agricultural wing and named it Corteva agriscience.

Cost of Production

For the farmers, hybrid and GM seeds mean extremely high cost of production. Seed companies have created a ‘package deal’. This means that if you buy a particular brand of seed, you also have to buy prescribed pesticides, weedicides and herbicides. So the farmer is forced to purchase a whole range of branded products. And there is no guarantee even after that the farmer will still be able to reap a profitable harvest.

It must be well understood, that these GM and hybrid seeds cannot grow without the added chemical fertilizers. The fertilizers are like magnet to pests, and hence our food is drenched with vast doses of highly toxic chemicals as pesticides, weedicides, and/or herbicides. Today, there is no small farmer who is not indebted! It is now like a dog chasing his tail: farmers keep on investing in hybrid and GM seeds hoping to have a high yield so that they can pay off their debts and every season get further indebted.

There is no lack of evidence that GM seeds have failed not only in Pakistan but across the globe. Some years ago a USDA GAINS report had claimed that almost 95% of cotton in Pakistan is grown from GM seeds. These seeds had been introduced in Pakistan in the early 2000s – in the past years it is well known that cotton harvest is going down and we are now importing more and more cotton from international markets. Not only genetically modified BT Cotton seed failed to control pest attacks, it has also led to attacks from other pests often termed as ‘super bugs’, which now need higher application of pesticides.

Water and Land

A critical point to be addressed include the use of external inputs with genetically modified and hybrid seeds. These seeds are highly dependent on external inputs and high levels of water. Please note Pakistan is a semi-arid zone, and is dependent on rains and its glaciers. Irrigation water is in short supply, a fact which is well known; hence the concentrated push for construction of dams. It is often said that in the coming decades water will be the base for major wars. Irrigation water has been a source of conflict not only across border, but also within the country among our provinces, responsible for much bitterness and acrimony. And we are wasting this precious scarce resource on promotion of seeds that have created multiple levels of dependency for our farmers. Today, the government of Pakistan’s policy including the government of Punjab is to push for agricultural trade liberalization with emphasis on increasing exports. So in essence when we use these profit-driven seeds (loosing vast quantities of extremely precious foreign exchange) we are not only using vast quantities of our dwindling water resources, we are also exporting water.

It is no secret that Pakistan has adopted corporate farming as an ideal policy shift. But what is the cost being paid for this shift? Water scarce countries, or countries facing vast land degradation are rushing to acquire land in Pakistan. Already, a UAE-based corporation Al Dahra has acquired land in Sindh and is growing fodder, a variety, which is highly water dependent. Similarly, China has also voiced interest in the agriculture sector. Much of the attraction is to use GM technology in Pakistan and grow food grains for exports.

Pollution, Safe, Nutritious Food and Health

Control over seeds is not only a matter of dependency on seeds provided by the corporations it’s also about the toxicity that has now become part and parcel of our food systems. If somebody sprays chemical on our food plate we would not eat it – but we are blind to the fact that these GM seeds are bred with toxics from the day they are planted in the soil to almost end of harvest. And to make it worse, among the GM seeds, the BT seeds have been so malformed that poison has been put in the very seed and hence the poison spreads across the plant. Do Pakistanis not have the right to demand for safe and nutritious food?

This high degree of toxic contamination has had a heavy toll on human life and all living things. Today society is rife with a wide range of debilitating diseases, much of which can be laid to toxic food and environment created by industrial agriculture. Apart from the physical and emotional toll disease and sickness takes on an individual and household, it also needs to be mentioned that medical treatment is almost impossible for a vast segment of the Pakistani society. Cancer treatment runs to more than 17-20 lakhs, and even then it’s not necessary that human life be saved.

It is important to recall the spate of legal cases against Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup Ready which contains glyphosate, now been termed by WHO’s agency IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) as potential to cause cancer in humans. In one case more than $2 billion dollars in punitive damages have been levied on Monsanto for causing cancer in a husband and wife who had been using the chemical on their land.

Malnutrition is now the order of the day. Almost half the children in Pakistan suffer from malnutrition. It is important to understand why! The most basic reason is that what is produced today in our agricultural fields does assuage hunger but is unable to provide nutrition, especially micronutrients. Our indigenous varieties were not only totally dependent on internal inputs (such as animal manure and compost, low water quantity) but put down deep roots in search of nutrition for the plant and thereby extracted the minerals from the soil naturally. The roots of hybrid and GM plants take their food from urea and other chemical fertilizers so amply applied on the behest of salesmen of corporations, and hence lack micronutrients.

