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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Importance of Conservation of Traditional Native Crops and Crop Related Diversity During the Second Green Revolution

The Importance of Conservation of Traditional Native Crops and Crop related diversity during the Second Green Revolution

By Dr. Ashok Panigrahi, formerly Principal Investigator, UGC Maj. Res. Proj. Org. Farming Project Director, Navdanya Project- Sustainable Development of Ecosystems in Orissa, Bls.

Any discussion on agriculture in India must begin with a history of the practices followed here (our own) and borrowed from the west (thrust from outside) starting from the pre green revolution time.

State of agriculture before the second world war:

In the US Machine driven or Mechanized
In Europe including UK driven by chemical fertilisers
In Japan mainly involved irrigation
In India and else where in Asia Rainfed cultivation using compost

During the colonial days, Sir Albert Howard, M.A.,CIE was brought to India by the British to train Indian peasants the art and science of chemical agriculture. He ended up learning organic farming from the Indian peasants and went on to develop and publish the famous Indore Process' which was followed widely in the Agriculture world in the 1930s .

During the same time the development of hybrid corn pioneered a new era in agriculture which combined the use of genetics, machines, artificial chemical fertilisers and irrigation to achieve enormous increases in corn yields. It subsequently engulfed other crop varieties including rice.

In the 1940s synthetic chemical pesticides were added to make up the so called technological package in world agriculture.

In the 1990s, the seed' became the central focal point for all the driving forces that created the agricultural revolutions with the entry of multinational industrial houses into the seed sector.

Leading Agro Biotech Corporations & their Agribusiness,'99.

Corporations Total
Sales Agribusiness Sales Seed
Production Ranking (global) Agro-
Chemical Sales Ranking (global) Pharmaceutical
Sales (their
Original busi.) Research &
Life Science' Group ( involved mainly in genetic modification of various crop plants )
Aventis $20.5 billion $4.6 billion n/a 1 $13.9 billion $3 billion
(Syngenta) $20.3 billion $4.4 billion 3 2 $9.8 billion $2.2 billion
Monsanto(98) $ 8.6 billion $4 billion 2 3 $2.8 billion $1.3 billion
(Syngenta) $18.4 billion $2.7 billion 6 5 $14.8 billion $2.9 billion

Industrial Science' Group ( involved mainly in production of various agrochemicals )
Bayer $27 billion $3.1 billion n/a 6 $5 billion $2.1 billion
DuPont** $26.9 billion $3 billion 1 4 $1.6 billion $1.6 billion
Dow $18.9 billion $2.3 billion ------ 8 ------ $0.85 billion
BASF $29.5 billion $1.7 billion ------ 9 $2.5 billion $1.3 billion

The dawn of 1st Green Revolution introduction of the hybrids, HYVs and Agrochemicals, ACFs & SCPs, in agroecosystems

The 2nd world war ended sooner than expected. Following the war in the US, there were huge stock piles of war surplus chemicals manufactured to produce the explosives. These were mai nly nitrogenous and phosphatic in composition. Scientists were engaged to find out new use for these war surplus chemicals and they located it in the agricultural fields the world over as artificial chemical fertilizers. Other scientists were also engaged to design and generate crop varieties which could consume jumbo doses of these ACFs and nobel laureate Norman Borloug was one of them who produced the "miracle wheat" in Mexico in 1966. He visited India in 1967 and declared, if he was a member of Indian Parliament he would have leapt up from his seat every 15 minutes to yell at the top of his voice fertilizer', give the farmers more fertilizer.'
At the beginning of the 1950s, the US foreign policy establishment was reeling from the loss of China to communism and the US was engaged militarily in Korea. The US interests in Asia and the Pacific were also threatened with the rise of revolutions demanding equitable distribution of resources and land reforms etc. The US de termined to contain the spread of communism decided to achieve the same not through direct military involvements but through palliative reform measures not directed at feeding Asia's growing population but for the US business interests. The GATT signed during that period is an example. This went on to give rise the new GATT, WTO, TRIPs, IPR, modification of our own Patents Act and formulation of the PVP Act, National Agriculture Policy etc. throwing our peasantry, agriculture and biodiversity to their eliminations.

Two huge US establishments, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation were involved in the process from the very beginning. Between them they set up IRRI at Manila in the Philippines in the early 1960s to breed HYV rice varieties in order to increase rice production in Asia. They also helped in the establishment of the CRRI and Agriculture Universities in India in the late 1950s to push through long term US business agenda.

