We agreed with all the people that we interviewed that we would send them drafts of what they said before official publication (STOP GM). So, what is here will be a paraphrasing of the main points, plus we won’t use their full names.

Interview with N.S.

N.S. has a farm 40km east of Bhubaneswar. He grows predominantly rice, also pulses, veg and fruit. He grows all of these organically. He has also collected 350 varieties of indigenous paddy (rice) and promotes the use of these.

Orissa, he says, is the birthplace of rice. Before the first Green Revolution there were 35,000 different varieties in Orissa. In India, there were 1.5lakhs (150,000). During the Green Revolution, farmers were persuaded to use hybrid seeds, reducing the amount of variety. In 5-10 years, all indigenous rice was basically wiped out.

Propaganda

GM is a threat to the survival of farming and of the farmer. It is claimed that with an ever-increasing population GM is needed to feed the people, but it is a myth that indigenous seeds do not yield more [NOTE: it is useful to remember that between 1958 and 2008, the number of people on the planet rose from 2.5billion to 6.7billion. In the same period food production grew from 631million tonnes, to 6834million tonnes -3 times faster. The problem is not production!].

Seed companies propagate the myth that their seeds are good for you. They reduce eye problems, infant mortality, malnutrition. The reality is that it takes 1kg of hybrid “Golden rice” to provide the same amount of vitamin A (good for eyes) as can be found in 100g of sago or amaranth.

The pit-falls of intensive farming techniques

Chemical farming needs lots of external imput. It needs chemical fertiliser, pesticides, and large quantities of water. Farming becomes costly and small marginal (poor) farmers cannot afford this.

Hybrid rice seeds tend to take 10-20 days longer than traditional seeds to mature. Rice usually take 70-140 days. But hybrid take 140-160 days. This affects the duration of your second crop, so with hybrid varieties, you can only sow your second harvest 10-20 days later than with traditional seeds. Thus, you are unable to sow a 3rd harvest and gain more crop which is often possible with traditional varieties.

Hybrid techniques also make the land hard, reducing water retention capacity. The soil cannot hold the water, and the water runs away.

The farmer invests in GM but problems occur such as cyclones, pests, rains, droughts. Farmers will have had to take out loans to supplement their costs [NOTE: on average, micro-loan companies charge 30-70% interest, but this can be as high as 130%] and when their crops fail, they cannot pay back. These farmers often commit suicide.

Bt cotton is the main culprit in relation to farmer suicides. The State and central government are not interested in compensating the families. They always blame something else – they all place an emphasis on family disputes and disruptions. Even if this was the case, why are these families disrupted? It is because their crops are failing. Their crops are failing because of the weaknesses of GM and hybrid seeds.

Displacement

For those farmers who do not take such drastic measures as suicide, many  sell their land and move to cities, where they inevitably end up in slums [NOTE: 60% of Mumbai’s population are slum-dwellers. It is the largest slum in the world]. In their place, multi-national corporations (MNCs) buy their land. MNCs want to throw away labour – small famers, marginal farmers. They say, “Give up farming, you are not profitable”, but where are these people supposed to go? In America, a farmer owns between 1-5000hectares of land. This is not a farmer, this is a agro-business man. And this is what MNCs want.

Future of GM

For MNCs the future looks very encouraging. For us it is very dangerous. In the US, they are growing GM corn. The Rockies in Western America used to have vast corn fields, now these lands are barren. Not even grass grows there.

Re1sistance

Traditional organic farming allows the farmers to keep the seeds and so not have to buy from the market. They can reuse seeds, plough their fields with bullocks and use the dung for fertililser. Plus traditional varieties of paddy need 20-30% less water than hybrid.

Every farmer more than 60 years of age, is as good as an agri-scientist who grows veg/fruit in their labs, with their note- and textbooks. Our knowledge is scientific because it is based on experience. It gets results.

Good tactics to tackle GM and hybrid seeds are to show results in the field. This provides a challenge and alternative. Traditional farming methods have survived for the last 10,000 years. We also have protests, seminars and workshops.

The importance of seed

Seed is the most important input into agriculture, it is the wealth of the farmer. A farmer in control of seeds controls agriculture. If the seeds belong to MNCs, then agriculture belongs to MNCs. Today they offer free seeds, free fertiliser and more and more, until one day you will have no choice. MNCs will own the farms. This is the ultimate aim of GM.

subramanian.m@fullertonindia.com
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