Apart from spreading death and disease among humans, the heavy use of chemicals on industrial agriculture has also wiped out vast variety of flora and fauna. A very common example is of butterflies and honeybees. These small insects are critical for spread of pollen, and in addition created rich food – honey- for humans. Similarly, hundred of species of birds have been lost due to the spray of pesticides and use of chemical fertilizers.

The fine balance of our splendid ecosystems and the environment has been destroyed. Today farmers, not only in Pakistan but in farmlands globally, face hunger and poverty, debt, disease and death – with seed being major factor has been chained by grotesque profit seeking corporations, who value money more than social well being of life and the planet.

Imperialist Impositions

There is no doubt that the present legal framework surrounding seeds is based on the TRIPs agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO has developed a whole range of legal structures to promote neoliberal trade regimes, of which TRIPs is one. The TRIPs agreement is based on the fact that first the northern countries’ corporations hold monopoly over the seed sector, and second, seed is hard to commodify. The only way to ensure that the seed is shackled and wrested out of farmers’ control is to create laws, which take away the centuries old collective rights of farmers.

It is clear that government officials are not in favour of the policies and legal framework that WTO is imposing on Pakistani law with respect to seed laws. The dissent has been clear in the past 25 years, after the creation of WTO in 1995.  The dissent is based on honouring the rights of farmers, the countries best interests with respect to warding off dependency in its food systems both to protect the producers and consumers, and finally to save the country from the clutches of further dependency.

Please note that in the context to the approval process of GM Maize, all major stakeholders in the agriculture sector, which include farmers, food processors and national seed companies, have stood against commercial introduction of GM maize. GM maize is especially controversial because of its cross-pollination dangers. There is no doubt that GM maize would contaminate indigenous germ-plasm which is an irreversible process, and would result in wiping out local maize varieties from the country. The Secretary, Ministry of National Food Security and Research has pointed out that GM maize provides no significant yield increase and no reduction in our cost of production or the import. Further: “ this introduction may result in enhancement of import bill and also our exports may suffer.”

It should be noted that after commercialization of GM maize, there is no legal framework and SOPs on co-existence of GM & non-GM corn to protect farming community and consumers. Moreover, there is no mechanism for educating farmers on GMO-crops. The co-existence of GM and non-GM is a big challenge where 95 percent of farmers own less than five acres. In this scenario, there are high chances of cross-pollination of GM and non-GM crops.

Further, news items have also elaborated on strong opposition from defence institutions on GM technology for food crops. Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) personal had participated in a consultative meeting. According to a representative of the military’s Strategic Planning Division (SPD), GM crops should be approved on a case-to-case basis,and GM maize should not be approved for commercial planting in Pakistan.

Please note that various countries have serious concerns with GM crops. For instance, in 2017 the European Union (EU) has communicated serious concerns about GMO rice. Similarly, China has banned import of Rapeseed and Mustard meal from Pakistan in 2013 due to GM contamination in certain consignments. This ban has not been lifted as yet and we have lost this market. Russia and many Central Asian countries do not allow any GM crops. Gulf countries have also prohibited GM crops.

The above makes it clear that for farmers, citizens and society, a healthy food production system is critical of which seed is foundation. Hence, we are committed to stand and save our seeds. Currently, the Seed (Amended) Act 2015, and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act 2016 are under consideration based on a petition filed by numerous people’s rights organizations at the Lahore High Court. We have faith that the judicial system will weigh the case from all aspects and give weight to the rights of the people, the farmers, and to our national self-interest rather than external corporate interests!

Feeding our “Swarming Millions”

Azra Talat Sayeed

The question of “feeding the stomach of our swarming millions’ keeps getting raised over and over again. It seems that there is no other way to reach this objective without accepting genetically modified seeds. But such a myopic viewpoint can only be termed nonsensical. Hunger can easily be assuqged without GMO crops, if only our government would not allow wheat to rot in godams, and instead give it to the people facing acute hunger and malnutrition. With surplus wheat production in the country, the constant harping on the hunger of the people seems a bit silly. GM seeds have been used in cotton which is not a food crop, but has ultimately resulted in further impoverishment of our masses, especially rural women. The cotton harvest has been destroyed systematically. From cotton to maize seems the next corporate driven agenda. We know very well, that GM maize is not meant as food but for ethanol.