The I RRI generated the miracle rice' IR-8 and released the same to the Asian farmers in 1966 and thus launched the Green Revolution ( I ) . This, and its early progeny IR- 20 (1969) and IR -24 (1971), rapidly replaced 1000s of diverse native traditional rice varieties as farmers by and large adopted these new varieties asseeds of hope' widely in Asia. Unfortunately their hopes were soon crushed as the miracle rice succumbed to the brown plant hoppers. It was found out that the these uniform susceptible varieties ( IR 8, IR- 20 and IR- 24) cultivated widely in Asia, gave the brown hoppers an unprecedented feeding ground. Brown plant hoppers also transmitted the grassy stunt virus that destroyed rice crop in 1,20,000 hectare in Indonesia alone in 1977 resulting in food loss to the tune of 2 million tons, that is enough to feed 6 million people.

Among the 1000s of rice accessions maintained at the IRRI's gene bank only one could stand up to the grassy stunt virus and i t was a wild rice called Oryza nivara, collected from Orissa in 1963. O. nivara is otherwise an economically useless variety but it had the character which no other rice variety had. Only 3 plants in the IRRI's single accession contained a gene that was resistant to grassy stunt virus. This gene was immediately passed over to the IRRI's new rice varieties including its super star,IR-36, through cross breeding . By 1982, IR-36 alone was cultivated on 11 million hectares of Asia's rice lands thus acquiring the dubious honour of being the world's single most widely planted rice variety in history.

However, by the mid 1980s , the resistance provided by O. nivara against stunt virus was breaking down in farmers fields and IRRI's valuable rice varieties stood as vulnerable as ever leaving its breeders helpless. O. nivara was found to be a metaphor for the problems faced by the rice farmers of Asia. Since IR-8, IRRI has , in fact, transformed the lives, cultures and op portunities of countless local communities who depended on rice for their livelihood. To perform well and yield to their declared potentials, IRRI's HYV rices required too much chemical inputs, access to credit and irrigation thus giving birth to new forms of social orders. While some benefited from the new rice varieties, a huge majority of the rice farming communities of Asia became
indebted, lost control over their food production systems and became caught in a spire of dependency. When the urban consumers got cheaper though tasteless rice, the rural producerslost the valuable ecological balance in their agroecosystems.

In the Indian context, we find today most of the land in Punjab are
impaired and dead. The minimum level of soil fertility is lost. Most of Punjab's soil are diseased and dying and this is an openly admitted fact. The consumption of agrochemicals in Punjab has increased thirty folds since the inception of Green Revolution in that state and in India. The total amount of subsidy on ACFs has increased to rupees forty four thousand crores and this subsidy cost in distributed over all Indians including us. Punjab farmers get the benefit and we bear the cost. Between 1971 1981, 95% of small farmers of Punjab were lost or disappeared. The rate of profit from agriculture which once stood between 25% - 80%, has now comedown to 6% and yet things continue in the same way. This is one of the major factors for the farmers' suicides in Punjab, AP and elsewhere in India and it is one of the gifts of the 1st Green Revolution to India.

The other gifts are soil food and ground water poisoning owning to excessive use of agrochemicals ACFs and Pesticides. These agrochemicals not only have caused the death and elimination of the natural predators of the agricultural pests but also of the pollinating bees besides the domesticated animals and human beings. Nitrate poisoning caused cattle epidemic in Nagpur in 1976, and it causes blue baby syndrome in human beings.
Pearson(1985) sums up that about 10,000 human beings die every year owing to pesticides in developing countries. Besides these agrochemicals between them help grow the pest population either directly or indirectly. When ACFs make the crop plants soft and tender, the pesticides build up resistances in pests.

The Dawn of the 2nd Green Revolution the introduction of Genetic Modifications in Crops --

With the growth of a new branch of biological science called Biotechnology, scientists postulated that the same could be exploited for agricultural advantages. Thus, genetically modified (GM) crops such as Bt.Cotton were developed in the early 1990s.Till date over a 100 of them are under cultivation round the earth. It was said that these transgenic crop plants would reduce pesticide dependence, would have the ability to detract, repel or kill the pests and tolerate herbicides, weedicides, fu ngicides;
another category of agrochemicals developed to be produced and used to combat the weed plants,( all plants other than the crop plants ) and harmful fungi.