In Pakistan, we have shifted to sugarcane from cotton: driven by the profit driven market for ethanol. Now, maize follows the same ‘logic’. Do we know that hybrid and GM variety of maize seeds, apart from producing ethanol are also being developed purely to produce fodder that would increase the quantity of animal manure which would then be used for producing bio-diesel? We are turning agriculture into an ‘assembly line production system’ to meet the unquenchable thirst of capitalism on oil? Can we forget the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq? Was it WMD or oil? So, it goes on – oil of course remains top priority – but so is ethanol. Do we recall the food crisis of 2008? It was driven by corn production in the US to produce ethanol. Fuel is life blood of capitalism – its industrialised economy cannot run without energy. And capitalism is blood thirsty: history has shown this over and over again. We would be fools to forget what the search for profits has resulted in the short history of capitalism.

Talking about alienating hunger through modern agriculture is really nothing new. I would like to quote a US senator. In 1957, Senator Hubert Humphrey said:

“I have heard . . . that people may become dependent on us for food. I know that was not supposed to be good news. To me, that was good news, because before people can do anything they have got to eat. And if you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific.” (Global Rift, Third World Comes of Age, L. S. Stavrianos, p 443)

And in wake of such an imperialist vision came the Green Revolution. Today Pakistan is totally dependent for its seed on mega agro-chemical corporations, with nearly all of them based in North America and Europe with China recently jumping in. So let us be clear: GM technology is furthering the imperialist agenda of controlling our agriculture sector, ensuring a trade deficit, keeping us drowned in debt. It is not about ‘feeding our swarming populations.”

It is unfortunate that these debates are no longer only about getting our people out of debt and hunger, this is now about saving our world; saving ourselves from global warming. I would remind us that the ‘swarming millions’ right now are suffering from unbearable heat across the nation. Our biodiversity across the globe is on the verge of collapse. Science is no more independent and corporations are coming up with short-term profit seeking destructive technologies.

Humans and all living things on this planet are suffering, which seems such a mild statement for the unbearable misery and impoverishment of the masses across the globe. We really need to read history, and learn and go forward. Colonization may be dead but it seems to have given birth to an unnatural monster: Neo-colonization which is now a grotesque reality. We need to stop saying, believing and fighting for what are colonial and Neo-colonial masters and mistresses dictate. If we really want a peaceful, prosperous world, free from hunger and poverty, there is no other way but to fight for our liberation.

Stop Killing Farmers! Global Day of Action Negros Killings!

Philippines: On March 30, 14 farmers were victims of extrajudicial killings following police and military operations in Negros Oriental. The farmers, who are already suffering through years of neglect, are repeatedly being subjected to these atrocities. We stand alongside the families of the victims, and express our intention to arduously exhaust all platforms for justice and accountability.

To mark the Global Day of Action April 10, members of Roots for Equity, hold up sign calling for an end to peasant killings in the Philippines.

Panelists call for ending role of corporate sector in agriculture

March 30, 2019

PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar on Friday demanded an end to the role of international corporate sector in agriculture, opposed the ever-increasing allotment of land to the corporate sector and called for just and equitable distribution of land among small and landless farmers in order to turn Pakistan into a real agricultural country.

The event organised at the Peshawar Press Club to commemorate the International Day of the Landless Farmers was arranged by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific and International Women’s Alliance.

PKMT national coordinator Altaf Hussain, Asian Peasant Coalition’s general secretary Raja Mueeb, PKMT’s coordinator Peshawar Shehzad Baig and KP coordinator Fayyaz Ahmed were the main speakers.

They said the day highlighted the struggle of the landless farmers for genuine land reforms and food sovereignty.

They said farmers were being evicted from lands that had been tilled for generations by their ancestors. They demanded that development projects across the country, including those for special economic zones as well as land lease to investors, should be scrapped.

On the occasion, Altaf Hussain said from 2000 onwards, transnational corporations worldwide had grabbed more than 50 million hectares of land through over 1,500 agreements.

Similarly, Raja Mueeb said more than 200 deals spanning almost 20 million hectares of land were further being negotiated. Most of the land deals were being carried out in countries like Pakistan that are rich in natural resources, he pointed out.