It thereby opened doors for additional industries for agriculture. In other words, agriculture was made too much industry dependent; fertilizer, pesticide, weedicide, herbicide, fungicide, nematocides and so on. With the creation of transgenic crops like Bt. Cotton and GM maize like GE crops a new industry entered into the field of agriculture the world over. Thus the place of origin of seeds was taken away from the plants to the scientists laboratories, nullifying Darwin's laws of natural selection and artificial selection. Thus also, the farmers were reduced to consumer producers from producers only.

Transgenic crops were accepted by many countries ( if not all ) including India under the impressions that they would ensure food production and prevent crop failure as far as see d quality and pest menaces were concerned. The same is clearly reflected in our own National Agriculture Policy, 2000. But what happened subsequent to that is everybody's knowledge. Let us examine the case of Bt. Cotton crop in US. According to the chemical used data provided by the US Department of Agriculture, the total million pounds applied between 1946 and 2000 were as under
1946 = 78 ; 1966 = 64.9 ; 1971 = 73.4 ; 1976 = 64.2 ; 1982 = 19.4 ; 1992 = 19.8 ; 1998 = 14.8*; 2000 = 40.5*.

It is to note that Bt. Cotton was widely cultivated in the US from the year 1996. It, however, failed to reduce crop's pesticide- dependence in just within 4 years. In India, the cultivation of Bt. Cotton is the single largest factor for the hundreds of farmers' death in Andhrapradesh and Vidarbha region of Maharastra.

With the origin of GM/GE/Transgenic crops, big multinational industrial houses entered into the seed sector. They wanted to sale their seeds protected by Patent Laws, to farmers every year as their own inventions. This motive is reflected in 2 associated technologies they integrated into the process of such seed generations.
* Terminator Technology (also called TPS or Technologies Protection System or- GURTs or Generic Use Restriction Technologies) It is the technique by which the seeds are made male sterile. The technology employed is aimed at preventing the farmers from sowing the seeds from their harvests for the next crops, thus compelling them to buy the seeds for every crop they wish to grow.
* Traitor Technology It refers to a technology that allows a plants' genetic traits to be turned on or off ' when a certain chemical is applied to the plant or seed. In other words, it is the technology by which sterility is chemically controlled. The industry thus suggests that farmers would be able to activate or deactivate genetic traits such as disease resistance in crop by applying a certain proprie tory chemical prescribed by the seed company for the plant or seed that they would have to buy.

The New Threat arising out of the new terminator technology is a global one and it is against small and marginal farmers, national food security and biodiversity. Over 1.5 billion of our small and marginal farmers ( peasants, in the proper sense) who save their seeds including the HYVs traditionally stand to lose their seed source. Communities that lose control over their seeds risk losing control over their farming systems and becoming dependent on outside seed sources together with the prescribed proprietory inputs that come along with the seeds. In the changed system where a great majority of the farming communities don't have access to seed security, food security stand to be disrupted as the same would be impracticable. Hence, our food security will be a myth in the coming days unless we restructure our own system. Fortunately, Indian farmers are encouraged "to save, conserve, exchange and sell their own saved traditional native seeds ( except the branded seeds of protected varieties)" under the Input Management chapter of our National Agriculture Policy, 2000.

In the words of:-
1. Ishopanishad The universe is the creation of the supreme power meant for the benefit of all his creations. Individual species must, therefore, learn to enjoy its benefits by forming a part of the sy stem in close relationship with one another. Let not only one species encroach upon the others' rights.
2. Anon Native biodiversities, a source of pride for each country, composing as it does, a shining part of the national heritage.
3. M.S Swaminathan Our national food security depends on our ability to conserve all our biological wealth (= biodiversity).
Biodiversity is the degree of biological varieties in nature and not in nature itself. Diversity of species in natural habitats is high in warm moist areas and decrease with increasing latitude and altitude. That is precisely the reason why, tropical moist forests contain half of the worlds' biological diversity although they occupy only 7% of the worlds' land area.

Transgenic plants with terminator technology are a direct threat to the biodiversity because there exists a natural phenomenon of horizontal gene transfer between closely grown plants beyond the species, genera and even kingdom barriers. If this happens, countries like ours, rich in biodiversity stand to lose biodiversity soon.

Genetically modified plants have very week immune systems and for that they depend heavily on the application of a chemical designed to uplift their natural defenses against pests and disease. If the fate of the GE crop plants are like this, how can the small and marginal farmers afford to cultivate such plants which demand excessively high cost external inputs for their existence?
In essentiality, GM crops lead to bioserfdom' that is they threaten to hold farmers hostage to multinationals through sterile seeds and chemically dependent plants.

Other facts:-
Transgenic plants produce toxins and allergens owing to genetic modifications. GM Soya cultivated widely in the US and Brazil has such protein in it which is allergic to many human beings. Fibers of Bt. Cotton is found to be allergic to many even in India. So is the case of Bt. Pot ato, now widely used as potato chips.

Transgenic plants with Bt. gene cause death of monarch butterfly larvae. Even pollen grains from Bt. plants are enough to cause their death.

Transgenic crops with Bt. gene consumed by cows and visited by honey bees render their milk and honey contaminated with Bt. protein, now known to be allergic to many human beings.

Terpenoid gossypol is a trait used to make cotton resistant to caterpillar pests. The cotton seed meal from this crop has been found to be poisonous to swine and turn the yolk in chicken eggs darker.

Transgenic corn is not approved for human consumption; it is meant for the cows. A few years ago pollen from the GM corn fields were drifted away to pollute adjacent corn fields leading to digestive problems in the consumers of such corn. It was such incidents that compelled scientists to adopt terminator technology lading to- not solving the problem rather compounding the same.

Independent scientists like Robert Hartley, Jeremy Rifkin etc. have compiled at least 50 harmful effects of GM foods which include soya sauce, pop corn, candy bar, potato chips and have preferred to level terminator technology as thano (=death) technology. They have also leveled such applications of biotechnology as- wreaking havoc with the planet's biospheres.

Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) now widely used as a promoter in transgenic crops, is potentially too dangerous because it is a para retro virus and is very similar to Hepatitis B virus and HIV. In the system of non targeted species (like the vertebrates and human beings), it may (lab. tests have shown so) produce recombinant highly virulent virus that may activate oncogenes and cause cancer. This is the opinion of scientists like Professor Joseph Cummins of the University of West Ontario and a host of other independent scientists. Viral affects of our coconut crop and death of pla nts in the wild west may be due to CaMV infections.

What should we do now ?
We save our seeds.Under the provisions of the Inputs Management chapter (protection of plant varieties) of the National Agriculture Policy 2000, farmers are "allowed their traditional rights to save, use, exchange, share and sell their farm saved seeds." Under the provisions of the Sustainable Agriculture chapter (agro biodiversity) farmers have been empowered "conservation of bio-resources through ex-situ preservation in gene banks, as also insitu conservation in their natural habitats through biodiversity parks." These activities have been assured "high priority to prevent biodiversity extinction with emphasis on the importance of conservation of the indigenous breeds facing extinction". It has been promised "to enlist the country's vast agro biodiversity in a time bound programme."

Biodiversity means all the plant and animal resources of the planet; when agro-biodi versity includes all those plants and animals of agricultural importance. It includes animals as earthworms, bees, predatory organisms and plants as green manuring, mixed cropping, trap crop and agro-forestry. These were more or less known well to the Indian farmers before 1960s. The green manuring plants, dhaincha (Sesbania), sun hemp (Crotolaria) and Gliricidia are good in kharif and Azolla, senji (Melilorus) and gour (Cyamposis) are good in rabi. Between them they on decomposition, enrich the soil with 60 200 kg Nitrogen per hectare in 45 60 days. Trap crops protect the main crops like cabbage by mustard, corn by sorghum cotton by corn, groundnut by corn pea and tomato by marigold. In the words of Masanobu Fukuoka, human salvation lies in returning to nature; the ecological devastation must be reversed before it is too late'.

As far as rice is concerned, all indigenous varieties are not poor yielder, a mistake made by the proponents of the Green Revolution s in this country. They failed to appreciate the fact that some of the natives were better high yielding themselves. Dr.R.H. Richaria, an Internationally renowned Indian rice scientist was known to have documented some such HY natives, selected and improved through peasants and indigenous people of India which could outmatch and outweigh the best yielding rice HYVs. This was done by Dr. Richaria at least 15 years before the launch of the Green Revolution. Richaria's highest yield was 54 quintals per acre or 13.6 tons per hectare achieved in Salem and the lowest yield was 24 quintals per acre or 6 tons per hectare achieved in West Bengal from his indigenous improved rice varieties (the basis of cultivation not being known). The presenter himself achieved 28 quintals per acre organically in the fields of a peasant at Mayurbhanj in kharif of 2004-05, using internal inputs only.