It was pathetic that only eight per cent of these land deals were exclusively for food production, and 60 percent of these, were for export purposes, he said, adding around 70 per cent of these deals were reserved for agro-fuel production, which was only fulfilling the needs of the rich capitalist countries.

Mr Mueeb said in the past few years, China’s One Belt One Road initiative had further accelerated land grab.

Fayyaz Ahmed pointed out that various development projects for energy and infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project had resulted in land grab across the country.

He pointed out that 1,000 acres of land had been leased in Haripur for a special economic zone, the Northern Bypass Peshawar; 6,500 acres of land was leased for growing high yield seeds to a foreign corporation in Punjab; and 140 acres of land were leased in Khairpur, Sindh for a special economic zone.

He said farmers and fishermen were losing their livelihoods due to these measures.

Shehzad Baig said small and landless farmers were facing exploitation because of unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture. He said the government was also planning to build a cement factory in Palai area of Malakand, a greenbelt famous for its farmlands and orange orchards.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1472729

March 29 International Day of the Landless

Press Release

March 29,2019

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific and International Women’s Alliance commemorated the International Day of the Landless, which was marked by the slogan “We Will Take Back Our Land, Our Future!” Globally, the Day of the Landless highlights the struggle of the landless farmers for genuine land reforms and food sovereignty, where they are being evicted from lands that had been tilled for many generations by their ancestors. It is in this context that the many protests and demonstrations have been planned in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia among others Asian countries.

PKMT carried out press conferences at the Peshawar, Multan Press Clubs and a protest rally in Ghotki against the landlessness of farmers, as well as countrywide happenings of land grabs and in the name of foreign investments and development projects.

According to the PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain stated that from 2000 till now, transnational corporations worldwide have land grabbed more than 50 million hectares of land through 1,591 agreements. Further, 200 more negotiations are in ongoing for acquiring 20 million hectares. No doubt, rich capitalist countries along with their imperialist institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO have wrought changes in policies which has allowed the massive push in land grab, drowning the farmers in debt and deprivation, all methods which give transnational corporations control over production and markets.

According to the Raja Mujeeb, Secretary General Asian Peasant Coalition, imperialist corporate agriculture is here to plunder our lands, take away our livelihood and poison our lands. No doubt, most of the land deals are being carried out to in countries like Pakistan that are rich in natural resources. It is draconian that only 8% of these land deals are exclusively for food production and 60% of this is for export. Further, most of these land deals, around 70%, are reserved for agro-fuel production – industry bound oil seed production of oil palm, jathropa, corn, wheat, and sugar. This push for agro-fuel is fulfilling the needs of the rich capitalist countries. In the past few years, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has further accelerated land grab, and China is now second to the US, in the number of concluded transnational land acquisitions. In Africa alone, land acquired by Chinese companies range from 240,000 to 6 million hectares.

According to the KPK Provincial Coordinator, Fayyaz Ahmad after leasing an additional 1,000 acres of land in Haripur for a special economic zone, and eviction of farmers from their land for building the Northern Bypass, Peshawar, the next target for investors seems to be Palai in Malakand, a green belt famous for its farmlands and orange orchards. The government of KPK is planning to build a cement factory in the area and has imposed Section 4 for acquiring 400 acres of land. The critical importance of this land for the local communities and its fertility can be gauged by government figures which state that Palai has 171,000 fruit trees which are not only a source of livelihood and food security for the local communities but also critical for the environment; all this happening in a country which is in the frontline of vulnerable countries from climate change impacts. Similarly, for the construction of the Swat Expressway precious agricultural land of local farmers has been acquired for pittance, and on top of that farmers are facing delay in payments for the land.

According to PKMT Sindh Provincial Coordinator Ali Nawaz Jalbani, small and landless farmers were facing exploitation and deprivation because of the unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture, and the imperialist neoliberal policies inflicted on the command of capitalist countries. At the same time, feudalism is not only forcing misery on the landless farmers but the women face further discrimination based on their gender. They are forced to work under scorching heat for harvesting crops such as wheat and cotton; Hindu are forced to bear not only the oppressive feudal mechanisms but also face further discrimination based on religion. According to Mir Babal, a youth PKMT member from Ghotki, various development projects for energy and infrastructure under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement has resulted in land grab in the area for a number of years.

It was pointed out that in Sanghar, a district where the landless facing acute exploitation with a very high percentage of the population suffering from malnutrition, the government under different guises was taking back land that had been distributed to landless farmers in 2004. The much higher percentage of children suffering from malnutrition in this district was proof of the impact of the industrial agricultural production, which takes its toll on impoverished farmer communities. The Sindh government in many districts of the province for the past many decades has been evicting small farmers. On the other hand, farmers have been forcefully evicted from centuries old villages so that big property dealers and investors, who are well known to have acquired land illegally, are given further opportunities for land grabbing.

PKMT Provincial Coordinator Maqsood Ahmed stated that the government of Punjab after leasing 6,500 acres of land for growing high yielding seeds to foreign corporation in Punjab has recently adopted a policy for leasing state land to national and foreign corporations. The Punjab government has provided state forestland to the corporate sector for planting commercial forests. In South Punjab, proposals by investors for developing commercial forests on 99,077 acres of land have been approved. On the other hand, the same Punjab government in district Rajanpur, South Punjab is bent on displacing small farmers from an area called Rakh Azmat Wala, where the farmers have lived for more than a century.

PKMT demands that development project across the country including those for special economic zones as well as land lease to investors should be stopped. In addition, the role of international corporate sector in agriculture should be eliminated, the ever-increasing allotment of land to the corporate sector should be stopped and instead just and equitable distribution of land to small and landless farmers should be carried out immediately.

Released by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek & Roots for Equity

Peoples’ Voice at UNEA-4

Statement of the Farmers Major Group at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly

Delivered by Mr. Wali Haider

FARMER MAJOR GROUP STATEMENT AT UNEA-4

Thank you chair.

Honorable excellences, distinguished delegates and colleagues:

I am Wali Haider from Roots for Equity, Pakistan and I’m speaking on behalf of the Farmers Major Group.

The dominant paradigm of unsustainable consumption and production continue to devastate and worsen the situation of the environment and the people along with promotion of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which force GMOs and commodification of seeds and water. This crisis is further compounded by unabted land grabs by the transnational corporations. This is manifest in the crises in food, climate, environmental degradation, reduced biodiversity, depleted natural resources, and increasing violation of people’s rights and exacerbating inequality.

The industrial model of agricultural production and perverse subsidies in the agricultural sector are destroying the sources of livelihoods of small-scale food producers and their communities, resulting in hunger and forced migration.

To tackle the challenges we are facing in nourishing a growing global population and ensuring food sovereignty require innovations. People-centred and community solutions are innovations and appropriate technologies that protect the environment, promote sustainability, community ownership, social solidarity and mutuality and based on development justice. Innovative solutions that make a difference in people’s lives are often not technological but social innovations, linked with traditional practices and based on indigenous and local knowledge systems. Dimensions of environment, economy and society, the three pillars of sustainable development, are all taken into account in people’s solutions and community innovations towards sustainable consumption and production.

It is proven that in food production, agroecology as a practice based on constant innovation of farmers, a science and a social movement, is known to improve soils, protect health and the environment, improve livelihoods, and increase household income. Agroecology also harnesses traditional and indigenous knowledge systems supported by people’s science and builds community unity.

Therefore, we call for the strengthening and promotion of agro-ecology through appropriate laws, policy and programs as well as the protection of local, indigenous and traditional knowledge in agriculture, and create markets for traditional and heirloom produce. Subsidies, incentives and development aid should be re-targeted away from industrial agriculture, towards agro-ecological solutions and small-scale, local production.

We also call for action to be taken on the following:

  • Policies in national and regional level supporting local and community innovations can be strategic, as such in governance of natural resources and community-based resource development. Participatory and community action researches on the issues surrounding sustainable consumption and production will provide evidence-based solutions and should be supported.
  • Assert and protect public control over natural resources and prioritize cultivation of nutritious food for local consumption.
  • Provide an enabling policy environment for farmers including land to the landless, genuine agrarian reform, access to productive resources including seeds, participation in policy-making and policy coherence at the national and international levels.
  • Advance good governance with increased accountability and transparency, removing all anti-people policies to protect natural resources.
  • Member states should mainstream biodiversity protection and enhancement across sectors and engage indigenous people and ensure the protection of their rights to land, resources, establish accountability mechanism to ensure compliance to human rights, social and environmental safeguards.
  • Call on member states to actively participate in the intergovernmental working group on the elaboration of legally-binding treaty on TNCs and other businesses with respect to human rights.
  • Recognition and promotion of the role of women in providing innovative solutions to environmental problems and SCP.
  • Ensure participation of civil society, grassroots movements and other stakeholders in assessing new and emerging technologies as a
    key component of environmental governance. Due importance should be given to capturing the interpretation of evidences by different actors and enabling broad participation in societal deliberation on technologies.
  • Provide mechanisms for equitable, effective and inclusive participation of civil society based on recognition of existing inequalities and the need to level the playing field.