Many of the Indian rice varieties have known medicinal properties which have been tradi tionally used in Ayurveda, Unani systems of medicine and by traditional healers for generations. As per Ayurveda some native Chhattisgarh rice varieties have such medicinal values as tonic aphrodisiac, curative of dysentery, curative in skin infections, useful in the treatment of rheumatism, early removal of placenta in cow after delivery and rice water, an excellent healer of inflammatory disorders. These rice varieties are known locally as Laicha, Bhejari and Dhanwar. Meharaji, another native rice, has been used as tonic for women after child birth. Saraiphool is known to provide strength to the physically weak persons, Karhani gives relief in case of paralysis. Inhalation of fumes of rice bran of Baisur cure headache and Rasari is used in the treatment of chronic cough. This is widely known among the village elders in Chhattisgarh.

Besides rice grains, soil of rice growing fields are also known to be of medicinal use in Chhattisgarh. The rice soil of Chhatti sgarh are of 3 major types Kanhar (Vertisols); Dorsa (Alfisols) and Matasi (Inceptisols). Such soils are also used in the treatment of over 30 acute and 10 chronic ailments.
Literature is available to show that other countries in south east Asia also exploited the medicinal values of their native rice varieties. Rice bran is known to contain Vitamin B which cures beriberi. In Malayasia aqueous extracts of boiled green rice is used in eye as a lotion and in the treatment of inflammations of inner body tissues. In China sprouted rice grains are used as digestive stimulant, give tone to muscles and as antiflatulant. The Chinese also believe rice as healer of spleen infections.

Njavara, the unique short duration (60 70 days) land rice of Kerala is valued highly for its medicinal properties. This rice strain is aromatic, sweet to taste, easily digestible and has germicidal properties and this is why it is mostly used in treatment only and hardly eaten except in exigency. Njavara rice is used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, neurological disorders and as muscle relaxant by the Ayurvedic physicians.

The presenter was also requested to send some amount of a 60 day paddy (Sathia) to a person in Mumbai for the treatment of an old age person in 2004 and later learnt that the patient got relief.

Some native rice varieties of India and abroad are known to contain substantial amounts of allolochemicals which when released through their leaf, root and pollen restrict the growth and development of other plants (weeds). Such native Indian rice varieties have been documented as Bala, Dular, India AC 1423 and IET 1444. Japan has one such variety called Novin -29 , and the US has 2 such varieties, Cuba 6558A and Cuba 65V58.

In view of the above, it is essential to conserve the different traits of rice varieties so evolved through the combined process of natural selections and artificial sele ctions in different ecoclimatic conditions over the centuries with their fragrance, taste, medicinal and high yielding properties. It is essentially the same for other crops also. Besides, the all important seed has entered into a regime of company monopoly. Farmers have to save their own seeds for the sake of ensured crop and food security. Seed security is more important than food security. If farmers do not save their own seeds urgently they are sure to fall in to trap of the big multinational seed companies and from which they cannot move out. If this happens, all Indians will be reduced to laboratory guinea pigs in the hands of the multinational seed companies very soon.

The necessity to conserve the different rice varieties so adapted to different eco-climatic conditions, important to and now available with the farmers has no doubt stirred them most. They have already started the process. Sri R.K.Behera of Bhandeswar in Balasore and Sri B.Dwivedy of Tental a in Mayurbhanj have conserved 18 & 17 native & nativised rice varieties respectively. Navdanya-PPBSA, Balasore has conserved over 550 rice strains, natives and nativised, till date. Seeds of these varieties are selectively donated to affected farmers in disaster areas like in Erasama, Nandigram (WB) and Nagapattinam(TN) as "seeds of hope," Navdanya's disaster management programme.

Another need of the time is sustainability in agriculture which can be achieved only when the farmer strictly avoids all purchased external inputs and relies extensively on farm generated internal inputs, there by reducing the market dependence for growing the crop or crops. The change in system will have to ensure proper maintenance of ecological balance and basic biological functions of soil- water humus nutrients continuum. For that the farmer has to abandon the current practice of monoculture of crops and switch over to polyculture, agro forestry, green manuring and integrated c rop-live stock system.

Dependence on biodiversity, adoption of vermin technology for enhancing soil fertility and biological botanical control of pests and diseases are of paramount importance in such a system. It will thus nourish and resuscitate the dying or dead soil, improve the environment, reduce pollution of food and water and generate tasty, healthy and abundant food.

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