We also note with concern that the negotiations are tilted more in the favour of big business than ecology and farmers. However, we call on member states to protect the interest of the small and landless farmers. The farmers of the world stand ready to support you so we can work together on these.

Thank you.

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MONSANTO WEED KILLER ROUNDUP WAS ‘SUBSTANTIAL FACTOR’ IN CAUSING MAN’S CANCER, JURY SAYS

By Mihir Zaveri

March 19, 2019

A federal jury found Tuesday that Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing a California man’s cancer, dealing a significant blow to the company as it aggressively defends its products against thousands of similar claims.

The six-member jury delivered the unanimous verdict in the United States District Court in San Francisco, months after a groundskeeper who said Roundup caused his cancer was awarded about $80 million in a separate case in California.

Tuesday’s verdict concluded the first of two phases in the federal case about the possible health risks of Roundup and whether Monsanto misled the man, Edwin Hardeman, about those risks.

Mr. Hardeman used Roundup to control weeds and poison oak on his property for 26 years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015.

The second phase of the case, which begins Wednesday, will focus on whether Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG last year, should be held liable for partly causing Mr. Hardeman’s cancer, said his lawyer, Jennifer Moore. Ms. Moore said lawyers would seek to prove that Monsanto manipulated public opinion and science to play down Roundup’s health risks.

Lawyers will argue that Monsanto knew or should have known that Roundup causes cancer, Ms. Moore said in an interview Tuesday. Mr. Hardeman’s team will ask that the jury have the company pay his medical bills and an undetermined amount of damages, she added.

“We feel confident based on the evidence that a jury, when presented with all of the evidence, will see that Monsanto has committed 40 years of corporate malfeasance,” Ms. Moore said.

Bayer said in a statement Tuesday that it was disappointed in the jury’s verdict and that “the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer.”

“We have great sympathy for Mr. Hardeman and his family, but an extensive body of science supports the conclusion that Roundup was not the cause of his cancer,” Bayer said in the statement. “Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them.”

In December 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft human health risk assessment that said glyphosate was most likely not carcinogenic to humans.

Central to the criticism of Roundup, however, is a decision by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 to declare glyphosate a probable carcinogen.

That spurred Mr. Hardeman to file a lawsuit in February 2016, and prompted California to declare glyphosate a chemical that is known to cause cancer.

In August, a California jury found that Monsanto had failed to warn a school groundskeeper of the cancer risks posed by Roundup, which he used as part of his job as a pest control manager. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages.

In October, a judge reduced that total to about $80 million, saying the jury’s award was too high. Monsanto is appealing that verdict, a spokesman said.

Mr. Hardeman’s case was the first federal case to go to trial, Ms. Moore said. She said the legal team presented expert testimony and research that Roundup causes mutations in human cells and that human populations that are exposed to Roundup are more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Documents unsealed in 2017 in Mr. Hardeman’s case suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics. The documents indicated that a senior official at the E.P.A. had worked to quash a federal review of glyphosate.

The documents also revealed that there was some disagreement within the E.P.A. over its own risk assessment.

UGANDA INVESTIGATES UN FOOD AID AFTER THREE DIE, POLICE SAY

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda is investigating a supply of food from the World Food Program after three people died and 262 others got sick, police said.

People suffered diarrhea, nose bleeds and other health problems after eating food provided by the United Nations food agency, police said in a statement late on Monday.

The food was part of a community feeding program in the northeastern Karamoja region, a semi-arid area where the UN has long provided food aid for people facing poor harvests.

Police are “actively investigating the death of three people … from eating adulterated or poisonous food supplied by the World Food Program,” the statement said.

Samples of the food and the patients’ urine and blood had been sent to a government laboratory for analysis.

The food agency said on Saturday it had suspended distribution of Super Cereal – a fortified blended food – at all its operations in Uganda.

In a statement on Tuesday, WFP said some 262 people had reported falling sick after eating the cereal, with some exhibiting “mental confusion, vomiting, headache, high fever and abdominal pain.”

The organization also said it was aware of “reports of three deaths” that had occurred on March 16 and that extra samples of the cereal had been sent to Kenya and South Africa for testing.

Uganda hosts a large population of refugees, mostly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where conflict and widespread insecurity has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Larry King

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uganda-relief/uganda-probes-un-relief-food-after-three-deaths-police-idUSKCN1R00GD

SAY NO TO GM MAIZE

March 01, 2019

Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is bad news and there is good news for our environmentalists, agriculturalists, healthcare givers and all those who care for the welfare of Pakistan. First, the bad news.

In January, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Cargill, the global food and agricultural producer with an annual revenue of $114.6 billion (2018), will be investing $200 million in Pakistan in the next two to five years. This announcement came after two top-ranking executives of Cargill met Prime Minister Imran Khan. It seemed innocuous, at least to people who know little about biotechnology giants.

One of them, Monsanto (now merged with Bayer), fathered the genetically modified organism (GMO) in 1983 which did terrible damage to numerous crops and farmers all over the world. As a result, we saw a spate of high-profile lawsuits in which the company admitted to having bribed officials abroad. At least 35 countries have now banned GMOs.

Obviously our political leadership is not well informed on such matters, nor is transparency its forte. Hence the Cargill heads’ meeting with the prime minister and their offer to create a huge number of jobs in Pakistan raised no scepticism in government circles.

Our experience with GM cotton has been disastrous.

But mercifully the Ministry of National Food Security & Research still has men of integrity and knowledge at its helm. It appears they have resisted this move. That has now prompted the American Business Council of Pakistan (representing 64 companies), a leading foreign investors’ group, to seek the prime minister’s help “to allow commercial cultivation of GM maize”. These American companies want the “obstacles” removed that are preventing them from implementing their controversial plans.

The good news is that the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek has issued a press release titled ‘Peasants Declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”’ The party has categorically supported the ministry’s refusal to grant approval to genetically modified maize in Pakistan. The PKMT’s own position on GMOs and the seed companies has been clear for over a decade: they violate farmers’ collective rights to seed and will pauperise the small and landless tillers of the soil.

The Seed Association of Pakistan has also “sternly opposed” any commercialisation of GM maize in Pakistan. Civil society is also gearing up to resist any such move which will have a devastating effect on food security as well as agriculture. BT cotton should come as a lesson — that is, if we are willing to learn. Introducing BT cotton proved to be easy sailing in 2010. There was hardly any resistance from those in authority.

The Seed Law was changed by the National Assembly in 2015 to accommodate the seed multinationals. This was done at the behest of the US in spite of the fact that the 18th Amendment was in place and a courageous lawyer, Ahmad Rafay Alam, went to court on behalf of the Kissan Board to challenge its legality as well as the safety of BT cotton. The case has still to be decided.

BT cotton — Monsanto’s GM pet project — has proved to be a disaster for the country. Since its debut in Pakistan — by virtue of seeds smuggled from India in 2005 and later sanctioned by the government in 2010, cotton production has been falling. The figures cited have varied from source to source. It has of late been in the range of 10.5m and 11.5m bales. In 2004, cotton production stood at a record high of 14.1m bales (of 170kg each). Contrary to the government’s claim, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association says the weight of the bales is now 160kg each.

For years cotton production has failed to meet the target set by the government. This has adversely affected the national economy as cotton is the major element in the textile sector, the mainstay of Pakistan’s exports. BT cotton has also introduced new bugs in the cotton fields requiring greater use of pesticides, produced as can be expected by the biotech companies themselves. With Monsanto monopolising the seed market, nearly 88pc of the area under cotton cultivation is BT. The yield per acre has also fallen. All this adds to the cost of the inputs, causing farmers to switch to other crops.

It is horrifying to think of what the impact would be if maize, which is a thriving crop at present, is handed over to producers of GM maize. Has GM maize been thoroughly tested in our soil and climatic conditions? Without extensive research we cannot assess its impact on human health. We cannot afford to risk a rise in the prevalence of deadly diseases; the pesticide Roundup, which is required to be used, has been declared carcinogenic by WHO. This should be reason enough for the government to resist pressures from the biotech multinationals which are out to destroy our economy.

Let us learn from our own sordid experience of GMO cotton. Let sanity prevail. Besides, we cannot allow our peasantry to be destroyed. It is the backbone of our agriculture.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466871